A common sense public policy overview from David in South Florida, offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt./public policy, sports and pop culture of the U.S., #SoFL and Europe, esp. the #UK, #Sweden and #France, via my life in #Texas, #Memphis, #Miami, #IU, #Chicago, #WashingtonDC & #SoFL. In particular, #Broward & #MiamiDade County, and the cities of #HallandaleBeach, #HollywoodFL & #Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln.

Photo in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A, September 2008; March 2018 photo below of HB's North Beach and southern Hollywood Beach, looking left-to-right, looking north, HYDE Condominium, Etaru Japanese Robatayaki restaurant, and Hollywood Beach in the distance, with umbrellas. All photos by me, © Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

South Florida has once again redefined the meaning of "Free Ride." But shouldn't we all realize by now that when it comes to #TransportationPolicy in #SoFL, there's no such thing as a free ride? But #Miami pols, @Tri_Rail & @AllAboardFla can't help themslves when it comes to taking taxpayer dollars and taking credit for something BEFORE the facts are ALL in

South Florida, and NOT to its credit, has once again redefined the meaning of "Free Ride." But shouldn't we all realize by now -after so DOZENS of fatally-flawed transit decisions and an equal number of poorly-executed plans- that when it comes to #Transportation Policy in #SoFL, there's no such thing as a free ride? 
But #Miami pols, @Tri_Rail & @AllAboardFla can't help themslves when it comes to taking taxpayer dollars and taking credit for something BEFORE the facts are ALL in

Below is a slightly-expanded version of an email that I sent out early last night, after reading the article and tweets below, to just under 200 concerned citizens, pols and news media reps in the Sunshine State, and to transportation reporters and columnists across the U.S.A.
I was not able to send all the tweets to them, so... include them here

Miami Herald
Tri-Rail would offer free rides to Overtown district residents in station deal

Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald
March 24, 2005

Tri-Rail would offer free passes to large numbers of Overtown residents in exchange for public funding of a new Miami station, part of a deal aimed at piecing together $69 million in tax dollars to bring the commuter line to a privately funded train depot downtown.

The largely state-funded Tri-Rail would offer free passes to residents inside Miami's Overtown/Park West taxing district in exchange for extracting about $30 million from the entity for construction of a Tri-Rail platform in All Aboard Florida's rail complex that's about to begin construction in downtown Miami.

Read the rest of the article at:

Miami Today
Tourist taxes add-on a creative way to finance vital transit  
Written by Michael Lewis on March 25, 2015

If Miami-Dade commissioners succeed in a creative drive to increase two of our three tourism taxes by one percentage point each, they can amass more than $60 million a year to build mass transit.
Anyone who tries to get around this county knows how vital this is, because bonding this guaranteed revenue could provide several billion dollars to start building transit immediately.
Read the rest of the column at:

A few things worth knowing while you digest the facts and anecdotes above and try to make sense of it all:

In case you forgot -or never knew- the person who led the effort to change the City of Miami's former CRA district and create a new CRA district -done as part of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County's foolish efforts to build a new taxpayer-built baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins- is none other than Marc Sarnoff.

Yes, the outgoing City of Miami commissioner at the center of this story, now a paid CRA Director, and, oh yeah, someone trying desperately to elect his wife as his successor on the Miami City
Commission. Really.
Hastag: #Context

Now perhaps those of you who doubted me last year when I -alone in South Florida- publicly asked why the one-and-only public All Aboard Florida public scoping meeting scheduled in Miami-Dade County last year was taking place in a crime-ridden area that future users of the train between Miami and Orlando would never willingly visit without an ample display of security.

In case you forgot, this one-and-only AAF public scoping meeting in M-D was scheduled to be held at night, during the week, at a place where, IF you entered its address on Google Maps like I did and looke at it via Street View, what you saw was the side of a liquor store with debris everywhere.
Again, REALLY.

As opposed to, well, having it at a centralized location in the county with plenty of parking spaces outside and plenty of air conditioned seats inside on a hot day that would ACTUALLY draw future paid train passengers for rides to Orlando?
Afterall, AAF is trying to cast as large a net as possible for passengers, aren't they?

Trust me, for their business plan to be successful, their core audience can not consist of just poor people and people who lack a car to make the drive up to Orlando.
But look how clumsily and amateurish it was handled when they had lots of time to decide what they were going to do?
That's called portent, my friends...

