Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida, Europe and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tomas Boiton is on the case!; South Florida Transit apathy



Palm Beach County civic activist and
Friend of HBB 
Tomas Boiton, the founder, head and heart of Citizens For Improved Transit, writes with news about a forthcoming effort of his scheduled for Monday, which ought to be of interest to all people interested in
making transportation smarter and more efficient in actually reaching the people who need it: taxpayers.

I've also copied the letter he sent along as an attachment and print it at the bottom, which is a letter Tomas sent to the Palm Beach County Commissioners.

But first, to help connect some dots and set up some later comments of mine, I want to share the following prescient piece from Orlando Sentinel ace reporter Aaron Deslatte, which he originally posted on their excellent Central Florida Political Pulse on April 7th.

I had hoped to post and comment on it back in April, but I had a problem when my computer froze-up one night, and moments later, BOOM, the power went out in my neighborhood for a bit.
Afterwards, I was so frustrated, I gave up on posting it, but have recently found a Draft of it from the day before, which I've since finished.

It presents a very telling tale of the elected officials involved in making important decisions for us and how truly ill-informed many are.
People are entitled to their own opinions, of course, but you first have to agree at the outset on certain basic facts and understand where the financial numbers are coming from before you develop your point-of-view, oui?
Or maybe that's just me.

Central Florida Political Pulse.
SunRail bucks get hand-cuffed in the Senate
posted by Aaron Deslatte on Apr 7, 2009 5:47:03 PM

TALLAHASSEE – Senate lawmakers on a powerful budget panel sparred for an hour Tuesday over a Democratic attempt to strip funding for Central Florida’s commuter rail project out of the chamber's proposed budget.
Problem is, they couldn’t find much.
At the Senate Ways and Means committee, Sens. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, and Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, offered an amendment to the budget to divert $491 million out of the state Department of Transportation’s budget for road projects to fund a handful of others they said had been diverted due to the SunRail project.
“We’ve had $600 million that’s been sitting there for three years. It’s a disservice to the people,” Lawson said.
------------------------
Wow!!!
I think it's fantastic that in the year 2009, the Florida legislature is full of people who STILL don't know how FDOT is actually funded.
Perhaps in the future, Senate and House committee assignments could be based totally on test performance of standardized tests on Florida govt. history, along with essays on how FL govt. is supposed to work according to the FL State Constitution.
Their own FCATs.
And reveal the results LIVE on TV, like the NFL Draft!

That sort of stupidity is almost as great as the sheer apathy and laziness shown by so many elected officials and pompous public policy types from South Florida in February, based on the paltry number of them who actually showed-up in person at the regional Transportation Summit in Fort Lauderdale on the 21st.
Nothing quite says lip service like folks acting all concerned with transportation policy and Quality of Life issues when being interviewed by reporters, but then skipping the chance to appear at an informative Saturday morning event where actual concerned South Florida citizens are present and accounted for.

Plus there was a great speaker like Gordon Pricof Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, the noted Smart Growth expert, who made a truly fantastic presentation that had most attendees wistful as they watched it, and even more angry than they expected
at seeing once again how much worse this area is than it ought to be compared to other places.

Mr. Price flew across North America from beautiful Vancouver to deliver a powerful message in Fort Lauderdale, and I made time to make the relatively short trip up to the Broward County Convention Center to hear him - and was very glad I did, as many other attendees told me as well.

(These were the exact same well-informed people who asked me over the couple of hours I
was there, with evident concern in their voice, if I, too, had noticed the same changes they had at the Transit Miami blog. http://www.transitmiami.com/
Changes which they uniformly thought were very much for the worse.
Had I noticed TM not even mentioning the very Transportation Summit we were all at in advance -or have anyone attendand the extent to which it had become become something of a combination Biker newsletter and very bitter social screed.
Yes, sadly I had.)

Based on her pathetic track record and apparent fear of actually interacting with knowledgeable taxpayer citizens, instead of the govt. officials and trade groups she clearly
prefers to interact with, which I've written about here before, I completely expected FDOT Sec. Stephanie Kopelousos to be a no-show.
She didn't disappoint, so her non-appearance was NOT exactly Breaking News.

But where was my own State Rep., Joe Gibbons?
Or my State Senator, Eleanor Sobel?

Gibbons, the former Hallandale Beach City Commissioner who now acts oblivious to all the self-evident unethical and incompetent activity taking place here in HB, happens to be the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committeeand yet was a no-show that morning, as were South Florida
Senators Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Chris Smithboth of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations.

Nice going!
Way to represent!

The folks who actually attended the Summit won't soon forget who all the no-shows were.

Well, among the few elected officials who actually WERE there was SFRTA Governing Board Chairman and Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, Jr.,
http://www.broward.org/eggelletion/ and http://www.tri-rail.com/, and Palm Beach County Commission Chairman Jeff Koons,

I spent some time talking to Comm. Koons in FTL and found him to be not only EXTREMELY well-informed and conversant, but also someone who was clearly
very conscientious and possessed of a good sense of humor, someone who didn't take himself so seriously.

