Wave Goodbye To An Outmoded Transit Idea Whose Time Has Come…And Gone

 

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

If the community had listened to Broward County Commissioner Jack Moss 40 years ago, The Wave street car wouldn’t be a controversy today.

Moss had a revolutionary idea for the then-sleepy, low-rise downtown Fort Lauderdale:

Build a people mover to connect the Broward Governmental Center, State Office Building and two projects still in the planning stages – the Performing Arts Center and the Discovery Center science museum.

He was ignored.

 

 

Jack Moss in 2009

 

Moss was still talking about his people-mover a decade later in 1986. The idea was still being dismissed, despite its modest cost. The entire shebang at that time, which would have been elevated to keep it above the roadway, was estimated to cost roughly $20 million.

Twenty million!

That’s a rounding error for the outmoded Wave.  The planned street car system’s estimated cost is now way past $200 million and climbing.

The Wave came along roughly 40 years after Moss’ concept died. A 2004 partnership between the Downtown Development Authority and other local governments got it rolling.

In 2004 when the Wave surfaced:

  • There was no iPhone.
  • Consequently, there was no Uber, Lyft or other ride sharing.
  • There was no ride sharing bicycles service
  • Self-driving cars were confined to science fiction, rather than today’s reality taking place in numerous laboratories around the world.

The world of transportation has changed. It continues to change every day.

But instead of embracing future technologies, Broward is going back to the future in a trolley rather than a DeLorean.

Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez sees the future.

He said two months ago that fixed rails systems like The Wave are old technology.

Gimenez prefers “trackless trains” – essentially technologically advanced buses that would be a nimbler and cheaper alternative to fixed rail. He wants much of the money planned for Metrorail expansions to be allocated to air conditioned bus stops, overpasses and new dedicated lanes for the buses.

Buses could move anyplace they are needed.  They could be at the Performing Arts Center one day and at the Florida Panther’s game the next.

Buses could be used all over the county.

Instead, electeds have continued to back The Wave, despite:

 

  • The overhead wires are a century-old technology.  Wires would be unsightly, terribly vulnerable to wind storms and require the constant trimming of trees, which would otherwise provide shade to tolley stops.
  • The trolley running in the middle of streets would actually slow already-gridlocked traffic along key roads in downtown Fort Lauderdale.”This isn’t really a mobility enhancing technology,” Marc Scribner, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., told NPR about streetcars.
  • The Wave will benefit only a small number of people — mostly downtown property and business owners. “This is a government subsidy to property developers,” Scribner said.

 

Despite the drivel from Broward County Commissioners last week who supported The Wave, it is not the necessary lynchpin of a transit system that will reach every part of the county.

Except for The Wave confined to a tiny slice of downtown Fort Lauderdale, county plans up through 2040 show no new fixed rail transit.

None for North Broward. None for South Broward. None for West Broward.

If more money for transit suddenly appears — highly unlikely in a time of tight government budgets — street car extensions could take place.  Right now plans call for Broward’s taxpayers money only being funneled into downtown Fort Lauderdale for The Wave.

See the list for yourself:

 

 

Long Range Transportation Plan, Commitment 2040, Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (the numbers represent the MPO’s priority on its plan)

 

 

Broward Mayor Beam Furr of Hollywood and County Commissioners Mark Bogen of Coral Springs, Steve Geller of Cooper City, Tim Ryan of Dania Beach and Barbara Sharief of Miramar voted to continue The Wave last month. Four others voted no.

Furr, Bogen, Geller, Ryan and Sharief’s vote is hard to understand since not one dime of the money for The Wave will benefit their home communities of Hollywood, Coral Springs, Dania Beach, Cooper City or Miramar.

A hard to understand vote until one realizes that the major supporter of The Wave are builders, who see it as a gateway to more development. The reasons is clear why five county commissioners and the Fort Lauderdale City Commission have backed The Wave: Developers = future campaign contributions.

County commissioners like The Wave Five are already talking about adding one-cent to the sales tax to pay for transportation improvements and the Fort Lauderdale trolley.

Based on history, it is doubtful one cent will pay the freight.

Miami Dade passed a sales tax increase 15 years ago promising to fund a Metrorail expansion. Those promises were largely broken.

This from the Miami Herald in November:

 

“The sales tax that voters approved is not generating the funds required. By the way, those funds, which elected leaders 15 years ago promised would be used for big-ticket transit projects, instead were squandered on the small stuff. County taxpayers have every reason to look askance at any future entreaties for more transit funds.”
 

The Wave project already has a record of broken fiscal promises.

The original state estimate for construction was $114 million.  Bids came in at $189 to $218 million and the project is being rebid.

Taxpayers can see the future better than some electeds.

A Fort Lauderdale civic activist, Marilyn Mammano supported The Wave.  Now she opposes it.

Fort Lauderdale has $1 billion in necessary infrastructure work that needs to be done, Mammano told County Commissioners last month. The city and Broward County can’t afford to take on a new expense for an antiquated system.

She didn’t even need a multi-million dollar engineering study or planners to figure out that The Wave is obsolete. She didn’t even need a Magic 8-Ball.

She just needed to look around her to see the truth: “Time and technology have moved on.”

 



31 Responses to “Wave Goodbye To An Outmoded Transit Idea Whose Time Has Come…And Gone”

  1. Jack Moss says:

    Actually, it was in the mid-70’s.

    The technology was to use an above-grade magnetic levitation single rail system that would use existing and future buildings as stations. The rail would be suspended from telephone-like poles and be above the right-of-way.

    It was easy to expand and buildings would pay for the station if they wanted a stop.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Sorry. The Sun-Sentinel only goes back to the mid-1980s online when they did a story on your idea and made it sound new. I’ll correct the date.

  2. Memories says:

    I remember this debate. The best part was that developers would pay most of the cost. That is probably why it was killed.

  3. Mark My Words says:

    The Wave will cost $300-plus for construction alone before they are through. Cars are extra. Permanent operating costs at union salaries, benefits and work rules are more. White Elephant in the making.

  4. Maxine K. Streeter says:

    Thank you for writing about this again. For voters in Fort Lauderdale, District 4, only Warren Sturman has spoken publicly against The Wave. Fort Lauderdale needs leaders who will not kowtow to lobbyists and special interests. wavegoodbye.net March 13th #voteTrantalis; #voteGlassman; and #voteSturman.

  5. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Since the DDA is so over zealous with this Wave let them pay for it.When you see the overwhelming response from the residents how opposed they are to this and to see the DDA push and push this down are throats his beyond concerning.Yet, still thats all they talk about(Wave).Bottom line its the connection.Powered by a wire on top of the thing.I keep saying what do you do when we have storms approaching with the lightening.Sounds like a major accident waiting to happen.I see nighrmares with this thing esp.if im behind it trying to get somewhere.Back to the drawing bd.If they can get rid of the overhead powered wires then maybe it could get a second look..

  6. Steve Geller says:

    Buddy:

    I normally don’t reply on blogs, but for your reasonable article, I’ll make an exception here.

    I also have concerns with the Wave. I made these plain at the meeting. I attended the last Commission meeting undecided about which way I would vote, leaning slightly more towards voting for, but fully prepared to vote against. None of the remarks which I heard, or the questions that I asked changed my mind.

    I am concerned with the technology, I am concerned with the fact that it’s sharing lanes, and I’m concerned with the cost. There will be disruption while laying the tracks. I’d prefer if we could get State and Federal funds to use on rubber tire, alternative fuel vehicles. If the Wave was just for the 2.8 mile loop in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, I’d be opposed to it.

    We have been told that the Wave is the first part of a County mass transit plan that would use the same type of vehicles on other routes, and that the Wave is essentially a critical first part of a larger system. That larger system will go to the West, where my constituents are. We’ve been told that the money that is coming down primarily from the Federal and State governments, with Fort Lauderdale also substantially contributing, would not be available for non-fixed rail projects. We’ve been told that backing out at this late stage would harm our ability to get future funding from FDOT and USDOT. We’ve been shown numerous examples where fixed rail has contributed to substantial economic development, far more than rubber tire vehicles.

