(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 368: A Grassroots Bus Network Redesign

February 3, 2022

This week we are featuring a Rail~Volution one on one conversation between Carlos Cruz-Casas, Assistant Director, Department of Transportation and Public Works for Miami Dade County, and Grace Perdomo, Executive Director of Transit Alliance in Miami. Grace and Carlos chat about the Better Bus Project, an advocacy-led community driven redesign of the Miami-Dade bus network.

You can find the audio of the show at Streetsblog USA or our archive at Libsyn.

Below is a full unedited transcript:

Carlos Cruz-Casas (1m 25s):
Well, hello there, and thank you for tuning in and what we hope will be a fun and entertaining behind the scenes coffee. Talk on how we got to redesign our bus network by putting our community first through a unique partnership between a transit agency and a local advocacy group. But before we get into much more details, allow me to go into some introductions here. My name is Carlos Cruz. Casa is currently an assistant director over strategy planning at the Miami Dade county department of transportation public works. I know it is a long name, but if I could summarize, I would say we’re more of a mobility management agency, and I can see the plans for, and operate public transportation for the county, including within its 34 municipalities.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (2m 8s):
And we have full control of our mobility from traffic signals and signs, traffic engineering, highway engineering, bicycle, pedestrian paratransit, and even regulatory arm for, for hire vehicles, taxes, and Lemos. And before the state preempted us over to Lyft, I’m also part of the national steering committee for Railvolution and the local host committee for revolution Miami 2022, where we have a great lineup of amazing initiative currently ongoing in our community, such as the gold standard south day BRT the phenomenal linear part on there. Our heavy rail gateway known as the other line, and probably my favorite these days, the recently approved full bus network with the sign, which will bring a strong network of high frequency routes to urban core.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (2m 52s):
We call it the better bus network. And on that note today, I’m thrilled to be joined by grace. Perdomo the Director of Transit Alliance, Miami, the transit lines, Miami is a local transit advocacy group that has said their roots here in Miami to help our communities trend that they’re boys. And before I get more and more talking about this, grace, I would love to hear from you and get our conversation started. Getting to know you a little bit more. How do you get to be the ed of a strong transit advocacy group? And perhaps those a little bit more about why mobility, why cities, what was that? It sparked your interest.

Grace Perdomo (3m 29s):
Thank you, Carlos. And welcome everybody. Thank you for having me for this important conversation. I joined transit Alliance recently and regarding sparks and what moves me. I love exploring and visiting and really getting lost in cities. Right? My background is in architecture, urban design and city planning. And over the past 20 plus years of professional practice, I have worked across the country with a very diverse communities with distinct opportunities and challenges. And my city design and city planning work has often focused on understanding what makes cities tick, right? The relationship between all the elements that make up a city’s DNA, its history, its geography, its culture, its movement, and in every planning process in every planning project, whether it be about land use or revitalization or economic development, transit and mobility really is the one component that connects all of them together, connects people to place and connects people to opportunities.

Grace Perdomo (4m 35s):
I’m really excited and passionate about projects throughout the country that are looking at repurposing and reclaiming and really re-imagining urban infrastructure and really trying to improve these underutilized assets for promoting better mobility. And, and the other thing that really moves me about the work that I do that you do also is this issue of trying to understand how everyday life in our cities is increasingly defined by commuting, right? That whole experience of the collective daily movement of residents, of visitors in a city and these experiences, these daily journeys are really transforming life.

Grace Perdomo (5m 16s):
The way we live it. So in a city like Miami, we have to get this commuting right to build a sustainable future, right? It’s a collective effort. That’s why this, this magic collaboration between your organization and transit Alliance was so effective and successful, but I’d like to pass it on to you. What sparked you to move into mobility and transit?

Carlos Cruz-Casas (5m 38s):
Yeah, no, it’s phenomenal. It’s, it’s an amazing, amazing story. Mine is not so much a S so this is from years. I, I have worked in the private sector early in my career and moved there, moved into the public sector where I took the, the role of chief transportation manager for the city of Miami, worked on projects, ranging from planning to implementation from bike lanes to transit corridors, launch it card share program. And then the bike share program at the city. When I joined the county, about six years ago, I was asked to find a way to bring mobility innovation to our community and to explore how we could achieve better mobility outcomes without having to build major infrastructure. And my response was very simple, better bus service.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (6m 22s):
So I was asked to take on that challenge of rethinking how we do transit in Miami. You know, there’s not an easy thing. You know, my first response was we can not do this alone. We, we it’s a huge task, but immediately reached out to other cities across the nation, enjoying other agencies or the transit center working group. And it was right about that time race that I met and started to work with the transit Alliance, right. I, I think, you know, this is a good conversation here for us is the best of my knowledge. This is the first of its kind collaboration, right? If public sector in a transit advocacy group, working together to completely transform the way our community moves, which that heartbeat that you were mentioning earlier, but our community and it all started with the transit Alliance.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (7m 10s):
You have probably heard me before, but I’m proud to say again, the transit Alliance, Miami gave our community a voice and thanks to the tenacity of my dear friends, their homes and you Grace. And of course the rest of the TA team were here today. So I guess beyond you and you, and the experience I want to ask you, grace, why, what drove a group of in both citizens to get together and then take their time to improve transit for entire community.