I'm no expert on Comm. Koons, but my initial sense of him, after previously reading articles and columns on him and now finally meeting him was that we could use a couple dozen clones of him here in Hallandale Beach and Broward County, as well as in Miami-Dade
County, where part of the larger problem is is the dozens and dozens of people who take themselves FAR TOO SERIOUSLY.

For examples of this, see WFOR's I-Team report A Spending Tale of Two Counties

People like Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper to name but one glaring example, who continues to think so highly of herself -despite her awful track recordand thinks you ought to as well,.
In fact, she thinks so highly or herself that she asked HB City Manager Mike Good to find money in the city's budget to create a brand new office for her at HB City Hall, despite the fact that there was nothing physically wrong with her existing one.

No matter!
She said "Jump!" and he said "How high?" and it was done and completed in January for about $3,700.

So, with that all said, here's the letter Tomas wrote so you could know what's going on, too.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Your support is needed to minimize the $4 million budget cut to Palm Tran and save Tri-Rail. Effects will greatly impact the $5 monthly bus pass program and Senior Transportation Services!
Last year the commissioners put an additional $1 million dollars back into Public Transportation because advocates came out to the meetings! We can do it again!
Join Citizens For Improved Transit at the
County Budget Workshop
Monday June 8 at 1:45 p.m. (will last about 1 hour)
P.B.C. Governmental Center - 301 N. Olive Ave., W.P.B. 6th Floor
(RSVP to this e-mail if you or an agency representative is able to attend)
Please also put on your Calendars to attend budget meetings on July 13th, September 8th and 21st
The time when public transportation comes on the agenda is determined a week before the meeting.
It is also very effective to make phone calls, write letters and send e-mails and tell your experiences. See the attached letter to get information on the issues:
THE ISSUES (See Attached letter for further details and attachment for All proposed cuts and fare increases)
1. Maintain the $5 price for the TD bus pass for everyone living below 150% of the poverty level or if absolutely necessary create a sliding scale fare system so individuals making less then $1,000 per month will stay at $5 and raise the price to $7.50 for individuals making between $1,000 and $1,353 per month.
2. Instead of funding the ADA program with money currently designated for the DOSS program in order to charge for the transportation service, the same funds should be used to reinstate the County Senior Transportation program with new criteria
-- The eligibility age raised from 60 to 65 or 70
-- Amount of trips limited to the funds available
-- Trip destination limited to medical, employment, grocery stores and meal sites, and socialization trips to adult daycare centers
-- Qualifying seniors can not have a driver’s license or car registered in their name
-- The cost of the fare be based on a sliding scale: Seniors living:
- below the poverty level of $902 per month pay $3 per round trip
- between $902 and $1,354 pay $4 per round trip
- above 150% of the poverty level pay $6 per round trip which is the same fare the ADA program would charge.
3. Provide Tri-Rail with the minimal required funding obligation of $1.6 million and set aside an additional $1.25 million in reserves that will only be allocated to Tri-rail if:
-- Broward and Miami/Dade make the same financial obligation
-- The state contributes the remaining $3.75 million regional short fall in addition to the funding used to match the counties contributions.

CALL TO ACTION: It is essential Transportation Advocates attend and Nonprofit Agencies send representatives and clients to the meetings to stress the importance of Palm Tran, Palm Tran Connection and Tri-Rail on peoples lives.Not everyone will be asked to speak put we are looking to have a large attendance. Nonprofits please make sure to send at least one representative from each agency to the budget workshop this up coming Monday at 1:45.

Please pass on this e-mail to get the word out.

RSVP to this link: Citizens For Improved Transit or call 561-249-4181

E-mail the county commissioners today at BCC-Allcommissioners@pbcgov.org to say that Public Transportation Services are essential and should not be cut.


June 1, 2009

In regards to: Palm Tran Budget, Tri-Rail, Palm Tran Service Board

Dear Commissioners:

With the high cost of living in Palm Beach County and the scarcity of employment the populations effected the most by the current economic environment include seniors, low income earners, the unemployed, and the mentally and physically disabled. Palm Tran and Palm Tran Connection are the only form of transportation for many of these individuals to access life sustaining destinations.

The proposed Palm Tran Budget will significantly impact the quality of life for these vulnerable populations. Citizens For Improved Transit wants to ensure the commissioners are aware of the consequences of some of the proposed changes and alternative solutions that can still reduce the budget and provide for the transportation disadvantaged.

Transportation Disadvantaged (TD) Bus Passes:
This proposed change will have the greatest impact on the transportation disadvantaged by raising the cost of the TD bus passes 300% from $5 to $15 for individuals and families that live below 150% of the federal poverty level or less then $1,353 per month. Many of the families who are eligible for the TD bus pass live far below this level and cannot afford the additional $10 per month per family member. Approximately 7,000 people use the Transportation Disadvantaged Bus Pass program on a monthly basis which is about 20% of the fixed route riders.

