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Catherine Bernstein, the CITT Ambassador of the Year for 2023, shared her views on transit and the rewards of being an ambassador on a recent episode of Mobility Matters – the biweekly video podcast of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust.
The podcast’s guest host, Cheryl Mizell, CITT Ambassador Program Coordinator, explained the CITT Ambassador program is similar to a secret-shopper program in which participants use a mobile app to give feedback about their experiences in exchange for rewards, all geared to help Miami-Dade County improve transit services.
“We can do a little survey every time we ride any mode of transit,” Bernstein said. “I started out doing it and then I think, when you [Cheryl] told me that people actually read those comments, I was very, very, very detailed in my comments because often there’s something going on and I’ll say exactly what it is.”
One of the most common items is to provide feedback on the cleanliness of the trains or buses and on station platforms.
“I did see something once on the Bayfront Park Metromover station. I saw some cockroaches that were on the bench, and I reported it to 311. Literally, that same night they were gone, so people at 311 did listen and respond to my comments so that was good to hear,” she said.
“One thing I can say positively is there is a lot of security presence, so people aren’t completely lost. They could always say, hey, help me and there’s someone there. So that’s really good. It’s improved lately and really good to see.”
Mizell pointed out that the focus of the CITT Ambassador Program is largely to gather feedback through observation and experiences. CITT Ambassadors are not required to interact with passengers or personnel; however, some are kind enough to help other riders traverse the transit system.
“I’m not just a stranger talking to a stranger, I’m an ambassador giving information. I do it all the time even when I’m reading a book or something else,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein also spoke about the ups and downs of the new Better Bus Network and her observations for improvements to the transit system that she feels are needed – better access to Miami Beach, improvements to the apps that track trolley movements, better communication when there is a change in bus routes or part of the Metromover system is down, and more Metrorail trains on weekends when riders need to run errands.
“If more people demanded more, I think it would improve because more people, more voices would be heard,” she said.
CITT Ambassadors can earn and redeem reward points (Velos) on the Velocia mobile app by completing feedback surveys about their experiences, sharing transportation information via social media, and participating in focus groups. Those rewards currently include Miami-Dade transit passes, and credits for Uber and Lyft, Citi Bike (bike-sharing) and Getaround (car-sharing).
“I’ve redeemed a lot of rewards for Lyft and Uber. My son likes to go to places in Doral. I’ll use them to go to Doral because that is tricky to get to by transit,” she said. “Also, once you land in Orlando on the Brightline how do you get anywhere from the airport? I use the Uber and Lyft credits for those rideshare programs.”
For more information or to apply to become a CITT Ambassador, visit www.miamidade.gov/citt-ambassador.