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Miami Official: Transit Won’t Work Because “Car Culture” Is “in Our DNA”

11:34 AM EDT on May 30, 2014

There are public officials like this in every city: so uninspiring and resigned to the status quo that they end up defending it.

In Miami, that guy is Esteban Bovo, chair of the Miami-Dade County Finance Committee. At a recent hearing, shown in the video above, Bovo wasn't outright antagonistic toward transit, just depressingly unwilling to advocate for, or even imagine, something better for the city.

On Transit Miami, Eli Stiers and Leah Weston took him to task:

While acknowledging his own frustration with the paucity of our transit options, compared to cities like Paris and Washington, D.C., Commissioner Bovo lamented that living without better access to transit is a “sad reality about Miami.”  We could not agree more. We further contend that lack of better public transit is preventing Miami from joining the roster of world-class cities.

Where we strongly disagree with Commissioner Bovo is with his indifference to the status quo.  His statements that Miami’s “car culture” is “in our DNA,” and that it would be difficult for people to leave their cars and “stand in the hot sun” to wait for a bus are problematic. We think that Miamians choose to sit in cars for hours on crowded interstates because they lack other options. Indeed, when the only option is to wait for a bus in the Miami heat, most will choose a car. Those who cannot afford a car, on the other hand, are left to cope with our chronically underfunded and underperforming transit system.

Commissioner Bovo’s comprehension of how transit inadequacies affect immigrants and retirees is similarly flawed. The Commissioner dubiously claimed that immigrants and retirees come to Miami seeking the freedom of the open road after leaving other parts of the world that usually have better transit options than we have in Miami. To the contrary, immigrants and retirees, frequently of low and moderate incomes, are more dependent on transit than any other demographic. This is bad news for Miami -- an area recently documented by the Center for Housing Policy to be the least affordable place in the country for middle-to-lower income families, due to combined housing and transportation costs, which account for a whopping 72% of income!

Offer the public something better, like an expanded Metrorail service that truly links our community, and our guess is that many Miamians will abandon the stress of the daily commute on I-95, US-1, 826, and 836 for the comfort of an air-conditioned train car, and the chance to read a book, answer e-mails, or take a nap on the way to work or school. It is not a “small segment” asking for better transit in our community. To the contrary, Miamians are desperate for better transit. Don’t blame the culture and concede defeat—find a way to move this city forward.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Delaware reports that legislation requiring states to work to reduce bike and pedestrian fatalities has passed a U.S. House committee. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance of Oregon shares the organization's perspective on the $140 per year, per household "street fee" being debated in Portland. And Pennsylvania Walks and Bikes explains how speed enforcement cameras save lives.

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