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Front Page » Opinion » Add a Metromover fare, bond the money and build transit

Add a Metromover fare, bond the money and build transit

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Written by on May 29, 2018

Add a Metromover fare, bond the money and build transit

Miami-Dade made a huge mistake in 2002 when, to entice voters to support a tax for new rail lines, it made Metromover free. Ending fares shut off a small flow to fund new transit, and much of the sales tax was misspent elsewhere.

As a result, in 2018 we’re still hunting for revenue to build transit. Yet since 2002, traffic congestion has mushroomed from an annoyance then to a crisis today.

So when Commissioner Sally Heyman this month broached a $1 Metromover fare in order to build more transit, she took the right track. If she’d picked $2.25, equal to bus and Metrorail fares, she’d have been moving even faster down that line.

Today the county seeks six new transit corridors in its so-called Smart plan but only one – funded by the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority – has the money. The rest is pretty much just a wish list.

So what happens if we listen to Ms. Heyman and charge $1 for a Metromover trip? At today’s use level, we’d collect $303 million over 30 years – thus creating a real revenue stream for a new transit leg. Charging $2.25 as we do on all other county transit would bring the 30-year receipts to $682 million at the present pace, roughly enough to run mass transit between Miami and Miami Beach, and far more than enough to run new transit from Homestead to Dadeland to link into Metrorail.

That’s money the county should not leave on the table for another minute, even if it angers folks who consider their piece of mass transit, the Metromover, a free amenity while all other county transit users are paying $2.25 a trip. What is the justification for a free mover in upper-income downtown and Brickell while folks in lower-income areas pay full fare?

Of course, charging would hit some Metromover riders who are by no means upper income, just as all government taxes and fees apply to those who are not wealthy as well as the wealthy. We are sympathetic – but we also know that the transit system has a variety of part-fare and free passes available that would apply to Metromover were a fare in place just as they now apply to the rest of our transit. We also know that even at $2.25 the county would be subsidizing another $3 to $5 per ride for every paying passenger.

The bottom line is that the public must pay one way or another if we are going to add to our woeful mass transit web as we must. There is no free lunch – just as there should be no free ride.

One reason the county refused to look at a Metromover fare two years ago when Commissioner Barbara Jordan logically called for one to fund added transit was that the mayor’s office said it would cost more to collect the fares than the county would get.

Frankly, we can’t believe the county could spend $303 million over 30 years to collect fares, much less $682 million for a full-fare system.

Maybe the administration was referring to collecting just the 25-cent fare in use before 2002 and the cost of collections for the first year alone, including installation of turnstiles. If so, modern technology offers the county ways to collect without major equipment. Between cell phones and visual recognition devices, far less costly collection methods would very rapidly more than pay for themselves.

And if not, why not try an honor system for fares? They’ve been used elsewhere, collecting 95% to 97% of all that was due transit systems with no humans involved in making sure passengers paid. Collecting 95% of $682 million is more than worthwhile.

To be intellectually honest, we admit that the county would have to do a sales job to maintain Metromover ridership if passengers had to pay. But then, as fast as the entire transit system is losing riders at a double-digit percentage clip each year, it ought to be mounting a massive sales campaign anyway, Metromover fare or no. Spotty as county transit quality may be, promotion of its use is far worse.

Ms. Heyman asked transit director Alice Bravo to study where else in this nation major transit systems charge no fares and she predicted the finding she expected: nowhere else.

But the bottom line is, no study is needed if Ms. Heyman and Ms. Jordan can find five other commissioners who also recognize that our need for transit expansion trumps the need to give downtown riders a free pass while everyone else pays.

Put a fare on the commission agenda, get it passed and you automatically have a fund flow that could be bonded today to build vital transit tomorrow.

13 Responses to Add a Metromover fare, bond the money and build transit

  1. anon

    May 30, 2018 at 8:50 am

    End free fares for senior citizens and others too. Many seniors can afford to pay for mass transit. The county should verify incomes before doling out free passes to all seniors. Also, why are there so many free trolleys. Those should charge too, just like the metro mover. If you charge for one, charge for all of them. Maybe raise speeding ticket prices for people who have higher incomes like they do in some parts of Europe to charge the ferrari speeders more than the working mcdonald’s mom – that might raise some more income too. But just to charge for metro mover without charging some rich folks in the gables for a free trolley doesn’t make sense.

  2. Grato de Cardenas

    May 30, 2018 at 9:18 am

    Same should be applied to the very successful trolley system.

  3. Oh My Gosh

    May 30, 2018 at 10:23 am

    How dare you, suggesting that people who own Million dollar Pent Houses in a Wealthy District should pay $2.25 for a stupid (Metromover) Transit Fare.

