This Sunday, the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald are both publishing months-long investigations examining the state of Miami-Dade’s transportation system and why we’re constantly in unforgiving stressful traffic gridlock.
The newspapers’ findings are sobering and depressing.
Not necessarily because they reveal what we already know — that we are spending more of our precious time sitting in traffic as we inch along in our cars from home to work, and for that matter, to everywhere else we routinely travel.
The depressing part is that our transportation reporters conclude that there is no magic bullet and no immediate solution in sight. Yes, a billion dollars to finance significant major projects would do it, but that won’t happen.
So listen up: Neither the federal government, Tallahassee nor Miami-Dade taxpayers, who feel they gave enough with the half-penny sales tax, are willing to open their pocketbooks again to make a financial commitment to improve traffic. That’s the reality.
There’s not going to be a west or north expansion of Metrorail anytime soon. And that still would not have been a cure-all — we are obsessed with cars.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr., as head of the board’s Transportation and Mobility Committee, is the man in the hot seat. But it’s a good thing there’s a realist at the helm. Mr. Bovo, and our investigations, conclude that we’re in such a hole with so many cars and drivers using a failed traffic system that any substantive traffic solutions will likely be enjoyed by our grandkids, not us.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to fix Miami-Dade’s traffic problems in our generation,” said Mr. Bovo, who recently agreed to allow the Miami Herald to videotape, with two GoPros attached to his car, his frustrating 47-minute daily commute from his children’s school in Hialeah to the Government Center in downtown Miami. Watch the video at MiamiHerald.com/traffic.
Here’s’ the bitter truth: Our traffic nightmare can be alleviated, if not fixed, by making tweaks to the existing system. In short, we have to do more with what we have. In some areas, we’ve been dealt a bad hand by elected officials who allowed unchecked development, bad engineering and a street traffic-light system that the county swears is properly synchronized. Many drivers disagree — and we agree with them.
What can be done:
Sell a vision: Local drivers might be more encouraged to pitch in if they’re presented with a vision of change that would improve their quality of life. They need to see a plan of action and a success, say along an east-west corridor. Create a community of change. Motorists have to alter their driving habits. If they can ride Metrorail to work, why don’t they do it? They must buy into the idea that taking a single car off the road will make a difference. Mr. Bovo and other leaders need to provide that vision.
Think regionally: Maurice Ferré, former Miami mayor and transportation expert, promotes the idea of a regional solution. Can we work with Broward and Palm Beach counties to come up with a transportation rescue plan that goes beyond TriRail and express buses?
Metrorail, Metrobus: Miami-Dade should launch a media campaign to get people out of their cars and into public transportation. Of course, public transit has to go where commuters want to go, efficiently.
Neither D.C. nor Tallahassee is going to rescue us from this gridlock. We have to do it ourselves. Now, who is willing to step up?