Grace Perdomo (7m 42s):
Yes. And that, that really points to, again, the convergence of both vision aspiration and also action, right? Which are key components of collaboration. It really started out the conversation in 2015, a set of enraged citizens really that were looking at a budget cuts. We’re facing budget cuts at the county and transit Alliance. Its first inaugural campaign helped stop those budget cuts, right? Which would have made a service that wasn’t functioning to its full capacity and potential, even worse, particularly for low-income and minority transit riders that rely on transportation to get to work, to get to schools, to access healthcare, et cetera.

Grace Perdomo (8m 32s):
And with that campaign, we very quickly realized that buses like you just said, are the backbone of urban transportation, correct. They offer affordable mobility and connect citizens with every aspect of their daily lives. They move people quickly. And when you consider that four out of five transit riders today in Miami Dade county ride the bus and that two of three transit strips are served by the bus system. Then really what we felt needed to be tackled first and foremost was to address improving the bus system. So in 2018 we released a mobility scorecard and also a campaign called where’s my bus again, as an effort to really elevate and give a voice to the many residents in the county, the, and that elevated the visibility and the urgency of the countywide transit issues.

Grace Perdomo (9m 25s):
And we combine that with doing a very deep dive into data and on the ground research and release that report to the public. And that’s really where this campaign of the better bus network came from. The campaign looked at four solutions and it was really the catalyst for our, our collaboration, right, for getting the mayor to at the time, to come on board and really consider that we needed to be looking at redesigning this important transit component in our city,

Carlos Cruz-Casas (9m 56s):
A complete change of practice, right? This is a continued change of practice. It is, it is a community getting involved in or getting organized and recently boys and say, you know, we want, we want a better transit, better outcomes, right. I often go back and tell people, you know, these all started. We want one message we can do better, you know, and we can do better together. We can do that. It was not easy. I can tell you from the opponent poly sector, right? And from our side, you know, we had to let go of certain elements. We had responsibilities. We had to step aside. Y if you will, we need to, you know, we had to lead lead the transit Alliance to lead the initiative and manage the community outreach.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (10m 42s):
You’ve mentioned that we had a small team of, of consultants from Garrett walk-in associates taking the technical literature and then our entire team from the division of service planning, scheduling, and members of the transit operations rolled up their sleeves to help deliver the plan. Right. But it was more than that, right. We worked closely with many stakeholders and partner agencies just like our municipalities. And most importantly, we mentioned it, the participation between back of thousand Miami-Dade county residents have made this effort that want to replicating the industry. Right? So to me, it was, it was very interesting to see were typically two entities, if you will, that don’t speak the same language sometimes.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (11m 24s):
Right. Ultimately, I think that was something interesting that happened on our side is you were saying one thing, we’re saying another thing, and it was not until, you know, we’re able to get into the same level. I said, what we want is better mobility, better outcomes. We’re gonna about the numbers at this point. What do we want? Right. And I think that was a pivotal point for me. I’m, I’m, I’m not sure about you, but I tell you that at least on our side, we had to let go of our ego, right? So sometimes, you know, in public sector and private sector, people think that all the, and I think we need to open up and understand that the people that know the system with the right or the most, and basically open up and allow organizations like yours to organize that voice into Ms.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (12m 5s):
Strong message and that we needed to see the big picture. And I think that’s what we did. Right? What was, what was the light for a organization that time transit line was a small organization. Right.

Grace Perdomo (12m 16s):
Very true. And it required us to think through how do we organize these very complex set of issues, engage the end users, which in this case were transit riders and advocate and in effect create change. We are in effect translators, right? Very heavy, complex data. How do we break that down for community members to understand that we quickly realized that people want to learn, people want to drive change, and people really want to be a part of community and effectuate that change. So as you mentioned earlier, this became the first grassroots led bus redesign in the country.

Grace Perdomo (12m 59s):
It was a major project that is reforming a 30 year old bus network, designing it really with the ground up with community input. And it’s the first time in, in the country that a nonprofit organization was leading this effort. So as you mentioned, Carlos, we needed, this would only work this vision. This goal would only work if the community was at the table. So we designed a process for community engagement with very, very clear communication channels, both online, offline, and in person by meeting writers on the ground at bus stations at transit stops, we created portable workshops. We created an interactive website all with the goal and the intent to really make it a collaborative effort.

