Experts Say First Step In Fixing Miamidade Road Woes Is Recognizing Theres A Problem
Written by Eric Kalis on December 7, 2006
By Eric Kalis
Before proceeding with new efforts to alleviate congestion in Miami-Dade County, experts say the business community and local government must come to recognize the region’s transportation deficiencies, which include insufficient mass transit and a lack of available funding.
If county officials and business leaders want to make commuting more tolerable, the region’s mass transit system must be expanded to give more people incentive to use it, a panel said during the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s transportation summit Nov. 29 at Parrot Jungle.
Projects are being planned to help bring public transportation up to par, but rising costs could drag down the county’s efforts, said Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez.
Local congressional representatives are pushing for federal matching funds to add two new lines to the Metrorail for $1 billion apiece, Mr. Gimenez said. One line would run north from Northwest 27th Avenue to North Miami-Dade and another would run east-to-west from Florida International University, he said.
Part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Miami Intermodal Center project involves linking the Metrorail to Miami International Airport, Mr. Gimenez said. The cost has soared from $200 million to more than $500 million, he said. The target for opening is 2011.
These projects could be important steps in improving an underused mass transit system, Mr. Gimenez said, but the reality is that Miami-Dade will never have the ridership that some major cities enjoy.
"Most people’s lives do not revolve around certain points," he said. "The Metrorail is great if you work downtown, live in Hialeah and shop in Dadeland, but the system is not convenient enough for a large group of people. Even after [these projects] the vast majority of people will still be in cars."
The county must overcome its residents being "infatuated with cars," John Herin, attorney in Miami firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson P.A., said. "There is no tradition of mass transit here. The idea is not part and parcel with our culture."
Despite the obstacles, expanding mass transit can loosen congestion that is "strangling the region," said Robert Poole, director of transportation studies for The Reason Foundation. As it stands, the region’s density is far too low for mass transit to be viable, Mr. Poole said. Adding capacity to downtown Miami and other central business districts would force more people to rely on public transportation, he said.
A survey by the Florida International University Metropolitan Center showed a willingness of the business community to promote mass transit, said center director Dario Moreno, who unveiled survey results during the summit. Many business leaders who responded to the survey said they would explore compensating employees for using public transportation and learn about other government incentives such as flexible scheduling or work-at-home programs, Mr. Moreno said.
"The best news of the survey is that businesses are willing to spend money and change practices to help solve the problem," Mr. Moreno said.
Joseph Serota, chair of the chamber’s transportation committee, said engineering firms DMJM Harris and PBS&J would prepare separate reports based on suggestions made during the summit to submit to the chamber in the spring.