A History of Metrorail and Metromover

Metrorail Yard by Trevor Logan, Jr.By Fernando J. Zavala

Metrorail is the heavy rail rapid transit system that serves the Miami, Florida metropolitan area. It is operated by the Miami-Dade Transit Agency (MDT), which is a department of the Miami-Dade County government. Miami-Dade County is the upper-tier government entity in the Miami metropolitan area (the county’s incorporated cities, including Miami proper, are the lower tier), which is a unique arrangement created by voters in 1957. As of this writing, the system consists of a single two track line that begins at the Dadeland South station in the Dadeland neighborhood some 10 miles southwest of downtown Miami, and runs 22.4 miles to it’s terminus at the Palmetto station in the industrial town of Medley, located in the northwestern part of Miami-Dade County. The line was built in 2 sections between 1979 and 1983. The section between Government Center and Dadeland South is considered to be the “South Line” while the north segment is likewise considered to be the “North Line”. These names are not currently used publicly. The entire unified system is officially called the “Green Line”, however this name is also in very low currency as it is the only line that presently exists and does not appear in name on any official signage or publications at this time. However station signage is green colored and line maps generally denote the system with a green line. The system opened for service on May 20, 1984, and was called Metrorail, following the “Metro” naming convention of the era. The name has remained despite the November 1997 election that changed the Dade County’s name from Dade County to Miami-Dade County, with “Miami” or “Miami-Dade” replacing “Metro” and “Metro-Dade” in most aspects. The old Metro-Dade is still in very heavy colloquial usage and even still appears on offical documents from time to time.

Metrorail can trace it’s history back to the late 1800′s and the extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to Miami, Homestead and Key West. The FEC was founded by Henry Flagler after his retirement from Standard Oil, where he was #2 to John D. Rockefeller, and it reached Miami in April 1896, a few months before the settlement incorporated as a city. By the mid-1900′s the FEC had reached Homestead enroute to Key West where it arrived in 1912. Passenger service was provided until 1968 and freight service continued on until the 1970′s when it was cut back to Miami. It is on this route between Miami and Homestead, paralleling US-1 on it’s western side, that today hosts Metrorail’s South Line and the South Dade Busway BRT line beyond Dadeland South. Additionally, in the more populated areas (at the time) – Miami, Miami Beach and Coral Gables – streetcar service was provided beginning in the 1920′s until Miami pulled it’s last trolleys off the street on November 16, 1940 and buses took over.
Metrorail Yard by Trevor Logan Jr
On February 9,1962 the bus operations of several private companies owned by William D. Pawley and his family, including the Miami Transit Company , the Miami Beach Railway, South Miami Coach Lines and Keys Transit Company were taken over by the Dade County government and organized into the Metropolitan Transit Authority. At the time Miami was a rapidly growing city with a major tourism base, and the massive migration of Cubans fleeing Castro’s Cuba was just beginning. Looking for ways to address the explosive population growth, in 1964 the MTA comissioned the Miami Urban Area Transportation Study, or MUATS, to study the feasibility of various transit options, including rapid transit. In 1969 the MUATS study concluded that building a rapid transit system was feasible, and planning for what was eventually called Metrorail began.

The voting public endorsed the idea of rapid transit in the November 1972 election, approving the “Decade of Progress” bond measure which would raise $132.5 million to fund it along with expanded MTA bus service and a host of other projects including the establishment of Miami-Dade Community College (today’s Miami-Dade College) and a new home for the the Crandon Park Zoo (today’s Miami Metrozoo). The bonds relating to the rapid transit line survived a repeal attempt in 1978. On October 1, 1974, as planning for the rapid transit system progressed, the Metropolitan Transit Authority would be renamed the Metro Transit Agency. Around this time there was a successful freeway revolt which led to the cancellation of 6 planned expressways. In December 1976 the Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA) selected Dade County as one of the recipients of federal dollars to develop an automated Downtown People Mover (DPM) system to complement the rapid transit system. In 1977 the MTA was renamed again to the Metro-Dade Transportation Administration (MDTA) and it adopted the official Dade County colors of blue and green. At this point MDTA’s bus service was designated as Metrobus, and the rapid transit line was officially designated Metrorail while the DPM was designated as Metromover. The purchase of the right-of-way from the FEC for the South line was finalized. Also at this point the final alignment was adopted. There was one major change, after some political maneuvering from Hialeah officials, the upper end of the North line was diverted off N.W. 27th Avenue at N.W. 79th Street and taken west to Okeechobee Road in Hialeah instead. In March 1979 the final alignment for Metromover was also adopted.

