Tech-Forward Transportation

By staff writer

January 2019 — 2 min. read

Technology has had a significant impact on Orlando’s transportation sector. Various transportation companies have taken important steps towards innovative projects to improve passenger experience and service efficiency. For instance, a group of agencies are developing and testing several smart transportation technologies in the Creative Village complex throughout 2018 and 2019 to enhance pedestrian safety and ease congestion. Creative Village, located in Downtown Orlando, is a mixed-use, transit-oriented, urban infill neighborhood that will be home to the UCF/Valencia Downtown Campus in 2019.

The transit programs will be developed by the Florida Department of Transportation, MetroPlan Orlando and the University of Central Florida (UCF) as a result of a $12 million grant awarded by the Federal Highway Administration. The grant will focus on four major technologies: PedSafe, a pedestrian and bicycle collision avoidance system that digitally connects people, vehicles and traffic lights; GreenWay, which uses traffic signal technology and sensors to help the transportation system adapt to real-time traffic conditions; SmartCommunity, for trip-planning apps; and SunStore, which integrates FDOT data. Operation and maintenance of these projects are expected to continue through 2021.

In addition to group efforts and partnerships, many transit companies are implementing innovative solutions to combat mounting traffic and adjust to the needs of modern passengers. One example of these efforts are the changes made by LYNX, a bus system run by the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

LYNX launched four mobile applications in 2018. “One of them is our LYNX Bus Tracker, a real-time mobile application that allows passengers to track the bus they are waiting to get on,” Edward L. Johnson, CEO of LYNX, told Invest: Orlando when he sat down with our team in early December. “We also developed NeighborLink, a mobile application for our door-to-door bus services for areas with less passenger flow. The technology is similar to Uber and Lyft applications.”

LYNX has also launched the application “See Something/Say Something,” which allows customers to discreetly send a notification to the company’s security offices if something improper is happening in one of its vehicles. LYNX plans to merge the mobile applications in 2019. It is worth noting that LYNX accommodates an average of 90,000 passenger trips daily over an area with a resident population of more than 1.8 million.

Companies like MetroPlan Orlando have reinvented the traditional way of adjusting to the influence of technology. “We are getting ready to update our strategic plan, and we are about to kick off the update of our long-range transportation plan,” Gary Huttmann, MetroPlan’s executive director, told Invest:. “This plan will be different from any other we have seen because of the influence of technology on the work that we do and how we address that looking into the future.”

Among the most anticipated innovative transit projects in Orlando is the arrival of Brightline, with construction set to begin in 2019. This massive project will allow passengers to travel from Orlando to Miami in three hours. Brightline is also in negotiations to add rail service from Orlando to Tampa, which might include stops near Disney World and Lakeland.

This advances in technology and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) are expected to reduce mounting traffic and road accidents and bring safer solutions to bikers and pedestrians. As outlined in the Harvard Business Report, McKinsey and Bloomberg New Energy Finance have estimated that in 50 metropolitan areas worldwide, a rapid transition to advanced mobility systems could yield $600 billion in societal benefits through 2030. You can bet that everyone here at Invest: will be keeping a keen eye on the tech-forward transit projects underway in Orlando.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:


MetroPlan Orlando:

For more information contact:
Jaime Muehl
Managing Editor
TEL: 305-523-9708, ext. 230

The Underline is Underway

By staff writer

December 2018 – 2 min. read

December 2018 — Miami’s Underline officially broke ground in November 2018. The city’s version of Manhattan’s famed High Line has already begun phase one of its five-phase development plan, with the first phase currently underway in Brickell. The project, which was proposed just five years ago, has received massive support from the state, city, county and local community and is expected to create thousands of jobs.

The idea for the project originated when Meg Daly — founder and CEO of Friends of the Underline, the nonprofit organization behind the project — suffered a serious injury that forced her to rely on the Metrorail to get to and from physical therapy.

In doing so, she noticed how wide the area under the tracks was and how much shade the tracks offered, and thus the idea for the Underline was born.

“2019 will see construction of the first half mile of the Underline’s Brickell Backyard,” said Daly in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “2019 will also see the second phase from Brickell to Coconut Grove in the design phase.”

The park will run for 10 miles underneath Miami’s Metrorail and span over 120 acres, stretching from downtown Miami to Dadeland. It strives to provide an alternative mode of transportation for civilians in the area, as well as foster community engagement and recreation. In addition to offering biking and walking trails, dog parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, the project will also showcase the city’s blooming art scene.

“Led by Friends of the Underline Art Advisory, in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places and curated by Ximena Caminos, the Underline’s public art will feature local, national and international emerging and established artists that will engage and connect visitors to place and each other,” Daly told Invest:.

