The Miami-Dade County Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan contains six (6) Rapid Transit Corridors and nine (9) Bus Express Rapid Transit (BERT) routes for Miami-Dade County. BERT service consists of enhanced branded buses operating limited stop service on shoulders or dedicated transit lanes, where feasible, to reduce travel time and help ensure service schedule reliability.
On April 26, 2018, the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) unanimously approved Resolution #14-18 endorsing the identification and implementation of demonstration projects that advance elements of the SMART Plan.
On May 2, 2018, the TPO announced the SMART Demonstration Projects Cycle for Fiscal Year 2019. The demonstration projects are intended to be in service for a three (3) year duration. If the demonstration project is deemed successful by the TPO, it would be implemented on a permanent basis.
Pursuant to City Commission Resolution No. 2018-30317 adopted on May 16, 2018, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works applied jointly to the Miami-Dade TPO's SMART Demonstration Program for the proposed Beach Express North BERT Demonstration Service connecting the Golden Glades Multimodal facility, Earlington Heights Metrorail Station, and Miami Beach, operating on the shoulder of SR 112/Julia Tuttle Causeway. The City's application was submitted to the TPO on May 21, 2018.
On June 11, 2018, the Transportation, Parking, Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Committee (TPBPFC) discussed the Beach Express North BERT Demonstration Project. At the meeting, City staff presented the results of a market demand analysis that evaluated employment data for various areas of the City. The TPBPFC passed a motion recommending that the Beach Express North BERT Demonstration Project serve Mount Sinai Medical Center, then operate along 41st Street to Collins Express North BERT Demonstration Project serve Mount Sinai Medical Center, then operate along 41st Street to Collins Avenue, and continue north along Collins Avenue to 44 Street, then south along Indian Creek Drive to 23 Street, in order to serve major hotels and entertainment destinations along the Collins Avenue corridor.
At the June 20, 2018 Neighborhood/Community Affairs Committee (NCAC) meeting, the Administration presented the results of a market demand analysis that evaluated employment data for various areas of the City and recommended potential stops and terminus locations in the City as well as a draft Business Plan for the Demonstration Service.
At its June 21, 2018 TPO Governing Board meeting, the TPO adopted Resolution No. 29-18 which approved eleven (11) SMART Demonstration Projects, including the Beach Express North BERT project, for funding though its SMART Demonstration Project grants program. At this time, both the City and TPO have committed approximately $5.1 million over a three (3) year period for the Beach Express North BERT demonstration service.
At its June 29, 2018 meeting, the Finance and Citywide Projects Committee (FCWPC) discussed this item. The Committee passed a motion recommending that staff: 1) engage with Miami-Dade County administration quickly to finalize the Interlocal Agreement and Business Plan; 2) explore the possibility of providing a subsidy to City of Miami Beach Employees that use the BERT service; and 3) request quarterly presentations to FCWPC regarding the status of the Beach Express North BERT Demonstration Project.
On October 30, 2018, Transportation Department staff provided the first quarterly update to the FCWPC. At the meeting, staff presented a recent letter from FDOT denying the City's request to use the outside shoulders of the Julia Tuttle Causeway for the BERT demonstration service. FDOT was not amenable to suspending the existing bike lanes and removing the existing rumble strips on the outside shoulders. Additionally, FDOT's letter referenced state guidelines governing the conditional use of the shoulder for bus operation which, if followed, would render the operation of the BERT service on the outside shoulders ineffective. Additionally, staff reported that FDOT had programmed $2.6 million of state funds for improvements to the inside shoulders of the Julia Tuttle Causeway as well as components of the Beach Express North BERT demonstration service to be completed and ready for service by 2022. Regular meetings have been occurring between City staff and County staff regarding the Interlocal Agreement for the BERT service. Committee members expressed interest in pursuing modifications to existing bus routes to enhance bus service, as an interim improvement while waiting for BERT implementation. Lastly, City staff reported on the Miami-Dade Transit Corporate Discount Program and the $87,000 in the Transportation Department's FY 2018/19 operating budget allocated to purchase monthly transit passes for City employees who choose to commute to work via transit beginning in early 2019.
On January 25, 2019, Transportation Department staff provided an update to the FCWPC. Staff reported that the schedule for the implementation of the Beach Express North BERT demonstration project has remained at 2022, per FDOT and Miami-Dade County. Staff also reported that the next critical step is Miami-Dade County completing the BERT Project Justification Report. Additionally, staff stated that it was also having conversations with FDOT and Miami-Dade County regarding BERT service as a potential mitigation strategy for the numerous ongoing and upcoming FDOT construction projects on the causeways and major arterials in Miami Beach. An update was also provided by staff on the launch of the City's transit pass subsidy program, and a breakdown of resident and non-resident transit pass users was requested.