Citizens For Improved Transit’s Recommendation
Maintain the $5 price for everyone living below 150% of the poverty level or if absolutely necessary create a sliding scale fare system so individuals making less then $1,000 per month will stay at $5 and raise the price to $7.50 for individuals making between $1,000 and $1,353 per month.

The county has only one distribution site for the TD bus passes at the Palm Tran Connection Lake Worth facility. It is advised that the secretarial position proposed to be terminated at the Palm Tran West Palm Beach office be changed to administer the sales of the TD bus passes. Since it will only be one position it is advised that registering for the TD program still be done in Lake Worth. The use of the WPB facility as a distribution site was proposed by Palm Tran staff but was sidelined due to lack of funding for a additional staff position. Currently the Lake Worth office is running at capacity with sometimes over 200 people coming a day.

Transportation Cuts to Seniors
According to the 2008 Palm Beach County Profile there are over 365,000 seniors over 60 living in Palm Beach County. Nearly 25% of these seniors live alone. The Division of Senior Services (DOSS) program provides transportation for seniors to receive one nutritious meal a day and simultaneously provides for socialization for those who would otherwise be isolated in their homes. Palm Tran wants to roll the DOSS program into the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) program. Under ADA Palm Tran can charge $6 per each round trip.

The problem with this is based on Palm Tran’s calculations, 15% of the current DOSS meal trips go to low income seniors that do not qualify for ADA trips. For the seniors that do have a qualifying disability Palm Tran estimates an additional 15% can not afford the $6 daily roundtrip cost. Based on discussions with a DOSS representative, Citizens For Improved Transit is confidant the number of seniors who will not be able to access the meals because of the additional $120 per month increase will be significantly higher.

Citizens For Improved Transit’s Recommendation
Instead of funding the ADA program with money currently designated for the DOSS program in order to charge for the transportation service, the County Senior Transportation program should be reinstated with new criteria:
  • The eligibility age raised from 60 to 65 or 70
  • Amount of trips limited to the funds available
  • Trips destination limited to medical, employment, grocery stores and meal sites, and socialization trips to adult daycare centers
  • Qualifying seniors can not have a driver’s license or car registered in their name
  • The cost of the fare be based on a sliding scale: Seniors living
    • below the poverty level of $902 per month pay $3 per round trip
    • between $902 and $1,354 pay $4 per round trip
    • above 150% of the poverty level pay $6 per round trip which is the same fare the ADA program would charge.
The new criteria will ensure seniors who do not have a qualifying ADA disability do not become isolated and can access life sustaining destinations. The current Palm Tran Connection trip scheduling software is already separating clients based on income and charging $2 instead of $3 for eligible riders. This subsidy is also proposed to be eliminated.

Tri-Rail
South Florida’s long term future growth necessitates mass transit of which Tri-Rail is the backbone. Tri-Rail has broken numerous ridership records, putting it among the nation's fastest growing commuter trains. Even as gasoline prices have dipped, the majority of passengers who flocked to the train when prices spiked to more than $4 a gallon last summer have continued riding with 4 million passengers last year, 22.9% more than in 2007.

Supporting funding for Tri-rail will continue a path of progress by:
  • Supporting economic development and smart growth planning as county and regional master plans have been developed around Tri-Rail infrastructure.
  • Improve quality of life by decreasing traffic congestion and the perpetual need for costly road expansions. Tri-Rail reduces 3.5 million car trips per year on I-95.
  • Contribute to a cleaner environment with 102 million less car miles on I-95.
Palm Beach County is required to contribute $1.6 million towards tri-rail which is $2.5 million less then its 2009 funding level of $4.1 million. In jeopardy is the future of regional transportation in South Florida and the stimulus money that is expected to be dedicated to rail transportation. The South Florida Region will not be eligible for the funds if it defaults on the federal funding used to create tri-rail.

Citizens For Improved Transit’s Recommendation
Provide tri-rail with the minimal required funding obligation of $1.6 million and set aside half of the $2.5 million shortfall (an additional $1.25 million) in reserves that will only be allocated to Tri-Rail if:
  • Broward and Miami/Dade make the same financial obligation
  • The state contributes the remaining $3.75 million regional short fall in addition to its matching funding.

Palm Beach County’s budget will be completed before Broward and Miami/Dade. Taking the leadership role will pressure the other counties to do the same and then put the ball back into the state’s court. If the criteria are not meet the county keeps the funds in reserve.

Sincerely,

Tomas Boiton
Citizens For Improved Transit, Founder
Transportation Consultant For Nonprofits
Office: (561) 249-4181
Fax: (561) 207-7763

Tboiton@Comcast.net
1406 Flagler Boulevard
Lake Park, FL 33403
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world.” - Margaret Mead

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