    Shame on you!

  4. F Cabrera

    May 30, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Agree with most here. Mover fare should be reinstated. Trolley’s should not be free….I do think we would not collect anywhere near the funds discussed here with all the “special fares” and “discount fares” so we should curtail or do away with these. Also realize that those who have corporate monthly rail cards would most-likely be able to transfer from rail to mover without a new fee (Unless you have multiple monthly programs, one with just rail and bus ridership and one that includes all transportation means which would cost a bit more)

    I am all for the users paying for the system. We use it we should support it. I just have bad thoughts of the fools in Government Center misappropriating these funds as well

  5. Mark Barnes

    May 30, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Unfortunately, as much as I love Ms. Bravo, I disagree with her assertion that there is no other place in the nation that offers free ridership. One only need look as far as Orlando where the Lynx greener has served downtown Orlando patrons for more than two decades now. This free service should serve as a guide on how to do mass transit right. Orlando was the first in the nation to offer dedicated bus lanes to its citizens . These lanes are seperated from regular traffic via a concrete delineator and have their own priority lights. The paths these buses take were beautifully landscaped as well making the areas that they pass through both inviting, safe, and walkable. Commissioners should take a trip to Orlando to study this system, along with Lynx’s operations. I’m willing to bet they’d learn more than they thought might be possible. And heck throw in a day to go visit the parks while you’re there.

    • Mark Barnes

      May 30, 2018 at 6:54 pm

      That should say Lynx FreeBee not Lynx Greener. Auto correct strikes again.

  6. Think Twice

    May 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Why would anybody want to pay $2.25 to ride on this Crappy, Stinky and Unreliable Transit system.

    For that reason, I think it should be Free to everyone, everywhere, all of the time.

  7. Mr. Sarcasto

    May 30, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    What a great idea! Let’s get more people to ride public transit by instituting a fare for the metromover!

    The mover is a downtown circulator. If you introduce a fare, a lot less people will use it. Expand it to Wynwood, the Beach, and add some express lines then maybe you will have enough demand to charge a fare.

    People forget how heavily subsidized cars are. After all, nobody in suburbia has to pay a fee to use the street in front of their homes.

    • EJS

      June 2, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      My sentiments exactly. You don’t charge for something as limited as the MetroMover. What was voted on by the public should remain as is. Find the bloody tax money that was promised to deliver expanded service. Build a MetroMover extention to Wynwood/Midtown, then we can justify a fare. City owes us more than one airport expansion in 10+ yrs of collecting tax.

  8. Andrew

    May 31, 2018 at 6:19 am

    I believe that people should pay to ride the metromover, but not for the reason you mentioned. It is an extensive system and requires maintenance to keep it running. At some point major maintenance and repairs will be needed to maintain it. There is currently no revenue stream to cover these costs, which would be much more costly than to replace a trolley. This should be the argument used and not the wealth of the residents that live near it.

  9. Jose Sopla

    June 1, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Sorry, but re-proposing very expensive 1950s infrastructure technology is a stupid plan and non-started.

    By now, that is abundantly clear.

    One reason why mass transit ridership is down is personal safety concerns.

    The solution is not more 1950s-style mass transit done inefficiently for critical masses who are unwilling.

    Instead, the solution is 21st century-style personal transit done efficiently massive amounts of times.

    That is clearly what most people want.

    Forget raising taxes, forget stupid plans for mastodontic infrastructure, and any intermediate solutions should be simple and cost-effective, like so-called trolley buses.

    Good Luck!

    • EJS

      June 2, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      Gee…ever been to a major world metropolis like London, Paris, Berlin, Chicago, BsAs, NY? If we want world class status for our second-rate metropolis, mass transit needs to be improved. Mastadonic (love the word btw) highways and interchanges are not the answer. Every time they get enlarged/expanded, entire neighborhoods change and the residents move further west. Miami continues to resemble so many cities in Latin America where so many inhabitants come from and use as a reference in how Miami should function. China’s and Europe’s infrastructure should be our reference.

  10. F. Cabrera

    June 4, 2018 at 11:02 am

    This city/county are continuing to grow. Our geology means that going underground is not an option for us. All Miami traffic has to be at ground level or above it. Adding “personal transportation devices” i.e. self driving pods sound great except that those neat pods have to share the 826 on a Monday morning with all other irate drivers. You may not be at the wheel of those pods but you are not getting to where you need to go any faster. To think that “old” technology has no use is to miss the obvious…it works. A system which moves large volumes of commuters without adding to the vehicular traffic is the solution. The money is there (partially), the plans are drawn up, and the will of those of us who have to deal with our ageing metro system is there….trust me it is. The only thing lacking in the equation is political will.

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