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Transportation advocate, friend of Transit Miami, and recent county Mayoral candidate 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 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 agree. I’m not trying to ‘solve’ for corruption or graft in our transportation culture - just trying to set transportation modes on steady footing. The key to the TM plan is that the agency would be independent (no commission involvement) AND be chartered with a mandate to provide all forms of transportation - with benchmark modeshare goals to guide policy makers along the way. The dark hand of Miami Politics will be present, but at least it will not mean the end of a worthy transit project.

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.

I’m all for learning more and doing different - but what Carlos has planned is more of the same. Lip service to real ridership expansion. He cannot take politics out of the system until both the Mayor and the commission have nothing to do with transportation. Gimenez is not going to fund any system expansion - on the contrary he is probably going to continue to decrease the size of our bus system, and will try to dismantle the few premium transit facilities we have in favor of managed lanes and other similar half measures.

And circulator buses? Really? This sounds like more of Suarez’s plan to implement 2000 trolleys around the County. Ridiculous. These are visible, short term ploys that will take as long to implement as they will be in service. Just long enough for elected officials to claim they are making progress on transit before leaving office, and handing this hot potato to someone else not willing to make the tough choices.

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.

Transit is not cost effective. Period. Building transit costs money; transit operations cost even more. Any meaningful expansion of our transit system is going to have to be paid by our tax dollars. To play the, ‘I want to make transit cost effective’ card is more of the same politi-speak. You can’t expand transit service and talk about cost effectiveness in the same breath. (And what gaping hole in the budget? The county only spends $153 million from the general fund on transit - about $180 per year per household)

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.

Opportunity for what? More of the same? Transportation is one of the biggest challenges facing our community - and there is still no meaningful discussion about how to move us forward to more balanced - and economically sustainable - transportation network. The idea that this election is somehow different or a ‘linchpin’ in some predestined path to greatness is silly. Gabrielle, our county cannot become great when our leaders are mediocre. We will not become anything more than a sprawling suburban town until we invest in our transportation network.

Our leaders must be willing to make difficult choices (do I expand service and raise tax to pay for it?) in the name of better mobility for all. I hope that Carlos Gimenez is elected; but more than that I hope that he awakens to the fact that we need to aggressively invest in our transit infrastructure.

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