Miami Offers Cautionary Tale for Those Enchanted by Transportation Tax Referendums

After Atlanta's failed transportation tax referendum, commentators from across the country lamented the region's missed opportunity. Yonah Freemark looks south to Miami, a cautionary example where lofty goals for expanded transit have come up short.

1 minute read

August 7, 2012, 6:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj

With the opening of the 2.4-mile, one-stop Metrorail Orange Line extension to the Airport last weekend, completed at a cost of $506 million, Miami-Dade voters welcomed the "centerpiece" of the People's Transportation Plan (PTP), a 1/2¢ sales tax increase approved in 2002. Unfortunately, this line is the only portion of the "enormous expansion" of Metrorail that was supposed to be funded by the tax increase.

While "an impressive addition to the city's transit network," the extension offers a cautionary example of how rising construction costs (and low cost estimates) and disappointing tax revenues can sink ambitious transportation expansion plans. 

"Does this mean Miami's new Metrorail extension is a waste of funds?" asks Freemark. "Not necessarily - especially considering Miami's distinctive position as
the 'capital of the Caribbean' - attracting millions of visitors and
business people each year through the airport. If the city's growth
continues to be based on its status in Latin America, the airport
connection may be invaluable."

"Miami, however, is a parable: Voters will not always receive that which they believe to have endorsed."


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