In what could be a portent for major changes in local transit and development, Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Zapata is demanding a building moratorium in his West End district until the area's horrendous traffic woes are addressed.
"Those alarming statistical figures will continue worsening if irresponsible development continues," Zapata said in a Spanish press release.
LBA Fights Back
Talk of a moratorium has sparked a heated reaction from the powerful Latin Builders Association. Its president, Alex Lastra, recently wrote an op-ed piece for The Miami Herald, saying his organization is seriously concerned about traffic problems and the business community must be united in coming up with solutions.
The question is how deal with development and traffic. Several transportation experts point out that willy-nilly building without thinking of how new residents are supposed to get around is a recipe for disaster -- as many say has happened in the sprawling western suburbs.
"I believe that's the problem," Katz told me several months ago. "We have poor land use and zoning plans when it comes to traffic -- we've enabled development to take place without supporting it with traffic plans."
Going back to the 1980s, Katz said, Miami-Dade "has created a lot of bedrooms on the west side of the county" without coordinating a traffic flow on how to get those residents to jobs in the east.
Katz, a former head of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's transportation committee, points to Chicago, where "they have merged transportation planning with urban planning, and they're doing a great job."
In a thoughtfully planned community, regulators would require traffic solutions before a development went forward, the same way they now require water pipes.
Zapata: No Support from Mayor
In a press release, Zapata noted that 78 percent of residents in his West End district dedicate an average of 33.9 minutes daily one-way for their work commute. "Only the residents of New York City experience longer commutes."
The press release stated the commissioner has been working hard for the past three years for traffic solutions in the West End, including extending State Road 836 to Krome Avenue and converting the CSX rail line to passenger traffic.
"Despite this support, the administration has not demonstrated any sign of moving seriously on these strategies or comprehending the urgency of the situation," Zapata said.
"I exhort respectfully that the administration and my colleagues on the commission to support a moratorium on new commercial and residential construction in District 11 until we can develop an integral plan to change significantly the traffic in the district."
Business: Support But No Money
In his op-ed piece, LBA President Lastra wrote: "There is no question that Miami-Dade County’s traffic woes negatively affect business. For too long, we have left the burden of broken promises to our elected officials and public agencies, but it has become clear that the public sector alone can neither drive the innovative solutions nor solicit the necessary funding for implementation without our help. The responsibility to solve Miami’s transportation and mobility crises lies within our business community."
The Greater Miami Chamber has been making similar statements for several years, but neither the Chamber nor the LBA talk about committing local business or government funds to the effort.
Instead, like many politicians, the LBA looks elsewhere for transit money: "With our support, transportation agencies would be able to present a united front in soliciting federal and state support for projects with the greatest impact.
"Miamians need to understand that we are a donor community within a donor state. We send more money, including gas taxes, to both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., than we get back," Lastra wrote.
Even fast-tracked, requests for federal funds might take five years, and the state, during its last legislative session, turned down every Miami-Dade request for more funding for transit.
Best Solution: Affordable Housing Close to Work
Many leading urban planners -- including Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, former dean of the UM school of architecture, and her husband, Andres Duany -- believe that the only long-term solution is build affordable housing closer to where people work, reducing long commutes.
Her efforts -- and those of others -- have led nowhere.
The Builders Association of South Florida says it strongly opposes a mandatory inclusionary requirements.
Posted April 27, 2016.