Grace Perdomo (13m 44s):
As you mentioned, we hired nationally renowned bus expert who had done this kind of work throughout the country, Jarrett Walker. And so there were many pivotal moments through this process, right? The community had to evaluate certain trade-offs and that’s never an easy conversation to have. We had to be provocative at certain point in other to engage people and vice versa. And in every public engagement process, Carlos, as you know, there’s always loud voices. There’s voices of support, there’s voices of opposition. We had to work with the commissioners. We had to work with multiple municipalities, Miami Dade county has 34 municipalities. So again, we collected data, we engaged writers and the end result is what you see today that we’re, we’re all very proud of.

Grace Perdomo (14m 32s):

Carlos Cruz-Casas (14m 33s):
No, and that’s, that’s phenomenal. And, and you know, I was there, but I really even sit down. Sometimes we coughing, just kind of think about it, think about, you know, while we were able to achieve together and it was not easy, but it’s, I’ll tell you, right. You, you said that, you know, you had to get creative, we need to get the attention of the community. I still remember the 24 hour bus ride marathon, right. W when the transit, I is road buses for 24 hours consecutively, and they were actually taped, we live in having the conversation. Right. And that was great. And the message was loud and clear right. From the community, but at the same time. So, you know, you can imagine that we’re not always, you know, aligned with the messages, some of the tactics writing.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (15m 16s):
Sometimes we want it to, you know, take a deep breath and just think more about the outcomes. Right. You know, this is, this is part of the course we need to kind of to go through and understand that we might consider approaching the problem differently. But at the end, if we are aligned on the goal, that’s what we need to focus on. Right. And ultimately that’s what we want it to kind of get on. And that’s why we’re here today. Right. It’s been a, you know, it’s been a long time and you’ve mentioned it with Don and you didn’t get into the numbers that magnitude, it was almost 180 communities stakeholder meetings. Right, right. It was, it was a lot of pop-up meetings at the transit stops. It was social media emails, a survey, something that I felt it was very excellent.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (16m 2s):
I was going to say, I think Textline was one of the most innovative things. People think about innovative things about Adam. No. What else do technologies? But texting was such a great way for people to engage. So in my mind, the better bus project now, the better bus network has been by far the largest community engagement in our recent history. Right. And to me, it was very clear. It was very clear in any, it, it was phenomenal because we started like mentioned everything by listening, right. Listening. And I, I want to bring some numbers in here and some, some, some, some information when, you know, back in 2019, and we asked our community, if they believe the system changed, some more people can get to more places more quickly in 80% of the community say yes.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (16m 50s):
Right. We, we then asking leaders, where are your priorities? And, and then what we heard is that writers valued more to get to their destination as quickly as possible and to wait as little as possible for the bus. And then when we ask, you know, this is, this is very difficult for Miami, how close the bus stop should be located. Right? Majority answered that they will walk a quarter mile or just about five minutes longer. So the buses would go faster. It was a consistent message from the entire community that we can do better. And it’s not easy in Miami. Right. Jeff, I know you can not see me. He’s right now at about 70 degrees here in Miami, and I’m wearing the overhead wireless carb.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (17m 33s):
So they can tell you, this is what we do sometimes hotter than 70 degrees. And for people to say, you know what, I’m willing to walk about five minutes longer so I can have a better service and willing to give up something from my side. So overall our entire community can move faster. It was very telling. And to me, that’s when I said, that’s what we need to do. We need to focus on providing better mobility, better outcomes to the community and leave everything aside. What are we trying to achieve? The, and on that note, I wanted to kind of get into some of the things that you saw, right? So, so we ask questions to the community. What were the priorities? You know, what were the elements of a good transit network that the community was telling us?

Carlos Cruz-Casas (18m 17s):
Because again, we’re not taking this from a book. This is exactly what the community was telling us. We use data qualitative and quantitative data to understand their needs, and then transform that, or translate that if you will, into an outcome into a solution. So what were the things that you saw that we on the, this plan, what is included in this plan? That it is so in tune with what we heard?

Grace Perdomo (18m 39s):
Well, a couple of things come to come to mind. One of them is that when we kept asking people, what would encourage you to use more transit? Right? The conversation is twofold on the one end. You’re, you’re having this conversation with people that regularly ride the bus, but you’re also in the back of your mind, always thinking, how can we grow ridership? Because once you’re resolved, one, the hope is that it will increase usage and grow that ridership, right. To support the system. And the rezoning comments that came back were that they wanted more frequent service and reliable service. Clearly they wanted access.

Grace Perdomo (19m 20s):
You know, that’s when we get into the conversation of first mile, last mile, and the critical issues of connectivity to the service safety kept coming up over and over again. Right. And we heard it not only through the BVN process, but also through the process that the current administration has done through a thrive 3 0 5 planning effort. And the last one was that they wanted an improved experience. They wanted to be proud of their daily commute. You know, that gets back to the commuting experience, right. They wanted that experience to be more, user-friendly more engaging, more, more friendly overall, right.