In June 1979 the groundbreaking ceremony was held at the University station site. Construction of the entire system would take 5 and a half years. During 1979 and 1980 rows of twin concrete girders would go up along US-1 and these structures were given nicknames like “Stonehenge South”. By 1983 the concrete viaduct was completed from Dadeland South to just north of Overtown and testing began. The Metrorail yard on N.W. 72 Avenue in Medley was also completed in 1983. It was named the Palmetto Yard and Shops and was dedicated on October 21, 1983. It was renamed the Willam Lehman Operations and Maintenance Center at that time, in honor of the North Miami Beach congressman who championed Metrorail in Washington. The Palmetto Yard name and PYD code are still used for some internal applications.

The Budd Company of Red Lion, PA was contracted to build the rolling stock. The 136 railcars are 75 feet long by 10 feet 2 1/2 inches wide and 12 feet 3 1/2 inches tall and are in married pairs with a full width cab at each driving end. Designed for One Person Train Operation (OPTO), they are capable of running in Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and Automatic Train Protection (ATP) modes. The cars are numbered 101 – 236 and were built beginning in 1982, in a piggyback order with Baltimore. The first units were tested in Pueblo, CO in early 1983 and they arrived in Miami in February 1983. On May 2, 1983, after South Miami station was dedicated, rides were given to the public for the first time. (NOTE – during the time the vehicles were being built, Budd changed it’s name to Transit America. It has been reported that Metrorail cars bear the TA nameplate, however this author has only seen Budd nameplates.) Also in 1983 construction began on the phase 1 Metromover system, consisting of 2 loops circulating in Downtown. The Westnghouse Electric Corporation of Pittsburgh, PA was contracted to build the first 12 Phase 1 Metromover cars. The C-100 model cars were numbered 1-12, are 39 feet long by 9.4 feet wide and are primarily designed for ATO operation although they can also be driven manually as needed. The first car was delivered in June 1984, shortly after the May 29th dedication of the Metromover Maintenance Facility on S.W. 1 Street and 1 Avenue in downtown Miami.

On Sunday May 20, 1984, Metrorail officially opened to the public for the first time with the first trains leaving Dadeland South and running to Government Center station for the dedication ceremony. Over 125,000 people rode the South line that day between Dadeland South and Overtown. The next day revenue service began. The ATO system was not yet up and running so trains were driven by the Train Operators in ATP mode. On November 7th the North line was completed, completing the entire 21 mile Stage 1 Metrorail system. A “Golden Spike” ceremony was held at Allapattah station to mark the placing of the 368,000th and last rail fastener. On November 19th that station would be dedicated. On December 9th trains began operating in ATO, and on December 17th the North line partially opened as far as Earlington Heights station. In March 1985, with the Metromover system completed, testing began there. And on May 19, 1985, 364 days after the South line opened, the final section of the North line to Okeechobee opened for business. Ridership for the early years was below expectations however, leading to some derisive jokes and President Reagan’s comment about it being cheaper to buy every resident a limousine. It also left a stigma of the line as a bust that lingers to this day. However some early records were set on September 9 and 10, 1985 when Bruce Springsteen held 2 concerts at the Orange Bowl. Ridership on September 9th was 35,066 and that record was broken the next day with riders going to Civic Center then walking the 7 blocks to the stadium or taking a shuttle bus there. Average weekday ridership today is over twice that record. Since there was no track connection to the yard yet, the cars were stored, maintained and washed on the tail tracks behind Dadeland South, which were connected to some former FEC trackage between S.W. 98th and 104th Streets. Hours of service were 6:00am to 9:00pm weekdays, with 6:00am to 6:00pm service on weekends. Service was porovided by consists of 2 or 4 cars (“two packs” or “four packs” in local parlance). This practice ended once the yard came on line and the tracks were cut back to north of 98th Street.

