Editorials

Traffic gridlock: Bad for business

TNS

South Florida traffic is the pits — that’s no secret. Thousands of us have to endure it on our commute to and from work.

Once we make it to work, we’re often cocooned for eight hours until it’s time once again to take that molasses-slow commute home.

But there are thousands of people in South Florida whose business depends on being able to quickly navigate their way across town — Realtors, business people, sales people, public-relations specialists. They’re in the traffic soup all day long.

They say they’re being choked by traffic. We believe them, and their stories are our latest installment of the Editorial Board’s H*ll of Wheels initiative.

Their experiences are proof that gridlock is also affecting our local economy.

Here are the stories of some brave souls who must endure more than the rest of us — because it’s part of their job:

Robbie Bell, a well-known real-estate broker, lives in a traffic hell that she says is affecting the personal touch she used to be able to offer clients back when it took her 15 minutes to get to downtown Miami from just about anywhere in the county.

As a perk for prospective buyers, Ms. Bell said she would often drive to pick up clients at their home or hotel and take them to see a property. That was a time to get to know the client, make a connection and get leverage to seal the deal. Traffic has changed that scenario.

Recently, facing the prospect of picking up a client in Coral Gables, driving back to Brickell to show a property, then back to the Gables, Ms. Bell had to put aside the door-to-door nicety.

“It would have taken me an hour or longer to pick them up in the Gables, then another hour to drive back downtown,” Ms. Bell said — and repeat the process.

“Instead, I asked the client if they could please meet me downtown,” Ms. Bell said. “I hated to do it, but I had to do it. So, yes, traffic is impacting the customer service I offer clients.”

Bill Diggs is president of the Mourning Family Foundation, headquartered in a building at the south end of Biscayne Boulevard. Great address, but terrible traffic that backs up in the loop around his building. Mr. Diggs often takes to the roadways on foundation business — fund raising, luncheons, special events. But jumping into traffic has become a well-thought-out strategic decision.

“I think twice before leaving the building to get into that Brickell traffic,” Mr. Diggs said. His gripe? “Our public transit system doesn’t go anywhere you need it to go.”

Mitch Kaplan, owner of Books & Books and co-founder of the upcoming Miami Book Fair International, has a daunting task ahead: Getting 600 visiting authors into construction-heavy downtown Miami next month.

To get authors from the airport to their hotels, publishers supply escorts. “We book the authors into hotels near the fair so they can walk or take a shuttle,” Mr. Kaplan said. Good move.

Kelly Penton, director of the Miami office of ASGK Public Strategies, is often guiding around town representatives from high-end clients such as the Miami International Boat Show and Portman Holdings, in line to build a multimillion-dollar hotel at a renovated Miami Beach Convention Center.

Her standard advice to local and out-of-town clients navigating to business meetings and media interviews is this: “Set aside an extra hour to deal with the traffic.”

The reality of doing business in Miami-Dade’s is simply this: Gridlock is eating into the time we have to actually work. That can mean less time to make more money. Not good. Miami-Dade’s traffic honchos can take that to the bank.

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