Editorials

Unclogging the jam

An important summit is being held in Miami-Dade Thursday — not about global warming or terrorism, but something that makes even more of an impact on our daily lives: the future of Miami-Dade’s entire public-transit system.

In other words, the way we get around, from home to work, from school to the mall, to the park or the grocery store.

The daylong meeting, Transportation Summit 2015 Advancing the community’s vision for Public Transportation, at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus couldn’t come at a better time — just as we’ve won the distinction of being the third most populous state in the nation. We are 19 million strong, but a more sobering number is that the state has 16 million vehicles on the road.

In South Florida, traffic woes will only get worse. By now, local drivers realize that traffic jams are not just reserved for rush hour.

The summit’s ambitious goal is to explore ways to improve our ability to get from here to there via a better, smarter transportation system that will take us into the future.

A key component must be a way for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to have consistently safe and fast mobility. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez will give the keynote address, and we commend him for being in the forefront of this critical issue. Phillip Washington, general manager of the Regional Transportation District in Denver, Colorado, will address how private-public transit projects must be thrown into the mix. Taxpayers can’t fund everything.

Paul Schwiep, chairman of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, the 15-member body created to oversee the People’s Transportation Plan funded with a half-penny sales tax, is hosting the event.

He told the Editorial Board that he hopes to “bring to reality a transit plan that works for Miami-Dade, giving voice to what taxpayers had in mind when they approved the sales tax 12 years ago.’’

It’s refreshing to hear that what was promised to voters with much fanfare is back on the front burner.

Mr. Schwiep believes a generational change will add tremendous momentum to redoing the way we get around, largely because younger people are more apt to use public transit, ride a bike or walk as part of their commute. They are not fixated on cars. Their needs should be better accommodated, and fewer cars on the road should be a priority.

Other topics to be discussed include: Establishing light rail between Miami and Miami Beach; creating a rapid, north-south transit route along 27th Avenue; building an east-west light-rail system along the State Road 836 corridor and the Underline along U.S. 1.

The sales tax may not generate enough money — some $225 million for all projects — and whispers have begun about asking taxpayers for more. That’s a bad idea until residents can see tangible results and, for example, get from Point A to Point B with ease.

Mr. Schwiep wants the summit to be a springboard to make a reality the promises of the county’s master traffic plan.

The Miami Herald Editorial Board is also making the scourge of traffic a cause. We might be of different races, ethnicities, income and educational levels, but traffic that moves at a snail’s pace on the Palmetto Expressway doesn’t discriminate. Everyone gets to endure the highway robbery of our precious time.

Kudos to the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust for trying to re-spark a stalled vision. We all need to get aboard this moving train.

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