The saga of the missing bus shelters continues. Over a decade ago, a couple of Miami Herald reporters were covering the issue of county bus stops that were not provided even the most rudimentary shelters for the riders.
I was quoted in an article titled Angry Bus Riders to Transit: ‘Gimme Shelter!’ written in 2006 by Miami Herald reporter Larry Lebowitz. The article highlights how shameful it is that this issue had not been resolved, even though the standard bid model does not require a single penny of expenditure provided by government. This was the model used by the City of Miami in the late 80’s to build a couple hundred shelters. An important feature of that model is that the advertising companies foot the bill for the entire shelter which consists of a bench, three walls, and a roof, as well as a lighting fixture to reduce the security concerns of the bus riders.
I was elected to the County Commission in 2011 and immediately began agitating County staff to put out a bid for the approximate 1,000 bus stops in unincorporated areas of the County. By that time, I was corresponding with El Nuevo Herald columnist Daniel Shoer Roth, who has written several articles on the progress of this effort, starting in 2007 with his article titled “Los techos invisibles de nuestras paradas.”
Roll forward to 2016 and here is what I just found out. In the picture on the left, you will note a bus stop which happens to be in front of my field office at the Frankie Rolle Center. You will see an advertisement that does not provide any cover or shelter for the adjoining bench.
Although the contract for the panel in the picture on the left is pursuant to a City of Miami bid, it appears that out of approximately 3,000 total bus stops in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, as many as 2,000 lack a roof and sides. (One bus stop at SW 47 Street and 157 Avenue has the barest of components – a pole and a trash can).
On August 17, 2016, Miami-Dade County, in conjunction with the City of Hialeah, launched the first air-conditioned bus shelter at the Hialeah Metrorail station. The shelter has room for four people seated, and eleven people standing. The idea is to have this be the first of a pilot program that eventually could lead to the installation of more air-conditioned bus shelters in MiamiDade County.
The County would like to install 30 more of these air-conditioned shelters throughout Miami-Dade County, which at a cost of $65,000 per shelter, comes out to approximately $2 million dollars.
While there is no denying this is a concept worth exploring, it is imperative that we evaluate why 2,000 bus stops located throughout the County have nothing more than a bus bench and a trash can. There is a clear lack of consensus on where County priorities lie. We have too many people waiting for public transportation and not being able to properly shield themselves from South Florida’s unpredictable weather conditions. Before we begin spending taxpayer dollars on select air-conditioned shelters, we should think about first providing roofs at every bus stop within Miami-Dade County.
It is inconceivable that we have allowed this to go on for more than a decade. Here we are talking about mass transit and we don’t even have the simplest form of a bus shelter for transit riders. It is all the more pathetic that this is what is called “revenue neutral” government solution. What that means is that it doesn’t cost government anything to provide a shelter and maintain it. It is incumbent on us to act, and I am asking the Transit & Mobility Chairman Commissioner Esteban Bovo to put this entire matter on our agenda.
As my father used to say, “Even a wise man sits on an ant hill.” (“Hasta un sabio se sienta sobre un hormiguero.”) But then he would add his own retort that the wise man gets up very quickly. Let’s hope that we do likewise.