Now that we’ve OK’d our transit plan, let’s start planning
Written by Michael Lewis on December 10, 2014
Miami-Dade’s transportation planning runs as late as its buses.
Last week commissioners sent to the state a 10-year transit plan that they’d neither studied nor discussed. They were running too late to critique the plan.
This week, the commission gets statistics showing that the buses the 10-year plan relies on to unsnarl our traffic have been losing riders every month. Even those numbers are late: commissioners are just are getting figures for June, July and August.
And we wonder why we’ve utterly bungled a unified transportation plan of any sort, let alone one that might actually get us where we need to go on time.
Don’t blame only county hall. We have state, regional, county and local transportation operations of every sort, all under separate control, plus private transportation operators, and nothing stitches them all together.
Without interlocking, we peck away at increasingly serious mobility woes piece by piece.
But even where one agency controls the county’s bus, Metrorail and Metromover services, staff has created a 10-year plan that commissioners voted on without a word of critique because they faced a seemingly immovable deadline.
To get $20 million for transportation, the county had to approve its plan and send it to the state by Dec. 2, giving the state 30 days to study it by Jan. 1. But a commission committee that was to nitpick the plan in November never met, so the plan wound up on the commission’s agenda, totally without debate or discussion, on the final day.
Esteban Bovo Jr. and Chair Rebeca Sosa wanted to delay a vote until commissioners had reviewed the plan in public but were told that even a day’s delay would jeopardize $20 million, so commissioners unanimously OK’d a 10-year plan for transit that they’d never discussed.
That wouldn’t be so bad if the plan actually could fix our woes. But it can’t. It relies on the transit we have plus more buses – and commissioners will learn this week that buses are losing riders steadily.
The plan adds no rail, no more Metromover, no streetcars, no link to Miami Beach – just added buses for 10 more years because we don’t have funds for anything else. Even the no-gains plan commissioners got shows deficits in operations and in the few capital purchases. And it offers no way to plug those deficits.
Some planning, huh?
First of all, planning should mean laying out aims and methods for achieving them, and doing both well in advance. In this case the very, very modest aim of adding buses can’t be achieved with the money we expect, and we’re not planning for ways to fill the gap.
Second, and equally important, we didn’t plan in advance. The first meeting to discuss transit plans was set less than a month before deadline – never mind that the meeting was never even held. So officials were to begin planning on the last day rather than months early as they should have.
Of course, they didn’t even begin then. They just forwarded staff plans to the state without a word about transit needs, methods or funding. And without needs, methods or funding, what planning was left? The menu left out the main course.
Commissioners simply vowed to send the 10-year plan to the state, get their $20 million grant and then in January talk about amending a plan they had yet to discuss – or possible even study.
New Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava did note that the county is sponsoring a transportation summit Jan. 22 at Miami Dade College and that perhaps commissioners should look at the plan before the countywide summit.
Not to worry, Transit Director Ysela Llort told commissioners, because “about 4,000 people weighed in on the development of the plan.”
That weighing in was a survey of what residents want from transit. But that’s not a plan – it’s a wish list. A transit plan is a whole lot more – at least, it should be.
Now that the 10-year plan has passed, the county transportation committee this week is to discuss a new fare to ride Metromover and withholding $6 million in promised transportation aid for five years to balance the budget.
Those key changes should factor into 10 years of planning – but they come after the plan’s unanimous approval.
If this is the best the county can do to plan to get us out of our mobility crisis, don’t plan on any improvements. Is that what the county will tell the Jan. 22 transportation summit? Just stay home?
Planning is meant to solve problems, not perpetuate them. But first, those in charge need to read, analyze and discuss the plan they’ve already passed. Ms. Llort told them she thinks the state will let them change it after we get the money.
We hope we can bank on that. Basic changes are needed – starting with adding transportation that can work and a real plan to fund it.