Business Monday

Bus vs. rail: CEOs speak out on public transit options

Commuters scramble out of the Tri-Rail trains on Northwest 79th Street in Miami on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.
Commuters scramble out of the Tri-Rail trains on Northwest 79th Street in Miami on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. EL NUEVO HERALD

This week’s question: Miami-Dade County leaders have unveiled a new rapid bus system to expand public transit as a low-cost alternative to Metrorail. Do you think the buses are the way to go? Or is rail more desirable for frequent commuters?

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Alleviating our traffic problems is going to require a multi-pronged solution. Rapid buses are part of the answer, but we also need to invest in rail and technology that helps people plan their commutes. There is no single-track solution.

Ramon Abadin, president, The Florida Bar, and partner, Sedgewick Law Firm

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I’m a strong proponent of rail. Light Rail is really the direction that I think most cities are moving to.

Brian Brackeen, CEO, Kairos

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While new bus routes might generate additional ridership, rail is far more desirable for frequent commuters. We are looking forward to the inauguration of All Aboard Florida's rail service, which will accelerate north-south commuting, making it easy for workers to ride in comfort with a cup of coffee and free Wi-Fi, instead of driving down I-95 with both hands on the steering wheel.

Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)

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No doubt buses provide more options for more localized transportation. Our bigger challenge is convincing potential users that bus rapid transit is as reliable and efficient as taking rail.

Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, president, St. Thomas University

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Although rail is faster, buses are flexible. We should consider buses because they are more advantageous for commuters.

Nabil El Sanadi, CEO/president, Broward Health

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Solving our transportation challenges will require a number of solutions. The launch of rapid bus transport can be put into effect relatively quickly, so that’s an important piece of the puzzle. Fortunately, we’re also going to have direct commuter rail access into downtown Miami once the Tri-Rail connection is complete.

Robert Hill, general manager, InterContinental Miami

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The bus system is more desirable for frequent commuters. The Metrorail system is not ideal for frequent commuters to travel a longer distance than commute as often riding a bus. Studies show that bus system is used rapidly than the Metrorail system.

Kevin Johnson, president/CEO, Johnson Management Group

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Buses unfortunately may face the same issues as other commuters. A rail is definitely the most desirable form of future transportation, provided that it gets people to their destinations.

Miriam Lopez, president/chief lending officer, Marquis Bank

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I don’t believe it’s an either-or situation. We know that fifty percent of our households struggle to consistently afford basic necessities. Transportation is a huge barrier for many families to get and keep a job. A multifaceted public transportation system is vital to helping lift families, alleviate our traffic challenges, improve our environment and strengthen our economy as a whole.

Harve A. Mogul, president and CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade

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I don’t think you can say one option will be better than the other because ultimately, the people using public transportation have different needs. That being said, any effort to improve public transit is a great thing and I’m thrilled these discussions are taking place. In order for Miami to really move forward and cement its status as a great city, we must have a public transit system that is efficient, affordable and available to all.

Mike Parra, CEO, DHL Express U.S.

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We are big advocates for a better public transportation system in South Florida. More bus routes that offer point-to-point travel and bus routes that go into highly residential areas to bring residents to Downtown and other high-traffic areas are important. It is very encouraging that our leaders are looking at other large metropolitan cities — such as Denver — with established, successful public transportation systems and meeting with officials. Enhanced public transportation is going to require investment and a solid master plan that serves a wide swath of the community in a time-efficient way.

M. John Richard, president, CEO, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

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As a consultant who has used the transportation systems in cities throughout the globe, I applaud efforts by Miami-Dade County leaders to develop public transportation alternatives. Of the three proposed routes, the FIU to downtown route may do the most to alleviate traffic headaches, especially for those who slog through 836 during rush hour. Spending money on a BRT system will save residents money and, hopefully, encourage usage by residents. The county will need to consider having buses wait for residents at BRT stops: I know commuters who use the Metrorail who can't depend on the buses waiting for them when the train is late. Buses will need to be more focused on serving those residents who use the BRT system.

Ania Rodriguez, CEO of Key Lime Interactive

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Ideally, the rail system would be faster and more efficient, but unfortunately, our infrastructure isn’t like that of New York. Given the sprawling landscape of Miami-Dade, the rapid bus system is the way to go. Many of our Miami-Dade residents depend on public transportation to get to their jobs. Making our local bus services more efficient and dependable would be a big win for our community. Also, providing travel choices is important in creating an effective transportation system.

Rachel Sapoznik, president, CEO, Sapoznik Insurance & Associates, LLC

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The rapid bus system sounds like an excellent idea; that model is clearly effective in a lot of other cities and countries, and it would definitely offer a major improvement over Miami’s current bus system. We need that kind of modernization to get us in step with other major cities. And given that the BRT lines would cost less than Metrorail additions, it’s probably more likely to be built in a timely fashion. At the rate Miami is growing, innovation is needed now. Personally, I’d love to see more high speed rail options a la the Tri-Rail, as rail offers a higher capacity for passengers in addition to faster and more comfortable service. European countries are the masters of trains, and I love traveling that way when I’m overseas. It’s great that they’re working on the All Aboard Florida (the passenger rail linking South Florida and Orlando), but I think the more rail lines, the better. I’m eager to hear more innovative ideas from city leaders in the next few years, as public transportation is definitely an issue Miami needs to solve as it continues to grow.

Ginny Simon, founder, CEO, ginnybakes

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