For years, anyone who hopped onto Miami's Metromover paid a quarter per ride. But in 2002, voters approved a half-penny sales tax that made Metromover free. Ridership soared to 9 million annually in the early 2000s and then peaked again with a surge of new development downtown in recent years.
Today the county operates Metromover at a loss of $13.5 million a year. But this week, two Miami-Dade commissioners say they want to start charging riders to use the rail system, which services downtown Miami, Brickell, Park West, and Omni. A joint item by Barbara Jordan and Sally Heyman on today's transit committee agenda asks Mayor Carlos Gimenez's office to consider the feasibility of adding a fare.
Their argument: It's unfair that wealthier residents in downtown and Brickell get to use public transit for free while lower-income riders spread throughout the county have to pay $2.25 to use the bus or Metrorail.
"The people-mover is free for those people going from office to office or building to building downtown, yet the working poor out in the community continue to pay," Jordan says. "We need to develop something that's fair and equitable to everyone who’s riding transit in Miami-Dade."
Heyman, who echoed Jordan's concerns, most recently brought up the idea of charging $1 per ride for Metromover at a county meeting in May.
Jordan and Heyman have made similar proposals over the years without success. The two commissioners formally introduced the idea of a Metromover fare in 2014, only to have their suggestion shut down by colleagues in the spring of 2015. The next year, Jordan tried to put the question on the ballot for voters to decide but was blocked by the rest of the commission.
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In earlier debates about the fare, commissioners such as Dennis Moss have argued it would be exorbitantly expensive to install the equipment necessary to charge riders. But Jordan and Heyman now say app technology has evolved enough to allow people to pay the fare on their smartphones.
"To me, those excuses for why we haven't done it in the past just don't exist anymore," Jordan says.
Although it's unclear if some commissioners are warming up to the idea, Gimenez has been steadfastly opposed to the idea of a Metromover fare and isn't likely to change his mind. The county mayor has previously said charging a fare would be reneging on the promises the county laid out during the half-penny sales tax discussions in 2002.
“Gimenez does not believe that we should break another promise from the