Transit Tax Being Spent on Highways

Most probably don’t know this, but the CITT recently updated its website to show all of the new projects they are funding. Does anyone see a problem with this picture??

Below are the major transit projects proposed by the PTP

Funding of major highway and road improvements undertaken by Miami-Dade County Public Works through 2014 is among the many long-term benefits of the People’s Transportation Plan. These projects include:

  • Creating viable reverse flow lanes on major thoroughfares

  • Construction of NW 87th Avenue between NW 154th Street and Miami Gardens Drive ( NW 183rd Street)

  • Accelerating program to provide ADA accessibility to bus stops throughout the County

  • Constructing major ingress/egress improvements in downtown Miami, from SW 8th Street to SW First Avenue

  • Upgrading the County’s traffic signalization system

  • Funding grade separation of intersections where appropriate

An underpass at 87 ave and 8th street, to be funded by the half cent transit tax. Is this a joke??

An underpass at 87 ave and 8th street, to be funded by the half cent transit tax. Is this a joke??

In recent facebook post Miami-Dade transit had this to say:

In 2008, our elected officials admitted publicly, at a transportation forum held in November of that year and covered by the media, that a half-penny’s worth of taxes was not enough to fund the rail lines depicted. Since then the focus has been on bus rapid transit on managed lanes. We remain committed to providing the best possible service with the resources we have available.”

 

Managed lanes (read: lexus lanes) for transit!??? Our tax dollars are being spent to make high speed lexus lanes for the wealthy. Great. #epicfail

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More Highways A Drain on The Economy

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MDX wants to further subsidize suburban sprawl with a new toll expressway at the western edge of the county.

Meanwhile, more than 25% of county residents live on little over 5% of the land – a staggering concentration of people in a relatively small area, yet investments are being made that are out of step with these demographic changes.

The idea that Miami-Dade is a suburban county pervades popular thought, but these numbers tell a different story. The time when Miami-Dade lacked sufficient density to invest in mass transit has passed, and the demographic shift toward the city center is ever increasing. A recent Pew Center study highlighted the shift away from car culture among the 50 million Millennials in the United States, a trend that we see here in Miami. The rate of car ownership has fallen among this group over the last thirty years from 38% in 1985 to 27% in 2013. How will our city thrive in the coming decades if the generation to come eschews the vision of autocentric suburban America? This is the essence of the brain drain Miami-Dade is experiencing.

It will take bold leadership from our elected officials to turn away from the status quo, and bring forth a new vision for transportation in Miami. One such leader is Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who recently penned a letter to the MDX board that described our challenge in clear terms:

Your proposed new tolls, covering the entirety of SR 836, and including a cost of living increase, are nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment for urban dwellers who have very little alternative due to our inefficient and overly costly system of mass transportation.

Commissioner Suarez is correct: without any alternative, the increase in toll rates places an onerous burden on the driving public; however, the real issue for current and future leaders is not simply toll increases, but the lack of alternative forms of transportation. Mass transit is costly and complicated to implement, but cities are complex places. Continuing on the path of suburban sprawl and highway expansion may be the cheap and easy route, but as my grandfather was fond of saying, lo barato sale caro (cheap things turn out more expensive in the end). The cost to our region will be great if do not diversify our transportation network and ensure that coming generations are not beholden to their cars.

The Truth About Tolls from Commissioner Xavier Suarez

We have been working together with Commissioner Xavier Suarez to address the MDX’s plan to increase tolls and expand highways. He penned the following letter to the MDX board which hits the nail on the head:

Open letter to MDX Members:

I have recently been briefed by your chairman and have exchanged letters of inquiry with your executive director.

My main concern is what appears as an ever-increasing effort to impose user fees (by means of tolls) on motorists traversing what are essentially urban arteries.

As a general rule, the idea of charging users for roads already built and whose cost for maintenance is low (due to our favorable weather conditions) contradicts the logic of consumption of public goods, whose fixed costs are high but whose marginal cost of each user is minimal.

The agency was given authority, some 16 years ago, for five expressways in our county. Some of those were underused at the time and are still not particularly congested. In return for that grant of authority and control, the agency “defeased” (assumed the obligation for) a mere $60 million previously owed by the state.

Since that time, you have increased the debt to over $1.2 billion, meaning that you have increased debt for those urban roadways by a staggering 2,000%!

A big chunk of that new debt, comprising more than a quarter billion dollars, was spent on reconstructing interchanges. Aside from the wisdom of spending such huge amounts in just connecting existing roadways, it is apparent that no thought was given to what economists call the “transactional cost” of such improvements – meaning the amazing disruption of traffic patterns, the bewildering confusion for motorists, and the additional congestion during the transitional period.

Now it appears as if the agency wishes to tax us at all points in the system, comprising a daily charge of as much as $8 round-trip for folks commuting from the southernmost tip of Miami-Dade to the northeasternmost tip.

I have lived in four American cities: Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston and Miami. In none, except Miami, has it become necessary to charge motorists for use of normal roadways in the metropolitan area.

Your proposed new tolls, covering the entirety of SR 836, and including a cost of living increase, are nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment for urban dwellers who have very little alternative due to our inefficient and overly costly system of mass transportation.

I am also concerned about what appears as a doubling of the interest expense from FY 2010 to FY 2011, from approximately $19 million to about $38 million.

It should be noted, in that connection that if you combine the $38 million paid in annual interest payments to the $24 million paid in annual operating expenses, the cost to maintain the system exceeds the entire initial debt. In other words, more is being spent on a yearly basis to maintain these five expressways than the entire debt obligation assumed 16 years ago.

Our county notoriously pays more in state taxes than it receives. By accepting responsibility for five essentially completed expressways and taxing users going forward for expansion thereof, your agency has aggravated the inequity of our transportation cost-benefit equation, when considered vis-a-vis the rest of the state.

