Commissioner Gimenez’s proposed changes to the CITT were rejected in yesterday’s Commission hearing by a 6 - 6 vote. I was sad to see the 6 no votes -  Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordon, Chariman Moss, Javier Souto, Bruno Barreiro, and Joe Martinez. This would have been the first good decision the Commission made with regard to transit and the CITT. Too Bad. Commissioner Gimenez can now continue his mission to take the tax back to the voters. If he is successful you can be sure that the tax will be no more.

Meanwhile, his opinion’s on transit have taken a turn for the bizzare. Check out this interview with Carlos Gimenez produced by WPBG, Channel 2. His assesment of the CITT is right on, but his Plan B is a disaster. Gimenez contends that the car “is the most underutilized form of transit in this country.”  Is he kidding?

While not proving any details, he suggests that ‘outside the box thinking’ such as carpooling and other car related programs should be the focus of our transit system. (A  bad idea.) Commissioner Gimenez: We need a functional mass transit system that gets people out of their cars. We do not need to continue a falty land development system that relies on the car. An economic comparison of  cars vs. mass transit will show that the car loses when taking into account social and environmental costs. Upfront costs might be more for certain forms of transit, but the long term economic benefit of  investment around transit outweighs the initial cost.

This reminds me of a property I help my grandfather manage. It is an old 1940’s house that desperately needs a new roof (it has the same original tongue & groove roof deck from the 1940’s!), and considering the rain we’ve been getting the last two days I have gotten a few calls from the residents. Not only that, the interior has not been updated in at least thirty years. So I say, “Abuelo, its time to invest in repairs and upgrades! With a small but significant investment you can make more money over the long term.” Abuelo always says no, and calls the roofer to apply tar liberally over the existing roof as a patch. Rent remains low, and turnover high, but I know with strategic investment we can make a big impact in how much rent is collected.

It is the same with mass transit. Highways and cars (the tar patch we continue to rely on) suffer from bad diminishing returns - they are an inefficient form of transit, yet we continue to spend money on roadway expansion and repaving rather than investing in mass transit. The upfront costs of  transit are greater, but the long term benefits are also greater. We need to start somewhere.

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7 Responses to Rejected….

  1. Abner says:

    the car “is the most underutilized form of transit in this country.”

    Sort of, yeah. Most private vehicles can seat 4 comfortably and many many people (not sure of the percentage) commute with 3 of those 4 seats empty. Private vehicles also provide a superior level of service to public transit even if each of those 4 people require different stops. Even a Hummer with 4 people commuting is a better utilization of resources than 4 people driving 4 different hybrids.

    What if better utilization of cars involves a program for fractional ownership that implies carpooling (probably sponsored/organized by employers)? That seems like an idea worth pursuing to me.

    I’m still fascinated by the potential of ideas we aren’t currently considering seriously.

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  2. Andy Moore says:

    Too bad. That Plan B cannot be for real.

    Abner, have you heard of Zip Cars? They don’t involve carpooling, necessarily, but involve fractional ownership: http://www.zipcar.com/

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  3. Tony Garcia says:

    No doubt we can use cars more efficiently - but that is low hanging fruit. You still have to make serious investments in mass transit.

    Zipcar is definitely cool. Hope it takes off here. I saw one on US1 yesterday…very cool.

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  4. Abner says:

    zipcar is a great idea and I hope the service is expanded. I’m not sure about pricing though. Presently, the rate is fixed at $8 an hour (which includes fuel, insurance, and everything else) or $65 a day.

    The only transit initiative that I consider to be a slam dunk, no questions asked definite, is to run metrorail along the FEC railway.

    Another question, why is metrorail elevated? I would much rather see ground level stations which integrate so much better with the neighborhood. One’s got to guess that it is much less expensive to build/maintain a system when there aren’t 2 escalators and an elevator at every stop and massive columns every 100 feet.