The project’s goal of offering alternative transportation to civilians while also providing ease of access to the city’s metrorail is significant due to the city’s traffic issues. The South Florida Business Journal reported that Miami drivers spent an average of 64.8 hours in traffic last year, according to a report from Intrix Inc., which also estimated that this congestion costs local drivers an average of $1,762 a year.

Given the project’s potential to alleviate some of the city’s traffic and its potential for job creation, it should come as no surprise that it has received massive support at both the state and local levels. Phases one and two have been funded by Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida and the City of Miami. Phase one also yielded funding from the Florida Department of Transportation. Earlier this month, the Knight Foundation awarded Friends of the Underline $500,000. With the total costs of construction estimated to be around $120 million, however, there is still plenty of room for the public to take part in the project.

“Supporters can generously donate at and/or attend our many community-building events, including health and wellness programs sponsored by Baptist Health South Florida, support of our four-legged friends on February 2, 2019 and attend our upcoming Underline non-gala in the fall 2019,” said Daly.

Phase one is expected to be completed by June 2020. Given the project’s velocity thus far, it shows no signs of delay or slowing down.


For more information on the project, our interviewee and ways to donate, visit

Look, Ma, No Hands!

May 2018 — Last month, the City of Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County and Prototype Prime announced the creation of a city-owned autonomous vehicle track and Advanced Vehicle Technology Accelerator. By January 2019, the $2 million project will create a self-driving shuttle bus on a 1.4-mile stretch of Technology Parkway between Spalding Drive and Peachtree Parkway.

Despite what one might think, the goal of this autonomous shuttle bus is neither to address sustainability nor traffic. Instead, Peachtree Corners envisions this project as a way to propel economic development and attract top companies to the area. While the bus will be limited to only a small number of riders, it will serve as a test site for new AV-related technology. This test site is expected to attract companies focused on future transportation technologies.


Prototype Prime will work as a business incubator, as it is located on the planned 1.4-mile stretch of Technology Park where the autonomous shuttle will run. The company has over 25,000 square feet of space slated to house new startups and serve as the testing hub for future advanced vehicle projects.

In addition to the autonomous shuttle, Prototype Prime will launch the Advanced Vehicle Technology Accelerator in collaboration with This partnership is meant to foster collaboration among researchers, startups, Fortune 500 companies, local technology companies and corporations to work with the test shuttle.

All of this collaboration makes us wonder: Is the future of driving autonomous? In the last year, a large number of studies have been conducted regarding the impacts of a driverless world. Many studies explore congestion benefits, environmental benefits and even parking benefits.

One May 2017 study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois, University Grenoble Alpes, the University of Arizona, Yale University, Penn State and Rutgers University found that adding just one autonomous vehicle to a mix of 19 normal vehicles lessened “jamiltons,” or traffic waves. Adding just one autonomous car to the mix reduced excessive braking events from 8.58 per vehicle per kilometer to just 0.12 per vehicle per kilometer. In short, autonomous vehicles are so efficient in speed that they reduce human inconsistency and result in much less traffic congestion.

In a heavily congested city such as Atlanta, autonomous driving could be the key to alleviating drivers’ woes. But is autonomous driving the future? The year 2018 is sure to bring many more studies and pilot programs in order to move toward this innovative technology. The Peachtree Corners vehicle track and accelerator program is propelling the future of transportation technology.

To learn more:
City of Peachtree Corners:
Prototype Prime:


Riding with Ease

May 2018 — There is no question that ride sharing has made it easier for people to travel from place to place on an international scale. Even in Miami, where there is a strong car-ownership culture, people have been cutting back on driving and turning to ride sharing to get around town.

The most obvious reason for this trend is that ride sharing apps are so easy to use. The user-friendly interface lets you order a ride, contact your driver and even see what type of car you’ll be riding in before it arrives. There’s also the comfort of knowing how much your ride will cost before you get in the car, and digital receipts are much easier to keep track of than paper receipts. On the whole, ride sharing makes traveling easy and stress free, especially when you’re not the one stuck behind the wheel during a rush-hour traffic jam.


Today Uber, the world’s biggest ride-sharing company, has 100,000 partners throughout the state of Florida. We asked Kasra Moshkani, general manager of the Southeast U.S. region, how Uber is working with the Miami business community to make the ride-sharing experience unique.

One answer to that is the partnerships we’ve formed over the last few years, including our relationships with the Miami Heat, the Miami Marlins, the Adrienne Arsht Center and Ultra Music Festival,” Moshkani said. “These organizations, sports franchises, venues and events in our community are such an integral part of what it means to live in Miami, and we want to be a part of that experience.”

