The People’s Transportation Plan had a busy week last week. Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, a steadfast critic of the way the CITT has been mismanaged, has formally proposed sending the item back to voters for a referendum (in the hopes it will be repealed). This couldn’t come at a worse time for MDT considering looming service cuts on the horizon when property values are reassessed this year and the county has to scramble for all the cash it can get its hands on. Commissioner Gimenez: what is our ‘Plan B’? We cannot simply remove a major source of funding from our system. Yes promises were made, and the money was never sufficient to make big moves. but we need to make sure that we don’t cut off our nose to spite our face.

In what seems like a strange coincidence (read: sarcasm), the first major rail project funded by the PTP finally broke ground after seven years. Yippie. We can finally get to the airport (arguably the first place the Metrorail should have gone). Now all we have to do is get it to go to the beach. Now that George Burgess and Commissioner Jordon have squeezed out the only positive PR they are going to get out of the PTP, I wonder what their next steps are.

“Our challenge now is to creatively fund other corridors on a priority basis,” said County Manager George Burgess, who said voters were over-promised in 2002.

Ok, we were over-promised. We get it. Now what? Are we operating under the PTP, just looking for ‘creative funding’? Are we considering cheaper BRT options? How about streetcars? There needs to be more transparency in the planning process. The failure of the PTP was not that it over-promised, but that it was not marketed correctly. We should have been looking for creative funding since 2002 (in addition to the CITT). Surely, no one thought the tax was going to answer all of our problems. The CITT shit sandwich that we are all eating won’t taste good until we have a workable plan for implementing the PTP (or its descendant): it’s time to get moving.

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6 Responses to News on the PTP front

  1. Tony Garcia says:

    Thanks Juan. I saw this, and hope that Commissioner Gimenez has a backup plan. Last year, Bruno Barreiro (one of the unreformable majority) even proposed adding another half-cent to make our tax consistent with other similar sized cities. In light of all the bad blood between the County and residents I doubt that will ever happen!

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  2. James says:

    Tony, a couple corrections. Gimenez has not been a critic of the CITT, he has been a critic of (1) the fact that PTP money has not gone to where it was supposed to go, and (2) the fact that the CITT had no real power to safeguard those funds. The simple fact is that MDT was already in a serious deficit by the time the PTP was approved, by the way, those deficits were not shown on the books. As of right now, the PTP will not deliver one foot of rail service, light rail or street car included. Simple facts are that government has lied and mismanaged the PTP funds. That cannot stand. Will the existing system suffer as a result? It shouldn’t, the County Administration had perviously said it had enough to cover the operations and maintenance of the existing system based off the general fund draw for MDT, and revenues to MDT from services. The problem is, they have been diverting MDT funds derived from the general fund to other County Services, and using the PTP to supplement it. This is not just a Transit issue, and while I understand your whole site is dedicated to Transit, this really is a overall government effeciency and, the credibility of our County Government.

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  3. Tony g. says:

    Indeed James, I agree with you on most points. To correct you though: a) I never said Gimenez was a critic of CITT - just the way it was mismanaged. b) the Earlington Heights connector is being built with CITT dollars - probably the only rail project we can expect. I agree with you that this is about efficiency and trust in County Government - but the remedy is not abolishing the tax, but restoring the general fund contribution to MDT. That is something I have advocated strongly for. The General Fund has to do its part - no doubt, but do we really want to take a step back by abolishing the tax?

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  4. James says:

    Tony:

    Point taken, however, I believe Gimenez’s concerns as it relates to the CITT is with the lack of power in oversight of the surtax funds. He has been a critic of the PTP, because of the fact that PTP funds were used to fund operations, etc., of the existing transit system. I think the disconnect is just an issue with definition of the terms that we are discussing. The CITT is the board that reviews PTP (People’s Transportation Plan) funded projects. So, the MIC/Earlington Heights Connector is being built with PTP funds, as approved by the CITT.

    That being said, what is on the table is potentially doing just that in another sponsored ordinance. But, lets talk reality, if the County Administration can use the PTP funds to supplement the Transit budget, and by extension, the general fund, it has no incentive to move general funds back into Transit. It is unfortunate, but, you have to force that down their throats!

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  5. TransitDave says:

    In discussing the Earlington heights /MIC metrorail project, one must remember we’re paying over half a billion dollars for 2.4 miles of track, and one more station. What’s really a scandal, though,is that the project did not qualify for federal funding, because the county commission (with a new PTP blank check in hand) rejected the advice of the consultants, and the public input process to choose the current route instead of the locally preferred route, which also would have allowed a future station where MDTA’s present bus maintenance facility is located near 36th street and 32nd avenue.

    Instead,the PTP will fund 80% of the project costs, instead of 25%, which is the normal local share for this type of project.
    This is a fine example why the Transit agency has to be taken away from the county commission, and it will never be properly managed until it is.

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