23 apply to direct Miami-Dade Transit
Miami-Dade’s hunt for a new transportation and public works director continues.
Whether it’s one of the nearly two dozen candidates who have already applied or someone else the county’s nationwide search attracts, the ideal hire will prioritize resilience and multi-modality while seeing through projects already in development, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
“We want someone who can hit the ground running,” she told Miami Today. “We’ve made progress and want to accelerate it to create a truly world-class transportation system, one that is more resilient and connected to communities.”
Twenty-three applicants so far are vying to succeed Alice Bravo, who at the end of the month will leave her role as head of the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) for a district leadership position with engineering and design firm WSP, a frequent consultant to the county.
To find the right replacement, Ms. Levine Cava’s office has retained the services of Gabe Klein of urban planning firm CityFi.
“He’s helping us to do an organization-wide assessment across the department and is supporting the recruitment process,” she said.
Former Miami Beach city manager Jimmy Morales, whom Ms. Levine Cava hired in November to oversee eight major departments – DTPW, Aviation, Seaport, Water and Sewer, Regulatory and Economic Resources, Solid Waste Management, Elections and Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces – is the county’s point person in the effort.
Local knowledge is a plus for candidates, she said, but not prerequisite.
“We obviously need somebody who understands the challenges we face in improving our transportation system,” she said. “We need someone who is looking into the future for future alignment and ensuring we’re making investments that will last.”
After five years of studies, planning, meetings and designs, Miami-Dade is finally rounding the proverbial corner on the Smart Plan, a multibillion-dollar initiative to upgrade six major commuting routes with premium transit while adding nine new rapid bus corridors and local mobility solutions across the county.
Early this month, commissioners unanimously voted to begin construction of “gold standard” bus rapid transit on the longest and easiest to build of the six routes, the South Corridor between Kendall and Florida City. Revenue service for the route is expected to start in January 2023.
Major milestones for the remaining routes coming this year, Ms. Bravo said last week, include a final development agreement for the Beach Corridor that is to run from downtown Miami to Miami Beach; delivery of proposals by spring for the North Corridor from downtown Miami through Miami Gardens; federal funding applications by August for the East-West Corridor from downtown Miami to Tamiami; agreements with Brightline for the development of the Northeast Corridor from downtown Miami to Aventura; and selection of a locally preferred transit mode for the Kendall Corridor.
“Before the Smart Plan, we had different projects [that] were all kind of jockeying for position. Having a [40-year funding plan], you don’t have that competition between the projects, so they can all move forward in parallel,” Ms. Bravo told commissioners during a Feb. 9 presentation.
The Smart corridors and other transit upgrades are an opportunity for the county to regain ridership, and the county needs someone who recognizes that, the mayor said.
“We want to have these systems not only to serve those who depend on transit now,” she said. “We need people to be choice riders.”
Commissioners in May expect to give a final OK to the Better Bus Network, a county-wide redesign of Metrobus routes by advocacy group Transit Alliance Miami. The group delivered the plan last year, but each route requires individual approval.
Transit Alliance Director Azhar Chougle, who said he was “phasing out” of his role effective March 31, called the redesign “a dream come true” for the group and the riders it serves.
“Two years ago, when we started talking about this, it was just slides on a screen” he said by phone Tuesday, referring to a five-minute presentation about the bus network he gave in September 2018 at Ms. Levine Cava’s invitation that helped kick-start the project. “This is something that will change almost every transit rider’s life this year.”
The two aspects of the department – transportation and public works – are likely to remain intertwined due to their interdependence and the emphasis her administration is putting on sustainability, Ms. Levine Cava said.
“There’s a lot more than the transit system itself,” she said. “We’re looking at sea level rise – our sea level rise strategy is coming out in the next week or so – and at land use issues, where the hubs are, the urban centers, those things. It’s an integrated approach.”
Keeping both parts under the same roof will also ease work to make streets here safer and more hospitable to bicyclists and pedestrians – a personal issue for the mayor, whose husband, Dr. Robert Cava, suffered a broken arm in a hit-and-run.
That and other incidents, including the roadway death of triathlete Bharath Narahari near Black Point Marina three years ago, inspired Ms. Levine Cava, then a county commissioner, to create a committee aimed at ending bicycle and pedestrian accidents and fatalities here.
The next DTPW director, she said, will need to build on existing programs like safe streets initiative Vision Zero, micro-mobility projects like the one underway in Miami and boost pedestrian protection at intersections while adding accommodations for non-motorized travel.
“These are all things we’re working to more integrate with transit,” she said. “It includes pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as shared mobility that puts people, not cars, first.”