    The County is making a fairly minimal contribution to the Capital cost of the project. Whether it’s a good idea for the taxpayers of the City of Fort Lauderdale is up to the voters and elected officials of the City of Fort Lauderdale. The operating cost of the Wave has been estimated at a gross cost of $5-$6 million per year, with that amount being reduced by both fairbox and advertising collections.

    I could convincingly argue either side of the issue. However, I don’t have the ability to vote 55% yes and 45% no. I have to choose one way or the other. Although it is a close decision, and I respect the arguments on both sides, I chose to vote “Yes” on the Wave at the last meeting. I will listen carefully at the next County Commission meeting to see if anything occurs which persuades me to change my mind on my last vote.

    Senator Steve Geller
    Broward County Commissioner, District 5.

  7. Frankly Puzzled says:

    There is no money to reach the goal of mass rail transit throughout the county. . If a little system in downtown Fort Lauderdale costs $300 million, what will connecting all of Broward will cost. There will never be that much money available since there are so many under financed needs such as education, social welfare, law enforcement, stopping effects of rising seas with new seawalls, etc.

  8. Frankly Puzzled says:

    @Steve Geller
    “The same type of vehicles” would transport people throughout Broward. How long would that take? Commuters will have to leave at 3 a.m. to get to their jobs!

  9. Glub Glub says:

    By 2040 the only thing we will spending money on is keeping the streets and our homes dry. Isn’t anybody in government considering climate change?

  10. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    It paased the DDA after a Public Hearing WITH NONCRITICIS and WILL PASS TUESDAY at the City Commission.

  11. rightwing says:

    the traffic situation is already out of control. more and more buildings and construction and the large machines and vehicles used are creating diversions and detours. add the three slow as molasses drawbridges, and the busy fec freight trains in and out of the port. if you think you’re running on time on your drive into downtown fort laud, think again.

  12. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @6 – Senator Geller, I believe you chose the wrong word in several sentences, so let me fix that for you:

    We have been told bullshitted that the Wave is the first part of a County mass transit plan that would use the same type of vehicles on other routes, and that the Wave is essentially a critical first part of a larger system.

    We’ve been told bullshitted that backing out at this late stage would harm our ability to get future funding from FDOT and USDOT.

    And these “numerous examples where fixed rail has contributed to substantial economic development, far more than rubber tire vehicles” – are they really comparable? Do these examples actually involve the introduction of trolleys with fixed rails and overhead wires into crowded urban centers? Do these examples provide any kind of proof that rubber-tire vehicles traveling the same route(s) would not have provided an equivalent economic benefit? Do these examples account for effects of the increased traffic congestion caused by the trolley system? And finally, do these examples account for the massive financial losses that these trolley systems generate each and every day, as well as the economic benefits which would have come from taking the massive amount of additional capital necessary to substitute trolleys for buses and investing that massive amount of capital elsewhere?

    Senator Geller, I am frankly finding it hard to believe that you could possibly be this gullible. I seriously wonder whether you would be so very willing to swallow this load of nonsensical bullshit if your political campaign was publicly financed rather than being mostly funded by special interests.

  13. Frank says:

    I’m not against rail, but the WAVE is doubling down on the failed circulator trollies that every city in Broward & Palm Beach tried for a decade without any success. Including the same route as the WAVE.

  14. Just One Vote says:

    All five have voted for the Wave over last 3 years. Now Trantalis is against it after the bids came in. Fort Lauderdale is broke. Over the last nine years the budget has been based on the projection of revenue – the monthly fees on water/sewer bills, the monthly franchise fee kickback on FPL bills, the city share of property taxes after they are paid to the county then dispersed to the city, etc. The reserves, once almost a hundred million dollars, has dwindled to the bare minimum allowed by the state, which is about 16% of the annual operating budget. Feldman plays the shell game moving money around topay for this now, and Herbst is complicit, with nonsense statements like the budget is structurally sound.
    Its like living on cash advances from your credit card.

