Miami Metrorail

December 20, 2010 21 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a look at economic development that has been stimulated by Florida's only Heavy Rail mass transit system: The Miami-Dade Metrorail.

About Metrorail

Inside an empty railcar at the end of the line.

Metrorail is the principal rapid transit system operated by Miami-Dade Transit in the Miami metropolitan area.  Metrorail runs from the northwest in Medley through Hialeah, into the city of Miami, the downtown area, through Coral Gables and South Miami, and ending in southwest Miami-Dade at Dadeland Mall. There are 22 accessible Metrorail stations, one about every 1.25 miles. Metrorail connects to the Metromover system at Government Center and Brickell stations and to South Florida's Tri-Rail suburban system at the Tri-Rail Station.

Currently operating on a 22.4 miles of rail line, it is Florida's sole metro system and one of only two heavy rail rapid transit systems in the Southeastern United States (the other system being MARTA in Atlanta).. Running from Medley in northwest Miami-Dade County to Kendall in southern Miami-Dade County.

Metrorail History

Metrorail near University Station in Coral Gables.

In 1971, a study completed by the Miami Urban Area Transportation Study (MUATS) recommended the construction for a rapid transit system for the county; having experienced a prolonged post-World War II population boom, Dade County's permanent population rose by 35% to nearly 1.7 million residents within a decade. Within a year of the study, county residents approved a $132.5 million ($689 million, adjusted for current inflation) bond dedicated to transit, with additional funding approved by the Florida Legislature for transit which, up until that time, operated solely on fare revenue. In 1976, with preliminary engineering completed for the system, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA, then, the Urban Mass Transit Administration) committed 80% of the costs for the first stage of rapid transit system, with the county and state incurring the remaining cost.

In April 1979, the Interstate Commerce Commission ratified an agreement between the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) and Dade County to transfer the then-FEC right-of-way along US 1 to Miami-Dade Transit, then named the Metro Transit Agency (MTA), with groundbreaking for the system the county commission voted to be named "Metrorail" taking place at the site of what would become University Station in June. Construction began in December 1980 with placing of a double-tee guideway girder near the University of Miami. In June 1983, the first segment of Metrorail from Dadeland South to Overtown (now "Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre") was completed with the construction of the Miami River bridge, with free first-day service from Pinecrest to Overtown commencing May 20, 1984 with over 125,000 riders.

Additional segments opened subsequently in December 1984 to Earlington Heights Station and to Okeechobee Station in May 1985. In March 1989, temporary station was opened to provide a connection to the newly-opened Tri-Rail commuter rail line, with the station officially opening in June of that year. Preliminary engineering for a rapid transit extension to the Palmetto Expressway began in 1996 with Palmetto Station opening in May 2003.

Construction on Metrorail's 23rd station at the Miami International Airport's Miami Intermodal Center began in May 2009, with service projected to begin in late 2011/early 2012.

An FEC intermodal yard can be seen from the train in this image, taken just north of Miami International Airport.

Passing over Hialeah, Miami-Dade County's second largest city in residential population.

Fares & Service

End of the line: Palmetto Station in Medley.

The current standard fare on Metrorail is $2.00 and reduced fare is $1.00. A standard monthly pass costs $100 and $50 for reduced fare. The monthly EASY Cards are sold at over 50 sales outlets. Reduced fares are available only to Medicare recipients, people with disabilities, and Miami-Dade students in grades 1-12. Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) that sell EASY Cards and EASY Tickets are found in all rail stations. All Miami-Dade senior citizens aged 65 years and older and with Social Security benefits, and Veterans residing in Miami-Dade and earning less than $22,000 annually ride free with the reduced fare monthly EASY Card.

On July 16, 2008, Miami-Dade Transit announced that it would be replacing all fare collection methods with the EASY Card system by late 2009. The system replaces the old cash-/token-based system with one that automatically deducts fares at Metrorail fare gates from a reloadable card. The final station to start fare gate installation was Government Center on August 2, 2009. Since the system launch on October 1, 2009, all passengers utilizing Metrorail must use either an EASY Card or EASY Ticket to enter stations.