Yes, but then THAT is precisely the kind of planning we've come to expect from the same AAF folks who've always got their hands out for more for the public purse, forgetting that many of us still recall how much they bragged and patted themselves on the back early on for how much theirs was a "private" enterprise.

The same people who did NOT even plan on hosting a public scoping meeting anywhere in Broward County for its taxpayers and consumers last year until I embarrassed, shamed and publicly flogged them, via several high-profile emails and blog posts that were cc'd to the South Florida, Orlando and Tampa Bay area  news media, and a handful of people with power and influence in Tallahassee with
an interest in logic intersecting with reason at least, well, OCCASIONALLY in public policy

Me, via the blog last May, which generated more than a few not-so-happy phone calls and emails to people who thought they'd pulled a fast one:

More Transit Policy Woes in South Florida: With stealthy and self-sabotaging friends like All Aboard Florida and SFRTA/Tri-Rail, pro-transit advocates in South Florida don't need any more enemies; 'All Aboard Florida' fails to schedule a single public scoping meeting in Broward County this Spring despite Fort Lauderdale being a proposed station, while SFRTA chief refuses to answer a simple question -Will Hallandale Beach have a station under the proposed Coastal line plan?; Just because you're pro-transit doesn't mean you have to ignore displays of transit incompetency or mismanagement when you see it!

After I publicly outed AAF's ill-conceived plan to ignore the very Broward public -and its future customers- who'd no doubt be asked to pay in some manner or form towards a new public train station and assorted infrastructure in Fort Lauderdale, they wised-up and decided to throw one together in Fort Lauderdale.
Wow, talk about disrespecting their own core consumer audience!
WHO would intentionally do THAT???

Not that the people at AAF and the assorted City of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County geniuses have yet to figure out how they'll keep Fort Lauderdale's sizable homeless population from camping en masse in and near any new public train station.
That, of course, is proposed for but a few blocks from Broward County's present central bus depot, off Broward Blvd.

You know, right in the middle of the area where, as has been reported upon for MANY years, homeless people drink (and often defecate) everywhere, as is entirely self-evident to anyone paying attention.
With the City of Fort Lauderdale City Hall but a stone's throw away!
But they just ignore it.

Unfortunately, because like so many levels of government in South Florida, with rare exceptions -like open-minded Coral Gables City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, whom I knew and trusted implicitly from her years of being an Assistant City Manager and City Manager in Hollywood, who consistently talked-the-talk and walked-the-walk on transparency and public input on public policy- they're always thinking that a PR-driven strategy will inevitably trump a logical and well-planned public policy and goal that actually requires genuine public input.

But what they almost always fail to appreciate is that the public buying-in, if the plan is smart and sound, esp. financially, almost always results in genuine public success achieved SOONER, not just the mere illusion of it.

That same unfortunate attitude I think also explains why so many public places in Florida in general and South Florida in particular seem so resolutely mediocre, second-rate and ill-conceived.

Is that what we really want with train/commuter stations that ought to have been built 40 years ago, when I was a kid growing up in North Miami Beach, which perhaps could have kept South Florida from physically expanding beyond reason -and infrastructure- including building stadiums and arenas far from core supporters, when logic would have seen them built near well-planned train stations, which would have benefited everyone, including the team's bottom line?

As a longtime public transit advocate, in Chicago, D.C./Arlington County as well as in South Florida, I think not. 

But just because we see the important role of public planning and public transit doesn't mean we support breaking the public bank to do so, and pretend that car-centric South Florida is, overnight, going to become transit-friendly, and therefore can sign-off on gold-plating everything so that Marc Sarnoff can see his reflection on a plaque of names for years to come.
What are -and where are?- the benchmarks that AAF and Tri-Rail should have to reach in order to get the deal they want?

My experience is that simplicity and ease-of-use will count for more with the people who actually use a train station in the future, since that's what they will tell their friends, family and work colleagues,
and no amount of PR dollars can ever equal that.

The powers-that-be need to create train stations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale with the same mindset used to create the current international airport in Oslo, where so many first-time visitors feel exactly as I did in 2013: completely at-ease and not the least bit confused or overwhelmed.

Something I know about from using O'Hare so often for so many years in the 1980's while living in Chicago, Evanston and Wilmette.

You actually WANT to linger.
That surely counts for something, no?

Heia Norge!

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