BY BUDDY NEVINS
It doesn’t matter that you live in Sunrise and never go to downtown Fort Lauderdale. Or Parkland. Or Miramar. Or anywhere else.
Broward County commissioners don’t care.
They have committed $50 million to a downtown Fort Lauderdale trolley system. That’s just the first cost.
That’s a lot of Broward Sheriff’s Office patrol cars, library books, trees in the parks or help for the mentally ill.
Instead of using the money – $2.5 million annually – is being earmarked as a handout to the developer community.
Because the trolley through downtown Fort Lauderdale will only benefit developers for many years to come.
Maybe that’s the reason the trolley is nicknamed The Wave. As in Wave Goodbye to Your Money.
Here is what we know about the Wave:
- The county is on the hook for a minimum of $50 million over the next 20 years. Remember I warned you: This is the minimum.
- Fort Lauderdale taxpayers will pay an additional $20-plus million over 20 years, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The city commission approved the project earlier this week.
- The commitment to operate the system is open ended. “Once we receive the — the — the federal dollars for the project, we are responsible for running the system or we would have to repay the federal government those dollars,” County Administrator Bertha Henry told county commissioners in March.
- This project is a public tax to benefit developers. Don’t take my word for it. County Administrator Henry explained in March that “this is an economic development generating project, as well as providing some amenities for transit.”
- There are no performance standards or ridership level requirements. Unlike community buses, which could be moved to another street to increase ridership, the transit is a fixed system that can’t be moved. The reason buses are not being used is again a sop to developers: “Fixed rail streetcar systems promote an economic development benefit that rubber-wheel vehicles do not. By knowing that a route will remain the same forever, it allows investment to occur. Streetcars are more convenient, more reliable, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly than rubber wheel operations,” according to the Wave website.
- The trolley will further clog downtown streets.
Next Tuesday, the transit is on the county commission agenda again. This vote is routine since the developer and lobbyist-friendly commissioners already approved it in March. Unanimously. Including members like Lois Wexler and Sue Gunzburger whose constituents live nowhere near downtown Fort Lauderdale
In addition to the city and county taxes, the feds are on the hook for $18 million, the state for $35 million, the city for another $10.5 million in cash and land and the Metropolitan Planning Counsel is forking over $8 million for the first phase of the project. That goes from the county bus depot on West Broward Boulevard to just south of the Broward County Courthouse on Southeast Sixth Street.
To build more—to Broward Health’s Broward General or the airport — will require a further commitment from the federal and state government and local taxpayers.
You might believe I’m anti-transit. I’m not. I grew up riding the New York City subways and buses.
I just think that taxpayers should know this is a never-ending obligation which will cost money into the future. The developers who build will be long gone, but Broward residents will continue to pay forever.
And don’t believe anything Fort Lauderdale City Hall or the county staff says about the Wave. Especially facts, figures or projections.
Transit systems never live up to predictions. The best they can do is guess…with our money.
In 2002, Dade County voters passed a half-cent tax for transit. The promise was that the system would be extended west to Florida International University and north to the boundary with Broward in the vicinity of the Dolphin’s stadium.
The promised routes were never built.
Instead, the Miami Herald found that Dade County Commissioners “frittered away much of the sales tax money on raises for the politically powerful Transit Workers Union” and to hire “aides and relatives of nine elected officials.”
By 2009, a Grand Jury recommended that the transit needed to double the sales tax to one cent to support the system and end deficits.
Do you really believe Broward and Fort Lauderdale commissioners are any better?