Metrorail runs regularly from 5 a.m. until midnight seven days a week. Trains arrive every 8 minutes during weekday rush hours, every 15 minutes at midday, and every 15–30 minutes after 6 p.m. until midnight. Weekend service runs every 30 minutes until midnight. For a brief period from 2003 to April 2004 there was 24-hour service; between midnight and 5 a.m., trains arrived every 60 minutes.
A limited-stop bus route, Route 500 Midnight Owl, operates hourly between 12:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. trip between Dadeland South and Government Center Metrorail stations. This bus service replaces the 24-hour Metrorail service cancelled due to a lack of ridership.

Downtown can be seen in the distance as Metrorail runs above State Road 836.

Fact Facts

Douglas Road Station in Coral Gables.

Opened: May 20, 1984

Stations: 22

Daily Ridership: 61,200

Line length: 22.4 miles

Operating Speed: 66 miles per hour

Trains are stored at the Palmetto Yard just west of Okeechobee Station. The yard houses 136 cars built by the Budd Company; Miami-Dade's subway cars were among the last orders Budd filled before shuttering its railcar manufacturing business. The cars are identical to those used on the Baltimore Metro (save for the modifications made to Baltimore's cars during their refurbishment in 2005), as the two systems were built at the same time, and the two agencies were able to save money by sharing a single order.

Transit Oriented Development

Miami-Dade County has been reaping more than $1 million a year from land along Metrorail lines and expects revenue to increase this year as two more public-private ventures open.

Land next to Metrorail lines is owned by the county, which agreed in 1998 to lease property next to most stations to private developers, said Miami-Dade Transit project manager Robin Statfeld.

Developments slated to open this year include retail and office space at the Martin Luther King Jr. station and rental housing at the Allapattah station. Construction is expected to start this year on commercial development at the Coconut Grove, Overtown and South Miami stations.

The Coconut Grove project, which includes retail and residential space, is projected to generate $16 million for the county over 30 years. An office-retail development in South Miami should bring in $180,000 a year for 90 years.

Already open is Dadeland North, pumping $400,000 a year into Miami-Dade coffers - 5% of the project's annual gross revenue. At the Dadeland South station, the county receives up to $800,000 a year in rent from three Class A office buildings and the Marriott Hotel.

Because of high demand for development near mass transit, private developers say they are willing to share their profits with the county. Options remain available at some of the 22 stations, county officials said.

"This will allow residents to have reasonable access to public transit, and there is a need for affordable housing," said Vincent Brown, president and CEO of Metro-Miami Action Plan, which is developing affordable housing for 1,000 people at Northside Metrorail Station. "It furthers our mission of providing affordable housing and community economic development."

Doors are opening and dirt is moving near almost a dozen Metrorail stations as mass-transit stops turn into lifestyle destinations.

More than 1,000 apartment units and 1.8 million square feet of office and retail space next to Metrorail stations are finished, under construction or in the planning stages.

Since 1998, the county has been trying to create destinations for commuters along Metrorail lines to increase mass-transit use, said Ms. Statfeld.
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Brownsville Station

The Brownsville Transit Village is currently under construction and is being developed by the Carlisle Development Group & Miami-Dade Transit.

This transit oriented development will consist of 467 residential apartment units throughout five mid/high rise buildings with first floor retail components.  The community will also include a master parking garage facility and several playground amenities.

Miami-based Carlisle Development Group affordable housing developments in Jacksonville include Lenox Court (5710 Lenox Avenue) and Christine Cove (3730 Soutel Drive).

