Sophia Lacayo: The Half Penny that scams millions of taxpayers.
By Sophia Lacayo
Maria is a single mom of two. Each morning, after giving them breakfast and dropping them off in school, she heads for the bus stop just down the block. Due to the long wait, during the past weeks, she has had problems in her job for being late. On other occasions, she has been forced to take an Uber or Lyft to be at work on time. And as they say, time is money.
Maria’s story should not surprise anyone, especially when we know that public transportation in Miami Dade is a mess. We can not sugarcoated.
The well-known firm WalletHub just released a study about quality of life, diversity, and health coverage in 100 metropolitan áreas. They also focused on accessibility, security, and public transportation. Each one of those received a score with a maximum of 100 as being the very best.
Let me put it in perspective. Miami Dade has close to three million residents. It has around 800 buses that account for 90 routes, a Metrorail system that covers 25 miles, and a Metromover that counts for another 4.4. The WalletHub study gave Miami Dade a total of 55.86 points; In other words, an F.
This begs the question: ¿What is really happening with our half penny tax that was supposed to revolutionize public transportation in Miami Dade and approved by voters in 2002?
The answer is quite simple, almost nothing at all. We do have to point out that in the last 20 years, almost $500 million went to the Orange line, better known as the airport extension.
Remember that when the voters approved the measure, politicians promised that we would have 89 more miles of Metrorail extending to the north, to the south, and to Miami Beach. Something that has never happened.
According to a recent article published in El Diario De Las Americas newspaper, since 2003, taxpayers have given close to four billion dollars to the PTP, better known as the Peoples Transportation Plan. ¿What have taxpayers received in return?
Well, some things like the trolly system, free rides for the elderly, a free Metromover system, and the extension of 87 ave between Miami Lakes and Miami Gardens.
Two years ago, congressman Carlos Gimenez, who was the mayor of Miami Dade back then said: “A lot of the promises made to the residents have been kept, but not the more costly ones, like the Metrorail extensions. When the half penny was approved, there were 700 buses circulating with the promise to add at least 450 additional ones, but today, sadly, only 100 have been added.”
Charles Scurr, executive director of the PTP, told a Telemundo channel 51 reporter that the taxpayers were overpromised things, and it was thought that the federal government would cover 50 percent of the costs, but that money never came. Hence, why these days, it is on the taxpayer’s shoulders top pay for the costly day-to-day operations, just like our single mom of two, Maria.
It is no secret either that during the 2009 economic crisis, around $850 million were moved and used on other things except for public transportation.
Most of the politicians make public transportation part of their campaign promises, but once elected, nothing gets done.
In my district, where I live, I see how the half penny is misused. Money that could be used to improve our quality of life and alíviate some traffic. For example, when I drive on the 836 expressway, I have yet to see a bus on the Express lane added between Dolphin Mall and Downtown Miami. It truly saddens me to see what Maria has to go through on a daily basis with our public transportation system.
The half penny seems that it’s not enough. I do not agree; if used and supervised correctly, it can fix a lot of our public transportation problems.
Article paid by ‘Mujer Empoderate’