On March 18, 1986 the last 2 Metrorail cars, 235 and 236, were delivered at the Lehman yard. On April 17, 1986, the first section of Metromover was opened for service, in conjuntion with the dedication of the new Metro-Dade Center building, Dade’s new County Hall and home to Government Center station. Service was provided on the clockwise Inner Loop and the counterclockwise Outer Loop, and planning began for the Phase II extensions to the Brickell and Omni districts. On June 15th the “Network ’86″ Metrobus service changes were implemented which converted most of the Metrobus network from a radial system to a grid system almost overnight. It was designed to force-feed Metrorail in part by cutting off long running lines at stations. Also the “Blue Dash” express services from South Dade and Kendall were discontinued around this time. On October 28, 1986, MDTA renamed itself again, to the Metro-Dade Transit Agency. On November 27, 1988 the Board of County Commissioners approved a proposal to extend Metrorail’s hours of service to Midnight 7 days a week. February 1989 brought average weekday ridership to 40,000, and on June 5 of that year the first infill station was opened, the Tri-Rail station on N.W. 79th Street between Northside and Hialeah. It connects to the new Tri-Rail commuiter rail system on the ground level.

Entering the 1990′s, in November 1990 average weekday ridership hit 50,300. However on November 6 a penny tax referendum to fund transit, police, courts, jails and public works failed by a 4 point margin. This would be the first of two defeats for MDTA at the ballot box. For New Years’ Eve 1990/1991, about 101,000 people rode Metrorail to the King Orange Jamboree parade and the Bayfront Park fireworks events in Downtown, with 43,600 riding Metromover. It stood for years as the highest ridership figures ever for a single event during revenue service. (NOTE: It is thought that ridership on June 23, 2006, when the Miami Heat victory parade in Downtown took place following their NBA championship win, has topped that figure but the ridership numbers for that day have yet to be released. Tri-Rail has reported it’s best ever ridership day on that date.) By this time 2-packs were a rare sight on Metrorail, service was provided by “4-packs” off peak and weekends, and “6-packs” at rush hour.

Continuing thru the 1990′s, construction began on the Brickell and Omni extensions of Metromover, and the additional 15 C-100 cars needed to operate the service, numbered 13 thru 29, were delivered in the summer of 1992 by AEG-Westinghouse Transportation Systems. Also that summer the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) relased it’s proposal to build a multimodal terminal facility adjacent to Miami International Airport that will tie together Metrobus, Metrorail, Tri-Rail, Amtrak, Greyhound and rental car agencies, and be connected to the Aiport terminal via a People Mover system. During 1992, cars 141-142 were loaned out to the Southern California Rapid Transit District in Los Angeles for testing on the Hollywood Red Line while their own similar Breda built cars were being built. On August 24, 1992, South Dade was devastated by Hurricane Andrew which caused $40 billion (in 2008 dollars) of damage. The area around University station, where the National Hurricane Center and the local National Weather Service offices were located at the time, experienced gusts to 164 M.P.H. before the instruments failed. The lower end of the South line suffered damage, particularly to the third rail which is exposed and slightly elevated in spots, and Metrorail was out of service for several days after the storm, which until Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history. On a brighter note, the Metromover extensions were completed by late 1993 and testing began. Service to Brickell and Omni began on May 26, 1994 amid much fanfare and big crowds. The extension trains accessed the branches via switches on the Outer Loop.

By the mid-1990′s there was a growing call for Metrorail to be extended south to Cutler Ridge and eventually Homestead/Florida City. There had been steady requests for the service ever since the extension was dropped from the original plans in the 1970′s, but the extension was always in the works. The Budd cars were even designed to accomodate overhead pantographs for planned grade-level service south of Dadeland. However MDTA was very short of funds and the anti-transit attitudes from the 1980s had not abated locally and Washington had many projects competing for funds. This is when it was decided to build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line instead over the remaining FEC R.O.W. all the way to Florida City. Construction began in 1995, and it was completed by late 1996. A grand opening party for the South Dade Busway was held on February 2, 1997, and revenue service began the next morning with several new bus routes opening up for service on that day and the 38X – Dadeland/Florida City Express line being converted to the 38 – Busway MAX limited stop bus, which is today one of the heaviest in the system. The Phase 1 Busway ran about 10 miles to Cutler Ridge with 15 stations, beginning with the first station at SW 104th Street and ending at the intersection with S.W. 112th Avenue, with the last station being at S.W. 200th Street just before that. Curiously, before long the Busway began to suffer from the exact reverse problem Metrorail had. Projected monthly ridership was only 4,000 and many services began with cutaway minibuses and vans, but by May monthly ridership had skyrocketed to 163,000 and by April 1998 full sized buses had replaced minibuses entirely on the 38, and it’s span of service was flipped with the 31 – Busway Local’s span. The 31 ran until 1:00 A.M. but only ran to Cutler Ridge while the 38 ran all the way to Florida City but ended at 10:00 P.M. This was reversed in April 1998. MDTA was by now called the Miami-Dade Transit Agency after the November 13, 1997 referendum changed the County’s name.

