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Miami-Dade County and PTP 2.0: A New Approach to Financing Public Transit Infrastructure

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Charles D. Scurr
October 21, 2016

train-828597_640Miami-Dade County has a diverse population of 2.7 million residents and, like other communities its’ size, is grappling with the responsibility of providing major metropolitan services to residents. In recent years, significant effort has been devoted to developing and enhancing a comprehensive mass transit system to better meet countywide mobility needs for current and future transit riders.

On Nov. 5, 2002, Miami-Dade County voters approved a half-penny surtax to implement the People’s Transportation Plan (PTP). The PTP is a broad based and long term program of transit and roadway improvements. The voters also approved the creation of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (Transportation Trust) to oversee implementation of the PTP. The Transportation Trust is an independent organization comprised of citizens who serve as volunteers with the mission of overseeing the expenditure of surtax funds and improving transportation within our community.

The accomplishments of the PTP to date have been significant. Counted among the many Surtax funded projects are:

  • Metrorail Orange Line Extension to Miami International Airport
  • New fleet of Metrorail and Metromover vehicles
  • New Metrobus fleet
  • Fare-free Metromover System
  • Municipal transportation program which includes 27 municipal trolley systems
  • Golden Passport/Patriot Passport program where all seniors and low-income veterans ride fare free
  • Countywide traffic signalization system which has been upgraded with an advanced traffic management system

Transportation Trust Initiatives

However, this initial PTP effort—PTP 1.0—has made limited progress in implementing major improvements in the PTP corridors which are designed to provide countywide connectivity to transit passengers. Recognizing this, the Trust commenced a series of special studies, projects and initiatives to advance public transit development in Miami-Dade County. A number of these initiatives were collaborative efforts with Miami-Dade County, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Authority and the Miami-Dade County League of Cities. These included the 2013 Transportation Summit, the 2015 Transportation Summit, and the 2015 Denver Transportation Fly-In.

These efforts have resulted in the development of PTP 2.0.

People’s Transportation Plan 2.0 – A new paradigm

The new paradigm, PTP 2.0, is that each corridor has its own unique solution for technology, funding and project delivery. PTP 2.0 offers a variety of technologies that best meet the needs of each corridor and are financially feasible. Technologies include light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit (BRT), People Mover and Metrorail.

PTP 2.0 does not have a single funding or project delivery mechanism. Each corridor has its own unique solution with a combination of creative and innovative funding techniques. It potentially includes federal and state funding along with other options such as:

  • Tax increment financing (TIF)
  • Special assessment districts
  • Parking surcharges
  • Developer contributions
  • Development rights
  • Tolling and naming rights

It also includes public-private partnerships (P3s) as well as innovative funding partnerships between the county, the cities, community redevelopment agencies and transportation partners such as the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

PTP 2.0 – The funding strategy for the SMART Plan

PTP 2.0 has the potential to finance the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan. The SMART Plan, developed by Miami-Dade County and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, was adopted in April 2016. It advances all six original PTP Corridors to the project development and environment (PD&E) phase and it represents a shared vision and strategic plan for these major capital investments.

The first PTP 2.0 project, the Tri-Rail Downtown Miami Link, is fully funded and is under construction. This innovative $69 million project will incorporate Tri-Rail into the new All Aboard Florida Miami Central Station where Brightline will operate intercity rail service commencing in 2017. This project is being funded through a collaborative partnership of Miami-Dade County, The Trust, City of Miami, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, the Miami Downtown Development Authority and Bayfront Park Trust as well as Tax Increment Financing funding from the Southeast Overtown Park West and Omni Community Redevelopment Agencies.

PTP 2.0 has worked. Can it work again?

The City of Miami Beach is currently actively pursuing a P3 to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a modern streetcar (light rail) system on the beach with a potential contract award in 2017. PD&E studies are underway on all six SMART corridors. An essential piece of the PD&E effort on each corridor is to develop the partnerships and innovative financing approaches that will enable each corridor to be implemented.

The ability to finance the major public transit investments in Miami-Dade County is readily achievable under PTP 2.0 if there are collaborative partnerships between the state, regional, county and municipal partners and if there is a willingness to explore creative funding option such as tax increment financing. The plan has many components but can succeed with the joint support of local, state and federal officials and the community.

Author: Charles D.Scurr has more than 25 years of accomplished public sector chief executive and senior management experience at the municipal, county, federal and university level.  A distinguished record of achievement as the city manager of an “All-America City” and as the first city manager of a new municipality. Scurr received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and his master’s degree from the University of Chicago. Email: [email protected] 

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