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  5. James says:

    He said that think tanks, folks that have a bit of brain juice, are looking at this very possiblity, and, he also said, that he was not sure if that was the way to go, however, we need another plan other than rail. Why? Because we cannot finance it right now. I have heard him discuss the issue before, and he is looking at the FEC corridor, as the right-of-ways are already in place, and it serves the more dense and populated eastern quadrant of the County, looking at circulator routes, street cars, and other lower cost alternatives. The Metro-Rail system is extremely expensive to construct, and operate. That is a fact. Also, there are right-of-way issues. We cannot go underground here because of the cost inherent in the required de-watering. Look, if you are really serious, schedule an appointment to meet with him, and get the full picture rather than sound bites on some interview, or limited quotes in the paper. There has to be a holistic approach to transit, that includes expansion of existing highway systems, better use of cars by truly incentivizing car pools, and building the mass transit network. Other than small circulators, or the FEC, there is no money to expand the existing mass transit network, according to the County itself, so, that leaves two options on the table (generalization, but you get my point). You keep talking about investment in the system, but that is the whole point. The dedicated funding source known as the PTP was supposed to finance expansion of the system, so that we can incentivize people to use mass transit by providing more options, and more interconnectivity. That is not happening now, and it will not happen unless you hold the politicians and administrations feet to the fire. You can’t sit back and hope that they will do the right thing, because they simply don’t do the right thing, as evidenced time and time again. Like a child, you have to punish them, or they will never respect us as a constituancy, and continue to ride rough-shot over our collective desires to have a truly functional mass transit system in the long run. I can tell you this, if a repeal passes, the County knows the only way it can come to the people again is to create a TRULY independent trust, and specify exactly what the County is to spend the funds on, and not these promises that didn’t make their way into the ordinance. Then, and only then, will we have the dedicated funding source that will finance a new system. I know you are a transit-buff, but, think about reality. Nothing is getting done now, they lied to us, and we will never get anything done unless we stand strong on this issue.

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  6. Tony garcia says:

    James, If you read this site with any frequency then you know that we advocate for a truly multimodal system (see any post about trolleys..lol). I haven’t said we need to rely on heavy rail. I am simply responding to an interview where the commissioner missed everything you just described (streetcar, circulators) to talk about cars. Jeez.

    PS. The issue of transit is tied to the big picture of holding the line and growing our urban centers. Without transit we cannot make the case for greater density and mixed-use.

    PPS. I would hardly say that I’m a ‘transit buff’ - my interest and involvemt in transit related issues has everything to do with being practical. What are we going to do when gas fully rebounds (or climbs above $6)?? We have wasted so much time already that I fear that successfully repealing the tax will create a backlash against future transit taxes, making it even more difficult to realize the dream of a multimodal system.

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  7. TransitDave says:

    James and Tony both make good points, but I must interject my own opinions, formed from many years of being a transit buff/advocate, and tempered by the reality of the government we face here in MD county:

    1. A heavy rail system is the only real solution to linking our county together, light rail is neither fast enough, nor will move enough people to truly make a difference. (although I anticipate a hybrid system for the FEC corridor) I cite the example of Washington DC as proof of the “If you build it, they will ride” approach. The Baylink streetcar system, for example, would provide a scenic ride but only serve the route between downtown and SOBE, and would hardly serve the needs of the county at large. A well funded system might feature both the baylink and the east-west subway, but we’d be lucky to get either in MD county, and my vote is for the east-west subway, lofty goal though it is. Whatever system we have, it can’t be one which can get stuck in traffic. Traffic relief, afterall, is the point. and, the cost of a dedicated right of way light rail system is nearly that of a heavy rail system.

    So much for the cost objection to heavy rail, which is just as weak as the arguement against underground rights of way, which eliminate the need for utility relocation, land purchases and condemnation, and construction disruption (except in the immediate vacinty of stations). Dewatering might be necessary, but it’s been done in many cities in the world, again including washington DC, and it’s not an insurmountable obstacle, which brings us to:

    The Miami Dade county commission, which continues to be the greatest obstacle to improving our transit system. Until MD Transit is taken out of the grips of the MD county commission, it will never be more than a political cash cow. ‘Nuff said.

    Any reform approach must address this reality first.

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