Partnerships are not the only way Uber stays connected. For the second year in a row, Uber is teaming up with Ironhack, a coding and design bootcamp located in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood, to award scholarships to Uber driver-partners and riders. In 2018, $200,000 in scholarships will be given out to promote professional development in the area of coding and design.

To learn more about Uber’s positive effects on Miami and the benefits that ride sharing is providing to the city’s transportation sector, pre-order your copy of Invest: Miami 2018 today!

For more information about Uber, visit

Innovative Infrastructure



April 2018 — The Miami metro area is booming. As of 2016, the city was ranked the 8th largest for population and the 6th largest for employment growth among big U.S. cities. People are flocking to Miami to take advantage of everything it has to offer: warm weather, rich culture and unique business opportunities. It truly is one of a kind.

However, with an increasing population comes increasing challenges. With limited space to expand, the city continues to look for innovative ways to update its infrastructure in order to accommodate the growing number of residents and employees. Companies are experimenting with new technologies in order to improve safety and efficiency in the most cost-effective way.

Invest: Miami spoke with a number of leaders in the city’s infrastructure industry to gain insight into how Miami plans to successfully increase its capacity limit in the most economical, sustainable and feasible manner. Here’s what they said:

Humberto Alonso, Senior Regional Business Development Director, Atkins North America

“One of the challenges in South Florida is that solutions for transportation that work elsewhere involve building more miles of road or widening streets. We’re past that point here, particularly in Miami-Dade County. There’s no more room to build, so we need to look for other solutions. Technology will be a part of it, but there has to be an infrastructure investment as well. People have to change the way they think about going from one place to another.”

Eric Silagy, President & CEO, Florida Power and Light Company

“In Miami-Dade in particular, it’s critical that we continue to support growth in the region in a comprehensive and forward-thinking manner. The construction boom in Miami over the last few years has been enormous, but it can be challenging from an infrastructure perspective. A lot of planning needs to be done in advance to be able to meet the needs of the new developments. We’ve made great strides in working with regional stakeholders to understand what is coming and the timeframe for these investments so that we can properly plan and execute projects on our end to be ready to support these developments. It’s important to work together to provide opportunities for continued growth while minimizing the impact to those who already live and work in the area. And of course, we must continue to improve and enhance our storm preparation and response planning so that we are able to get the lights back on as quickly as possible after a major storm — particularly in an economic hub like Miami.”

Melsie Ordonez, Director of Operations & Senior Mechanical Engineer, Ross & Baruzzini

“The great thing about working with Miami International Airport is that they are at the forefront of innovation and offer opportunities to explore outside the box. One of the nuances in that environment is the need to tie into the existing infrastructure. We’re doing a small renovation in Concourse G, which is one of the original concourses. There are systems there that need to keep running to keep planes moving even while they are being worked on and added to. Tech is moving fast, and we need to marry the old and the new.”

Eddy Smith, Senior Vice President of Client Services, SCS Engineers

“We use some different approaches that might be more economical. Instead of putting two feet of soil on top of contamination, we’re challenging the old standards and saying, ‘Why can’t we use less than two feet and put in a synthetic barrier?’ We’ve gotten traction and save our clients a whole lot of money by doing that.”

To find out more about our interviewees above, visit their websites at:

Atkins North America:
Florida Power and Light Company:
Ross & Baruzzini:
SCS Engineers:

Mixing Work and Play in an Innovative Way

April 2018 — Started in 1999 as a graduate thesis and initiated in 2008 with walking trails, the Atlanta BeltLine has come a long way from what it was once envisioned to be. The recent developments of office buildings, retail and residential space along and around the BeltLine have created an environment where residents have everything they need within walking distance. It is the ideal mix of work and play and continues to grow as a current real estate hotspot in Atlanta.

In fact, in December 2017, a $750 million mixed-use project was unveiled for the continued expansion of the BeltLine. The plans include two 12-story office buildings, one hotel, 700 residential units and 200,000 square feet of retail space. The BeltLine also hired a new CEO, Brian McGowan, to continue the project.

The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership was formed to raise philanthropic dollars to supplement the BeltLine’s efforts. The Opening the Corridor campaign, which began in 2017, helped fund the recent purchase of the Southside Trail as an interim connection. The $25.8 million project will connect the East and West sides of Atlanta for the first time in history.

