THE FIRST extension of Miami’s heavy metro line since Metrorail began operations in 1984 was officially opened on May 30. Passengers were allowed to ride free on the 2·3 km Palmetto extension serving the town of Medley in northwest Dade County until June 29.

Miami-Dade Transit began work on the $87·8m project in July 1999. Funding has been provided by the federal government, the state Department of Transport and local sources. Half of the extension from the former northern terminus at Okeechobee runs at ground level, and half is on viaduct. The new terminus is the line’s first to be built at ground level as a cost-saving measure, and brings the total number of Metrorail stations to 22.

The multi-modal transport hub at Palmetto is served by three feeder bus routes from the northwest of Dade County and the southwest of Broward County. The station is expected to attract around 2200 passengers on a typical weekday. Palmetto is also the first station to be equipped with liquid crystal passenger information displays, which Miami-Dade Transit intends to install at all other stations.

From June 8, Metrorail and the inner loop of the Metromover city-centre peoplemover began operating 24h a day, as part of a public transport improvement programme funded by a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters last November. The sales tax increase, dubbed the People’s Transportation Plan, is also intended to help finance the construction of 143·2 km of new rail routes over the next 30 years at an estimated cost of $7bn.

Danny Alvarez, Director of the county’s Office of Public Transportation Management, said he hopes to see about 5000 additional riders each day using the hourly night service, which includes timed transfers to and from 11 bus routes at various stations. The annual cost is put at around $700000, and the service is primarily expected to carry people employed in Miami’s service and tourist industry. Before the change, weekday boardings on the 36 km network totalled about 50000, which is far less than the 200000 originally projected.