Gables mayor, challenger speak to street issues

Two of the three Coral Gables mayoral candidates in the April 12 election answered our six questions about transportation issues. The questions and answers follow, with unresponsive portions omitted. To see the candidates’ full replies, click “3 attachments” below. For more about the election, we suggest you visit Gables Home Page.

1. How can Coral Gables enhance facilities for walking and bicycling throughout the city?

Don Slesnick:  The Wall Street Journal rated Coral Gables #6 overall in the United States in walkability. We provide many sidewalks and shade along with crosswalks, curb cuts and traffic calming. Bike paths are a tougher issue in our small, older streets.

Jim Cason:  I would like to see the Commission fund a walking path around the Granada Golf Course so that people do not have to walk or jog on the street or through muddy sections of the existing paths. I asked a commissioner about this and was informed that this is not possible due to setback requirements and liability issues from errant golf balls hitting pedestrians. I would still like to explore how to address the liability issues … I would also suggest memorial benches sponsored by businesses or individuals at periodic intervals.

There is too much speeding in the city. I support traffic mobile speed indicators to get drivers to slow down. We need more sting operations to catch and deter speeders. We should have more clearly designated crosswalks, preferably at mid-sections of roads, for seniors and others to cross, to avoid accidents as cars turn at lights and hit crossing pedestrians. … People talking on cell phones and texting cause many accidents and we should support efforts to ban both. Coco Plum has dog poop bags at intervals. … Finally, more walkathons to raise public awareness and funds for some of the above-mentioned ideas would be good.


2. How can the city help residents and businesses get more use out of Metrorail?

Cason: (no answer)

Slesnick:  Our  trolley system (which is free) transports 2,000 (+/-) Metrorail riders daily. Were it not for the trolley they would seek alternative transportation means. We continue to charge appropriate rates for parking to encourage the use of public transportation.


3. What future do you see for the Coral Gables Trolley: more service, less service, about the same, or something different entirely?

Slesnick:  I would like to begin service to new areas on the “grid” (e.g. U of M and North Gables) — but it is dependant on revenue. If the county reduces our transportation allotment we will have to cut service or raise new revenues from alternative sources which have not yet been identified.

Cason:  Our trolley should have stops at the Biltmore and take tourists to Merrick Park. …the trolley helps cut down on traffic. The city only pays a small portion of the operating costs. I will see if we can get more internal advertising revenue from businesses, perhaps in the form of on-board discount dining and other discounts. We need more clearly marked public parking garages, especially if Streetscape becomes a reality and we lose some on-street parking. The trolley should stop near all garages; it stops at most now.


4. What can the city do about walkability, bikability, and street safety around the University of Miami?

Cason:  We do not have the officers on the street to enforce speeding laws and cut down on deaths around the University. … I will work with the new city manager to look at everything the city has been doing to see if we can’t find greater efficiencies to enable us to fund our core priorities….

Slesnick:  … We continue to add traffic calming measures such as circles, [?] and medians. We have recently pushed for full funding for the pedestrian cross-over to bridge U.S. 1. We have asked FDOT to look at Red Road.


5.  What does the term “complete streets” mean to you?

Slesnick:  Bike paths, sidewalks, crosswalks, curb cuts and shade. Our problem is that we are dealing with older, municipal public spaces which limit opportunities for bike paths. We have many sidewalks, curb cuts and shade.

Cason:  The streets are not just for motorists but for safe use by people of all ages and abilities. It includes safe sidewalks; ours are in great disrepair and many areas lack them completely. Coral Gables needs to invest less on payroll and more on its infrastructure, to include sidewalks, bike lanes, wide shoulders, crosswalks, bus pullouts, audible signals at crossing points, etc. … we need the police presence, cameras and higher fines to get [motorists] to respect our community and its people.


6.  Do you embrace the policy articulated last spring by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood: “Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems.”

Cason:  I support it. Walkable neighborhoods and policies to encourage people to walk downtown, use the trolley, bus and Metrorail will help our local economy, attract tourists, create a greater sense of community and improve the health and well-being of seniors like me. … I am appalled at the state of our sidewalks … We have no money in this year’s budget to fix the broken and tree-root uplifted sections, and people are getting injured. The sidewalks start and stop willy-nilly, making it hard to push baby strollers and difficult for the elderly to traverse.

Slesnick:  I agree in principle — but we have no “transportation agency.” We work with the county on their green byways and blue waterways networks master plan. I have personally attended some of the sessions (along with city staff) to insure that our support is visible and accounted for as the planning stages proceed.