Doral rehires trolley company

The Doral City Council on Wednesday approved a $1.8 million-per-year contract with the current operator of the city’s trolley system.

The current operator, Miami-based Limousines of South Florida, was the only company to respond to the city’s solicitation for proposals. While under previous ownership in October, the firm ran into issues with keeping licenses up to date, which caused the trolley service to be suspended for a half-day.

This prompted the City Council to go month-to-month with then-owner Keolis Transit America and seek a new operator. In December, Miami-based Transportation America bought Limousines of South Florida, after which council members and city staff said the service has had no problems.

Vice Mayor Christi Fraga said residents noted an improvement in service after the change.

“All of them were giving me better reviews since this company took over,” she said.

The city is inking a cheaper deal than the $2 million contract signed in 2008.

While city staff recommended a five-year agreement, council members unanimously approved a two-year deal.

“I think five years is a long time, although I’m comfortable with the vendor, and I’m comfortable with the services that we’re getting” said Councilwoman Ana María Rodríguez. “I’d be okay with a two-year contract.”

Councilwoman Bettina Rodríguez Aguílera suggested adding wireless Internet to the trolleys, and the company agreed to work with staff to look into it.

The City Council also discussed Doral’s contract with the company that runs the city’s red-light camera program, American Traffic Solutions, or ATS. With the current contract expiring in July, the council told city staff to come back with options at a June meeting — either suggestions for a new firm or a negotiated deal with ATS.

Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz initially questioned the effectiveness of the cameras and suggested looking at new ways to improve safety on Doral’s crowded streets.

“A lot of people say, ‘Don‘t worry, I’ll just pay the ticket,’ ” she said. “Those unsafe drivers are still on the street.”

She eventually supported augmenting the current program either through ATS or another company after Police Chief Richard Blom commented on some technologies he had researched that could improve the current system. One suggestion was using a high-accuracy location system, or “HALO” system, which aims to prevent accidents by keeping the signal red in one direction when a sensor detects a car is running the red light from another direction.

“The guy still runs the red light, but we avoid the accident,” he said.

According to 2011-2013 statistics kept by the Doral Police Department, the city has had a slight increase in rear-end collisions but fewer deadly accidents and violations. The numbers also show little differences between major intersections with cameras and those without.

Mayor Luigi Boria, the lone vote against keeping red-light cameras and creating a state-mandated appeals board in August, softened his stance Wednesday when he said he supports the program but it would have been a good idea to stop the program for six months to see if there was a change in the numbers.

“I do agree ... one life we save is worth enough to keep it,” he said.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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