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.