Business Monday

We have much to learn about public transit from other cities, CEOs say

This week’s question to South Florida CEOs who are on the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: How would you compare public transit in Miami-Dade to other places you have visited and are there lessons we can learn from other cities?

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Several years ago, during my travels, I utilized the public transportation systems within Washington, D.C. and New York. I found the public transit system within NY easily accessible for wheelchairs and rider connectivity to Long Island and New Jersey with a 24-hour working schedule. Whereas, the D.C. Metrorail schedule is a bit more limited operating from 5 a.m. to 11:59 p.m., but is fully accessible, providing customers the freedom to travel from D.C. to various Northern Virginia and Maryland stations. As our population continues to grow within the south region of our county, I believe it would be in the best interest of the residents if the Miami-Dade County public transit system expanded the Metro Rail services down to Florida City to reduce the traffic on the roads.

Margaret “Peggy” Bass, executive director, Good Hope Equestrian Training Center

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There are many opportunities for improvements to Miami-Dade’s public transportation. Most of Carrfour’s residents are dependent on public transit and often spend hours each day waiting for or riding these various systems. For example, we have a single mother in our housing community in Miami Gardens that spends 3 hours each day getting to and from her housekeeping job on Miami Beach. It is very difficult to expect this single mother, as well as thousands of others like her in Miami-Dade, to be productive at work and then engaged parents once they get home after spending several hours of their day on public transportation. As a community, we can do better. Expanding the Metrorail system and increasing the express bus routes to the areas of service jobs would be a good start.

Stephanie Berman-Eisenberg, president, CEO, Carrfour Supportive Housing

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There are many great public transit initiatives we can learn from and adapt, but it’s key we find solutions that work for our specific needs. I’m a strong believer in The Underline as a way to enhance lives and create sustainable commuting, but we should also be looking for other innovative ways to improve how people get to and from work. I’m particularly interested in the impact activating underutilized underpasses can have on our city.

Michael A. Comras, president, The Comras Company of Florida

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I’ve lived in Chicago, Louisville, Miami, and Charlotte, and I have to say Miami can learn a lot from Chicago. Public transit in the Windy City is clean, modern, reliable and safe. I think Miami has made a lot of progress in the past few years, but it still has a long way to go. A city’s transportation system is essential to support economic growth and productivity, as well as facilitate the well-being of the community. Since many Miami-Dade residents have to commute long distances on a daily basis, it is critical that this public service becomes faster and more convenient.

Jose R. Costa, CEO, For Eyes

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We all know that public transit in Miami-Dade is a non-starter for most people living in South Florida. Not sure if it’s cultural or the way the system works. Granted, I have visited major metropolitan cities around the U.S. and the world, where people of all walks of life use public transportation.

Alejandro Fernandez, CEO, Gastro Health

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The city of Amsterdam is a leader in fostering communities that are walkable, bicycle-friendly, and encouraging mass transportation such as bus, trolleys and trains, reducing the amount of cars to get to work and enjoy life. It is important for the future of South Florida to building policies and incentives that create more transit-oriented developments that supports all forms of transportation, and that will connect various communities — not just those that exist in high wealth, centralized communities.

Willie Logan, founder, CEO and president, Opa-locka Community Development Corp.

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Having been born and raised in New York City, I have seen first-hand the positive economic and community impact that effective public transportation can have. With that said, there are a few areas of Miami-Dade County that are easy to get around using public transportation, but if you don’t live in those areas, you still really need a car to get around.

Raymond Mobayed, owner, 4IT Inc.

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There is certainly room for growth in the area of public transit. There are many cities in the world we can learn from and as we are growing city, it’s certainly something we need to address and get done.

Gene Prescott, president and CEO, Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables

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Public transit is one of those things that will define Miami as it grows and evolves into a true global hub. Of course, Miami can learn from cities like New York and London, but our city is still much younger in comparison and it’ll take time to find a solution that works for our unique geography and population habits. I think efforts like the Brightline rail are pushing us in the right direction, but we definitely have to make much more of an effort to provide affordable and efficient public transit throughout our downtown areas as well as suburban regions. We also have to find a way to maximize public access to the waterfront, whether it is through a continuous bayfront walkway like Biscayne Line or another solution. It’d also be interesting to see a larger emphasis placed on pedestrian-only districts throughout the city. The approach has worked well on Lincoln Road, and so it’d be great to see the concept expanded to other dynamic, art-filled areas like South Miami Avenue.

Carlos Rosso, president, The Related Group’s Condominium division

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I travel more than 100,000 airline miles a year and often visit Chicago, Denver and New York. These are by far the best public transit systems in the United States. It is so easy to get around using their rail systems. For instance, in Denver, from the moment you land at the airport, it only takes moments to be on a rail system to Downtown. However, cities like Miami and Los Angeles, you simply cannot make a move without a vehicle. I would like to see public transit that connects the airports to all the cities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Stan Rudman, CMO and owner, Sportailor Inc.

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Cities like New York, Vancouver, San Francisco and Seattle have figured out how to deliver public transit systems that are reliable, predictable and efficient, and as a result, visitors and residents overwhelmingly embrace them as a means to get around. Whether it is rail, bus or trolley, people won’t ride them if they don’t know whether they will arrive where they need to on time, every time. Miami still has a long way to go in this regard and a major reason why our transit is highly underutilized. We need to stop talking about what we want to do and start getting things done because the lack of dependable public transit is holding us back as a world-class city.

Kim Stone, general manager and EVP, AmericanAirlines Arena

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More and more, young people want to live where they work. Their quality of life is very important, so they will not tolerate long commutes. In order to attract the next generation of workers and/or businesses, Miami-Dade will need to improve public transit. I spend time in Boston (excellent public transit and a “pedestrian city”) and Los Angeles (not great public transit, but building an underground rail that will improve access). Miami-Dade has the opportunity to improve relative to these two cities.

Teri Williams, president, CEO and a director, OneUnited Bank

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There are many places that have public transit that is more convenient and effective than we have in Miami. But we are a city that has weather that is very accommodating to alternative modes of circulating, including bicycles and walking. We could enhance much more use of these alternatives by creating networks of safe bike paths and walk-ability throughout all cities in our county. We should also be aware of the disruptive transportation concepts soon to come like autonomous and ride share preferences that will profoundly change the urban condition and embrace them through strategic planning.

Bernard Zyscovich, founder and CEO of Zyscovich Architects

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THE MIAMI HERALD CEO ROUNDTABLE IS A WEEKLY FEATURE THAT APPEARS IN BUSINESS MONDAY OF THE MIAMI HERALD. RECENT QUESTIONS HAVE INCLUDED:

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