By: Liaran Aleman, Member-Candidate, J.D. Candidate, May 2020, St. Thomas University School of Law.

The Sunshine state is the third-most populated state in the country, with a populace that grows at a rate of about one thousand residents per day. This consistent influx of new Floridians has an adverse effect on our already strained traffic patterns. Reports show that in 2017 the average Miami driver spent 64 hours navigating through traffic jams. The problems on South Florida’s roadways go beyond reckless drivers and jammed expressways; the public transportation system is unreliable, poorly planned, and considered inconvenient by many Floridians. Developers and cities in South Florida have also made the problem worse by allowing for high-density developments to take place in areas where the roads are not apt for the number of cars that these developments bring. The idea that a greater density in certain areas will foster more lifestyle amenities to develop there and permit residents of those areas to walk everywhere does not seem to be working in South Florida. The tropical weather also plays a big part in preventing this lifestyle as it is often too hot, even dangerous, to run even the simplest of errands.

Traffic worsens as the high-density zones continue to pop up throughout the state. It may be necessary to revert to regulations requiring developers to build or pay for any shortage in road capacity that is linked to their new development.  In the meantime, South Floridians have to pay up in order to alleviate the problem. Some counties, like Palm Beach and Broward are considering a penny tax hike on the 6-cent state sales tax in order to pay for ways to solve their traffic problem. The money would be spent on more buses, light rail, and to improve traffic signalization amongst other things.

For some, the only logical solution to the problem is to resort to mass transit. Realistically speaking getting people to ditch their cars is an impossible task, but an efficient public transportation system could be the first step towards a better commute. The problem is that most people will not walk a mile to the bus stop or ride a bike to work. Even the option to walk is sometimes threatened during certain times of the year by the King Tides in cities like Fort Lauderdale.  Miami-Dade County is considering the idea of extending the 836 expressway into undeveloped land towards the west of the county. This sparked all sorts of problems from environmental groups worried about the impact on the wetlands, concerns about underground water supplies, and the likelihood of losing farmlands in order to build the road. Onthe other hand, the people of Kendall and its surrounding neighborhoods seem tosupport the 836 extension.

Another idea being circulated is inspired by Mexico City and their adoption of its No-Drive Days policy. This policy prohibits the circulation of 20% of the city’s vehicles throughout the weekdays. Each weekday is assigned a series of tags that are prohibited from being on the road on that specified day of the week. The policy’s goal is to reduce air pollution, but we might be able to use it to reduce traffic jams. Until we figure out if the solution to our problem is to use tax dollars to pay for transit and road improvements, sacrifice federally protected lands, or the adoption of a No-Drive Days policy, Floridians will have to continue facing heavy traffic on their daily commute.