Transit planners cite need for new strategy, fundingBy Candice Ventra
Local officials agreed recently that Miami-Dade County is in need of a more focused transit plan and additional funds to ease traffic congestion.
The formula, they said, should include a more effective marketing effort to convince commuters to use the bus and rail systems instead of their cars.
Members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, who oversee transit issues for the county, last week discussed the county's increasing transportation obstacles.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss said since a proposed penny sales tax to improve the public transportation system was rejected last year by county voters, the county has not created an alternative plan to combat traffic.
"We had a plan. We went to the voters," Mr. Moss said. "It got shot down. Where do we go from here?"
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler said just because the tax increase was denied doesn't mean the problem has disappeared.
"The issue is not dead," she said.
Advertising, said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto, is the key to increasing ridership on the bus and Metrorail, which is ultimately the way to get rid of bumper-to-bumper streets and highways.
"The county lacks a definite plan to advertise public transportation," Mr. Souto said. "We have a selling job to do."
But other officials said the problem is not in the advertising but in the availability and efficiency of buses in particular.
The overall on-time rate of Metrobus is at 70% that number is significantly lower during rush hour, said Danny Alvarez, director of the Miami-Dade Transit Agency.
"We need $28 million in additional bus service," Mr. Alvarez said. "We are deficient by 28% to 30% in providing bus service in the community."
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson said the county should focus on getting newer and more buses as soon as possible. Money for buses is included in the transportation section of the county budget.
"The best advertisement for our buses is reliable buses," Ms. Sorenson said. "We need them to be in good repair."
Mr. Alvarez said the county has several buses that are 12 years or older and have more than 600,000 miles on them. Many of them break down frequently causing delays for riders.
Organization members did not adopt any definitive plan to improve the transit system at the meeting but said one needed to be devised as soon as possible. Members also said locating funds for the transit improvement is the biggest concern.
"We need to know where we are going to get the money from," Ms. Carey-Shuler said.
The 2001 budget, including money for transportation will be up for review in March.
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