Municipalities doing great things with half-penny transportation tax

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Municipalities doing great things with half-penny transportation tax

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“What has been done with my half-penny?” is a question we often get. It is a simple question, with a complicated answer. Today, I’ll attempt to answer the easiest part of that question, which is what the municipalities have accomplished with their share of the tax. But first, a little history.


Back in 2002, when Miami-Dade County was promoting the half-penny sales “surtax” and the People’s Transportation Plan (PTP) to the community, a deal was struck with municipalities that would give them 20 percent of all surtax proceeds for them to use on their own transportation projects. In exchange, the municipalities would support the public referendum approving the surtax.

As it turned out, the referendum passed, the surtax and PTP were approved, and over the past 17 years, municipalities have been receiving their 20 percent share of surtax proceeds, distributed on a pro-rata (i.e., based on population) basis. To date, that has resulted in over $700 Million distributed to municipalities since 2002. Each municipality is then required to spend a minimum of 20 percent of their share of proceeds on transit-related projects and services, and a maximum of 80 percent of their share on other transportation-related expenses.

If you live in a municipality, examples of PTP funded projects are all around you. The most obvious (and popular) examples are the municipal trolleys (aka circulators, shuttles, etc.) that abound throughout Miami-Dade County. Twenty-Seven of these trolley/shuttle systems are currently in operation, serving twenty-nine municipalities. Beside a couple of exceptions, they are fare-free for all riders, and are often composed of adorable vintage style trolley vehicles painted or wrapped in the community’s signature branding elements.

Our latest figures show the combined trolley system carried nearly 14 million passengers in the last year alone. As the largest municipality in the county, the City of Miami naturally receives the largest share of PTP funds, which has allowed it to develop the most extensive trolley system… one that currently features 45 vehicles, running along 12 separate routes, serving nearly every neighborhood in the City, and carrying 5.3 million riders annually. The other top systems by ridership include the City of Miami Beach, City of Coral Gables and City of Doral.

While some of the smaller municipalities may not carry nearly as many riders, they still serve a critical function in helping to move people around their community and providing a first/last mile connection to the regional transit system, including Metrobus, Metromover, Metrorail and Tri-Rail.

These trolley systems are being increasingly complemented, or in some cases replaced, by service-on-demand programs that substitute a fixed-route for a more flexible system that picks you up where you are situated and takes you directly to your destination (much like ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft do, but free of charge). Cities like Key Biscayne, Coral Gables, Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, and Miami Lakes have all partnered with a company called Freebee to provide on-demand service in their community, funded in whole, or in part, with PTP funds; and many more are exploring it.

While trolleys are the most obvious example of your municipal PTP dollars at work, however, the bulk of the funds have actually gone to pay for other transportation projects, such as roadways, roundabouts and bike paths. An award-winning example of this is a “complete streets” project built by the Town of Cutler Bay along Old Cutler Road and Caribbean Boulevard, which features a beautifully landscaped roadway lined with distinctive bus shelters and a dedicated bicycle lane. Thousands of miles of roads have been improved under this program, but the public is largely unaware that they have been funded using PTP surtax dollars.

All in all, municipalities have accomplished a great deal with their share of surtax proceeds and should be commended for their efforts. In future columns, I will share other success stories, but also discuss candidly where the PTP has fallen short and what is being done to address those shortfalls. Stay tuned!


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9 COMMENTS

  1. I am glad to hear that after waiting for so log the village of Palmetto Bay is finally benefiting from this service that we had paid for years.
    I have not seen the trolley at all in North Palmetto Bay

  2. Yes we received the troplleys but we haven’t received our retail trains promise for THE NORTH CORRIODS. WEEANT ARE TRAINS COME NORTH ON 27TH SVE

  3. For those of us that were here during the promotion of the half penny tax, we remember that it was sold to the public as a half penny tax for our transportation system not to split it with all the municipalities as you stated at the beginning of this article. This is a bitter reminder that we can’t trust the politicians. Just like a percentage of the lottery money was going to the schools and later we found out that once that was approved by the voters the money Tallahasse designated for the schools was removed. Remember you can fool the public once but next time you come around asking for additional money for transportation the public will remember what was done before. As a resident of this county I am aware of the need for better transportation but unless the money comes in from the federal government I doubt you will get it from us.

  4. How dare the county give taxpayer’s money to municipalities for what was supposed to be spent on countywide transportation to expand metrorail. Don’t vote for any commissioner that supports continuing to give taxpayer’s money to municipalities. Countywide taxes must be spent on countywide services not on services provided by municipalities that only benefit the residents of municipalities but not the residents of the unincorporated municipal service area of Miami-Dade County.

  5. What happened with the metrorail extension to Florida City? What happened with the east to west metrorail extension that was supposed to end west of the Florida Turnpike? What happened with the metrorail NW corridor? Although it is nice to see the shuttles provide service to the municipalities I concur with what Mr. Shlackman wrote. We the people of Miami-Dade County have been waiting for over 20 years to see substantial improvement to our metrorail system. It is as simple as that!

  6. Thank you for your comments to the article on the People’s Transportation Plan municipal program. The original PTP that was approved by voters in 2002 authorizes the municipalities in Miami-Dade County to receive surtax revenue to fund their transportation projects. This provision is in the ballot language and you can read it on the Transportation Trust website at http://www.miamidade.gov/citt/library/ptp-resource-guide.pdf , page 93. Thank you for sharing your views and for your interest in public transportation.

  7. Maria Diaz – only ONE of our commissioners Daniela Levine Cava, voted FOR the MetroRail extension. For the life of me I don’t understand the thought process of those who continue to promote automobile transportation – the WORST of the carbon emitting sources. Traffic, stress, wrecks, gasoline consumption, adding heat to the community – there is literally nothing positive about increasing highways. Improve and expand the MetroRail and buses. That is the only answer. Vote for Daniella for Mayor, please. She has the people’s best interest at heart.

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