Miami's Metrorail continues growing

Metrorail celebrates 30th anniversary

MIAMI - The cars on the Metrorail haven't changed much since 1984.

When Local 10 visited the Government Center platform, just short of Metrorail's 30th anniversary, it was bustling with students, government workers and people on their lunch breaks who were going through the motions like in any mass-transit-oriented city.

"The goals of Metrorail from the beginning have been very straightforward and very simple: It's to move people, it's to connect places," said Miami-Dade Transit Director Ysela Llort.

When asked how long she had been using Metrorail one young woman said, "Since I have been walking." 

But Metrorail's journey hasn't always been a smooth ride; there were delays in construction. On opening day, when then-Gov. Bob Graham took the inaugural ride, thousands showed up and overwhelmed the cars. 

Metrorail has also been called, not so endearingly, "Metrofail" and the "Train to Nowhere." 

Its 25-mile stretch mostly follows along US-1, doesn't go to Miami Beach and doesn't stretch very far west. 

In 2002 county residents approved a half-penny tax, but even politicians acknowledged voters didn't get the improvements they were promised. 

"Every project has challenges, whether it's Metrorail or building your own house. But frankly, Metrorail has really served a great purpose," Llort said. 

She also said the best thing to come from the half-penny tax was the Orange Line to Miami International Airport. Llort said since it opened in 2012, thousands have used it every week. 

Carlos Delgado, a visitor from Madrid, had just gotten on Metrorail from the Brickell station when we met him. Suitcases in tow, he was on his way to the airport. 

"Very cheap, very economical," he said.

Riders said their main reason for using Metrorail was to save money. Many said the service is imperative to their day-to-day lives. 

"I just started being a regular rider," said Dustin Aiken, a teacher. "It's cheaper (than) gas." 

"Metrorail is a lifeline for about 80,000 people on an average weekday," Llort said. "In the last four years we've grown by about 25 percent, which is huge numbers in our business. It just means that Miami is growing and prospering, and certainly we're helping to do that." 

Original cars will be replaced in phases by new, high-tech cars beginning in 2016.

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