As the turn of the Millenium approached, there was a second attempt at a penny tax, this one to fund MDTA and Metrorail extensions as well as local expressways in exchange for cancelling all tolls, but it failed on July 29, 1999 by a 3/4 majority. It was the start of what has been a tumultuous decade for Transit in general and Metrorail in particular. The referendum results notwithstanding, construction soon began on a short 2 mile westward extension of the North line, from Okeechobee to a new station on NW 79th Avenue in Medley, just west of the Palmetto Expressway. It would be the first time Metrorail crossed the Palmetto in any direction, as Dadeland South is just short of the expressway’s south end. In 2001 construction also went ahead with Phase II of the Busway, and in the spring of 2001 MDTA dropped the “A” initial from it’s name, becoming Miami-Dade Transit. A refurbishment program for the Metrorail cars was begun, and several cars received a version of the teal and magenta color scheme being appied to buses, later this was dropped and other cars in the fleet simply had the MDT logo applied to bare polished aluminum. After the 9/11 tragedy American flag decals were affixed to windows on all MDT vehicles…some faded examples still survive today, notably on Metromover car #14. A third attempt at a tax for transit was tried on November 5, 2002. This time it was a half penny just for MDT, and just for building future extensions. It was named the People’s Transportation Plan, and this time it passed by almost the same margin the penny tax had failed by in 1999. A large advertising blitz and a perceived sharp increase in gridlock just since 1999 and a much weaker opposition combined to see the PTP win. The next morning the $0.25 fare on Metromover was removed and plans went ahead to run the Inner Loop and Metrorail 24 hours. Several Metrobus routes began 24 hour service the following week. At this point Metrorail was running a 10 minute off peak headway with 6-packs all day, and 6 minutes headway at rush hour. Metrorail began overnight service not long after the buses did, with hourly service being provided between 1:00 and 5:00 A.M. Metromover’s Inner Loop also ran 24 hours. Unfortunately this overnight service clashed with maintenance work that needed to be done, and the overnight Metrorail service became very unreliable very quickly. In April 2004 both overnight rail services were cancelled. One of the reasons cited was that mostly the homeless seemed to be using them as mobile hotels. Also the cost of security and keeping all stations open all night was an issue. As a replacement, Metrobus implemented the #500 bus to run over the Metrorail alignment during the overnight hours. It is a near duplicate of the route #100 which is the official Metrorail emergency bus bridge service.

On May 29, 2003 the new Palmetto station opened for service at midday with a big ceremony. The station was Metrorail’s first grade level station as the line descends to the ground to run under the Palmetto via an overpass that was built to serve the FEC freight spur that once used the R.O.W. The station is right west of that, and the tail tracks extend to just short of N.W. 79 Avenue. The thru service to Palmetto did not last long though. A project on Okeechobee Road right outside the station to lower the level of the street so it could pass under the FEC tracks, a long time source of traffic headaches whenever a train would cross, required that the Metrorail trackage be temporarily removed over the street. So a 2-car shuttle train was implemented to run between Okeechobee and Palmetto during peak hours via the single remaining track. Off peak, when headways were wider, trains ran thru to Palmetto. The project lasted about a year or so as each segment of track was removed, replaced then the other segment removed and replaced, and by mid 2005 full line service was re-established. During this time notices also appeared on board trains warning passengers to expect the occasional short train on weekdays as the long awaited General Overhaul Program got underway.

The years of 2004 and 2005 brought a barrage of hurricanes to Florida, and MDT was affected by 5 of them. Hurricane Frances closed all MDT service down on the evening of Saturday, September 4, 2004, and service was not restored until midday the next day. The rail services suffered only minor damage. It was almost the exact same story with Hurricane Jeanne exactly 2 weeks later on Saturday, September 25th. Both storms spent their fury on the Treasure Coast over 100 miles north. It was a different situation on August 25, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Miami-Dade/Broward County line as a category 1 storm and slowly began her trek west and southwestward through Miami-Dade. Metrorail actually continued to run for approximately 90 minutes or so after the storm’s landfall as the worst of the (then) small storm was still concentrated a few miles northeast of Metrorail’s trackage, however it was shut down by about 7:30 P.M. and service did not resume until sometime the next day. Not long after that Katrina’s eye passed over portions of the North Line. Damage again was slight and quickly repaired. A brush with Hurricane Rita on September 20th brought a short stoppage to the system. Hurricane Wilma struck on October 24th and that was a completely different story from the others. Metrorail and Metromover closed at their normal times during the Midnight hour, but did not open at 5:00am as the weather had badly deteriorated. Wilma, which once was a record-setting category 5 storm with 185 M.P.H. winds and a record low pressure of 882 mB, was about to make landfall near Naples as a category 3 hurricane with 125 M.P.H. winds…due to her massive size, Miami would also receive a serious beating from category 2 strength winds as she transited the peninsula throughout the morning hours. Metrorail was out of service for close to a week as the extensive damage was repaired, with the #500 bus running 24/7 as a replacement. It brought about the curious sight of a bus labeled as “500 MIDNIGHT OWL” running in the daytime! Metromover remained out of service much longer. Metromover remained out of service until November 4th due to severe damage at Financial District station at the end of the Brickell extension and track damage due to falling debris from the 55 story Wachovia tower at the Bayfront Park station. The system did not reopen until the entire facade of the tower was inspected. One additional weather event affected Metrorail, on the evening of March 27, 2003 an F2 tornado struck the Brownsville/Liberty City area, killing 1 person. The tornado crossed the North Line near Brownsville Station and caused some damage to the tracks as well as the loss of power. Service for the rest of the night was provided via bus bridge.

It was also during this period that serious planning began for the Orange Line, a new 24.4 mile line that would run from Dolphin Stadium on the Miami-Dade/Broward County line to the new Miami Intermodal Center – finally bringing Metrorail to the aiport – and on west to the main campus of Florida International University, with a later extension to S.W. 137th Avenue added. The first segment was the long promised 27th Avenue elevated which would merge onto the existing North Line just north of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, then split off again south of Brownsville and continue to the Airport/MIC. There was strong funding support from the Federal Transit Administration as late as November 2007 when major funds were committed and MDT was given permission to begin acquiring property along the line. Utilities relocation also began for the Orange Line spur into the Intermodal Center, the only part of the 3 segments that would not be built with federal funds. Expected completion dates were given as 2011 for the spur into the MIC, 2012/2013 for the 27th Avenue line, and 2016 for the East/West corridor. The design change connecting the 27th Avenue and East/West corridors through the MIC was a major change, as the original designs called for the Orange Line to begin at Government Center and run west to the MIC via the Orange Bowl. An unused platform is still visible on the lower level, and for years elevators there listed levels for GREEN LINE and ORANGE LINE, the only place where the Green Line name appeared.

