Bait-and-Switch: Gimenez "FOUND" Money for Metro-Fail...

Miami Herald

Mayor finds money to reverse cuts to Metrorail and county bus system

By Douglas Hanks

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Can we really trust this... 
After all... 

Facing political pressure and passenger fury, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Wednesday announced a $13 million plan to reverse cuts to Metrorail and bus services announced months ago to patch budget gaps in the county’s increasingly unreliable transit system. 
In a memo to county commissioners, Gimenez said he accepted demands that transit cuts be fixed before the board approves the mayor’s proposed $7.4 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins Sunday. A final vote is scheduled for Thursday evening, after a public hearing that begins at 5 p.m. 
“At the First Budget Hearing, the Board made it clear that your priority for funding was public transportation,” Gimenez wrote. “I share your opinion that in order to be a truly resilient community now and in the future, we must solve our mobility issues.”

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The mayor said Miami-Dade can eliminate some overlapping bus routes, expand limited schedules to all county holidays and redirect about $6 million in road fees to generate enough money to restore the systemwide cuts that include early closing hours for Metrorail, longer waits between trains and phasing out a string of bus routes deemed too unpopular to keep.

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The memo does not detail exactly what services would be restored, but a budget official said Metrorail would return to its pre-cut schedule before the county increased wait times for trains by 50 percent and eliminated about an hour at the start and end of each day’s service. 

For the county’s bus system, easily the most used mass-transit option in Miami-Dade, some stops were eliminated on 10 routes and three other routes were cut entirely. The commission approved the bus reductions this summer, with the cuts to be implemented by the fall. Most are already in place, meaning the proposed budget change would give Miami-Dade’s transit agency the money that would otherwise be saved by the reductions. 

Jennifer Moon, Miami-Dade’s budget director, told a committee Wednesday that the mayor’s proposal would only reverse bus cuts not already in place but would restore all Metrorail cuts, including those already implemented. 

Whether the service actually improves is a separate question, particularly with Metrorail. When the county imposed the Metrorail cuts in May, transit officials blamed a pair of funding problems: The county’s half-percent sales tax for transportation wasn’t meeting revenue targets, and fare revenue from passengers on buses and trains was down. 

But mechanical issues were increasing costs too, with the county’s aging fleet of Metrorail cars nearing their fifth decade of service and getting so old that Miami-Dade could no longer buy replacement parts. A new generation of cars is supposed to start arriving this fall, but the delivery schedule still has the county being stuck with original Metrorail cars through 2018. 

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