Letters to the Editor

Creating Miami’s transit trust

When, as vice-chair of the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization, I spearheaded negotiations with the county to bring Tri-Rail into downtown Miami, it became apparent that our city would be asked to participate as a funding partner in mass transit projects going forward.

There may be no greater challenge to our current mass-transit system than that posed by the density coming to downtown and Brickell in the form of 80,000 new residential units. Because of this reality, I created Miami’s Transportation Trust Fund.

This legislation ensures that 20 cents of every unrestricted dollar the city receives on one-time payments over $500,000 will go into the trust to serve as matching funds for projects such as Miami’s portion of Baylink, the Metromover expansion to Marlins Park, and the Brickell tunnel.

It also provides for an operations and maintenance subsidy that will be used to maintain the city’s trolley system, expected to run at a deficit beyond 2017 due to its recent expansion. Last, the legislation encourages transit-oriented development by working in tandem with the small building parking exemption legislation and encouraging developers to build along transit corridors.

According to a Federal Highway Administration study, residents living in car-dependent cities such as Miami spend 25 percent of their income on transportation costs while the cost is only 9 percent for those living in mass-transit-dependent cities.

Planning for mass transit is clearly crucial as it will not only promote smart growth, but will also serve as an investment in our community by putting money back in our residents’ pockets. Miami’s Transportation Trust Fund seeks to accomplish these goals without an increase in taxes. I’m honored to have received my fellow commissioners’ unanimous support in creating the trust.

Francis X. Suarez, city commissioner, District 4, Miami