In a city where mass transit is synonymous with broken promises and disappointment, downtown Miami’s Metromover has been the little engine that could.
The junior-sized, fully-automated trains ferry nearly 10 million passengers around the downtown and Brickell neighborhoods each year. Tourists ride the Metromover. So do Miami Dade College students, big-shot downtown attorneys, and fancy Brickell condo dwellers.
Since 2002, the rides have been free — a promise made to voters who approved a half-percent sales tax increase for local transit that year. Other lofty promises made to voters, such as huge expansions to the larger Metrorail system, never happened.
Now, the free Metromover rides are at risk. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan is pushing to charge Metromover riders — arguing it’s unfair that Metrorail and bus riders pay $2.25, while Metromover passengers pay nothing. With luxury condos increasingly dotting the downtown skyline, Jordan last year complained that lower-income passengers in other parts of Miami-Dade are basically footing the bill for affluent downtowners.
“We’re transferring [help] from where we could give discounts to people who can’t afford it, to people who can afford it — and we’re letting them ride free,” she said. Commissioner Sally Heyman has joined Jordan in advocating for a fare on Metromover, but the idea died last year because of a lack of support from other commissioners.
On Wednesday, Jordan’s Metromover idea will return — with a new twist. The commissioner wants to ask voters in November to voluntarily give up their free rides. At a 9:30 a.m. meeting of the county’s Transit and Mobility Services Committee, Jordan will ask other commissioners to support putting the question to voters.