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Front Page » Top Stories » Fare-free municipal and county circulators a transit patch

Fare-free municipal and county circulators a transit patch

Written by on March 20, 2018
Fare-free municipal and county circulators a transit patch

While Miami-Dade County’s six-corridor rapid transit SMART plan is caught up in studies awaiting extra federal and state funds, members of the Transportation Planning Organization’s [TPO] Executive Policy Committee are discussing how fare-free municipal and county circulators can service all areas of the county in the meantime.

“People ride trolleys more than buses because they’re free,” said Vince Lago, Coral Gables commissioner and voting member on the TPO executive policy committee. “They are efficient, clean and pleasant.”

The People’s Transportation Plan half-penny sales surtax was approved by Miami-Dade voters in 2002 for transit expansion. The sales tax was increased from 6.5% to 7% and the half-penny was to go toward transit improvements around the county.

The PTP funds are split between the county and over 30 municipalities within the county – 20% of the funds go to the municipalities on a per-capita basis. The municipalities then must use 20% of their surtax shares toward transit.

Many municipalities chose to use their PTP surtax dollars to run fare-free circulators for residents within their boundaries.

Javier Betancourt, executive director of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, the entity that oversees the PTP money, said municipalities aren’t required to run circulators with the surtax money, “though most do.”

At last week’s Executive Policy Committee, board members analyzed a comprehensive map, which showed existing municipal circulators superimposed on the county’s transit services.

“I’m really happy about what I’m seeing,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, voting member on the committee.

Ms. Heyman said she now feels comfortable telling residents how the PTP money has been spent since its inception 15 years ago: “I can tell them that we have wisely invested in our cities so they can run their circulators,” she said.

Coral Gables has had about 1.2 million rides on its trolley system, said Mr. Lago, voting member on the executive policy committee.

Coral Gables goes beyond its 20% PTP transit requirement, allocating all of its PTP funds toward its trolley system, Mr. Lago said, and the city is hoping to further expand its system.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, who chairs the TPO’s executive policy committee, said the committee needs to find a way to fill the gaps in circulator services throughout the county.

Ms. Sosa said the county buses should connect with city circulators to ensure that all incorporated and unincorporated areas have nonstop service throughout the county.

Using a map provided by TPO Executive Director Aileen Bouclé, committee members analyzed the areas being serviced by county transit and by municipal circulators.

“The best thing is to bring each city to the border and have a stop where the next city picks up,” said Medley Mayor Roberto Martell, voting member on the executive policy committee.

Ms. Heyman pointed out that Florida City receives PTP surtax dollars, but the 20% transit allocation isn’t being spent on a municipal circulator.

Ms. Sosa suggested introducing a resolution to the TPO requiring a full audit of the municipalities’ use of CITT surtax money every two years to make sure the dollars are funding transit expansion.

Mr. Betancourt told the committee that his office works with Commission Auditor Cathy Jackson to audit the municipal PTT funds.

“I want you to prepare a complete report of how much the cities are getting and what they are doing with the money,” Ms. Sosa told Mr. Betancourt.

While a formal vote wasn’t taken, Ms. Sosa said “this is the beginning of many discussions” about how municipalities use PTP money and how the TPO can best connect all circulators to create one comprehensive system.

“We are talking about realistic, fast solutions we can bring to the residents,” Ms. Sosa said.

In addition to the audit, Ms. Sosa suggested the TPO “make sure that cities are using their share for transportation,” to avoid gaps in service around the county.

2 Responses to Fare-free municipal and county circulators a transit patch

  1. paoula

    March 21, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Trying to put Lipstick on a Pig doesn’t work at all!

    Splitting up the PTP funds into different municipalities just made riding Transit even more frustrating for the riders.

    Instead of transferring to 1 or 2 different buses to get anywhere in Miami Dade, now you have to transfer to 3 or 4 different buses.

    Miami Politicians who do not use Transit on a daily basis are so oblivious to the idiotic things they are doing to the working people that rely on Public Transit to move around.

    They really do not understand!

  2. Raul Guzman

    June 1, 2018 at 3:56 am

    One question: why are we handing out money from the famed half cent surtax (which was intended for transit expansion) to municipalities so that they “hopefully” spend it on trolleys, when the our county government can just spend it to improve and expand our county bus system?

    We should vote for mayors/commissioners who will improve and expand upon our County’s public transportation system and invest strategically where the ENTIRE county might see an improvement, not re-route public transportation funds to individual municipalities whose interests are mainly within their boundaries.

    We need a mayor/commissioners with pantalones, who will fight tooth and nail to guard our hard earned money and be consistent in making a reality projects that were conceived decades ago and for which there have been successive studies.

    And why not get radical?

    Let’s direct MDX to share some of their toll income to fund Miami-Dade Transit, and not use it on adding lanes which are only a band-aid and add capacity for future congestion.

    Let’s mandate that PTP half cent surtax can hereon be used only to fund expansions that were promised.

    Restore the trust that was broken when county agencies and politicians began ignoring the public’s will for the use of their county funds.