Transit solutions suffer with Gimenez in the helm!

Miami Herald:

BY DOUGLAS HANKS


HIGHLIGHTs:
  1. FIRST, Gimenez campaigns on expanding transit,
  2. ThenGimenez goes back on his word about transit, 
  3. FOLLOWED by, Gimenez pushing us under the bus by switching to "busses"
  4. It continues with, Gimenez "finding" the money for the metro system...
  5. Only then, Gimenez backtracks on the funding and pushes us back UNDER the "BUS"
  6. NOW, Gimenez flips again, thinking of using Chinese-style monorail from his China-Junket...

Facing a stalemate on the promise to expand Metrorail, Miami-Dade wants privatization proposals for any of the six transit corridors endorsed by the county's 2016 SMART Plan study.


The detailed solicitation document arrives as the official result of a March flare-up between the chairman of the County Commission and Miami-Dade's transportation department over the need for another year's worth of consultant fees to analyze the best transit modes for the SMART corridors. Chairman Esteban "Steve" Bovo said he wanted proposals from the private sector as a speedier alternative to the consultants' plans.
"Leave it to the county to further complicate an already complicated situation," said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the former county property appraiser who is considered a likely candidate for Miami-Dade mayor in 2020. "You could be creating false hope for the public. Is this just a gesture to make it look like there is progress when there hasn't been?"
Lopez-Cantera's barb captures the weight transit carries in Miami-Dade politics, with traffic seen as a top gripe and the county's transit system losing riders amid heated complaints of poor service. Bovo has also privately discussed interest in mounting his own campaign to replace Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who is barred by term-limit rules from running again.
Monorail was one of the bright spots of Gimenez's recent trip to Asia, where he toured different transit options. He cited monorail as a potentially promising alternative since it's cheaper than heavier train modes, like Metrorail.
"Here we mainly know it as something that's used in Disney World," said Alice Bravo, Gimenez's transportation director. But "monorail is an interesting option." She cited Tokyo's monorail system as an example of its potential, since a monorail system is narrow enough to make it appealing for the MacArthur Causeway, the bridge that connects Miami with South Beach.
Gimenez and Bovo have clashed on the SMART Plan, with the mayor arguing Miami-Dade can't afford the rail expansion he had endorsed during his 2016 reelection campaign.
Citing advances in automated vehicles and their predicted upending of public transportation, Gimenez argued for using Miami-Dade's limited transit funds to create modern rapid-transit bus lines running north and south. The buses would offer group boarding and advanced ticket sales to mimic some of the conveniences of Metrorail, and run between express stations that could later service a light rail system if the county ever had the money to build it.
Alice Bravo, Gimenez's transportation director, acknowledged the request for developer interest in SMART projects came from Bovo's complaints. But she said the results will simply mean more feedback on Miami-Dade's transit challenges. The county can choose to explore them further or reject them.
"It's a way of making sure there's not something we're overlooking," she said. "We might get a good suggestion."
The results could puncture some of the hopes that the private sector will see enough profits in transportation that Miami-Dade won't have to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars just to extend transit in a single corridor. A 2016 study by consultants at AECOM predicted a $6 billion price tag for the SMART Plan, with a built-out rail system costing about $1 million a day to operate.

But privatization also brings its critics. Miami-Dade last year outsourced 14 bus routes to private operator Transportation America as a cost-saving measure, with private-sector drivers earning much less than the county's unionized transit workers. County commissioners are voting to extend the contract Tuesday. In a letter, the Transportation Workers Union cited the wage gap as evidence of "trying to balance the Miami-Dade Transit budget on the backs of the poor."

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