Miami Central Station

Miami Central Station is a rapid transit, commuter rail, and intercity rail union station currently under construction. The station is part of the Miami Intermodal Center complex, also under construction adjacent to Miami International Airport. Phase I of the station, which includes the opening of MIA Mover, Metrobus terminal and the Metrorail portion of the rail station, is scheduled to open in April 2012. Phase II, which entails the completion and opening of the Tri-Rail commuter rail and Amtrak rail services, is scheduled for completion and opening in late 2011. Future Florida High Speed Rail plans would bring high-speed rail service to Miami at the Miami Central Station in 2017. Trains would depart from the Miami Central Station with direct service to Tampa and Orlando.

Miami Intermodal Center

Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) is a partially completed transportation hub under construction by the Florida Department of Transportation in Miami, Florida, in the United States. It will offer centralized transfer between Metrorail, Amtrak, Tri-Rail, buses, taxicabs, and rental cars. It also would be a station on the proposed Orlando to Miami extension of the Florida High Speed Rail system.

The first construction project of the center was the Rental Car Center (RCC), a 3,400,000-square-foot (316,000 m2) "rental car shopping mall" that provides customers arriving through Miami International Airport (MIA) convenient access to participating rental car companies. The Miami Central Station, a rail hub, will follow. The MIA Mover APM between the MIC and MIA will also follow the completion of the RCC. The completed center will cost $1.7 billion and is expected to serve approximately 150,000 commuters and travelers each day.

The United States Department of Transportation designated MIC as a "Project of National Significance," earning it special loan rates. The first of these loans was made in 2000 for $269 million. Another loan of $270 million was approved in 2007.

Earlington Heights Extension

This construction project will connect Metrorail with Miami International Airport when completed in 2012.

Santa Clara Station

408 rental apartments known as the Santa Clara Apartments opened at the Santa Clara Metrorail station in 2004.

Civic Center Station

Civic Center station is centrally located in the middle of an urban medical district.  Medical related facilities within walking distance of this station include Jackson Memorial Hospital, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Veterans Hospital, Cedars Medical Center, Miami-Dade County Health Department and University of Miami Hospitals and Clinics.

Culmer Station

Passing a new condominium tower at Culmer station.

Looking towards downtown Miami from Overtown.  The majority of skyscrapers in the background of this image are located within 1/4 mile walking distance of a Metromover or Metrorail transit station.

Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre

The Overtown Transit Village, consisting of 22 & 17-story office towers, retail and 931 parking spaces can be seen just north from Government Center Station. The $101.3 million development was completed in 2009.

Government Center

Government Center is currently Miami's largest intermodal transportation center.  The station is a part of the 510' tall Stephen P. Clark Government Center and includes restaurants and retail for transit users.

Downtown Miami's popular Flagler Street is one block south of Government Center station.


Brickell Station is a Metrorail and Metromover changeover station.  Over the last decade, a number of transit friendly developments have been constructed around this transit station.

The Shops at Mary Brickell Village opened adjacent to Metrorail's Brickell Station in 2006.

Located in the heart of Miami’s financial district, The Shops at Mary Brickell Village offers an eclectic mix of upscale dining, shopping and entertainment options for the sophisticated shopper. The center, designed around a “village” like setting with lush vegetation, water features and entertainment venues offers 195,000 square feet of retail space, a 800 space parking garage and two public plazas surrounded by mature oak and mahogany trees.

Offering everything from Mexican to Asian, Seafood to Italian Cuisine, The Shops at Mary Brickell Village is a dining mecca that offers over 10 eateries. These include P.F.Changs, Rosa Mexicano, The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Grimpa Steakhouse, , Balans, Blue Martini and Starbucks; not to mention the exciting addition of Fado Irish Pub and Cavas Wine Bar.

Retailers include Village Humidor, Sowinski Jewelers, Jared M., Edward Biener Eyewear, Studio LX, Brickell Jewelers, , Toni & Guy Hairdressing and Joanna Paige. Top off with personal services such as Mortar & Pestle Pharmacy, Publix Supermarket and the LA Fitness Signature Club to name a few.

