I have been waiting patiently for either of the current mayoral candidates to come forward to champion better transportation choices for the residents of Miami-Dade County, but with election day around the corner it seems that we are going to have to continue to wait to see real leadership come out of County Hall. Neither of the two candidates, Julio Robaina (Hialeah) or Carlos Gimenez have made much of an effort to describe what they plan on doing to improve mobility in the region, apart from general comments on the recent transit scandal, and a promise to “shake things up.”

Gimenez is the favorite amongst the center and left leaning voters of Miami-Dade county, not because of what he says but because he isn’t Hialeah Julio. I for one can’t tell the difference between the two candidates. I had really hoped for a more forward thinking agenda from Gimenez – a statement on how dysfunctional our current system is and a concrete plan to improve it, but after his lackluster performance on transit issues over the past decade, I can’t say I’m surprised. His answers to the recent Green Mobility Network transportation candidate survey revealed nothing more than a continuation of the current highway building culture that perpetuates our transportation problems. On the question of whether to convert the South Dade Busway into an expressway, he said, “The South Dade Busway is currently underutilized and uses should be expanded.  We should look to the 95 Express lanes as a model.  Those lanes allow for both bus and automobile traffic and have increased commuter speeds in the non-express lanes by giving drivers another option.”  Yuck. Too bad.

Let me clarify – I don’t want to give the impression that Hialeah Julio is any better. His statements on transit read like the comments section of the Miami Herald – an emotional plea for more ‘oversight’, but no real substance.  “First and foremost, we must urgently reform the Transit Department and ensure that all public dollars are being spent judiciously and that the ½ cent tax that this community voted to tax itself for improved transportation is in fact being used to remedy transportation ills and not for more management or salaries.” Check out his blog to read more.

Suffice it to say that the current mayoral candidates don’t know what active transportation is, or how to improve mobility for the residents of Dade County, nor do they have any reason to care. This election has shown that the problem is not with the candidates, but with our current metropolitan system of government that pits an independent highway agency against a second-class county transit department. One has funding and can expand its system as necessary, while the other is left to the whim of the current director or mayor or Commission puppet master.  The debate is framed around questions of better oversight for transit, and expansion of our highway network   – not the other way around. Until we reform our system of transportation governance to establish an independent elected transportation director, we will not see a change in our mobility options.

13 Responses to Lackluster Mayoral Candidates Promise More of the Same on Transportation

  1. M says:

    I agree with your comments about establishing an independent transportation director and reforming transportation governance.

    My question is what would the process be to create an independent transportation director? Could the mayor and commission create such a thing? I’m not familiar with the legal aspect of it. However, I imagine that to create such a thing, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority would have to agree and give up some power. I don’t see that happening.

    In case anyone is interested and would like to ask questions about transit, I just read that the Miami Downtown Development Authority is holding a mayoral debate tonight (June 15) at 5:30 at the Gusman Center.

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  2. Tony Garcia says:

    Establishing an independant transportation authority can happen by State legislation, Commission legislation, or popular referendum. We are going to have to take the idea to voters…..

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  3. Tom says:

    Well summarized sad state of things, Tony. Still, I think the fact that Gimenez took the time to respond to the GMN survey at least indicates he is open to dialogue. Mr. Robaina did not even engage.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Look at the MTA in New York as a model… a state agency, it operates the New York City subway, buses, Long Island and Metro-North railroads. It also maintains and collects tolls from tunnels and bridges to Long Island. As a state agency it collects an income tax and tolls from its roadways which support its transit services. If we had a similar agency that was able to take tolls from the expressways to support transit MDT and Tri-Rail we the reguon would be in a much better position to compete for FTA matching funds for transit capital projects such as Metrorail, Baylink, and bus service improvements.

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  5. brock says:

    It’s time the transit department go independent. I wish Gimenez and Hialeah Julio (love the name), would get serious about public transit and start fighting for it. We also need someone who’s going to fight strongly against expanding the UDB.

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  6. Gables says:

    everyone loves to get on here and talk about how they want elected officials to fix our transit situation. the fact is that it is in OUR hands people. julio robaina was the leader in the mayoral election with only 63,000 votes! that is only 5% of the electorate and that is nothing. whoever wins the runoff at the end of this month will do so with just a tiny fraction of the voters going to the polls.

    the mayoral election did have some progressive candidates, as far as transit is concerned, such as gabrielle redfern of miami beach. she is very pro bicycle, and against moving the udb, and supports transportation options. having a mayor and commissioners like that would go a long way in advancing progressive transportation thinking in miami-dade, and the best news is that we can get a progressive thinking person elected with just 63,001 votes!

    if all the people reading this blog organized and voted, it really could make a difference. perhaps a sister organization, transitmiami politcal action committee is needed to facilitate such a thing.