Grace Perdomo (20m 1s):
And, and address a lot of the, the problems that they were seeing with the system itself. There were a lot of tough conversations also. I mean, when you’re looking at a bus redesign, you’re looking at models that emphasize ridership versus coverage. And we kept going over that. We shouldn’t be thinking about quantity only, but also about quality, how often the routes arrive and where they take people to, because we found through data that there was a lot of duplication in our current system. And so those were trade-off conversations, right? In the end folks opted 40 ridership versus coverage models, 70 to 30% overall. And when you had to have the conversation about cutting certain routes and cutting certain services, people felt the greatest number of people connecting to places with efficient services where they want it to end up for the overall system.

Grace Perdomo (20m 54s):
So what, what did you find again? I mean, one of the conversations that also came up, what other modes or systems can we connect to? Right. So we’re not only looking at a bus redesign, but that also brings into light that we’re really working to create a very integrated overall transportation ecosystem for the county. And that involves other modes that people will use to get to the bus stations and the transit stops.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (21m 22s):
Certainly, certainly I often say that there’s, you know, there’s a lot of conversation about new mobility solutions and, you know, on demand solutions and all that. And the first thing that I said is there is no substitute for a well-run transit system that moves a lot of people in the same direction at the same time. Right. I think that’s the meaning of it, but, you know, but at the same time, you know, our system before this never really sat, you mentioned it was a bit cooler and had a lot of deviation and it was spread out to our county. Our county is, is bigger than some states, right? It is a very large area. I even remember the Brookings Institute doing a research about 10 years ago that says that they ranked 100 top Metro areas in the nation and Miami Dade county ranked number five in the list on transit coverage.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (22m 14s):
Meaning that the percentage of our population that have a bus stop in front of it is very high, but we read number 85 or 86 grades in transit service, meaning the amount of people that can go from their home to the typical non-farming job in transit in 90 minutes, like this an hour and a half. Right. And, and it’s like, we’re spread out too thin. And that wasn’t 20, 20 11 hour. She was, you know, somewhat significant back. Then we continue to decline to today. Right? With that. I say that because I think it’s interesting for us to focus on what we learn is where some people are willing to give a little bit of more of their transit. So we can put a word, actually we can carry more people more efficiently in open up opportunity for something else.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (22m 59s):
And the transit is the best solution out there. Well, our, we do acknowledge and we, through this effort to, we have launched our on demand transit in areas of low ridership. When we are going to have a vehicle, the smaller vehicle can go into neighborhoods and provide better access to transit. Our go connect program is increasing ridership significantly. And we’re doing our analysis. It’s really mean through our transit station. We also acknowledge that, you know, it is it’s okay to walk and bike, right? And I think we need to do better on it. Right now we are adding 360 new transit shelters to our, to our network, if you will. And 200, those who have a new concrete van with bicycle racks, right?

Carlos Cruz-Casas (23m 43s):
So it is really trying to promote that activity. There. We do have 34 municipalities, 29 of them operate a local circulator, I think was really interesting for us. And while the better bus network been not focused on changing those routes, it was always respected and acknowledged that this is the backbone. This is solid foundation. It’s not the end solid foundation for us to do better. And a moment for now the city is to start working with us in providing better access to it. And last but not least, you know, during COVID, you, you very familiar with this too. You know, we had to reallocate our resources to be able to meet the demand or the daytime because we’re leaving people behind with social listening requirements.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (24m 27s):
So we took our overnight services and then we had the bus routes that run overnight, took those buses and resources that put them during the middle of the day. And then we didn’t want to train people on transit. And one thing that we learned is that we can actually tap into some private sector mobility solutions like taxis over some Lyft to provide particular trips that by no means are in any competition with transit, but can help provide solutions. So, so yes, we’ll look at all this. I think the, the key takeaway is there’s no substitute for good transit and we need to work better on our transit. Then that’s what we’re doing with a better bus network. It is, it is, it is a foundation to build on top of it.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (25m 9s):
It has proved to grow, but most importantly start defining the roles and responsibilities. And I’m thrilled about that. And yeah, I think to me is exciting to see how this is not something a consultant or a public agency, or someone isolated mentioned. This is something that collectively between the public, the cities, municipalities, the advocacy groups, the consultants, and the public agencies, the council members, our commissioners, we all agree it, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s hard to say, I want to say it grazed. It was unanimously approved the 2021. Yes.

Grace Perdomo (25m 46s):
And to that point, Carlos, which is an excellent point, it’s a foundation to build upon, right? So now we have the system redesigned, but we also have at the table, everybody working together to continue to monitor, improve and work upon this foundation, right. That really speaks to this enormous community input. The system reflects the wants, desires, the needs of the community. And building upon that, as you said, connecting to other modes, focusing on integrating again, the municipality trolley systems and on-demand services, looking at prioritizing dedicated bus lanes, which is something that we all know and think will greatly improve and make it an even more efficient system, as well as improving those connectivity points through walking, biking and micro mobility.

