He’s only a college sophomore, but Kevin Amézaga has made equitable, safer and better streets in Miami-Dade County his mission. He and the other eight members of the Miami Riders Alliance regularly lobby county commissioners.
But that’s not the only surprise. This noble mission was born in tragedy. Amézaga’s confidante and predecessor as president of the alliance, Alejandra Agredo, committed suicide a month after initiating it.
“Alejandra. . . turned out to be one of my best friends. And we started the Riders Alliance together because we had a mutual interest in activism and in bettering public transportation for all people in Miami-Dade County,” Amézaga said.
Agredo died in November 2019, at age 17.
“I had to take over after that,” Amézaga said. “I joined the Riders Alliance as kind of like an advisory role, and taking it on was something that was really hard. But I think it’s something that needs to be done.”
Since then, Amézaga has spoken to county officials more than 30 times and addressed several commission meetings.
One important issue: better Americans with Disability Act training.
“We actually got them to require that the contractor would completely rework their ADA compliance training,” he said. “It was completely inadequate before we fought for that.”
On Feb. 19, 2020, Amézaga and the other members of the alliance spoke to commissioners on behalf of the disabled and elderly residents that were being left behind by a privatized bus network.
Dani Rivera, a 36-year-old mother with mobility limitations, has recorded incidents where the Miami Trolley, which is owned by Limousines of South Florida, left her waiting for the lift because she couldn’t climb the stairs.
Herniated discs and nerve damage have left her in need of a cane, walker or wheelchair to get around,” says Rivera.
In late August 2017, Rivera filled various complaints to the Miami-Dade County 311 hotline regarding the trolley. Two months later, Bob Beers, VP of Transportation America, told her the county wasn’t properly passing along 311 complaints and to work with him directly.
“Essentially, all Bob Beers did was convince me not to report the issues to Miami-Dade County and [the] City of Miami,” said Rivera. “Every single time I complained to him, they would replace the driver, but the new driver would still refuse [me] access to the wheelchair lift.”
Rivera mentioned that Beers pushed her to use Special Transportation Service, which she couldn’t afford. As a result, Rivera and her family had to relocate closer to her child’s school. But the issue recurred no matter where she moved.
“I started posting about it on Twitter about a year ago and eventually started talking to Alejandra, who sadly is no longer with us,” Rivera recalls. “[She] introduced me to Kevin right as they were starting up [the nonprofit],” said Rivera.
Commissioners delayed action, but the alliance persisted and won.
A second accomplishment Amézaga cites is creating a report card for the county mayoral candidates.
The report card, which can be accessed and viewed via their Instagram page or website, informs Miami-Dade voters on which mayoral candidate is in favor of changing the transit system.
“We interviewed every single candidate that was running for office. We sat down with them and asked them all those questions. It wasn’t just based on the record, it was an interview,” said Amézaga.
“We gave them scores based on how they align with our policy. And that got written about a little bit and had a good reach. And we really thought that it was, well, it wasn’t perfect. It is actually a great indicator of where these candidates sit on these issues that aren’t really being talked about enough but are some of the most important issues in our community.”
In the Mayoral Candidate Report card, the candidate who abided with Riders Miami
Alliance the most, and whose name will appear in the November 2020 elections, is
candidate Daniella Levine Cava.