Extending light rail north of Miami would be expensive, but study reveals traditional elevated rail beats sexier alternatives

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
Miami light rail
Expanding the light rail line north of Miami will cost almost $2 billion.

If Miami-Dade County wants to expand its light rail transit line north of Miami, it should not do anything fancy.

That is what a study conducted by Florida consultant WSP revealed when determining what type of trains the county should run. The choices were monorail, magnetic levitation or what the region currently operates on—an elevated Metrorail system. The recommendation was to stick with what has been working since 1984.

Sticking with the Metrorail system will keep the cost of expansion down. The recommended 9.5-mile addition, called the Purple Line, would run on elevated track above 27th Avenue in Miami and cost $1.9 billion to build. The annual maintenance would be about $49 million. Stations would be positioned at Miami Dade College’s North Campus and at Hard Rock Stadium as well as other spots on 27th Avenue. A monorail or maglev system would serve Metrorail’s existing Martin Luther King Jr. station off Northwest 62nd Street and a new station at Northwest 215th Street.

The hourly cost per passenger for Metrorail, according to WSP’s report, is $17.42. Monorail and maglev systems will cost as much as $45.

However, choosing traditional means will not help secure federal funding, and the study did not have any recommendations as to how to pay for the expansion.

If constructed, the Purple Line would serve a little less than 22,000 riders a day, which in WSP’s eyes would be more than the proposed maglev (8,600 riders daily) and monorail (8,200) line. The 22,000 count, however, is not attractive enough for federal money. The route would have to draw a minimum of around 40,000 passengers a day.

The north line expansion would be able to include ridership on existing Metrorail routes, which the new Purple Line would overlap. This is another advantage over monorail and maglev.

A north Miami extension has been talked about since the Reagan administration, but the funding has never been there. Miami-Dade officials are looking for cheaper rail options, and also are considering privatizing the line.

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