Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday rejected the idea of using Floridian infrastructure funding reserves to implement a series of subway systems throughout the state’s largest urban areas.
When asked by a reporter at a press conference, DeSantis responded by stating that any form of enhanced public transportation is unlikely at best and seen as unfeasible to implement. DeSantis also spoke against using taxpayer dollars to fund such a project.
“I think putting a subway system in cities in Florida is unlikely to happen. That would not necessarily be a prudent use of tax funds, and I think the feasibility of that would be in question as well,” said DeSantis. “But, on infrastructure, we had the highest amount of money we’ve ever had for the [Florida Department of Transportation] work plan in the history of the state. We’ve always funded it and we’ve always done a good job.”
Florida experienced a tourism boom as the country exited COVID-19 regulation, as more than 36 million people visited the Sunshine State during the first quarter of 2022, exceeding pre-COVID metrics and representing a 39 percent increase from the same period in 2021.
SeaWorld, which operates not only SeaWorld Orlando but also Busch Gardens in Tampa, reported increased attendance so far in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels while Disney’s Parks, Experience and Products division generated a higher-than-expected total revenue of $6.7 billion in the second financial quarter of 2022, more than double that of the same period last year, per the company’s earnings report.
Other Florida destinations are also reporting record surges in attendance. The Space Coast, for example, reported its “best ever” month of tourist tax collections in March, and with more tourists likely to hit Space Coast beaches and trying to catch one of Florida’s rapidly growing number of rocket launches this year, those numbers are likely to surge even higher over the summer.
Florida’s hotels as a whole reported their highest total revenues, collectively amassing over $17.3 billion dollars, while Florida’s airports accommodated an 80 percent increase in passengers.
With the influx of tourism, DeSantis intends to assess the state’s infrastructure needs in order to accommodate a growing number of tourists, but plans to do so using state-funded projects to lessen the burden of traffic and stimulate the economy.
“There is just a lot going on, a lot of folks, and that requires a commitment to continue to expand and improve infrastructure,” said the governor. “I think what we did with the $11.7 billion is going to be a big deal. There are some areas where you can get stuck in traffic at any time of the day, so what can we do to alleviate some of the most pressing problems? It’s not a good use of commuter time, but it also does impact the economy … it affects the way to move goods. I think it’s really, really important, but ultimately those infrastructure projects would be of higher value than trying to create a subway system.”
Florida has had a taste of transportation services in the past, including Miami’s Metrorail and the inter-city Brightline transit system. The latter of which was intended to run from Miami to Orlando, but was not built to completion. Critiques of inefficiency, safety, and cost have marred both systems, leaving portions of Floridians aversive to the notion of yet another volatile system.
One must also question how a subway system would be constructed to withstand the state’s often extreme weather patterns. Florida’s low-lying topography prevents any form of underground tunneling, leaving trains susceptible to hurricane, flood, and tornado damage, while also being unable to efficiently navigate urban areas that were built around automobile transportation.