While Miami’s political attention is on County charter changes, Miami-Dade County residents should consider a change that would reduce our second-largest cost of living: transportation.
Our largest cost of living, housing – at least the portion directly determined by County government, i.e. property taxes – is overseen by an official that we recently decided that we should elect. Now any Property Appraiser must improve the lives of a majority of County residents in the area of property taxes in order to be re-elected.
This technique should by applied to the area of transportation, changing the County charter to create an elected County Transportation Director with the power and responsibility over all modes of transportation. This would insert into County government one person whose sole political interest is to move as many County residents to destinations that matter to us.
Any candidate for County Transportation Director would have to convince a majority of voters that he or she is best able to come up with plans, and implement them, for saving us time and money by extending facilities, increasing capacity, and reducing waste. An elected County Transportation Director would have to improve the lives of a majority of County residents in the area of transportation in order to be re-elected.
Creating an elected County Transportation Director would also address issues with the current system in which certain modes of transportation, or certain facilities, are overseen by separate County departments. For example, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, because it only deals with toll highways, has an interest in not losing revenue to rail or buses. Separate departments may act against such interests out of benevolence, but it would be better to remove temptation.
Transportation investment and maintenance decisions should be made on the basis of how many people could benefit, regardless of mode or facility. An elected County Transportation Director would have every incentive to make decisions in such a way, improving mobility for all County residents and reducing our cost of living.
Submitted by Andrew Frey.
I recently had the chance to spend a whole day riding Tri-Rail (Fully Work Related) and finally got a good glimpse at the quantity of commuters who depend on this rather primitive commuter rail system daily. Last week, Tri-Rail averted a major financial crisis that would have slashed daily service from 50 to 20 trains and completely eliminated weekend service, thanks to only a 10% budget reduction by Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Another year of near optimal operation should allow the former fastest growing transit agency in the nation (2006) to continue to attract riders, in a time when public transit infrastructure is of paramount importance.
Ridership is up already 45% over June 2007. May saw a 25% increase, April 28% and March 22%. More than 157 companies signed up for the authority’s employer discount program in May — about 881 riders.
While travelining along the line, I noticed a few key areas where tri-rail could drastically improve its bottom line and service:
TOD: Currently Inexistent. This is my major focus in Regional Planning studies. Often times, I find that our problems are not necessarily the fault of poor transit policy but rather what we choose to do with the land around our transit centers. In Miami, this usually equates to fences, poor access, and inappropriate uses.
Parking: Currently free and very limited. Potential revenue source? There are several reasons why free parking poses many problems, even at transit stations.
Employee Parking: Seriously? This parking is largely unused and unnecessary.
Tri-Rail has received a year reprieve in which it must continue to attract a larger share of riders while working to better integrate itself with the South Florida Landscape. Most of the land use issues are largely out of the control of the agency but must still be addressed regionaly if we ever hope to make a sliver of change in our very autocentric lifestyles.
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