Miami-Dade keeps expanding its electric bus fleet, with a new buy of 15 buses to roll down the South Dade Transitway starting in August 2023.
Commissioners on Tuesday OK’d a grant pact with the Florida Department of Transportation to get the 60-foot electric buses for a $17.47 million total cost, of which the state is to pay $8.7 million and the county the remainder from half-penny transit surtax funds. Kionne McGhee cast the only ‘no’ vote.
The South Dade Transitway Corridor is one of the six rapid transit corridors of the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan. The 19.8-mile route runs from Dadeland South Metrorail station along US 1 to SW 344th Street.
The bus buy is part of an active solicitation of 100 60-foot electric buses, a memo from Chief Operations Officer Jimmy Morales details. “These are articulated buses with more passenger capacity,” said Luis Espinoza, transportation department spokesperson.
The Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization Governing Board OK’d an amendment to the Transportation Improvement Program last week to include new federal funding to buy ten battery-powered electric buses.
The county has been shifting toward electric power since 2019, when commissioners agreed to buy 33 battery-electric buses and install depot chargers from Proterra. In 2021 the county bought 42 more buses, bringing total electric-powered transit buses to 75.
The shipment of 33 electric buses will begin to arrive in July, followed by another 42 from October through January 2023, Mr. Espinoza said. “Upon the full delivery of the 75 vehicles, DTPW will run one of the largest fleets of 40-foot battery-powered electric buses in the United States.”
The department is now testing for service its first-ever all-electric bus, Mr. Espinoza added.
Proterra battery-electric buses feature zero tailpipe emissions, saving about 230,000 pounds of greenhouse gases a year when replacing a diesel bus, a county press note says.
Miami-Dade commissioners seek immediate action to protect cyclists just days after a Jeep SUV fatally injured two bicyclists on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Commissioners Tuesday brainstormed actions and agreed to discuss cyclists’ safety in a Transportation Mobility Committee meeting June 7. Raquel Regalado and Eileen Higgins said they would craft a proposal and Ms. Higgins asked Mayor Daniella Levine Cava for immediate actions beforehand.
Commissioners proposed immediately erecting barricades in high-incident areas and having tough conversations about funding needed improvements. For the long term, they said, the county should target federal and private funds and begin teaching people of all ages to respect cyclists.
“I am directing our department immediately to take urgent measures; I have in my authority up to $250,000 that we will be using for short-term bicyclist safety enhancement measures on the Rickenbacker, exactly at the places that are most vulnerable,” the mayor said.
Key Biscayne Mayor Michael Davey said the county’s public works department is working with the village’s staff to develop a conceptual plan for the causeway.
“While we appreciate the discussions that are taking place concerning the short-term ways to improve safety along the causeway, we believe that it is critical to work together toward a long-term solution for the Rickenbacker,” he said.
Commissioner Regalado advocated barricades to protect cyclists in high-incident areas. “I don’t know what else is it going to take for us to take some immediate steps, so I would like the administration to respond to that,” she said.
Chairman Jose “Pepe” Díaz said enhancing the cyclist’s security is going to take time to study before the county starts spending money on solutions.
“The issue of protected bike lanes in this county it’s embarrassing how behind we are. I don’t know if we’re one decade, two decades or an entire century behind the rest of this country,” said Ms. Higgins.
She criticized that the county’s Vision Zero plan, whose aim is to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030, “I think is an absolute joke.”
“I just think the cycling [tragedy] on the Rickenbacker Causeway is similar to gun violence in my neighborhood and around North Miami and Liberty City,” Commissioner Jean Monestime said. “We just don’t want to do what we’re supposed to do about these things. It costs a lot of money to solve these issues [and] it requires very tough decisions.”
Kionne McGhee argued for the temporary barricades to protect cyclists. “The temporary barricades, the partnership with someone on the outside, a private company or private donor, I think that needs to be done now.”
Vice Chairman Oliver Gilbert agreed. “If we can do things like barricades now, to make specific areas safer, which we know are high-incident areas, I think that we should do it because I would much rather explain why we moved quickly to do something than explain to someone that we move slowly and did nothing and someone else died,” he said.
Sen. Javier Souto advocated educating people of all ages to respect cyclists. “Bikers need to be respected, and that starts home and starts with the school,” he said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners approved a report by the mayor in which the Department of Transportation and Public Works identifies steps needed to replace the causeway’s Bear Cut Bridge, another needed infrastructure project without funds allocated yet for design or construction.
Inflation in South Florida moderated slightly in the 12 months ended in April but remained far more than a percentage point above the average price rise for the nation as a whole.
Inflation in this area as measured by the Consumer Price Index dropped from an annual 9.8% in March to 9.6% in April, according to figures the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released last week. At the same time, the national annual inflation rate dipped from 8.5% in March to 8.3% in April.
It wasn’t just the skyrocketing price of gasoline that was the factor. Even factoring out food and energy, prices in South Florida rose 7.5%, while the energy index that includes fuel rose 41.5%. The food index bulked up 4.4% over the past year.
The bureau lumps together the price increases in South Florida, an area comprising Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
As highly publicized soaring prices of homes, condos and rentals across the region proved, the cost increase in housing in the past year outpaced general inflation, rising 10.5%, according to the bureau.
Within that group, rents of primary residences rose 8.8% over the year, the owner’s equivalent cost of rent rose 6.9%, and household energy costs rose 37.6%, with electricity in the home sparking a 37.8% increase. Piped gas costs rose 11.2% in the year, far below the 22.7% increase for the nation as a whole. The cost of household furnishings and operations rose 13.9%, the federal figures show.
Transportation costs as a whole revved up 19.6% in the region, with the cost of private transportation ballooning 19.5%. Amid a national scarcity of new cars caused by supply chain issues during the pandemic, the prices of cars and trucks zoomed up in double digits over the year, with new vehicle purchase costs climbing 17.5% – far above the national 13.2% increase – and used vehicle purchase costs rising by far more, 22.1%, just below the national 22.7% increase.
It will surprise no one that South Florida gasoline prices rose 44.2% over the year, slightly higher than the 43.6% national increase.
On the other hand, in some categories inflationary pressures were relatively mild. Despite covid, the cost of medical care rose a moderate 1.5% in the region during the year, the federal figures show, far below the national increase of 3.5% for medical care costs.
Costs of apparel in this region rose 2.7% over the year, recreation 4.5%, education and communications 2.4%, and tuition and child care 3%.
The rise in the price of food in this region was 4%, but only 1.5% for food consumed at home, while the price of food away from home at restaurants and elsewhere gained 8%.
Despite this general list of price rises unheard of in recent years, in two categories costs actually fell in the past year: the prices of fruit and vegetables took a healthy 8.6% tumble, and you could toast 1.4% lower prices for alcoholic beverages.