Community Conversations

Can South Florida change its car culture?

Most locals shared that it wasn’t likely South Floridians were going to give up their vehicles as their prime transportation any time soon.
Most locals shared that it wasn’t likely South Floridians were going to give up their vehicles as their prime transportation any time soon.

We asked the following question to readers on social media and the Public Insight Network recently: Can South Florida change its car culture? Thanks for all of your responses. Below are a sampling of your comments, some of which were edited for length and clarity. Learn more about the Public Insight Network and read and comment on previous discussions at MiamiHerald.com/community and select Community Conversations.

The rails in Dade and Broward don’t really go anywhere. You can’t get out west, you can’t get to Doral or to Plantation or to Weston or to anywhere in Kendall past Dadeland. You can’t even get to Little Havana on rail. Once my car was broken and it took me 3+ hours navigating trains to get to work. It was frustrating, so no.

Loren Moss, Miami

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Sadly, I think that Miami’s failure to restrict development will leave us no choice but to find alternatives to our cars. Neighborhood activists have warned for years about the failure of city planners to anticipate the increased traffic volume added incrementally by each new project. Gridlock has finally arrived and we will now begin paying for our relentlessly pro-growth policies.

Wendy Stephan, Miami

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With the second wave of environmentalism on the rise, more people will be switching to public transportation options in lieu of driving individual cars. The Tri-Rail connection to downtown Miami is a good business investment the same way the organic product market is a good business investment. There is a trend in public interest that can be tracked — a shift towards more environmentally and socially sustainable transportation.

Anya Contreras, Miami

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Its an uphill battle, that’s for sure. As a transplant from Boston, I am shocked at the lack of long-range planning in areas of transportation and zoning. Short-term money in lieu of long-term, sustainable gains is a [tool] for disaster. The traffic situation worsens by the day. I am seriously considering relocating further north into Broward to avoid the perpetual gridlock. It is affecting the quality of my life. The Tri-Rail system is a very, very modest start that will do little to alleviate the traffic nightmare that is Dade County.

Patricia Gill, Bay Harbor Islands

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Yes. It’ll be gradual, but ridership will increase. Traffic is nearly untenable now and rapidly getting worse. My daughters’ generation already uses Uber all the time. Decent train connections will attract them.

David Auslander, Pinecrest

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It can if Miami looks at mass transit and other modes of transportation as an integrated system. Simply make one able to use mass transit to get from any town in South Florida to Miami and the rest of the state never using a car. Here in Miami Beach we have begun to change the mindset with programs like DecoBike. In the future I would wish to see a light rail system across the causeway and in town, connecting to downtown, Tri-Rail and All Aboard Florida. I would definitely use such as system.

Clint White, Miami Beach

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South Florida will not change its car culture until it changes the cost culture it takes for people to use public transportation throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Lionel Lightbourne, Liberty City

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I definitely do. I don’t drive and have no desire to drive. There is no traffic on the train and best part is you save so much money on public transit. If we expand Tri-Rail to downtown I definitely agree. All Aboard Florida is a horrible idea.

Benjamin Oppenheim, Palmetto Bay

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All Aboard Florida will only stop in Miami and Fort Lauderdale on its way to Boca and Orlando, so it won’t change our commuter culture, and may not even affect in-state tourism either (since families will still find a car less expensive than buying tickets for children passengers — four or more tickets will not be “affordable”). But proposed Tri-Rail stations have the potential to be the game-changers for commuters. But it only has a hope if the county can stop developers from sucking up all the land needed for the proposed stations.

Grace Robson, Miami

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South Floridians drive because they have no other option but to drive unless they are super poor. There are no easy and convenient public transport. I lived in France and England and although in both places I had cars, I mostly used public transport. The youth/my son love the idea of a train/metro. We simply ride on the train once a year as a fun outing for my son who loves being on a train. If there was a good public option to get him to his school he would definitely use it. If I had a good option to get to work I would use it.

Aya Chacar, Coral Gables

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I welcome the proposal. I do feel though it’s of great importance to address two other matters first: the east-west lateral connections to where all the people live, such as West Kendall, and the north-south from Homestead up to the southern terminus of the Metrorail....I suspect it will take quite a while for the deep shift in attitude towards public transportation. There is still a strong association with danger, discomfort and most importantly, unreliability.

Gabriele Fiorentino, South Miami

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South Florida is tropical. The heat and humidity at dawn are oppressive. The blazing sun is punishing during the day. Walking more than one block requires changing out of wet clothes. It is not possible to work in an air-conditioned space wearing sweaty clothes. Driving to the train station is hardly less strenuous than driving all the way to work. Waiting for the train is annoying and adds time to an already long day. The solution to traffic congestion is to make through-streets into one-way-streets.

Hallett Stiles, North Miami

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Hopefully, unless, of course, South Floridians truly are masochists at heart who don’t mind fighting traffic every day and aren’t willing to board a train to save thousands of dollars every year on the cost of fueling their American dream.

David Copeland, Miami Beach

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I believe it can. There are many people here from other locales including northerners, like myself (hailing from NYC) as well as people from other places/countries, who laud the myriad benefits of and will use public transportation. I would love better access to Tri-Rail and eagerly await the All Aboard Florida service to begin. I also wish that the Metrorail went more places as I do use it but the destinations are so limited. I also use the buses but in many cases, while there are many great routes, they don’t come very often, which makes them a less viable option for me at times.

Bárbara Herrnsdorf, Coral Gables

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Unless we have efficient public transportation it will never change. Our public transportation is a joke. It has been 34 years since I moved to Miami and still we don’t have Metrorail available for the vast majority of the people that live out west. Make it happen and the people in South Florida will change, but until then, there is absolutely zero chance.

Oswaldo Gutierrez, Unincorporated Miami-Dade

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Not a chance. We’re so spread out and growing and there are no signs of the growth slowing. We’re not a Segway society and to some extent, that’s good. Better to get some exercise on a bicycle than vegetate on a Segway. I’m old school and so I don’t want to change that. If I did, I’d move to NYC. Well, okay, not really. But some other big city in a southern state.

Jim Kononoff, Miami

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South Florida can change its car culture if there is an investment made to improve our current bus transit system, and with the extension of Metrorail systems into multiple points of access in urban neighborhoods, and perhaps even some suburban neighborhoods that surround the urban developments. Miamians are about convenience, and if the county can provide for a bus and metro system that beats sitting in 5 o’ clock traffic, we will capitalize on that!

Alex Hernandez, Miami

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I believe a Tri-Rail station to downtown encourages more people use it. Miami is too lacking in public transport...investment in good public transport is the same as investing in quality of life.

Josefina Guedes, Miami Beach

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