Miami-Dade County

New Miami-Dade transit chief takes on roads and Uber, too

Alice Bravo
Alice Bravo

Miami-Dade’s transit director will also take on the county’s roads and the brewing Uber debate in a reorganization that seeks to consolidate all transportation issues into one department.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez described the new Transportation and Public Works Department as creating a more holistic approach to easing the county’s congestion woes, by putting one director in charge of road maintenance and cars-for-hire as well as buses and rail. Alice Bravo, the former Miami administrator hired in June to oversee county transit, will serve as the director of the new department and report directly to Gimenez.

“Many transit agencies are embracing the concept of ‘mobility management,’ which is a strategic approach to service coordination and customer service,” Gimenez wrote in an Oct. 9 memo to county commissioners. “Mobility management moves transit agencies away from the traditional role as a fixed-route service operator, and toward collaboration with other transportation providers, both public and private.”

The reorganization ends the county’s practice of having one department chief focused solely on transit, an issue that’s been attracting increased attention as the 2016 election cycle approaches.

“It’s really disconcerting,” said Xavier Suarez, a county commissioner and leading critic of Gimenez’s transit policies who also is considering a run for mayor in 2016. “To see all of these unifications and strange department names that everybody just doesn’t really absorb — it confuses the general public and it confuses the insiders.”

After Gimenez took office in 2011, he consolidated 46 county departments into 25, eliminated assistant county managers, and established a layer of well-paid deputy mayors to oversee the bureaucracy. The latest organization strips Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak of the heart of her portfolio, since she did double duty as director of public works, too. A Gimenez spokesman said the change may mean a reshuffling of the four deputy mayors’ responsibilities to give Hudak more to supervise.

Hudak retains authority over the departments of solid waste (where she serves as director), Animal Services and Elections. The special-taxing district arm of Public Works, which revealed chronic mistakes in its billing earlier this year, is being transferred to the Parks Department.

The Transportation plan reaffirms Bravo’s role as a key Gimenez deputy. The mayor did not conduct a national search for a new transit director, and now has placed Bravo at the center of Miami-Dade’s debate over new transit projects, how to use toll revenue from the Miami-Dade Expressway, and legalizing Uber, the popular app-based car service. Gimenez has promised a resolution to the Uber controversy by 2016, and his memo emphasizes the need for Miami-Dade to “expand the range of viable options that communities have for transportation.”