I should also mention the bewilderment felt by our thirteen million visitors, when they see signs that say “no cash allowed” or “all cash vehicles must leave the expressway.” When you add that confusion to our strange system of highways, where no lane is safe from disappearing or flowing in a totally different direction, the overall effect is to disinvite those that make up our key industry.

Based on the above, I urge you to delay this decision until you have considered every other possible alternative.

Thank you in advance for your consideration hereof.

Very Truly Yours,

Xavier L. Suarez

Way to go Commish! this is much needed clarity and leadership from the BCC. #vision #leadership

Highways to Boulevards: MIAMI

The Highways to Boulevards project seeks to undo the blighting effect of highways on our urban centers. Highways to Boulevards: Miami is a project that envisions the complete redesign of the interstate system in downtown Miami. The work is the result of a studio at the University of Miami School of Architecture. The objective of the studio is to produce a vision for new transportation infrastructure for Downtown Miami that seeks to heal blight and repair the connectivity of the Downtown urban fabric, which was compromised by the construction of I-95 and I-395 in previous decades. MoveMiamiDade will be the source of information and news on this project as it develops. Check back soon for updated graphics and data!

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Public Town Hall Meeting about Proposed US 1/Busway Express Toll Lanes

Should a toll express lane be constructed on this valuable transit artery? Make plans to attend this informative public discussion meeting regarding the MPO’s(Metropolitan Planing Organization) plan to convert the busway into a tolled Express style highway.  MDX(Miami-Dade Expressway Authority), public officials and transit experts will be on hand to answer questions.

Public meeting about proposed Express Toll Lanes on South Dade Busway

(click the above image to download the PDF version or to print out hi resolution copy)

Toward A more complete Metrorail

 

Got this suggestion today from reader Alex Yemat on improving MetroRail:

With the launch of Metrorail’s orange line service, residents can use any station from Dadeland South to Earlington Heights and board one train to MIA. Unfortunately, residents living alone the northern parts of the green line, need to transfer at the Earlington Heights Station, and during off peak hours when trains run every 30 minutes, there’s greater risk of arriving at the airport 30 minutes too late.

One potential solution is the creation of the Metrail Blue Line!

The Metro Blue Line would run from Palmetto Station to MIA. Blue Line trains would run every 15 minutes, all day and night, seven days a week from 5AM to Midnight.

In addition Metro Orange Line Trains would run every 15 minutes on weekends and off peak hours, increasing service to MIA.

Of course, in the long -term MDT should consider extending MetroRail to Miami Beach; one connection possible that builds on the work already completed could be from Earlington Heights Station to Miami Beach, along the Julia Tuttle Causeway. (Can anyone say the Red Line?)

MIA would be then served by the blue, orange, and red lines. While Earlington Heights would be served by the orange, green, and red lines. Stations south of Earlington Heights would continue to be served by orange and green line trains.

This third extension, creation of the Red Line, would increase the serviceability of the Metrorail, as a true alternative to the car, especially for out of town visitors.

This upgraded network will allow Metrorail to increase service levels to ten minute headways, all day and night. With a Metrorail Train departing from MIA and Earlington Heights Stations every 3 minutes in each direction.

Metrorail could then adopt the following schedule: (wouldn’t this be a dream?!)

Weekdays & Weekends: Metro Red and Orange Line Trains, every 10 minutes (24 hour Service) Weekdays & Weekends: Metro Blue and Green Line Trains, every 10 minutes ( 4AM to 1:30AM)

In the event that MetroRail Service is increased, Tri-Rail could expand its service from MIA to West Palm Beach, providing service from 4AM to 1AM, and reducing headways to every 15 minutes during peak times, and every 30 minutes all other times.

Thanks for the suggestions, Alex! All this to say that the more we invest in service improvements in one part of the system – the more we get out of the entire network. Let’s get moving Miami-Dade!

 

Opposition to the US1 Expressway Growing

Is this the key to better mobility in Miami-Dade? More expressways? NO! Thankfully, our neighbors in South Dade agree:

From the Miami Herald:

“But not everyone is convinced. Mamie Attar, a resident of the Falls area, says she is hoping a collective effort will stop the project before it progresses any further.

“My biggest concern is that this will destroy the neighborhood,” Attar said. “They should be concerned in getting more buses for the busway.” Right on Mamie.

 

The Problem With Transit in Miami

The Problem with transportation in Miami-Dade County lies with years of inaction and mismanagement. This is our diagnosis of what the problem with transportation is in Miami-Dade. Our solution is in the creation of the Miami-Dade Transportation Authority.

  1. The Problem with Transportation Planning in Miami-Dade
    • Disconnected modes that should work together
    • Lack of accountability and transparency in planning
      • MDX plans and expand without transparent public input
      • MDT cannot expand without bankrupting County govt; mired in politics
      •  MDX exacerbates traffic and safety problems without accountability to users: Tollation without representation
    • Lack of options
      • MDX trying to expand without other options.
      • No real expansion of transit beyond MIC/Earlington Heights
  • Bloated county government
    • MDT is the second largest county department with limited efficiency
  • Solution: Unify transportation agencies: Miami-Dade transportation Authority – MDTA
    • Agency with a mandate to balance transportation options
    • Reform PTP and ½ tax
    • Share toll revenue, ROW to ensure transit expansion`
    • Expand transit to places that warrant higher service
    • Stop highway expansion – we do not need more highways
    • Ensure roads are designed for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users AND cars
    • Reach realistic goals over the next 50 years
    • Provide 21 century outreach and access to data
  • Three step plan:
    • Establish MDTA
    • Reform MPO
    • Adopt new PTP & Budget

Advocating for Better Mobility in Miami-Dade