Miami Beach Transportation Director Named Government Engineer of the Year

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach Transportation Director Named Government Engineer of the Year:

Countywide recognition awarded by american society of civil engineers 

Miami Beach Transportation Director José Gonzalez was recently named the 2018 Government Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) of Miami-Dade County. During his 24 years in public service, 7 here in Miami Beach, Gonzalez has focused not only on today, but on the future of transportation. 
 
Within the City of Miami Beach, he initiated both the Transportation Department and the 20-year Master Plan which prioritizes public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians.
 
We caught up with Gonzalez and asked him about the award, his career, and the future of transportation here on the Beach.
 
RE:MiamiBeach: What does this mean to you?
 
Gonzalez: I’m extremely excited, extremely excited. It’s really pleasant to see that one’s hard word, dedication to public service, and just work ethic throughout the years… it’s good to see that it doesn’t go unnoticed by one’s peers… I was extremely happy to be honored in this way by an organization like the ASCE. Within the engineering industry, it is the organization.
 
What is the best or favorite project you’ve worked on?
While he had the opportunity to work on “many different projects with FDOT” during his long tenure there, he told us, “I have to say of all the places I’ve ever worked in, this City is absolutely the best. It is my City because I am a resident… I live and work here and I would have to say that just in the six years that I have been here, I’ve had the opportunity to work on very exciting projects but launching our citywide trolley service” is his favorite. “As little as four years ago, the trolleys weren’t even a concept, not one trolley in operation, and in as little as four years, we’ve been able to create and implement a citywide interconnected trolley system that’s free of charge to passengers and connects our residents, workforce, and visitors from 87th Terrace down to South Pointe Drive.”
 
The service, he said, carries five million people a year. “The numbers are astonishing. To have had that impact on the community is just very humbling.”
 
What has been your most challenging project?
“The most challenging has been the light rail, modern street car project, a few years ago. Now it’s part of the County’s adopted SMART plan, Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit Plan, so it’s a project that I think is still vital for the City of Miami Beach in terms of a link to the mainland. Miami Beach is a barrier island. We’re built out. We’re very dense. We need mass transit relief and a connection to the mainland, that’s where the beach corridor project comes in because it envisions linking us to Miami.”
 
What, in your opinion, is the future of municipal transportation management?
I think it’s not what it’s been the last 10-20 years. Right now, transportaion in general is in a transitional stage. When we see the success of the ride sharing companies for example. We see the success of little startups providing first mile, last mile connections to regional transit. These are things that weren’t talked about just a few years ago, so it’s transitional stage, a transformational stage as well. There are so many opportunities leveraging technology. It’s out there being tested. Leveraging that technology to provide mobility services, I think, is very exciting given where we are right now.”
 
Regarding the transportation landscape, he said, “Definitely it’s changing. People are no longer relying on their private vehicle for everything. They have other alternatives. It’s also a paradigm shift, a cultural change. South Florida has been very car-centric forever so it’s going to take time to get there but we already see it happening. We see the benefits the new technologies – some of them app based – are having in the transportation industry and I think we’re going to be seeing more of it over the years.”
 
What are your priorities for the next two-five years?
“Now that we’ve got an established trolley system throughout the City, what I’d like to do is enhance that. I’d like to see maybe electric vehicles in operation. I’d like to see autonomous mass transit shuttles in operation in our City as well, all complementing our trolley system which is sort of the backbone of our transit system in Miami Beach.”
 
“Regional connectivity, the Beach Corridor Connection project that will connect us more efficiently to the mainland. I’d like to focus on different alternatives. We’re surrounded by water yet we’re not capitalizing on waterborne transportation, some type of modern water taxi service that will also provide that connection to the mainland and be a good convenient and affordable option to the automobile and to public transit.”
 
The City's Transportation Master Plan can be found here.

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