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  7. Peter says:

    Your article is a good guide for what to guard against. Regardless of who is elected there’s more potential to improve our lives with political focus on transit and highway improvements rather than on baseball and the car someone drives.

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  8. Vernon6 says:

    MTA as a model looks good on paper. The reality is it’s a financial debacle that routinely runs deficists in the millions a and is larded with overpaid employees that retire at 55. Actually, the MTA is really an HMO that happens to run trains and collect tolls on the side. There are layers upon layers of management that sucks up bloated salaries and benefits. All the while, service to outer reaches of the city is cut entirely and frequency cut everywhere. It COULD be a good agency, but if anything, it has regressed over the past decade.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    The MTA, like any large organization has its share of management issues and its finances have been impacted by the economy like every other government agency. My point was that merely having an elected transportation official will not fix the problem of how to pay for a useful transit system.

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  10. Tony Garcia says:

    No doubt that the MTA has problems – but they have a mandate to operate transit service – that’s what we lack here.

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  11. Gabrielle says:

    Tony:

    I agree that we need a different approach to the oversight and planning of our transit ways, and perhaps going with an independently elected MPO, like we see in Oregon would help. However, with all of the dollars at stake, we would be fools to believe that the dark hand of the Miami Political process would not cast its shadow there as well.

    I have had the honor and priviledge of spending a considerable amount of time in the close company of both mayoral candidates and know who each is getting their transit advice from. I have seen their positions and campaign rhetoric evolve over the days and weeks since the Green Mobility survey was returned. I am supporting Carlos Gimenez because I believe he is the most receptive and open to our views about our urban environment.

    Hey, lets face it, Tony. We cannot expect either of them to be the transit geeks we are. But I know that Carlos has made a commitment to me, and to this County, to learning more and doing different. Way different. He realizes the importance to our transit system, of first removing the cloud we have with our partners, the Federal Government. He is committed to not only getting the fiscal house of MDT in order, but removing the political process from the backbone of the system, bus route planning. As a strong mayor, he can and will demand from his new Director a system that maximizes the rolling stock we have now and creates two different types of County bus service: one that is based on our natural grid to connect people to each other and the major County centers and services and one partnered with the municipalities to create circulation systems to reach employment, civic and social destinations inside the cities.

    He is the first to tell you he voted himself for the half penny tax because he wanted the expansion of the Metro rail as much as anyone. At one of his first Commission meetings he flashed his now famous fire over the notion of “unification”. You remember that, that wonderful Burgess Buzzword to admit that they had not been putting the money from the tax away but spending the cash to prop up the maintenance and operation of the bloated and redundant system they had rolling? And that left us with what? Exactly two and a half miles of new Metro rail, not seventeen.

    Carlos knows MDT must attract riders. He knows from his years of providing fire and rescue services that the service must be efficient and reliable. He will use smart technology to attract riders, enhance the experience and performance of the system. Many things that are out there now and easy to develop and implement quickly. He sees the opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of so many and fix a huge gaping hole in the budget by making transit more cost effective.

    I hope your readers will realize that we have this opportunity and vote for Carlos Gimenez. Now is the time, and he is the linchpin, in the path we need to take to make our County great. Transit Miami readers know the key to our future is a more rational approach to moving Miami-Dade forward. Because, Tony, no how often you travel to the fabulous Big Apple, there is no place like The Magic City and South Beach.

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  12. [...] Gabrielle Redfern posted this thoughtful response to my recent post about the Mayoral race (Lackluster Mayoral Candidates Promise More of the Same on Transportation). I thought it warranted an equally thoughtful response. Gabrielle writes: I agree that we need a [...]

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  13. Mr. E. says:

    THE TRUTH IS WE REALLY NEED TO STOP COMPARING THIS ROACH INFESTED SERVICE WITH THE MTA OF NEW YORK EVEN THE DRIVERS HAVE NO RESPECT TO THE PATRONS…AND DO AS THEY PLEASE ARRIVING LATE TAKING LONG BREAKS TALKING VERY RUDE TO THE PASSENGERS. THE DISCIPLINE HAS TO COME FROM THE GOVERNANCE IF THEY DON’T HAVE ANY DISCIPLINE DO YOU REALLY THINK THESE PUNKS ARE GOING TO HAVE ANY…SO DISGUSTED WITH THE MIAMI TRANSIT THEY ARE SUCH AN UGLY EXAMPLE OF MIAMI…VERY VERY VERY UNPROFESSIONAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THEY WILL NEVER COMPETE WITH THE MTA…AND THE MTA WOULD NEVER CONDONE THE CRAP THESE DRIVERS ARE DOING EVERYDAY ON THE ROAD….

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