Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected].
Yesterday we got to hear from the head honchos of Miami transit in a Facebook Live conversation, which you can watch here. Today, we’re hearing from one of the riders.
With grand ambitions to expand transit on the horizon, one might assume transit in Miami is getting better day by day. Sadly, it’s largely the opposite. With ridership falling, Metrorail hours have been shortened. Bus frequencies have been cut. And no rider is a stranger to the delays and breakdowns plaguing the entire system. We’re faced with a slow march towards a service more frustrating to rely on every day.
Our existing transit system sort of works, sometimes. Getting rid of that “sort of” and “sometimes” doesn’t require a grand scheme with a tacky acronym. It simply demands better reliability, more frequency and incremental improvements to the systems we already spent decades building.
And absolutely, we need more transit – but there are still thousands of Miamians who can choose transit today that don’t, and we don’t need billions of dollars to switch them over. Sadly, we are stuck in a cycle where a poor system leads to poorer ridership, and it becomes ever more foolish to choose transit. For those who do not have the choice of car ownership, it only gets worse. With buses sometimes unexpectedly 30 (or even 60) minutes apart, a missed bus could mean lost wages, or even a lost job.
We all share the blame. Transit in every city has two audiences: those who need it and those who choose it. Any successful system relies on both. In any given week, there’s probably at least one trip you take that could be served by transit instead of driving. For residents in Miami’s densest neighborhoods, more than half your trips might be served equally well by transit.
If you wanted to abandon your car completely, that isn’t impossible either. Try taking a bus north on Biscayne Boulevard, or from Downtown to Miami Beach – served by multiple routes running frequently, often with brand-new buses, these two corridors will make you wonder why it’s ever worth circling and paying for parking.
But let’s say you happen to need Route 101 for your first journey. It travels from Omni to Sunset Harbor via the Venetian Causeway. You might be disappointed when you realize it runs every half hour at best, and takes an extended break from 9:20 a.m. until 2 p.m. Route 101 is just one example of the many corridors that are simply unusable except by commuters with no alternative – and they are hit the hardest by its poor service.
Yet some of our city officials may not grasp why we don’t take transit, and appear blind to the needs of those who have no other choice. We want a bus that arrives on time, in decent time. We want trains that run so frequently, we don’t need to track them at all. And every rider hopelessly waits for the day Metromover cars don’t squat so long at every station.
And then there are the gaps. We are all gushing for a plan that fills in the massive holes in our transit system. But what about the small gaps that we can fix right now? Every transit journey begins and ends on two feet or two wheels. Pedestrians are faced with poor crossing infrastructure, or often none at all. Bike lanes are barely anywhere to be seen, and Citi Bikes are oddly absent from every Metrorail station except Government Center.
Improving the system we have now is not complicated. Some of it is already under way, with new Metrorail cars coming this fall, and some new buses on order. Unfortunately, on the whole, our government seems to want you to stay in your car – even if you would be happy to leave it behind. Instead of an $800 million rebuild of the MacArthur Causeway bridge, we could buy another bus, or two… or 2,500. Comparing the transformative impact 2,500 buses might have on our city versus a bridge that doesn’t need rebuilding is no contest.
With our transit agencies fixated on planning for the “new” instead of running the “now”, we need to speak up every time transit fails us today. Every time your bus disappoints you, report it here. Every time your trolley is late, report it here. Every time you fear for your safety crossing the street, report the intersection here, especially if is missing a properly marked crosswalk. It takes a minute on your phone, and each complaint will add up. Those who run our systems rarely hear from us, and they can’t fix what they don’t know is broken.
And if you haven’t tried transit lately, give it a chance. Every time you tap your card, it is a vote for transit that won’t go unnoticed – and we need every vote we can get.