The city of Miami is planning a complete overhaul of its rail systems in a project that could potentially reshape mass transit in the United States. In conjunction with Japanese Engineering firm Hitachi and Italy’s rail firm Ansaldo, the city’s urban planners hope to apply new and modern concepts to the city’s metrorail lines. What’s making the project so significant is not its 375 million dollar price ticket, but instead its potential to shift the American public transportation model into something closer to its European and Asian counterparts.
The project is being carried out in serious efforts to provide commuters less crowded, efficient and environmentally friendly manners of traveling to and from major regional cities. Overhauling metro area rail lines has seen mixed results throughout the country though. Cities like Dallas, Charlotte, and San Diego have seen huge successes in their investments in new commuter rail lines. However major metro areas like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C. have seen decreases in their ridership numbers, despite changes to their public transit systems.
In the past Miami has seen other fruitless attempts at renovating its rail systems; however developers are confident in receiving new funds from incoming administrations. In fact, both Democratic Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton hope to increase federal funding on infrastructure renovation in the United States. The city’s construction boom has caused chaos on the roadways, and with more projects to come in the coming years, the need for more modern rail systems is becoming increasingly necessary. Add that to increasing fears of more frequent rising tides and coastal flooding, and you have an almost sure demand for a better equipt, more prepared public transportation system.
Hitachi, the engineering firm leading the project, is looking to become more involved in the US market The Guardian reports. “We believe the rail business in the US is sustainable and growing… We’ve already received support from the government, but were optimistic that ridership, especially among young people, will grow. There are challenges but we are optimistic,” said Kentaro Masai, Hitachi’s Global COO.
According to the article, Hitachi believes that younger generations will be looking for more affordable methods of transportation rather than car ownership. Rising unemployment, increasing student indebtedness, and lower wages are all major contributing factors to attracting them to public transportation and repelling them away from cars. Daily commuters to Miami number at around 75,000, and although the number is not expected to increase significantly anytime soon, the rail line plays an important role in limiting congestion in Miami’s main roadways. “We have ample capacity to grow, and we’re contemplating light rail expansion and provide incentives for using the system, ” said Alice Bravo, director of Miami’s Transportation and Public Works Department.
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