    And the city still wants the Wave?
    The moment of truth for Roberts is the Tuesday meeting. His vote for the Wave will seal the coffin on his campaign for mayor.

  15. Art Seitz says:

    Please read the full page ad

    — MAYOR SEILER FORT LAUDERDALE IS AGAINST THE WAVE!

    Appearing in the Sunday, February 5, 2018 Sun_Sentinel. Hope to see you at Fort Lauderdale 6 PM This Tuesday night. Vote for Steve Glassman, Warren Thurman & Dean Trantalis

  16. Talks like a politician says:

    Fort Lauderdale City commissioners do not talk to Broward County commissioners. Broward County commissioners do not talk to Fort Lauderdale city commissioners. State officials do not talk to anyone.

    Results: traffic lights are not synchronized. A county employee ran off to a foreign country several years ago with funds allocated for that purpose. New passenger trains and more freight trains run through all Broward cities and tie up vehicular traffic as well as boat traffic on the New River.
    Lane dieting and dedicated bicycle lanes carve out less room for cars on city and county streets. Meanwhile, a minuscule amount of people ride bicycles to work or to stores and appointments and a massive amount of vehicular traffic is generated from people who live in “luxury” rentals popping up everywhere.

    And the politicians continue to pass gas while discussing the Wave. Reaally?? Why would anyone even consider putting an outdated form of transportation on top of obsolete, broken infrastructure in the middle of traffic lanes in downtown Fort Lauderdale? Answer: politicians and money make a mess that negatively impacts taxpayers.

  17. Lynne Helm says:

    The Wave was a dubious concept way back when, but gullibles went along with it. Now the entire notion is beyond absurd. The big question now: who, among movers, shakers, and elected officials, is getting paid off for supporting this boondoggle?

  18. Floridan says:

    Let’s face it, any big project in Broward County will be opposed by naysayers whose vision for this area is locked in the 1950s.

    FROM BUDDY:

    You mean, just to name the biggest that come to mind, like the billion dollar expansion of Interstate 595 in the last decade. Or the construction of the Sawgrass Expressway from scratch in the 1980s. Of the total reconstruction of the airport with the addition of a new runway in the past decade.

  19. SMH says:

    The Wave is not a big project. It is nonetheless unwise and a wasteful expenditure for the benefit of an infinitesimaly few wealthy property owners. Even the county mayor recognized it is primarily related to downtown redevelopment. No one believes that it is “primarily” a transportation project (as the Fort Lauderdale mayor asserted this week in the Sun-Sentinel) or that it will transport anywhere close to 3000 people per day. Everyone knows it could never survive a referendum vote, which a truly big project Metrorail and Mtetromover did in Miami (twice). Curiously we are also told that the FEC tracks cannot be crossed to get to the airport, but somehow they can be crossed to someday go cross-county to the west. Right.

  20. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Sun-Sentinel reports Geller voted AGAIN to save the Wave:

    Broward commissioners earlier Tuesday held to the same 5-4 vote in favor of the $195 million Wave that they cast two weeks ago. Mayor Beam Furr and Commissioners Mark Bogen, Tim Ryan, Steve Geller and Barbara Sharief supported the project, while Commissioners Dale Holness, Chip LaMarca, Michael Udine and Nan Rich were opposed to it.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-sb-wave-streetcar-decision-day-broward-fort-lauderdale-20180206-story.html

  21. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    The WAVE passed 3-2 in Ft Lauderdale but MORE IMPORTANTLY US pro Wave people OUTNUMBERED THE ANTI DEVELOPMENT CROWD BY abt 30 SPEAKERS.

  22. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Fort Lauderdale votes 3-2 to reaffirm support for The Wave

    Seiler, Robert McKinzie and Romney Rogers voted yes. Bruce Roberts and Dean Trantalis, both candidates for mayor, voted no.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fort-lauderdale/fl-sb-wave-streetcar-decision-day-broward-fort-lauderdale-20180206-story.html

  23. Floridan says:

    There were plenty of naysayers opposed to the Sawgrass (“the road to nowhere”) as well as the I-595 project and the runway extension.

  24. Kill the Wave says:

    The people that support the wave are ignorant and probably not very well read. You can read studies on the results of light rail in several other cities. As you can guess, ridership was overestimated and costs were underestimated. Effects on reducing traffic congestion, nil. But these other case studies combined w new technologies i.e. driverless cars/taxis (from the private sector) makes shooting it down an easy decision. To compare the wave with the Kinney tunnel, I-595 or the sawgrass is laughable. Please don’t insult us while at the same time forcing a project on us nobody wants. Anybody can read the FAQ on the wave webpage to see how full of %$#@ the promoters are. Ask FPL how they generate electricity ? And ask the county if 100% of our buses only run on gasoline. And if the pro-wave people are so confident, put it up for a vote !?!?

    https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2016/06/23/miami-chosen-among-pilot-cities-for-ibms-self.html

  25. Stormwatch says:

    Let me get this straight. 40 something years ago, a visionary had ideas on how to get people around downtown Ft. Lauderdale. He got resistance. Fast forward 40 years, visionaries are still proposing ways to get people around downtown Ft. Lauderdale, and still getting resistance. When will Ft. Lauderdale ever come out if the dark ages?

  26. S.G. says:

    Steve Geller and Barbara Sharief, as Buddy mentioned represent districts nowhere near the proposed loop, supported the project, but couldn’t be bothered to show up to vote, so they phoned in.

    Mr. Geller, by the way, South Broward residents do NOT want the extensions that you are referring too. We chose to live in the suburbs. Now with the help of Geller, New York developers are turning Broward County into Kings County. Pembroke Pines, Sunrise, Davie, and Plantation have been seeing density increases not seen since these cities/towns were established. High density apartment complexes left and right. Impacting traffic, schools, crime, wages, the environment, hospitals/care facilities, property taxes, etc.

    Enough is enough. Instead of unchecked growth, perhaps consider thinking about your current residents not the future developers.

  27. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    By the skin of its teeth(wave) it lives for another day.These elected officals want it.They don.t care if the general public states kick rocks- we don.t want it.Now once the new comm.comes in they all think we will just kill it.Oh no you had that option yesterday.It is here to stay.When we get a vad storm with lightening etc and the damn tin box gets electrocuted etc i mean its common sense.Overhead electrical wires.Gee whay possibly could go wrong.

  28. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Name one City Trolley System since the 1860s that had an electrical fire.

    FROM BUDDY:

    The National Transit Database reports 116 trolley accidents in 2016 with 16 injuries. As far as fires, this from the City of Coral Gables’ Twitter feed:

    “Coral Gables trolley caught fire at Ponce/Mendoza. No passengers on board and no injuries. Fire contained. Avoid area.”
    6:58 PM – Aug 31, 2017

    I’m sure I could find more if I felt like dedicating the time, which I don’t.

  29. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Thank you Buddy for pointing out per say that powering the trollies with electrical wires attached to it is an accident waiting to happen.I don.t see why they can.t use say like huge lithium batteries etc like you would find in a Tesla etc. to operate the trolley etc.Where does this go?.Who knows.If this new comm.think just squashing this Wave is not going to be as easy as they all r saying.I will kill it on day one.No you won.t.In reality.With this new comm.and esp. if Trantalis is elected then the city atty.city manager and auditor better get their resumes handy cause your going.Yes…

  30. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Buddy I said ELECTRICAL FIRES n should have added ‘from the over head wires’ which was what the discusion was about.
    I did NOT discuss ‘accidents’ which happen in all modes of trsndporytransporyation

    FROM BUDDY:

    Yes, you did.

  31. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Although the anti-Wave website http://wavegoodbye.net/ is remarkably well done, I was still rolling on the floor laughing at one part of it (which is technically correct, but nevertheless hilarious!). Scroll down very slightly to look at the red arrow which points to Jack Seiler, and then…. read the caption… (!!!!!)

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