The County Commission decided to delay its vote Tuesday on the proposed transit hikes. I commend Carlos Jimenez and others for seeing that the issue had to be reconsidered. As Gabe mentioned earlier in the week, the monthly pass really needs to be consistent with the size/reach of our transit system (not higher than NYC). Not to mention that the last thing you want to do when ridership is up is to increase fares, but the fact is that the system needs to be funded. Unfortunately I think that this discussion is just the latest in a series of bad management and planning decisions that keep our holding our transit back.

It has been a tumultuous time for Miami-Dade transit recently. The result of poor vision, bad management, and professional incompitance, the transit system is currently on life support. (This all with record high transit ridership on Tri-Rail reported today!).

The recent allocation of PTP tax dollars for the refurbishment of existing cars (and purchase of new ones) is indicative of the state of our transit. If the Trust hadn’t stepped in and bailed out MDT there would not have been anywhere to get the money from. In other words once the metro cars reached their lifespan they would have been tossed and we would have a really expensive piece of civic art. By not rehab-ing the cars some time back (as Baltimore did with its metro cars) the Commission basically put itself in a position where they had to buy new cars or close up shop. Not to mention the message it sends to Washington: that we aren’t serious about competing for transit dollars.  As if the Orange Line didn’t have enough funding problems, this just adds to how disorganized the MDT is. When the feds look at our existing system and see that it is mismanaged, what incentive do they have to give us money when there are plenty of other cities out there that are serious about mass transit.

The Orange Line debacle is yet another indication of how flawed our system is. We are eligible for lots of free money to help build this line, and we are at risk of losing it because we don’t know if we can maintain the line for the next 30 years? Really?? Lets not even mention that the Feds are already miffed that we are going to downgrade our Tri-Rail service after giving us nearly half a billion dollars for track upgrades.

Whew. Where does that leave us with oil closing in on $150/barrel (and soon thereafter $200, and $250. and $300…)? We need our transit system more than ever. We need a successful transit system now, not under the 50 year plan, but the five year plan.

Truth is if our planners and elected officials were as serious about transit as they were about highway and road building we would already have a really great transit system. I think it would be a surprise to many here in our car-centered culture that plenty of other post-war suburban cities have developed amazing transit systems over the past fifteen years.

Incidentally, I had lunch with a buddy of mine named Dave who happily takes the bus everyday from his house in Kendall to work in Coral Gables. He tried to explain to me why transit works for him but not for his dad (who won’t take the bus to save his life). “Its really easy for me. It’s mostly a straight shot with one transfer. But my dad works five minutes away from his house. It’s easier for him to just get in the car and go. Transit can’t take us everywhere.” Now Dave is my friend so I didn’t reach over the table and smack him around, but that’s exactly the attitude that pervades our culture and is bred from policy decisions made at the top.

Our elected officials need to understand:

We NEED transit alternatives to the car.

We DESERVE multiple forms of transit that are safe, frequent, and far reaching without having to get into the car.

We need transit NOW.

11 Responses to The State of Miami Transit

  1. Kordor says:

    We need transit if we want to be able to attract high wage jobs and give our children better lives. We need transit to reduce transportation costs and housing costs (no parking garage cost to pass through) to keep the cost of living down and our quality of life up. Isn’t that the kind of sap that politicians can understand? I sometimes think these obvious and powerful arguments doesn’t resonate because many voters don’t actually expect their kids to stay in Miami anyway, but to move back to Latin America or north to Tennessee.

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  2. Tony Garcia says:

    Well, if we are here in 30 years (and not under water) I sure hope we have a better system than we do now.

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  3. [...] The State of Miami TransitThe County Commission decided to delay its vote Tuesday on the proposed transit hikes. I commend Carlos Jimenez and others for seeing that the issue had to be reconsidered. As Gabe mentioned earlier in the week, the monthly pass really …Transit Miami – http://www.transitmiami.com [...]

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  4. Warmonger says:

    I agree with Kordor but with a twist. Many to most folks don’t raise their kids here and expect them to move back anywhere. For a city that touts its international, cosmopolitan nature, this is actually a rather insular and parochial place. The folks here don’t send their kids away to school – they keep them in-state, if not in South Florida. This contributes to our public transit woes. You end up with a sizable population that has had no exposure to functional public transit, thinks buses are for poor people and old folks (not that those are mutually exclusive), and has no larger vision on transit issues beyond whining about the time spent crawling in traffic.
    It’s disappointing. It’s also why only the threat of $8 a gallon gas, rather than a desire to do the right and economically sound thing, will boost our transit system.
    What truly blows my mind is how such a win-win scenario is so hard to sell and to operate properly here. The construction jobs alone would be a boon. If done right, they would include apprentice programs that would serve as an entry point to get kids into the trades. They would be solid-paying jobs for hundreds, if not thousands, of local workers. Once built, the lines require service by skilled mechanics. The buses and trains require operators. Many to most of these jobs could/would/should be union jobs, not a bad thing if you want a workforce with a disposable income versus what we have now. I could go on about the environmental and health benefits and so forth, but I’d be preaching to the choir. If you read this blog, you know the benefits.
    Sorry to be long-winded, but I am in the amen corner on this post. Until our elected officials get it, we’re spitting in the wind. Without better transit options – better public transit – we go the way of the dodo, figuratively, economically, and possibly one day literally due to our obsession with the automobile.

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  5. Tony Garcia says:

    Warmonger, your reply is funny because I left out an entire section in my first draft where I make the same point you did: building more rail lines means more people are working. We are going to have a lot of unemployed construction workers in the next few years. We could put them to work in a New Deal inspired public works program that would revitalize our infrastructure and keep our economy booming.

    Unfortunately, it’s like you said, these ‘win-win’ situations never seem to convince people in charge. Maybe that’s because their cost/benefit analysis is fundamentally flawed.

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  6. DJ says:

    Will someone please explain the logic regarding MDT offering Free rides on the SOBE Local this weekend? It’s one of the busiest weekends on SOBE with lots of tourist why make it free for them?

    Special Memorial Day weekend service on Metrobus Route 123 (South Beach Local): Free bus service starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 23, 2008, and all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 24-26. The regular 25-cent fare service resumes on Tuesday, May 27.

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  7. Stephanie Torres says:

    I totally agree but dude…if you’re going to post an article like this, please brush up on your spelling and grammar skills! Also, ever heard of spellcheck??

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  8. Tony Garcia says:

    Stephanie, I appreciate your comment. I wrote the post in a fit of pissed off passion. We are usually better about silly errors, but it happens.

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  9. Wild Style says:

    I am from Brooklyn NYC and I can tell you. Mass Transit CAN get you anywhere in a city. But I think the problem with south florida is the lack of sensible city design. It is urban sprawl instead of New Urbanism. If things were packed in tighter like in NYC you could walk, bike or mass transit around the entire city with no issue. South Florida really needs to rethink how it is going to position itself going forward. I suggest those ignorant on the issue to watch the movie “end of suburbia” so you can see what is at steak should proper city planning get pushed to the back burner.

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  10. Mike says:

    The best way to help the county balane their budget and deal with these rediculous fare increases is to boycott miamidade transit. $1.00 is a fair amount for bus fare. its public transportation not a freaking limousine ride

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  11. Alina says:

    Are the prices on public transportation going to decrease or what? Because gas prices have decreased enough for these people to charge $2.00 plus 0.50cents for a transfer.
    Besides the more increase on the price the worse the service gets ,bus drivers are as rude as they can be and the`re always late at least 10minutes or more.

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