Grace Perdomo (26m 43s):
Love that to start that you have, I think is going to be excellent. One question that I often get is what are the differences about this project versus other transit or bike or pet projects that we are currently working on or advocating for? And, and one of the easy answers is of course scale, right? And that it required a systems change systems thinking it’s really a systemic shift for our county, for everybody to start thinking about again, our transportation ecosystem and how to improve it and how to integrate all modes for us at transit Alliance. One of our core goals is really to focus on early action projects so that we can be able to do this needed mode shift from a very car centric city to a very transit oriented city and ensure that we deliver the best public valley, right, versus looking at very long-term plans on the shelf projects.

Grace Perdomo (27m 42s):
We cannot ask, we, we realize this and learn this from this process, we cannot ask a public, the public to stay engaged over years and years of planning, part of the success of the BBN is that we stayed with it. We compressed the period in a very creative way for community input. And that’s really what, what drove the success of the project. We love to focus on driving equity and innovation, right through integrating planning and investments and the success of this as proof of concept that we were able to combine research community outreach, and that pump planning, advocacy really delivered the results that it delivered

Carlos Cruz-Casas (28m 24s):
On point on point. You know, I think this is really, it is, you know, what I was through the process because it was not easy, right? We, we have changes in the, in the council, right? In the commission districts, in the commissioner, we have changes even at the cities with different mayors, different council members that changes in administration. Right. And I was, I was, you know, one of the things that I always focus on and telling everyone was, you know, the final network that gets developed, let’s put that aside. Let’s focus on the process. If you trust that the process was done in accordance to what we wanted to do meeting, we heard the community, we asked the right questions, right.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (29m 7s):
We able to introduce those within our opportunity to, to redesign our network and then deliver, you know, I have no doubt my eyes close. I’ll tell you that the final network that it goes out there is exactly what needed to be because the process was not right. And I say that because I truly believe that that’s, to me, that’s what stood out, right. The process that we did to achieve on these outcomes. Right. And, and in particularly, you know, I, I would urge everyone to say, this is actually wanting to do for any type of presentation planning, right. Whether it’s, you know, whether it’s bus and I wanted to bring some scale to your numbers, we used to have 99 bus routes and almost 800 buses running around.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (29m 49s):
Right. It’s a small agency and not little artists either, but it’s mid-size to large agencies. So it was a very system wide change. If we can do that, you know, and it took us what it was about two years. And with COVID delays, if we got to three years, we actually got this. If we can do this right. And we solidify the process, you know, I can, I can honestly say, let’s take the same process and move forward to implement by claims or implement new code or some things. Right. And that to me is what I want to see, ask about is, but let’s talk about the, the network. They’re not where the outcomes. Right. Right. I, I I’m, I’m thrilled because I tell everyone, this is a, well-informed informed is the key there.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (30m 36s):
And re-imagined bus network driven by the community. And therefore we see transformative elements such as increased access to frequent routes, right off peak service. Right. It’s sometimes in the transportation industry, we get so focused on being w going to work, going to work, going to work. Right. Majority of our trips is not that, and let’s just take our own samples for it. And the other thing that we saw is about faster journeys, right? However, I need to get to when I need to go, I want to get there faster. Right. So that to me is what I took in terms of what were the elements that, that drove the creation of the better bus network.

Grace Perdomo (31m 12s):
And so I’ll start with some visioning as we always do in planning, and then bring it down to the, to the data as you did earlier. So for our listeners, imagine a bus system that is fast frequent and reliable. And what would that change about your city? Right? And so the better bus network for Miami Dade county, the data points to enormous and impactful benefits. County-wide the system is going to double the number of seniors with access to frequent service from what the system was before over 350,000 more residents with access to frequent services.

Grace Perdomo (31m 53s):
And that again is an enormous and impactful benefit as a result of the redesign. And in addition to that increased frequent service to households without a car by over 65, 60 6%. So when you look at that data and you understand that the consequences of having a subpar transit system falls heavily on vulnerable members of our society, and that if it’s planned to be inclusive, and if it provides better service for everyone, it requires this institutional shift. It requires organizations and also transformational leadership. I was going to use a reference of celery clips, but you really have the, the essential components for, for that magical experience and commuting, right.

