Transit tax promise made 30 years ago not fulfilled

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced the opening of the New York Subway’s 469th station. The system so widely used that the one new station, built at a cost of $2.4 billion, will add an estimated 30,000 riders a month.

The 2014 population of the five boroughs making up the city of New York is estimated at 8,491,079. That’s one mass transit system station for every 18,104 resiudents of the city plus only, God knows, how many visitors to the city.

Contrast that with our Metrorail system. Our 2015 population for Metropolitan Miami is estimated at 2,496,435. Divide that by the number of stations (23) in our mass transit system and we find each supporting 108,540 residents, not counting all the visitors we have in Greater Miami.

New York’s system surfaces in every neighborhood of Greater New York keeping cars and even busses off the streets. In Miami, you are lucky if you live within miles and miles of our system. And if you try to get to one of our “trains” you must drive miles and then try and find a place to park. So, we still have cars on the rood and an underused transit system.

Some 30 years after then Miami Dade Mayor Alex Penelas promised the voters of our county that it would build a major mass transit system if the voters approved a half cent sales tax, we have built a truncated system that serves only a small portion of the community and definitely bypasses the one area, Northwest Miami, that needs it most of all. The population living in the northern half of the county has few mass transit stations, one dedicated bus lane and thousands of drivers living in Broward County driving to and from downtown Miami every day for work.

I can’t remember how many proposed extensions, on NW 27th Avenue to the Miami-Dade-Broward County line have surfaced. The proposed Orange Line is a dream that hasn’t been given more than lip service notwithstanding the fact that it is needed far more today than when it was originally proposed. True, it would be very expensive to build. We must buy land, mostly by eminent domain, raise the funds and build out the system — but it is desperately needed.

Over the years we have seen many proposed additions to our mass transit system. Ideas that are good. Many financially sound. But all die and become part of that “what ever happened to that transit proposal we heard about back in?” The ideas come; they are publicized, and then die for lack of support by our county commission.

Several months ago I attended and wrote about what seemed like and excellent proposal promoted by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez. A presentation, led by Suarez, was made to a combined meeting of the Homestead and Florida City commissions and members of the community who live in South Dade.

It was, as presented, financially sound, converting the underused South Dade Busway into express lanes with flyovers at major intersections to move traffic, made a lot of sense. US1, which turns into a parking lot twice a day running parallel to the busway would find relief. Yet we have heard nothing. No “yes.” No “no.” Just silence. Another good idea down the drain?

Several months ago another proposal utilizing the underused CSX train system could provide mass transit from the airport area into deep Southwest Dade. We could make a deal with the train line and save billions, literally billions, in right-of-way acquisitions. Yet, once proposed seems to have died for lack of a second to further explore the idea.

We continue to pay the half cent sales tax. And continue to hear proposals to upgrade our mass transit system. Isn’t it about time we hold our current elected officials to do what was promised 30 years ago? Heck, most of the current residents of our county didn’t live here 30 years ago. But, they are paying the transit half cent sales tax every day.

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About the Author

Kenneth Bluh
Kenneth has been writing a column for Community Newspapers since 1989 when he first wrote about the incorporation movement in UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Services Area). His columns cover the political scene in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee. Educated at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Kenneth has been a member of the banking/mortgage lending profession in Florida since 1962. Contact him at kbluh@americanbsm.com or 786-247-0547 where he manages American Bancshares Mortgage LLC’s Reverse Mortgage Department.

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