Please, Commissioners, get us to the ballpark on time

Marlins Stadium photo by Greg HamraMiami-Dade County commissioners took a needed step this week to improve baseball fans’ access to the new Marlins Stadium. The County Commission’s Regional Transportation Committee recommended approval of Miami’s proposed shuttle bus system, which will offer free rides to the stadium, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Brickell Avenue and other parts of the city.¬† That addresses one of the points in the petition we’ve been circulating.

Further action is needed. You still can help by signing our petition. Here’s why it’s needed:

While several streets near the stadium have been repaved, numerous sidewalks and crossings between the stadium and the nearest bus stops and Metrorail stations need attention. The City’s effort to supplement Metrorail and county bus routes with a shuttle network has hit a roadblock in the County Commission. Moreover, There’s still no clearly defined bicycle route to the stadium from anywhere, though we’re glad to see sheltered bike racks are present. As described in The Miami Herald, private cars are likely to be the primary means of access to this 37,000-seat stadium.

It’s actually commendable that parking space is limited to 5,700 cars. Big facilities in midcity should rely on public transit. It’s sad, though, to reflect on what might have been, if our community had focused its will and resources 10 years ago to build the transit artery tying the stadium neighborhood with the Port of Miami to the east and the airport to the west.

While any Metrorail expansion is years in the future, it should take just days and weeks to do a few easy things that the stadium neighborhood needs:

  • Create a bicycle boulevard on NW 3rd Street from the Miami River to NW 17th Avenue (or even 22nd). That’s already in the city’s Bicycle Master Plan.
  • Make NW 17th Avenue a true complete street, with unmistakable provision for bicycling and easier walking between Flagler Street and the Civic Center neighborhood.
  • Sort out the county-city issues over whether the free city shuttles will divert riders from county transit. Realignment of shuttle routes should solve that. [Between city and county, all was harmony at the committee meeting on Monday.]

Local bus routes lie comfortably close to the stadium on all sides. Miami-Dade Transit aims to add buses there on game days, and Miami Today reports that  requested federal aid for the expanded service is on the way.

Actually, this is where we think the Marlins ought to step up to the plate. The Marlins, who made out so handsomely by hiding their books while county and city officials rushed to build them a new home, should pay for extra buses and drivers on Routes 7 and 11, as well as 12, 17, and 51. Thus the Marlins could begin to redeem their reputation with a public that’s still angry about paying for a baseball palace and getting none of the profit from it. [A county attorney addressed this at Monday's meeting, suggesting that a federal rule would bar such a subsidy. We'll look into that and report back.]

Let’s tell our commissioners that we want these bullet items carried out before Belen and Columbus inaugurate the field on March 5 — certainly, before the Marlins open against St. Louis on April 4. It’s easy: Just sign this petition.

Do you like your petitions on paper? You can download a form, get your family and neighbors to sign, then send it back to us. We’ll make sure the pols see it.

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