Grace Perdomo (32m 43s):
And again, tradeoffs aside, tough conversations inside. It’s just wonderful to look at that benefits data and really see what the impact that that’s going to have on our county and on our residents.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (32m 56s):
Okay, great, great enough for the listeners. I know you mentioned that the solar eclipse and that you’ve mentioned about differences aside, this is a more of a, a internal story, but I would share with the group in here, he was during the solar eclipse in Miami, I think it was 2017 or 2018, a full eclipse in Miami. And I was on the phone with his friends at Alliance. They were going into the data into specific numbers, and it basically took 45 minutes to have discussions about these things. And ultimately we say, you know what, let’s say, the data or the numbers of side, let’s focus on what we want and what were the outcomes, right. And what is the, the, the real need for us moving forward. And in, in the fast forward today, I believe that we’re able to basically fulfill our promise that we’ll build a better network.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (33m 44s):
It’s not the best, meaning is not complete, is a bit better foundation, but let’s be honest. So there was also a specific items in areas that we couldn’t fulfill. We were not able to deliver, like, this is not like we magically basically created buses and operators and things around there. You know, we did this food never really side. We basically basically multiplied by four, the corridor of high-frequency we need for 10 minutes or less, you know, all day, every day. And we did that by reallocating our resources more efficiently. And yes, at the end, we increased our budget to a two, two and about $27 million analyze costs.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (34m 24s):
But even though we still had Grace, and I think there’s about 2% of Miami-Dade county residents that will no longer have a service that they have within a walking through.

Grace Perdomo (34m 33s):
Right? Yeah. There were several components that the community requested through the process that were not able to be delivered, but, but I, I point back to this trade-off conversation, right about coverage specifically and about ridership. And that will continue to be an ongoing conversation as we monitor and continue to improve the network. It’s, it’s not set in stone the way it’s designed today, but as a system, as you mentioned earlier, a foundation to keep being improved upon politics, you know, also as always cutting routes and cutting services. I mentioned earlier, we have 34 municipalities in the county represented by eight, nine county commissioners.

Grace Perdomo (35m 16s):
And so oftentimes even in chambers conversations came up, you know, why is, is this service or this route being cut off, right? And you’re, you’re adding more routes in this particular area. And again, those were tough conversations to have. And so moving forward, as I mentioned, I think we’ll continue to monitor, but we also need to understand, and this is something that transit Alliance is very interested in being engaged in, and that is doing a pre during and post launch a behavioral study that really looks at how we connect the impacts of the new system and, and the impacts that the new system is going to have on the quality of life of our transit riders and non transit riders.

Grace Perdomo (35m 58s):
Right. And get a baseline of information because we think that that will help planning and future investments specific to transit and mobility.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (36m 8s):
I agree. I agree. And to keep those nimble, right. You know, so a little, a little that we know, we still not out of this health crisis, right? We’re still on the edges of the better boss nigga was developed pre and then make butter, you know, modified rate dependent, making still, as we got approved, right. It really chose some indication of what, what we believe the new normal is what we believe our community patterns will be. But, you know, by continuing to monitor and, and working together, right, your job is not done at grace sites started to tell you, you know, this is for live now with transit Alliance, we’ll work Miami-Dade county moving forward. You know, we need to understand what are those communities of deaf need?

Carlos Cruz-Casas (36m 48s):
When are we, we learn a lot with the pandemic, we’ll learn a lot about what we used to call transit dependent. All of a sudden basically became our essential employees. Right. All of a sudden we realize that without them being able to move around, I would see as come to a halt. Right. So it’s a lot of these things that really can of resonated in for us moving forward.

Grace Perdomo (37m 8s):
Yeah. And, and you’re right, Carlos, I think that ultimately, and this will be moving forward when it comes to transportation planning and delivering transportation projects. We all know we cannot solely rely on the transportation professionals or agencies to deliver, right? Every planning policy decision, investment decision needs to consider approaches, to engage and partner with other sectors and with community-based organizations like transit Alliance. Right. And we have built over the years, a strong coalition of, of variety, of a very diverse group of organizations locally. We understand the intersectionality between transit and housing transit and health transit and climate resiliency, right?