Focus: Atlanta spoke with a number of city leaders in both the real estate and transportation sectors to get their insights on the mixed-use developments quickly sprouting up along the BeltLine. Here’s what they said:

Brian McGowan, CEO, Atlanta BeltLine

“The BeltLine is currently refocusing itself. We are 12 years into the project, and it is time to reflect on where we have come from and reevaluate the direction we are heading. The BeltLine is about people at the end of the day. Our focus is function over form.”  


Jim Irwin, President, New City Properties

“Offices along the BeltLine allow people to create more alignment between their work life and their personal priorities. Whether it’s commuting to work by bicycle or walking across the BeltLine to meet a friend for lunch at Ponce City Market, this project gives people an opportunity to work in a place that they truly enjoy.”

Chris Faussemagne, Principal, Westbridge Partners

“There are a lot of suburban submarkets that are creating their own central business districts. They are creating their own communities, jobs and places to live. That has been a great thing for the city because it relieves congestion. The BeltLine is also creating a lot of connectivity and alternatives to work and play.”

Matt Bronfman, CEO, Jamestown Properties

The BeltLine is like our beachfront property at this point. We need to make sure that the people developing on the BeltLine do things that are worthy in the long term. We need to get tougher on the development community to do interesting projects because that is how you get appreciation. The entire BeltLine will be completed sooner than people realize, and those neighborhoods will be made much better. Neighborhoods attracting young talent will be the most successful, and those are along the BeltLine.”

Scott Cannon, Executive Vice President, Skanska

“The Atlanta BeltLine Development is focused on getting people outdoors and being green. It’s about changing the way people live, work and play in the city. Skanska has a unique project that we are working on with architect Lord Aeck Sargent: the Atlanta BeltLine Urban Farm Shed. It is a 500-square-foot off-grid storage and work shed featuring a photovoltaic energy and storage system, composting toilet, and the use of salvaged and locally milled wood products.”

Greg Hare, Managing Partner, Ogletree Deakins

“Some of the critics of the Atlanta BeltLine have called it nothing but a glorified sidewalk. However, that big wide sidewalk creates better connectivity between neighborhoods, as well as tremendous economic development, because it’s a popular place to be. Developers are now putting a lot of money into parts of Atlanta that have not seen investment in decades.”

Chris Clark, President and CEO, Georgia Chamber

“We need to attract young professionals. We need to create the cool factor, which is why things like the BeltLine are important. We can offer great amenities and quality of life.”

To find out more about our interviewees above, visit their websites at:

Atlanta BeltLine:
Westbridge Partners:
New City Properties:
Jamestown Properties:
Georgia Chamber:
Ogletree Deakins:

Smart plan

How the Department of Transportation and Public Works is using information sharing to make a better transport system

Alice Bravo Director – Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works


What are the most important milestones achieved by the Department of Transportation and Public Works in 2016?

When I started in this position, we were focused on the basics: clean, safe and reliable transportation. Along the way, we worked on the merger of the Miami-Dade Transit Department with the Public Works Department, which was formally approved in February 2016. We have been working with both sides to increase their synergies and leverage by pulling our resources together. In addition to paying more attention to cleaner trains, buses and other forms of transport, we have stepped up security by developing an app so people can report immediately if something happens to them. We will also soon launch new Metrorail cars, which use improved technology to run their systems and enhance reliability.

How has the investment in new technology helped to market transit services?

Investing in technology is one of our top priorities. Our buses have real-time tracking. We have revamped our app to make it more user-friendly and provide real-time tracking information. Recently, we debuted EASY Pay. This mobile ticketing system does two things. First, it eliminates the hurdle of dealing with a ticket vending machine. Second, it will help us provide incentives because we will be able to do cross-promotions with local businesses. With the data gathered, we know where our passengers get on and off. With this information we can, for example, offer coupons to use in the shops near the stops they use. With an account-based system, we can communicate better with our customers, enhancing information availability and thus encouraging people to increase their use of public transport. We believe that public transportation could work for a lot of people, but it has just never crossed their minds. Therefore, the first thing we need to do is to get them thinking about public transport. Second, we need to get them to use the app and trip planner to understand its ease and convenience. Lastly, we need to get people to realize that they can take Metrorail to the airport.

Which is being done to help promote awareness of the advantages of using public transportation?

We are combining better information with increased knowledge. A good example of this is the fact that we have uploaded information to our website about our corporate and student discounts. We also added other promotions, such as taking Metrorail to the airport. We know that many of our corporate clients will want to take advantage of these offers. For this, we teamed up with the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, which has been actively promoting this option.