In mid-2008 everything came to a halt when the FTA downgraded MDT’s funding levels. They took a look into the books and did not like what they saw as it seemed that MDT did not have the funds to properly operate and maintain the service after it opened. One of the stipulations about the half-penny sales tax was that it was not be used to existing expenses but only for future planning, and there was hardly enough funds to maintain what was existing at the moment. The PTP had already suffered a black eye beginning when MDT’s Director at the time of it’s passage quit within days, took his senior staff with him and formed a new “shadow agency” of sorts to actually distribute the money to MDT. Allegations of payroll padding surfaced in 2003 and it was revealed that the group had leased posh office space on Brickell Avenue when County Hall had plenty of room. It was dissolved soon after. It was also revealed that the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust (CITT), the panel that was empowered to approve all requests for PTP funds, only had very limited powers. Between those problems and the oil price shocks of 2007/2008 and the subsequent economic collapse, events that actually caused an explosive growth in ridership across all modes, MDT was left with a projected $16 Billion shortfall through 2016, and severe cuts in bus service and other expenses began. The GOH project was shelved and it was admitted that the Metrorail cars were never properly maintained, a problem that persisted after the PTP passed because the cars were considered old expenses and thus ineligible to receive funding for the GOH from that source. Had it gone forward, the GOH would’ve been a radical one that possibly would’ve linked the cars into sets, and the cab ends would’ve been refitted with a futuristic slant nosed endcap that would’ve required removing some passenger seating to accomodate the cab which would’ve needed to be pushed back. As was the case in New York City in the 1960′s, 1970′s and early 1980′s, deferred maintenance was the order of the day, and as a result by the late 2000′s many of the 25 year old Budd cars were in poor shape. A study in 2008 revealed that the costs of overhauling them had now nearly matched the price of buying a new fleet. Thus in late 2008 the County Commission was given the go ahead by a reluctant CITT to begin ordering new Metrorail cars. In the meantime, trains once again run “6 packs” peak and “4-packs” off-peak and weekends, with peak headways cut to 8 minutes and evening/weekend headways cut to 30 minutes.The People’s Transportation Plan as it was promised to the voters was finally shelved in March 2009 when Commissioners voted to allow PTP funds to be used to cover existing costs. All the Metrorail expansion plans are now considered to be “aspirational goals”. The completion date for the Orange Line now stands at the year 2020 and light rail and BRT alternatives are being considered.

One bright spot in all this was the arrival of 12 new Bombardier CX-100 cars for Metromover to replace the original 12 Phase I cars. They were numbered 32 thru 43 and were delivered between April and October 2007. The last phase I car to run in service was car 6 which last in mid-October 2008. It is now Metromover’s Work Train. Car 1 ran until a few weeks before and is slated for donation to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum. Metromover has also been beset with problems as the system deteriorated from age, however the Mean Distance Between Failures (MBDF) did drop once the new cars went on the line. The are called “Phase III” cars only for the sake of continuity…there is no actual Phase III extension to accompany them. The Phase I cars were removed and towed to the Lehman Center and placed next to retired buses and most were auctioned off on February 26, 2009, likely to a scrap dealer.

Currently Metrorail as well as MDT in general faces many challenges, it has yet to be seen how they play out as the struggle to build the rest of the Orange Line continues. The spur to the MIC will open in 2011 when the center itself opens. The rail terminal will be called Miami Central Station, and some reports now say the Metrorail platform will be placed underground, which would make it the first subway station in Florida, however all official designs on the MDT site continue to depict a grade level station. Construction on the Airport People Mover is now underway as well.

As of October 2008, the last month figures are available, Metrorail averages 67,500 boardings on weekdays which is a 15% increase from the previous October. Weekend ridership is now at 58,300 despite the wide headways, a huge 45% jump from October 2007.

Touring Metrorail

The South line begins at the grade level tail tracks south of Dadeland South, which begin just north of S.W. 98 Street underneath the Palmetto Expressway (S.R. 826). They elevate and generally run in a northeast (railroad north) direction, parallel to US-1. It runs elevated above the former right of way of the Florida East Coast Railroad which ran along the west side of US-1. It leaves unincorporated Miami-Dade County above the Dadeland North station, and runs thru the city of South Miami and it’s namesake station, then into Coral Gables where it serves the University of Miami at University station. It enters Miami city limits in the area of the Douglas Road station. There is a crossover just south of Doglas Road. Continuing north we go through Coconut Grove station, followed by Vizcaya. Just north of the Vizcaya station is where Interstate 95 begins, splitting off from US-1. It is here that the tracks descend to grade level and run underneath I-95. Another crossover is here. Also, here the trackage resembles a traditional railroad with crossties and crushed rock ballast, and is the location of what is known as a “high rail access” point where crews can access the tracks. After this point the tracks elevate again. Just short of Brickell station they begin running above S.W. 1 Avenue and the tracks run directly north, above the Miami River into downtown Miami. Government Center station is the main station for access to the Downtown area, it is located on the grounds of the Stephen P. Clark Center, which is Miami-Dade’s County Hall (NOTE: Miami’s City Hall is located in Pan Am’s old Dinner Key seaplane base in the Coconut Grove neighborhood). This is the end of what is considered the “South Line” and the beginning of the “North Line”.

