Transportation officials have unveiled a regional plan that seeks to coordinate more closely the different transit strategies of the three major South Florida counties: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
Under the plan, outlined during a recent event at a transportation hub near Miami International Airport (MIA), commuter travel between the three counties would be easier.
“We are a mega-region,” said Alice Bravo, new director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works. “We are attracting hundreds of thousands of people to live here on an annual basis. Our population continues to grow and inter-connectivity is more and more important.”
Presentation of the plan was one of the highlights in a day in which the future of transportation in South Florida was discussed by political and transport leaders.
At the second event, Bravo and other transportation officials talked about strategies to discourage car use and encourage use of mass transit systems such as Metrorail, Metromover and Metrobus to relieve chronic traffic congestion in Miami-Dade.
The discussion comes at a time when local authorities are seeking to improve transit due to general discontent among commuters over a recent toll increase on State Road 836, a busy expressway linking western suburbs and downtown Miami, as well as the realization that Metrorail cannot be expanded any time soon.
Miami Commissioner Francis Suárez, who views transportation as a priority issue, said commuters must be encouraged more forcefully to use transit instead of their cars. According to a study cited by Suárez, 80 percent of residents in Miami use cars to get to and from work, and only 12 percent use transit.
“We have in the county about 800 buses along with Metrorail and Metromover, which carry about 350,000 riders a day,” said Suárez. “But we have 2.5 million residents in Miami-Dade.”
Suárez spoke at a luncheon organized by a Dade County Bar Association committee to discuss links between development and traffic congestion.
Suarez's opinions are significant because besides being a Miami commissioner, he is also vice chairman of the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which votes on local transportation projects.
Another participant at the Dade County Bar Association lunch was Bravo, the county’s new Transit chief.
“At the end of the day, we have to do more to encourage people to use our transit services,” said Bravo.
The new 2040 regional plan, presented at an event at the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) near MIA, takes into account the fact that hundreds of thousands of South Florida residents daily cross county boundaries to get to and from. Many live in Broward and Palm Beach, but have jobs in Miami-Dade.
“Projects like expanded commuter rail and express bus services make it easier for residents to cross jurisdictional boundaries without having to use their car,” according to a statement in the plan from Susan Haynie, chairwoman of the Southeast Florida Transportation Council.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy