The Florida Influencer Series

Florida Priorities Summit: How can cities adapt to an evolving transportation ecosystem?

With ride sharing, electric cars and even scooters on the rise, and autonomous vehicles right around the corner, cities like Miami have plenty to adapt to.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes’ advice? Don’t try to solve all the problems these new transportation options all at once. Instead, aim for 2030.

At the Florida Priorities Summit, the St. Petersburg Republican said cities haven’t had to deal with changes to the transportation system at this level in more than a generation, so it’s going to take time to time to process.

“You have to see public transit as an organism. This organism has to evolve over time,” Brandes said. “Let’s make sure that we’re maximizing our options for the future and not take anything off the table.”

Ford has been testing a fleet of self-driving cars in the Miami-Dade area since February. On Wednesday, the motor company launched a new grocery-delivery partnership with Walmart.

During a panel on transportation and infrastructure issues at the summit, Alex Buznego, the Miami market manager for Ford’s autonomous vehicle business team, said the company was aiming to fully deploy driverless cars in Miami and several other cities by 2021.

Other panelists agreed with Brandes that the transportation system should be viewed as an organism. Patrick Goddard, the president and COO of Brightline, said the the privately-owned passenger rail service would play an important role in connecting cities in Florida.

“There’s a place for private money in the fabric of transportation in this country, and there’s a place for public money,” Goddard said.

Marta Viciedo, the co-founder of the Urban Impact Lab, said Miami needed short-term transportation solutions as well, such as improvements to the bus system.

“Buses are super unsexy, I know,” Viciedo said. “But we have to make improvements where we can mobilize our communities and give them opportunity and access.”

Carlos Cruz-Casas, the assistant director of strategic planning at the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works, said the local government needed to increase public outreach and engagement for both old and new transportation options.

“Things are changing,” he said. “We have to change with it.”

The summit marks the culmination of the Florida Influencer Series for 2018 -- a project by the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and Bradenton Herald. Over the past six months, the Influencers shared their ideas on how to address the most important issues facing the state and responded to questions from readers.

Watch a livestream of the Florida Priorities Summit here.

Related stories from Miami Herald