Grace Perdomo (37m 55s):
So all, all of these different nonprofits and organizations that are doing amazing work here in Miami are part of transit alliances coalition, which again, will continue working with us toward improved outcomes for transit and transit planning specifically. And Hey, the infrastructure bill that Biden that was just approved is going to require more and more participatory and community engagement for every planning, transit, planning, and transit investment throughout the country, and specifically to our county.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (38m 29s):
Excellent. Excellent. There, there is definitely a lot, a lot for us to work together. And this is the first again, or the first step forward towards better transportation systems in Miami. There’s a lot of information on, I think the website is better, my better bus up Miami. That’s the way people can actually get more details about our, our plan, all the work that we’ve done in the past and how we look at all that information right now, this, this, this new network that we had was passed is October 5th is, is, is later to basically go into a live in a summer of next year. And we’re going to continue to work together on it.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (39m 10s):
We want it to kind of take a minute thinking beyond, you know, this is how we can continue to have a strong relationship between, you know, advocacy groups and transit agencies. Right? All these cities asked me in a Carlos, you know, why, what will you do that? You know, what, how can you get to, to that point where you feel so comfortable? You know, and, and what I mentioned to them is we should be open. We should be open to have this conversation, right. I, from the beginning, I took it as my personal responsibility to work with organizations like yours, Ryan entre, transit Alliance. I basically, I remember saying to, to the, to the team, I don’t mind if you, you know, poke holes were pointed us as long as you have the right information, right.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (39m 56s):
And there was no need for you to do poli record requests to get to know what we have. We should be able to be more open, more transparent and give you that. Right. And I think to me, it is, it is, it is of, it is a value to have you, as a, as, as an external resource, you, your team, your coalition to look at information from a different set up a different perspective, if you will, right. The right information in your hands can tell us a lot more than we know. Right? So on that note, grace, you know, at the same time, you’re a nonprofit organization, right? You focus about, you know, advocate for better mobility, safer streets and safer we use, or the public space. But, you know, let’s say I give you all these data. I give you access to all this information.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (40m 38s):
How can you handle all this? I think the listeners will be interesting to hear, you know, what is the supporting that you have one or two to go through the numbers?

Grace Perdomo (40m 47s):
So we, we rely on our team in-house to look through that data. We also partner often with organizations. And as I mentioned earlier, that are part of our coalition data can be data it’s all in how you read the data correctly. So one of the things that we try to focus on, as I mentioned earlier, that we really become translators between these very complex engineering type way to look at this, these numbers and this, the sources of information and translate it for the community into a way that they can understand it. And that has really been epicenter of the success of transit Alliance as an organization, that around the time that we came into existence, we really have managed to move the needle and get the community to understand what are the issues that are related in effect transit in our city, and that affect their daily commuting.

Grace Perdomo (41m 46s):
And we’ll continue to do that. I think that that is one of our strongholds. And we have a process where we start, you know, three pillars of our process, our research community engagement, and then the piece on advocacy, which is really about moving our advocates and supporters to action. We also rely on the fact that we know the issues, the community faces, they have trusted, we have a trusting relationship with communities and our supporters. And so we have important partners again, to ensure that all planning and funding that is spent on transportation, addresses the local needs and issues that the community wants to see addressed.

Grace Perdomo (42m 29s):
So going back to this and looking at advice to other cities and for our listeners, again, we cannot emphasize enough that figuring out transit and mobility in Miami and really in any city is, is a collective effort. And it’s one that’s going to need to continually leverage the geographic, the historical, cultural, political landscape of every context in which you’re working to address the challenges that we have in our time. For us, it’s more than just getting from a to B as I like to often say, transportation is the fabric that binds a city together.

Grace Perdomo (43m 9s):
And one of the things that we’re also seeing, and we all know is that transportation is a long game, but by leveraging these resources and working together, we can certainly move much faster than, than we’ve ever been able to do before.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (43m 27s):
Oh, I agree. I agree. Right. And I think, you know, I think you pointed out earlier that I collect a collection of smaller projects can really go a long way. Right. And particularly when we start seeing results now, that’s what gives us the trust. Right. And the power for us to tell a community, you know, we going to do more later on, you know, from my point of view, when I, this is not a typically a common thing, but I tell my, my, my peers in other agencies and cities open up, open up, there is no reason why be so protected. Right. You know, I think if, if you don’t have anything to hide, let’s definitely open up. And I think, you know, you be surprised, like you said, grace, like looking at the data from a different perspective, we’re looking at information writing and going through the information and merging the qualitative aspects that the writers bring, right.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (44m 21s):
And more only organizations like yours have the access direct access to writers to really make sure that the quantitative data is compatible with the qualitative experience, right? To me, that is critical. As they say, there’s open up, I might commitment and I’ve done this. It’d be an email on my team, but I would love to really have our information data, more accessible to organizations like yours. I want to be able to foster innovation. Innovation is not about technology. It’s about how we address the problems we have on hand and working together to me is one of the most innovative components that we’ve done over the last couple of years. Right? So, and at the same time is we need to identify clear goals and how comes sometimes we get too focused in the details, right?

Carlos Cruz-Casas (45m 5s):
And that’s what holds us back. Well, let’s think about outcomes, goals, what what’s a city we want to live in. What’s the city we want to leave behind. And that’s, you’ll see, it’s going to be very difficult to find a public agency in advocacy group that want different things. If you talk about outcomes, am I want different projects? This one’s a story, different outcomes. It’s very hard to find.

Grace Perdomo (45m 28s):
And we get there as about marrying the different tools and approaches, right. And finding that, that common ground. And also, I want to point out quickly, Carlos innovation, creativity. That is one of the things that transit Alliance through very clear communications and messaging, making it fun, engaging the public in such a way that we often say can be entertaining. It breaks down barriers where people may come in with a certain preconceived idea that already puts them in an opposing side of the issue. And again, trying through that process, bring them to a common ground, explaining things right now in our landscape like and how that’s going to have an impact on how transit decisions get made the public.