Invest: Miami speaks with Ralph Lopez, Vice-President, Miami Hub, American Airlines


As the hub carrier for Miami International Airport (MIA), we produce just over 70 percent of the total volume in traffic and travel in and out of Miami. We understand our responsibility in delivering a world-class product that is reliable and safe. Our view of 2017 is to make sure that we improve our delivery of services and continue to find ways of improving the experience for our passengers. Miami is a unique hub – it is built to connect domestic and international traffic; it is the gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean; and it is a transit point from the Atlantic to South America. We are keenly focused on improving the connecting experience as well as our reliability. As MIA is the largest cargo hub in the U.S., we also want to produce a good product for our cargo customers. In 2016, we moved close to 50 million tons of cargo. We want to improve systems, platforms and tools to enable better delivery and weight management of our aircrafts. The biggest advantage of MIA has been Miami’s location, which has been a mutual benefit for both the county as well as American Airlines. We are the Southeastern most point of the U.S., centrally located within the Americas. From a distribution standpoint, Miami is incredibly well positioned. There is substantial local demand, which is well supported by connecting traffic. There will be a lot happening in 2017. We are focused on having the best network and schedule and want to enable the right timing, capacity and destinations. We are working on designing the next generation’s schedule. In 2017, We will have the third iteration of a Miami fight structure that we developed in 2014. We are looking at the directional plans of our fights, making sure they are optimized. We are looking at our feet, rationalizing and managing it optimally. At the same time, we are incredibly focused on ensuring that we build the schedule to capitalize on demand, but also operable and reliable. We have seen great improvements relative to the last decade, and we are expecting this trend to continue in 2017.

MDX invests in Miami’s transport infrastructure

Invest: Miami speaks with the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority

With five projects being executed and seven others in the pipeline, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) is rapidly enhancing Miami’s road infrastructure. MDX, the entity that manages, maintains and funds improvements to five local expressways, and is funded only by tolls collected on the Dolphin SR 836, Gratigny SR 924, Airport Expressway SR 112, Don Shula/SR 874 and Snapper Creek SR 878, is executing important projects in order to improve Miami’s traffic conditions.

Even though partnerships with other public entities such as the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works (MDT) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) have been essential to executing some of the current projects, MDX has been able to embark on these new projects because of the improvement in its funding system. Instead of just 50% of drivers paying, now all users pay for the portion they drive. This, combined with funding through bonds, has allowed MDX to adopt sensible policies to tackle traffic in Miami-Dade.

“The increase in revenue is because of three reasons: Everyone pays their fair share for the use of the road, the economy has grown, and the population has increased, resulting in higher traffic volumes and improvements that MDX has already made allows for increased capacity on its expressways.” Louis Martínez, Chair of the MDX Board of Directors, stated in December 2016. “When we made changes to our system in 2014, we promised to construct improvements that would save travel time for our customers. We are ahead of schedule in fulfilling this promise,” he added.

One of MDX’s major projects, the SR 836 Modernization from NW 57th Avenue to NW 17th Avenue, will include a diverging diamond interchange, also called a double crossover diamond interchange. This is a type of diamond interchange in which the two directions of traffic on the non-expressway road cross to the opposite sides. The project is scheduled to be completed in summer 2018, almost at the same time as the MDX SR 836 Interchange Improvements at 87th Avenue, another project currently under construction, will finish. MDX explains that the main purpose of the project is to improve traffic operations and safety of the SR 836 and NW 87th Avenue Interchange. A significant improvement will be the addition of a new flyover ramp that will provide direct connection from westbound NW 12th Street to westbound SR 836. This improvement will substantially reduce the congestion at the intersection of NW 87th Avenue and NW 12th Street.

In an earlier stage is the SR 836 Improvements from 17th Avenue the Midtown Interchange, which is being constructed in partnership with the FDOT and is expected to start construction by the end of this year.

The MDX SR 874 Ramp Connector to SW 128 Street is currently underway. It will provide alternative expressway access to the area, reducing congestion and providing additional connectivity and mobility to the rapidly growing area of southwest Miami-Dade County.

Finally, MDX will produce the Dolphin Station Park and Ride Transit Facility in partnership with MDT and the FDOT. The transit facility will support the Department of Transportation and Public Works’ SR 836/Dolphin Expressway Express Bus Service, provide a terminus or stop for several local bus routes serving the Dolphin Mall and the cities of Sweetwater and Doral, as well as serving a potential future east-west commuter rail service on the CSX line.

Juan Toledo, Deputy Director and Director of Engineering commented, “Our projects are rooted in core principles of improving transportation by investing in key pieces of infrastructure improvements, introducing reliable and safe emerging technology, and providing different options within the transportation corridors.”

To read more about the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority’s work, visit their website at: