A failure to improve public transportation in Miami-Dade County following a half-cent sales tax increase in 2002 has created a trust problem with voters, officials acknowledged during a panel discussion Thursday.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, County Commissioner Esteban Bovo and Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert took part in the talk on the Wolfson Campus of Miami-Dade College.
The three agreed that transportation needs to be a top priority, but did not agree how to best solve the problem. Specifically, Gilbert argued for more Metrorail-style routes and trains, while Gimenez advocated for more rapid bus routes.
“When we talk about restoring the communities trust in us, we talk about it as if it’s this abstract thing, like we don’t know why they don’t trust us,” said Gilbert. “It’s because people’s who sold them the idea of a half-penny, sold them on the idea of heavy rail down 27th Avenue, and then they didn’t deliver on that.”
But Gimenez, noting the length of time it would take to build rail routes, said more transportation options need to be operational as soon as possible. People sitting in traffic need relief now, not later, he said.
“Let’s build stations, let’s start using the right of way when we get the right of way,” he said.
For his part, Bovo said he does believe rapid bus lines will not fulfill the promise made when the half-cent tax was passed. Solving that credibility problem, he said, will give officials more options “because then residents can see the seriousness.”
The discussion was a part of the 2017/2018 Transportation Summit, organized by the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust. According to Charles Scurr, the executive director of the trust, the event served to give attendees an update of where the county stands on various transportation initiatives and plans.