Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Buckle up for 2016 — or better yet, ride the rails, vote

Metromover snakes around old and new Brickell buildings.
Metromover snakes around old and new Brickell buildings. fsantiago@miamiherald.com

“Lela, I see your Ami down there — all those cars!” my granddaughter Isabela shrieked from her Metrorail window seat.

“Aren’t you glad we’re up here?” I said.

“Yes, we’re flying!”

From the mouth of babes ... truth.

Even a 3-year-old can spot Miami’s No. 1 problem: Traffic.

If 2013 and 2014 were years when unthinkable levels of flooding kept us home-bound more often than we care to remember — and 2015 was the year when county fathers finally owned up to climate change — traffic gridlock is the one issue that remains a talking point. An ill to bemoan, but not resolutely alleviate. And all indications are that congestion will only worsen in years to come. Never-ending growth and development have turned communities into red zones on the traffic map.

I couldn’t make it to a holiday party in Coral Gables because I simply couldn’t get through to parking anywhere near Miracle Mile. Heck, I couldn’t make it through Hialeah and Little Havana to reach Coral Gables on a Saturday night. And with that, the Gables joins Miami Beach as areas where — unless I have business — they’re not for me, gracias.

Don’t say, “Call Uber.” They don’t yet operate helicopters.

If the national outlook for 2016 has people house-hunting in Canada just in case the fascist presidential candidate is elected and our democracy turns on its head, what’s driving Miamians to the brink of exile in gentler geographies is the traffic zaniness. That’s not good news. Transient residents don’t build community, nor lasting bonds to place.

We need to find solutions, but no one in charge dares to tackle the obvious generator of traffic: over-development.

“Politicians talk the talk about our transportation problems when the first step is easy,” reader Roberta Kaiser writes me. “There should be a moratorium on all high-rise building. That’s the only thing that will help our traffic situation.”

But there’s no political will to pause rampant growth.

My only, if limited, solution: Whenever possible, ride the rails.

Year after street-cluttered year, I’ve inched closer to full time use of Metrorail and Metromover when I want to visit downtown Miami institutions, the Civic Center for appointments at Bascom Palmer or jury duty, and to the Brickell Avenue area for meetings and lunch dates. This Christmas, I dared to ride the rails to PAMM with kids in tow. No doubt the highlight of 2016 will be taking them to the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. With its domed planetarium and funky walls, it’s shaping up to become a true Miami treasure. It sits next to the Perez Art Museum Miami, an architectural jewel in the midst of too much Hong Kong and increasingly less real Miami.

Inevitably, when I write about over-development, someone whose living depends on the construction industry complains. One reader oozed so much disdain that it spilled over the electronic gadgetry between us: “Lady, do you like anything?”

Yes, I like PAMM, the Frost — and an open, green Museum Park with a Metromover stop that takes me there.

More than like, I love Miami. One giddy Metrorail ride, one museum visit at a time, I’m doing my part to ensure that the new generation loves this city, too.

Buckle up for 2016 — or better yet, ride the rails, and vote accordingly.