Guide To Trashing Taxpayers: Miami Gardens Drive Park-And-Ride Lot

This week, Miami New Times is publishing a guide to the eight of the worst public works projects in Miami-Dade, where bureaucrats and elected officials take pride in wasting millions in taxpayer dollars on crap residents have little-to-no use for. As we reveal each one of these boondoggles on Riptide, we're asking readers to send us their suggestions of the most asinine things local government has built in your neighborhoods. We'll pick the best one and send the winner a seven-day pass to try out the wonderfully terrible public bus and rail system provided by Miami-Dade Transit. Leave your suggestions in the comments or email them to Banana Republican. Enjoy!

Today, we drive through the emptiest taxpayer-funded parking lot in Miami-Dade.

Miami Gardens Park-and-Ride Lot
Year built: 2011
Cost: $1.8 million
What's dumb about it: Motorists rarely park at the lot to ride a Metrobus.
Why it was built: To persuade drivers to abandon their cars for the public transit system.

George Martinez
It's a balmy morning this past November 1. Bernardo Rodriguez peddles a red BMX bicycle on busy NW 73rd Avenue at Miami Gardens Drive past a chainlink fence with a banner that reads, "Park & Ride Lot now open, serving bus routes 73, 99, 183, and 286." One sedan, a truck, and a rusty station wagon are the only vehicles in the 150-space lot.

"Nobody here," he says. "Ever." During an hour that New Times spends at the lot during rush hour, a total of four people show up.

In 2006, taxpayers shelled out $1.8 million for the two-acre lot. It was supposed to persuade neighbors in this moderately affluent suburban neighborhood to abandon their vehicles and ride public transit to Aventura or Dadeland. A new express bus could even take them to the Palmetto Metrorail station or southwest Broward County.

It took five years to complete the project. Since July, when it opened, the lot has been virtually empty. The $1.8 million provides for an average of 36 riders per day, county records show. That's about $72 per day in fares, meaning it will take somewhere around 70 years to repay the expense, even if you don't account for the cost of buses. And that express bus to Broward? Killed due to budget cuts.

"It just went up, out of the blue," says Barbara Hagen, a Country Club of Miami homeowner. "The only people I have seen parking there go to the IHOP next to it." She and several neighbors protested the county's use of the two acres for a parking lot when the issue arose in 2006. "The transit department assured us the lot was going to serve the area near I-75 that was being developed," she says. "If they had express buses going to the airport and seaport in Fort Lauderdale or going to Naples, the lot would make sense. That would be revolutionary. But they don't."

Miami-Dade Transit spokeswoman Karla Damien explains it took six years to build the lot because Florida Power & Light had to approve building the lot on top of underground electrical utilities and nearby power lines.

Indeed, the Miami Gardens lot is the second-worst performing of 11 park-and-ride bus facilities that the transit agency operates. Thirty-six riders board buses here each day compared to the 2,107 who use the Golden Glades Interchange lot, nine miles away. The agency does not break down how many of those riders actually arrive in a vehicle. The worst one, by the way, is located at Kendall Drive and SW 150th Avenue., with only 15 riders a day.

The Miami Gardens spot could be a park or maybe used for YMCA parking overflow. "Right now, it's useless," Hagen says.

Guide to Trashing Taxpayers:

Marc Sarnoff's Circle
South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
Interstate 95 Flyover
Hialeah Okeechobee Road Landmark
The Metrorail M-Path

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