Grace Perdomo (46m 19s):
Right now, doesn’t know a lot about what that model of delivery means. So we find ourselves being again, in that role of explaining to the community what the benefits can be of a P three model of funding projects and so forth. So, so those are some of the things that we again are looking ahead to doing and being able to be helpful

Carlos Cruz-Casas (46m 40s):
And appropriately. So, and I think this is excellent for us to continue to, to leverage our relationship. You talk about innovation and creativity, but I, I can only see through all the, is the word inclusion. Right? Right. And, and I, I’m very old. We have a new mayor in Miami-Dade county, historic moment, county. He’s phenomenal. Everyone knows that. But on top of that, she opened an office of inclusion and innovation. Right. She really focused her, her efforts towards that. Right. And I think it really resonated the work that we’ve been able to do together beyond the better bus network now is we’ve built a solid foundation. Now, you know, the sky is the limit.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (47m 21s):
There’s a lot of great things we’ll be able to do. I’m optimistic about what we able to do together. Again, I live in Miami, even though I’m wearing a scarf today, I believe in Miami. I want to see Miami tribe. I want to see Miami to be the city that, you know, not only me, but my kids, you know, my entire family grows. And, and the way that I see that is it’s a city that I can move up, move around with ease that I can just use any mode of transportation without any stigma, or is it a physically roadblock, if you will, right. That I can get on a bus that I can get on a train, I can get on a bike, feel safe and know that I can get places. Right. And that’s the thing. And I’m really interesting to me.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (48m 1s):
And particularly what I believe we’re doing now, the better bus network is a catalyst we’re working together with you on, on the delivery of that. We’re working together with you on the creation and delivery. If you will, of new bike lanes in protected bike lanes, you know, we’re building the sea that I want to live in. Right. So it definitely does. Yes.

Grace Perdomo (48m 21s):
Yes. And so our week, Carlos, thank you for that. Coming off, this big win for everybody, we are continued focus, committed to be able to, to do the good work and create more positive impact across the county today, more than ever. We’re committed to that work ahead of building a city that is most to build the city that is most transit friendly and multi-modal in our state, right? Like you just

Carlos Cruz-Casas (48m 50s):

Grace Perdomo (48m 52s):
So the past couple of months I’ve been working on a strategic plan, what we call a mobility blueprint for transit Alliance. And what it looks to do is to prioritize for the next five years early actions on public transit and support the right type of infrastructure for the BBN, a series of reforms and projects that we want to again, focus on through our campaigns and our advocacy work. You know, things like dedicated bus lanes that you just mentioned looking at our smart plan, which is a countywide transit and mobility plan. And, and again, really bringing to the fore, the importance of listening and hearing from our community members.

Grace Perdomo (49m 35s):
And we again are very committed to that and very excited about

Carlos Cruz-Casas (49m 39s):
Excellent. Excellent. So let’s do something and Grace, I think this has been a phenomenal conversation. There’s a lot more to unpack. And what you mentioned, Railvolution in 2022 is happening here in Miami at the, basically at the end of the year. I think it’s the Halloween weekend. So it’s going to be a lot of fun. And I definitely expect you to join us in some panels to talk about the blueprint in how Miami is moving forward. And, and here’s the, here’s the beauty of it. We’re not only going to be talking about what we’d done and talking about what we plan to do. We’re going to be able to show the community and show that people are coming in. This is what we’re talking about. It’s really happening in my unenthusiastic about that. With that said, this has been a phenomenal conversation, and I’m thrilled to share this coffee, talk with you.

Carlos Cruz-Casas (50m 23s):
I do have my coffee with me. It’s been, it’s been very fun. I’m, I’m thrilled to be with you. I’m going to see us think about what’s ahead for our community because now we have a blueprint to still, we work on how public sector and advocacy groups can work together. So then thank you for your work. Thank you for joining this panel today, this session today. And I know it’s going to be a great value for cities and yeah, I think if you want to leave a final note on how people can reach out to you, if they want to learn more about what you do and how you help our city.

Grace Perdomo (50m 55s):
Absolutely. Thank you, Carlos. And thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking about this. Of course, we could go on for hours and anything related to transit, but again, we’re very excited of the work the organization has done up until now, as you mentioned, it’s an organization really, that started up with a group of citizens really as a startup. And that has really grown to become the voice of our transit riders in the county. And we want to continue to, again, amplify that voice. So we’re very excited to be here. We’re very excited to be working with you and your team at Department of Transportation and Public Works at the county. And we look forward to more coffee talks like this, right?

Grace Perdomo (51m 37s):
But most certainly we will see you in person as we do and, and move with great plans for Miami Dade county.

Grace Perdomo (51m 47s):
So thanks for Having me

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