Drivers on the SR 836 and SR 112 expressways faced a 50% increase in toll fees starting Saturday, November 15 as the Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority implemented a rate hike at 17 new tolling locations along the east and west bound lanes and exit ramps.
For the non-SunPass’er, the roundtrip rate has doubled from $4.20 up to $8.40 which would cost daily commuters an additional $400 a year. While this could help discourage automobile traffic, there are very few alternative transit options locals can turn to.
Toll hikes delay serious consideration of a modern mass-transit system
While Miami is desperately in need of a long-term comprehensive transit infrastructure, this latest move diverts taxpayer money toward sprawl-centric development, further increasing automobile dependence. The funds collected by Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) will be spent on roadway expansion, harming the ability of commuters to conveniently get to work while at the same time forcing them to subsidize even more highways.
It’s also unclear exactly what the County’s long term transit vision looks like. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez referred to “expanding the system” during an interview on This Week in South Florida, yet Miami-Dade Transit released a 10-year plan lacking a mass transit component, with critical regions remaining disconnected. Around the County and across the state, transit options remain limited and underdeveloped.
The increased overhead has even prompted local trucking businesses to threaten a boycott of the toll entirely by routing through side streets, creating further congestion.
The unelected board that determines the future of transit in Miami
MDX has stated its dream is to build an Everglades Expressway by extending the 836 west to Krome Avenue and south to 136th Street. This is problematic because of its proximity to the Miami-Dade Urban Development Boundary (UDB), which is intended to prevent development from encroaching further into the Everglades and coastal wetlands. But with an agreeable mayor and compliant city commission, MDX has had a free hand to ignore the potential environmental impacts of encouraging development in endangered ecosystems.
The board has actively pushed for regressive policies, such as proposing to convert the South Miami-Dade Busway into a tolled expressway, and on top of that didn’t present demographic studies that show South Dade residents and commuters could even afford the new proposed Express Lanes.
The people who fight back
The grassroots citizen advocacy group Roll Back Tolls goes so far as to call this unfair tax “Tollmageddon”; tolling without representation. “We’re not anti-tolls. We’re for justifiable tolls.” said co-founder Carlos Garcia in a recent Miami Herald article. The group is circulating a petition calling for MDX board member positions to be elected instead of appointed.
The only way to get better transit is to step up and advocate for it. Email your county commissioners and tell them you want to meet the increased demand for transit with public options that serve the best interests of citizens and tourists alike.