As people get back to work and hit the roads, Miami traffic is slowly returning to pre-covid speeds. That also means folks are returning to the public transit system too.
Plans to redesign Miami’s bus network was put on hold because of the pandemic, but finally it will be on the county commission agenda for approval this week.
Azhar Chougle, Executive Director of Transit Alliance Miami calls the bus system a lifeline.
"Our economy here in Miami depends on our retail workers getting back to work, depends on our grocery store workers, security guards and all of that depends on a functioning transit system," says Chougle.
In Miami-Dade, 36 percent of transit commuters are essential workers. Some of them experience delays as long as 30 to 60 minutes. Transit Alliance Miami - an advocacy group - says people need the transit system more than ever as they are trying to get back work.
However, after a recent survey they conducted, they say people are experiencing different issues.
"Imagine dealing with the uncertainty that people are dealing with right now. They are trying to get to their job at 9:30 in the morning and your bus just passes you by because it’s full," says Chougle.
According to the transit alliance, 51 percent of transit riders say they've experienced being left behind by a full bus and 43 percent of riders are experiencing overcrowding.
Transit alliance has been working on a plan to improve the transit system since before the pandemic
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez committed $250,000 to the project as there’s been a steady decline of ridership since 2013. But, COVID-19 presented new obstacles for people who rely on buses to get around.
"We analyzed all of the travel pattern since the pandemic and how ridership has changed on certain routes – and also we built up a plan so that no matter what happens if have a second wave – operator shortages or also if we have people returning to transit then the system is prepared to adapt," says Chougle.
He says this new system will do a few things. It will be a much more efficient bus system and their new plan will take the politics out of transit.
"Our politicians over the last few years have added little bits and pieces over time that don’t make a whole lot of sense," says Chougle.
‘The Better Bus Project’ plan will be the first major reform since 1986. Right now, five of the county's 100 bus routes arrive every 15 minutes, but that's about to improve because of the transit alliance's plan.
The redesign adds frequent service to the most in need areas and destinations.
"For the first time, we’ll have a route going every 15 minutes down to Florida city, a route every 15 minutes going up to Miami gardens, a route every 10 minutes to FIU campus, frequent service all across the beach, frequent service within the urban core," says Chougle.
After years of planning and hitting the pause button because of the pandemic,
finally, the transit alliance will have their day in front of the county commission on October 20th.
"The system hasn’t been designed for you, it’s because the system hasn’t been designed to be usable that’s the biggest thing about this project. Is it’s a system that’s finally been designed for people to be able to use," says Chougle.
The Transit Alliance will focus on the county system and then the city system.
They hope going into next year they get a system full of new vehicles and a new bus system that people can trust, depend on and that it works for them. The plan will go before the county commission on October 20th.