The North Line is much different in character from the South Line. The South Line is generally suburban and toruisty in character, with the Dadeland area rapidly developing into a downtown area for the massive Kendall district, which has yet to incorporate into a city. That includes several skyscrapers and new towering condominiums, mostly clustered around Kendall Drive (S.W. 88 Street). The North Line, however, is much more urban in character, and at times resembles an El in New York City or Chicago, running directly above streets, through poor and working class neighborhoods as well as inductrial areas, and featuiring several side platform stations. Leaving Government Center, the line continues north, running past the Historic Overtown/Lyric Theater station where MDT headquarters is at. From there a curve to the west takes it above the north margins on N.W. 11 Street thru the impoverished Overtown neighborhood. Just west of N.W. 3 Avenue, the line descends to grade level a second time, again to cross underneath I-95. There is a second “high-rail access” point here. It elevates again just before crossing above N.W. 7th Avenue and enters the station. From Culmer we continue west then curve to the north, and the line is now running directly above N.W. 12th Avenue. Here it enters the first of several side-platform stations, Civic Center. The Metro Justice Building and County Jail are here as well as the massive Jackson Memorial Hospital, the V.A. Medical Center, Bascom-Palmer Eye Institute and the University of Miami Medical Center (formerly Cedars). The massive complex of buildings make this station the 3rd busiest in the system. Santa Clara (side platform) and Allapattah follow then a curve back to the west, paralleling N.W. 46 Street, and Earlington Heights station Following that is another curve and we are now above 27th Avenue. Brownsville and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, both with side platforms, follow. North of MLK the line runs up to about N.W. 75 Street then begins a wide curve to the west. Here you may spot the extended concrete support pillars that will also hold the 27th Avenue Line trackage when it is built. Eventually the line straightens out and runs directly above N.W. 79th Street as we pass Northside and Tri-Rail stations. These are the last 2 side platform stations on the system. Tri-Rail, which is officially known as Tri-Rail Transfer, hosts Metrorail on it’s upper level and Tri-Rail at ground level…the Tri-Rail station is called Metrorail Transfer. At this point we are now enetering the city of Hialeah. After Tri-Rail the line jiggles slightly to the south to run above NW 74th Street, which also carries the name of West 21 Street in Hialeah’s grid system. At Hialeah Station lies the legendary Hialeah Park horse track, which closed in the mid-2000′s. This area is mostly low apartment buildings, then it becomes industrial in nature. The FEC tracks appear west of N.W. 57 Avenue (W. 4 Avenue). Just west of N.W. 62 Avenue – known almost exclusively within Hialeah as West 8 Avenue – at the corner of Okeechobee Road and W. 19 Street – lies Okeechobee, the former northern terminal. After Okeechobee the line continues westbound. The yard leads split off west of Okeechobee and curve off to the south into the yard. The mainline continues west and begins to descend to grade level west of N.W. 72 Avenue. It passes under the Palmetto Expressway and enters the industrial town of Medley, ending at the Palmetto Station. Tail tracks extend out to the edge of the station property.

There are crossovers at Dadeland South, Douglas Road, at both high rail access locations near Vizcaya and Culmer, Earlington Heights, Northside, Okeechobee and Palmetto. Pocket tracks are also found at the Douglas Road, Vizcaya and Earlington Heights stations. Trains are occasionally layed up there. A final note about the rolling stock, there are 2 pairs that are mismates. They are 125-128 and 126-127. It is not known why they are mismatched. I hope you have enjoyed this trip through time to look back at Metrorail’s history.

  • John

    just curious,
    what do you mean 125-128 and 126-127 are mismatched???

    • http://www.facebook.com/djvintagesoul Trevor Logan Jr

      125 is suppose to be mated to 126 and 127 is suppose to be mated to 128. They are mismatched in their current mate set up.

  • Kevin

    Wonderful entry! This was very educational, thank you so much for writing this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alougher Al Lougher

    I know this is an old post but does anyone know if they have retired trains at the Palmetto Yard (Lehman Center)?

  • http://eguides.barry.edu/content.php?pid=207784 Kfleming

    The William Lehman Papers at Barry University contain documents related to the Congressman’s work as Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation in U. S. House of Representatives.  Lehman is known as the father of Metrorail, Metromover, and Tri-Rail for his procurement of $800 million for the construction of the Metrorail transit system.

  • Myname


    The Downtown Miami Metromover Loop Rail An Extensive Tour

    awesome tour. check it out!