Douglas Road

Serving Coral Gables, the Douglas Road station has been a popular location for new infill development over the last few years.

Miami Green is a brand new 13 story office building located in the South Gables with approximately 122,000 square feet of office space for lease. The building is Miami's first LEED Certified Office Building and offers tenants hurricane resistant floor to ceiling windows allowing for exceptional city and water views. Some of the amenities include same floor parking with direct access to office and a rooftop garden wtih majestic views of Downtown Miami, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. The floorplates are approximately 10,000 SF with column free interiors ideal for the most efficient use of the space.

Miami Green is conveniently located with immediate access to US1, Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Le Jeune and Bird Road. The building is directly across the street from the Metrorail Station, Coral Gables Trolly and Metro-Dade Bus. Tenant are within walking distance to fine dining, shopping and entertainment in Coral Gables' Village of Merrick Park. It is also located 15 minutes from Miami International Airport and just minutes from residential communities such as Coral Gables, South Miami, Pinecrest, Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne.

The Village of Merrick Park is an upscale lifestyle center that opened in 2002, adjacent to Metrorail's Douglas Road Station.  Developed by The Rouse Company (developer of the Landing) and now operated by General Growth Properties (operator of Regency Square Mall), Merrick Park has over 100 retail stores and restaurants.  Notable retailers include Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Burberry, Canali and Swarovski.  

South Miami

The South Miami station is now anchored by The Shops at Sunset Place and South Miami Hospital.

South Miami Hospital from the inside of a southbound metrorail train.

An infill apartment complex can be seen in the background, across the street from the South Miami station parking garage.

The Shops at Sunset Place opened adjacent to the South Miami Station in 1999.  This center is owned and managed by the Simon Property Group.  Simon also owns and manages The Avenues and Orange Park Malls.

The Shops at Sunset Place is an outdoor shopping mall in South Miami, Florida (at the intersection of US-1 and Red Road/SW 57th Avenue). The mall opened in 1999 and is owned and managed by the Simon Property Group.
The Shops at Sunset Place is serviced by the Miami Metrorail at the South Miami Station. The station is located across the street from the shopping mall on the corner of Sunset Drive and US-1.
The Shops at Sunset Place currently houses Florida's only Niketown location;[citation needed] and Miami's only Gameworks, Z Gallerie, and Dan Marino's Town Tavern locations. It is also houses the exclusive locations of MartiniBar and Scorpico Multiplayer.[1] A Splitsville Luxury Lanes and Dinner Lounge bowling alley was added in 2008.

Dadeland North

Dadeland Station was constructed on a former Metrorail Park & Ride surface lot in 1996.  Developed by the Berkowitz Development Group, the 350,000 square foot lifestyle center is home to a Target, Best Buy, Sports Authority and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Dadeland Mall opened in 1962 and now contains 1.47 million square feet of retail space.  Although developed before Metrorail, the mall's parking lot has been reconfigured to provide a covered pedestrian connection between the complex and Metrorail's Dadeland South station.

Dadeland South

Downtown Dadeland serves an an example of what fixed transit can bring to a suburban retail scene.  Adjacent Dadeland Mall, Metrorail's Dadeland South Station has been the centerpiece of a urban zone in the middle of sprawl and suburbia. Consider this Jacksonville's Tapestry Park on Steroids.

Situated in the heart of one of Miami’s most desirable neighborhoods, Downtown Dadeland has quickly established itself as a fresh, urban living experience with a unique downtown feel.

Living at this inviting pedestrian district puts an exciting mix of shops, restaurants and conveniences at your doorstep. Being adjacent to the Dadeland Mall, the Metrorail, nearby offices and universities keeps you connected. Exceptional value puts it all within reach.

Despite being called a boondoggle and nicknamed "MetroFAIL", no one can argue that transit oriented development hasn't become a permanent feature at many of its 22 stations.

Article by Ennis Davis