I believe that, if we have learned one thing from Hurricane Irma, it is the importance of reliable information.
I have been a Miami transit user (bus and Metrorail) for six years now. Let me state that I’m on your side as I’ve always been a commuter – It serves as the time that I read and let someone else worry about traffic jams and the other drivers. I live in the west end of the county and work downtown. I don’t plan to change either in the near future so I am resigned to the fact that I must commute, on an average, 1-3/4 hours each way, every day. Unfortunately, the continuous stream of unreliable information given to commuters has created an atmosphere of ill will and dangerous situations.
Let me begin with the schedule announcement for bus route 56, effective August 27. I have to commend your translator who said that buses would run “aproximadamente cada una hora.” I showed the wording to my husband, thinking that something didn’t sound quite right. No, he assured me, as a matter of fact, the wording is masterfully deceptive. Basically, it is telling the route 56 riders that the bus will arrive at a bus stop whenever it arrives, and no time is guaranteed. If you’re there, fine; if you’re not there, too bad, and don’t even bother to complain to Transit since nothing was guaranteed. (Now I have to wonder if my previous numerous calls to 311, asking about the arrival of the 56 bus at University Station, did a disservice. Too many calls? Let’s get rid of them; we won’t guarantee the times of the route. Just let them wait.) When people are desperate to catch a bus, they behave desperately. I’ve seen them run unwisely across US1 as they will do anything to catch a bus that, at most, passes by once an hour.
The Metrorail train presently consists of four passenger cars. Can another car be added to each train during the rush hour? Last Wednesday you nearly had a stampede at Government Center after the train had been delayed due to the ever-present “technical and mechanical difficulties.” The “delayed” sign on the Metrorail gives absolutely no indication when the delay would be remedied. Accurate information is needed. When people are desperate to get on the train, accidents happen. The security guards were acting like the subway pushers of Japan, in reverse – holding back the people on the platform until the passengers – with and without bikes – could exit. The trouble is that the platform is not wide enough to safely accommodate so many people. I know you can’t change the platform, but you can be mindful of how many people are waiting for trains, as well as providing longer trains. It is not a matter of if there will be an accident; it is bound to happen.
On Friday I had scheduled a worker to come to my house at 5:00. My dilemma was when to leave Government Center, that is, to allow enough time for the train delays and a possible early arrival at University Station of the bus. Logically I would leave at 3:15, but that’s probably not enough time. So I ended up leaving an hour earlier to be on the safe side. I often check the Transit app, but have found that the bus can speed up or slow down, per the app, by as much as 20 minutes, making it impossible for me to judge when I should leave for the bus stop. Also, the app doesn’t assure the rider that the bus even exists (I call these “ghost buses”); I have been told that only if it is equipped with a functioning GPS will the bus be represented by an arrow which you can track. And miraculously, sometimes a ghost bus turns into a real bus that can be tracked. Did the driver decide to turn on the GPS at a particular moment for a particular reason? Again, we need reliable information.
I wish the hurricane could be blamed for all of this, but it can’t. Service has been going downhill for at least a year, if not more. Director, you honestly need to ride the different bus routes at rush hour. You should catch the bus at the depot at 5:30am and ride it to a Metrorail station. Then climb the steps in heels, or better yet with a child, to get to the train; you can’t count on the elevators or even some of the escalators. Look at the sign that says that the train is delayed. Your fellow commuters can be found rolling their eyes, complaining that “things are getting worse,” or waiting in stoic silence. The trouble is they don’t have much of a choice.
My only suggestion would be that we need to have a system of checks and balances in place. Perhaps if you reported directly to the Board of County Commissioners, and not exclusively to the Mayor, then maybe reliable information would actually be the law of the land.