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Meet Kevin Amézaga of Miami Riders Alliance

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kevin Amézaga.

Hi Kevin, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
It began in 2016 when I was a freshman in high school. I would visit Downtown for its museums, restaurants, and entertainment that we just don’t have out in Kendall. Taking the metro often from Dadeland to Government Center begged the question: why do I have to have my mom drive me to the metro station?

I did a lot of research into the development—and lack thereof—of public transportation in Miami-Dade County. What came after that was an active role in the conversation of transportation and mobility in the County.

In September of 2019, a friend, Alejandra Agredo, reached out to me and asked if I wanted to start an organization together. I of course, said yes. What came the following month was the Miami Riders Alliance, Miami-Dade’s first 501(c)(4) transit advocacy nonprofit with a specific focus on holistic transportation development. We took on an early focus of connecting transit deserts like West Dade.

In late November, Alejandra passed away, and I abruptly took over the organization, something I never planned on doing. The following months, I focused on building up an organization that had no structure. From recruiting a small board of directors to building a brand and platform, these things had to be done within a few months of taking over, and within the first half-year of existing, a global pandemic that upended the transportation sector.

Since then, we have released Miami-Dade’s first Mayoral Candidate Report Card on transit issues, we’ve worked with partners to get a Slow Streets program in Miami Beach, and we have worked on improving conditions on contracted transit routes. We’re currently working on a coalition between the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, and Miami’s seven scooter operators to bring better micro-mobility options to Miami.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The road from starting the Riders Alliance to where we are now hasn’t been smooth. From starting in the wake of losing a very close friend to braving a global pandemic with a new organization, we have had our fair share of challenges.

When I started out as Director, our organization had no board, no bylaws, no platform, and no money. In the first week of taking over, I had to build an entirely new website from scratch, recruit directors, find a bank to start fundraising and find an office. We’ve also dealt with how the pandemic has affected transportation. Due to COVID-19, routes were cut and subpar contracted services were expanded to fill the gap in county services. The pandemic also affected our ability to reach out to transit riders, delaying our outreach efforts.

We’ve been impressed with Miami Riders Alliance, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Miami Riders Alliance is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization advocating for safer streets and better transit in Miami-Dade County.

We are proud of our ability to instantly mobilize our communication networks to effect change in our community. Our organization is set apart from others in our political and policy abilities and connections that have allowed us to grow more quickly and affect more change on a larger scale in shorter amounts of time. Our brand is recognizable from our pink accents and consistent brand identity. We offer our members collective bargaining services and will be launching more benefits as the pandemic winds down and we can once again organize effectively.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
Networking isn’t easy, especially for younger folks who just don’t have the life experience needed to make real-world professional connections. I think a big part of making connections is asking people for them. I know it seems really simple or may be hard, but you just have to ask to be connected and most people will be more than happy to connect you with whom you’re looking for.

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