By: Eli Stiers, Esq. and Leah Weston, J.D.

We were disappointed by dismissive statements of Miami-Dade County Commissioner and Chair of the Finance Committee, Esteban Bovo, at the recent public meeting on the County’s annual budget.  Bovo’s comments have been memorialized in a YouTube video posted by Ms. Weston.  In response to a request that the Commission prioritize funding for better public transit, Commissioner Bovo displayed an outdated perspective that is out of sync with the needs of our ever-growing community.

While acknowledging his own frustration with the paucity of our transit options, compared to cities like Paris and Washington, D.C., Commissioner Bovo lamented that living without better access to transit is a “sad reality about Miami.”  We could not agree more. We further contend that lack of better public transit is preventing Miami from joining the roster of world-class cities.

Where we strongly disagree with Commissioner Bovo is with his indifference to the status quo.  His statements that Miami’s “car culture” is “in our DNA,” and that it would be difficult for people to leave their cars and “stand in the hot sun” to wait for a bus are problematic.  We think that Miamians choose to sit in cars for hours on crowded interstates because they lack other options.  Indeed, when the only option is to wait for a bus in the Miami heat, most will choose a car.  Those who cannot afford a car, on the other hand, are left to cope with our chronically underfunded and underperforming transit system.

Commissioner Bovo’s comprehension of how transit inadequacies affect immigrants and retirees is similarly flawed.  The Commissioner dubiously claimed that immigrants and retirees come to Miami seeking the freedom of the open road after leaving other parts of the world that usually have better transit options than we have in Miami.  To the contrary, immigrants and retirees, frequently of low and moderate incomes, are more dependent on transit than any other demographic.  This is bad news for Miami – an area recently documented by the Center for Housing Policy to be the least affordable place in the country for middle-to-lower income families, due to combined housing and transportation costs, which account for a whopping 72% of income!

Offer the public something better, like an expanded Metrorail service that truly links our community, and our guess is that many Miamians will abandon the stress of the daily commute on I-95, US-1, 826, and 836 for the comfort of an air-conditioned train car, and the chance to read a book, answer e-mails, or take a nap on the way to work or school. It is not a “small segment” asking for better transit in our community. To the contrary, Miamians are desperate for better transit. Don’t blame the culture and concede defeat—find a way to move this city forward.

In his final comments on the video, Commissioner Bovo segued into a discussion about road construction, undoubtedly to allocate more millions from the budget for an ever-expanding morass of highways, which are antiquated and overcrowded from the moment they are opened.  This kind of thinking is outdated, and this method of addressing transportation in our rapidly-expanding metro area is unsustainable.

We agree with the Commissioner: our transit woes stem from a lack of leadership and vision for our community.  We are frustrated, however, that despite recognizing the problem, and being uniquely situated to address it, he seems unwilling to fix it.  We challenge Commissioner Bovo and the rest of the County Commission (who also make up the majority of the MPO Board) to change their thinking about public transit in the County.  With better leadership and vision, Miami-Dade County can have a real mass transit system in Commissioner Bovo’s lifetime, contrary to his belief.  As an elected official, you cannot throw hands up and claim that the dreadful status quo will never change.  You must be the impetus for that change.

Eli Stiers is a Miami attorney with Aronovitz Law, Director of Safe Streets Miami, and Board Member with Green Mobility Network.

Leah Weston in a founding Board Member of TrAC and a recent graduate of UM School of Law who is currently studying for the Florida Bar.

 

3 Responses to Miami-Dade County Deserves New Thinking on Transit

  1. Gables says:

    I moved here from Arizona and when Phoenix was building its light rail system, many people made similar augments as those made by Mr. Bovo, namely that people would not want to stand in the hot Arizona sun (up to 120 degrees in the summer) to walk to or from a train station or to wait for a train. It was also suggested that the car culture, sprawl, and freeways of Phoenix would prevent people from riding the light rail. If you do a Google search, you will see the exact opposite happened when the light rail line opened. In fact, ridership numbers are higher than anticipated and growing. Furthermore, the suburb of Mesa, AZ received permission to use money designated for road expansion to instead fund an extension of the light rail line into its downtown. I would venture that if Miami had the leadership to push forward with quality transit expansion, the results would be similar to Phoenix. Using this car-centric Arizona city as an example, we can stop the baseless arguments, such as those made by the commissioner, and build a 21st century multi-modal Miami.

       8 likes

  2. Its very disheartening to read Commissioner Bovo’s recent statements regarding transit in Miami. Our current system is so limited it’s almost impractical. Obviously if tourists could get around the Miami easier it would benefit a broader portion of the community. Additionally, more locals would be inclined to use public transportation if it were more extensive and efficient.

       1 likes

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is miami destined to fail when it comes to public transportation and transit?

    The fact that this article is named, “Miami Dade County,” makes it seem so.

    The Miami metropolitan area doesn’t consist of just Dade county, it consists of dade, broward and palm beach counties.

    And it needs to be treated as so.

    The fact we have at least four SEPARATE Public transportation systems SUCKS And makes it seem like miami is destined to fail in those departments.

    It should be just like other great cities with great public transportation: ONE public transportation system, which has the CITY train / bus / etc. which obviously, covers the city and could cover the closest suburbs. And the suburbs train / bus / etc.

    Look at the great Chicago and their great public transportation. Exactly like that. And the Chicago area has more counties than us!

    Even ORLANDO is smart enough to do it like that. That is just pathetic and should make miami embarrassed and ashamed.

       1 likes

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