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Front Page » Opinion » Don’t leave a creative solution to transit sitting at the station

Don’t leave a creative solution to transit sitting at the station

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Written by on September 20, 2016

Don’t leave a creative solution to transit sitting at the station

A creative proposal to fund six light rail lines to fill out Miami-Dade’s transit skeleton and loosen gridlock’s economic chokehold has too much potential to sidetrack. It should be a highball express.

Last week, however, the county committee that aims to speed new transportation left the plan sitting in the station. Only Commissioner Xavier Suarez even showed up, leaving a vital solution at the starting gate.

That’s a shame, because even if the forward-looking route mapped by Esteban Bovo Jr. wins committee approval and then speeds nonstop through the commission – and that’s a huge if – it will merely give Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s team six months to study the concept and then brief commissioners who, if they’re fully sold, would then shape the mayor’s report for action.

Under the best conditions with goodwill on all sides, if we start now the county couldn’t generate transit funds using the machinery Mr. Bovo outlines for several years, with actual cash flowing a year or so later and construction after that.

Nothing in transit planning, funding or construction is quick – nor, as our current skeletal rail system shows, is generating enough riders to yield faster commutes for everyone, even drivers. It’s so cumbersome, in fact, that every delay pushes an end to constantly slowing commutes further and further into the future.

What Mr. Bovo proposes is a deep look at financing transit via the engine that Community Redevelopment Agencies use. The legislation that governs them funnels to each agency the lion’s share of increased tax receipts in their areas as property values grow. They use that money to further strengthen the area’s economy. Some do it well, some don’t.

In the case of transit, Mr. Bovo is proposing either one umbrella fund or one for each new rail line to take in each year tax increments plus all other transit funds available, which might be farebox revenue, state and federal funds and more, to jumpstart the six routes. How to fund ongoing rail operations must also be crystal clear before the county creates transit funding pools.

Note that however good this plan sounds, it only works if property values along transit lines grow faster than value growth of other properties.

The rationale for such a tax district is that rail is an economic catalyst. Heavily used transit lures dense development of housing, jobs and opportunity near every station.

If the committee and then the commission pass Mr. Bovo’s measure – which they should, because it merely would study a transit funding tool that’s succeeding elsewhere in Florida – the mayor’s team will create a mountain of research.

The measure asks the mayor to recommend either an umbrella district or six districts, boundaries for each, multiple scenarios of how tax increment use could affect the county budget, the impact on the plan of community redevelopment agencies, other funds that could flow into the tax districts, concerns of affected cities, and how much money could flow in.

Each recommendation has economic and political ramifications. Multiply the study’s seven questions by 13 county commissioners to get 91 possible sticking points.

No, this won’t be easy.

Other commissioners, including Mr. Suarez, have their own ideas of how to fund six transit routes that we badly need. Each of these concepts also faces multiple sticking points, again multiplied by 13 commissioners and many government agencies.

Frankly, any path that gets us to needed transit is worth exploring. And Mr. Bovo is merely asking for a study that would not be a barrier if any of the six routes could be completed earlier in another way.

A study might uncover more impediments to tax increment financing. The existing redevelopment agencies, cities involved and the county, for example, would all want to preserve tax growth near transit to spend it themselves.

But taxes won’t get extra growth spurts near transit if we don’t build the transit in the first place. Driving that fact home might get us past reluctance to share revenue that cannot exist unless we create the revenue generators. It will be a tough sell.

For that reason, keep looking at other ways to add transit. But we’d be foolish to ignore Mr. Bovo’s route, which could, if everyone cooperated, be the missing link to funding rail lines that in years to come could relieve the stress of mobility in Miami-Dade.

We encourage commissioners to get aboard in seeking a study. We anticipate express speed from the mayor’s team as a result. Whatever we do, we shouldn’t leave a credible mobility solution idling in the station.

7 Responses to Don’t leave a creative solution to transit sitting at the station

  1. DC Copeland

    September 21, 2016 at 7:51 am

    The FUNDING proposal is muy worthy. But the light rail part is all wrong because it forces a dedicated lane onto existing roads which, because they are already saturated with traffic, can’t stand the loss of a lane. A better solution would be the county’s first solution: MetroRail. Its dedicated lane is off the grid and when its trains break down, they do not affect traffic. Don’t waste time and money on light rail. It’s not the answer.

  2. No More Tolls

    September 21, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Why not build a line along existing freight lines with toll money? Or how about not building a useless bridge on 395? Or how about not redoing interchanges that functioned fine before? Or building express lanes on the palmetto and 75?

  3. Denis Eirikus

    September 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    By the time light rail is funded and built, they will be obsolete. Miami’s traffic is a disaster, the county would do well to encourage autonomous vehicle only corridors. AV’s can create road trains of fuel efficient drafting busses that can sit off and deliver passengers to their destinations. Existing roads can handle twice the volume of AVs traveling faster. Fixed route transit, in album the densest corridors will be obsolete well before new rail can be put in place

  4. Pierre Joseph

    September 21, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Light rail will be more prone to vehicular incidents than the metro rail would ever be. The metrorail is Miami’s present and future asset, if its growth stunts due to broken promises then loyal passengers will find other means of transportaion i.e. buying their own vehicles, which causes traffic in the first place, and now miami turns into New York in a matter of months.

  5. Roy

    September 21, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    All county commissioners must be showing more interest in Mr. Bobo’s plan, at least he’s trying to take the helm. Also there is a lack of leadership with our representatives in Washington and in Tallahassee – they should be fighting to obtain transit funds for South Florida. I see gigantic condo towers being built all-over Downtown and Brickell and the lack of interest to speed up mass transit plans by local county commissioners is very concerning.

    Another good plan would be the existing CSX track that they considered buying earlier this year which runs adjacent to the Dolphin Mall to SW 137th Ave — that was a great idea.

    I also hope the they would have mass transit plans for that massive Mall being built by i75 and the Turnpike.

  6. Gerwyn Flax

    September 21, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    How about using tolls collected on all toll roads in the county including those express lanes being built on I-75 and the Palmetto? Maybe some negotiations with the State of Florida for a percentage of those revenues.

  7. Sean

    September 29, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Stop using the 1 cent tax on duplicate bus routes, free or reduced rides for over 80% of the riders, and table all other non essential projects. This alone will free up tens of millions. The money is there. Just use it for what is was intended for.

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