Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sept. 16: We Can Spare a Quarter For Dade's Budget

By Sylvia Gurinsky

I traveled with about 60 other lost opportunities on Monday.

We were traveling on Metromover, the rail system that goes around Downtown Miami. It's free. If the county charged a quarter per person, it would have meant $15. That's not much for 60 people, but add the number of people who use Metromover on a given day, or a given week.

The county used to charge a quarter for Metromover, but stopped after voters approved a half-cent sales tax for transportation in 2002. Given Miami-Dade County commissioners' allergy to raising necessary taxes or fees to get out of the financial mess, they are hesitant to restore a fee on Metromover. They worry ridership would go down.

But how does the county benefit from jammed cars of free passengers when, even before the financial crisis hit, there were already reports of mismanagement of the transportation tax money?

The three main categories of people who ride Metromover are students, businesspeople and tourists. Students generally head to Miami-Dade Community College, the New World School of the Arts and other nearby facilities. If they ride five days a week, they'd pay about $1.25 a week. Some could argue that it's a hardship, but what about the students who now spend that $1.25 on a 20-ounce soda from a vending machine?

The same arguement can be made about businesspeople. As for tourists, they won't miss a quarter.

Dade needs the money. And commissioners, who have been ducking the hard choices in favor of letting critical community programs fall by the wayside, need to get something right. They can start by reinstating the 25 cent fee for Metromover.

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