As South Florida prepares to get up and running again somewhat Monday, the plans are in the works by transit leaders to make sure they can move those heading back to work around safely.
Miami-Dade bus driver Frank Brown knows more than driving. He’s a good runner who recently jumped off the bus and chased down a man suspected of stealing a rider's backpack.
“We started to pursue the gentlemen who had taken their property,” Brown said.
Brown and his bosses are hoping he doesn’t have to perform any further heroics when Miami-Dade County starts to open again and the volume of passengers is expected to increase.
That’s all while passengers will have to sit in specific seats, leave the front of the bus for those with disabilities, use the hand sanitizer provided, and wait for the next bus if the first one is full.
"It’s just as frustrating for us as it is for them, but just be calm,” Brown said.
Alice Bravo runs the Miami-Dade Transportation department.
“We are preparing for more riders both on the bus and the Metrorail and the Metromover,” Bravo said.
Bravo says that in recent weeks, buses, trains, and stations have been thoroughly cleaned, and for now, riders won't have to pay.
“We will continue rear boarding on the buses. So far, collection continues to be suspended, and we are going to have additional security that will help us enforce social distancing and the wearing of masks,” Bravo said.
“The new bottles are really nice for us and we like the cleanliness about it,” said rider Milagros Breigo, who was waiting for the bus at the FIU main campus.
Before COVID-19, Miami-Dade would put up to 70 passengers on a bus — now, that’s down to just 17. This week, they are rolling 493 buses each day, but on Monday, that will go up to 653.
The Transit Worker Union President, Jeffrey Mitchell, is concerned about the bus and train being a haven for COVID-19 to spread. He says the drivers have more contact with the public than most first responders.
“We’d like to see the department enforcing the policies,” Mitchell said. “Because our operators pick up more people than anybody in this county, we want them protected at the highest level. We don’t want to lose one. We have had some get sick and hospitalized. We just want to ensure they don’t get sick, and in turn, the passengers get sick.”
The union says they have actually had to file legal actions to get the department moving in the right direction when it comes to protecting the transportation workers. Bravo said that the safety of anyone working for transit and the riders is their top priority. Both are on the same page when it comes to Monday’s restart — have your mask, and bring your patience if you have to wait for the next bus or train.