May 26, 2013

Miami-Dade Transit tweaks some bus routes

Miami-Dade Transit is making adjustments to several bus routes that will take effect June 23.

Miami-Dade Transit is making adjustments to several bus routes that will take effect June 23.

On some routes, intervals between buses will be lengthened while others will be shortened. None of the changes involve major routes. MDT has 93 routes served by 684 buses during peak weekday hours.

Shortly before the adjustments take effect, MDT’s 1,800 drivers will be able to pick preferred routes by seniority. Drivers like to change routes along the same lines that airline pilots do: try something new, earn more pay through overtime or drive a bus closer to home.

The ritual, carried out every six months, is known as the lineups — divisional in June and general in November. This means that in a divisional lineup, drivers get to pick routes only within their division, while during the general lineup they can choose routes across the county. There are three MDT bus divisions: Coral Way, Northeast and Central.

“The reason why we have lineups is provided in our collective bargaining agreement, the Transport Workers Union,” said Cathy Lewis, MDT’s chief of civil rights and labor relations.

She said drivers like to change routes for a variety of reasons.

“Sometimes there are lifestyle changes,” she said. “Sometimes as your seniority builds you see much more lucrative routes and schedules that you might want to pick.”

Some routes trigger overtime pay because the distance may require more time on the clock, said Gerald Bryan, MDT’s chief of planning and scheduling.

As for route changes, the ones coming up June 23 are minor. There have not been significant adjustments since 2009. At that time, more than a dozen routes had segments cut and services to some areas were discontinued. Some routes were merged, and in some cases buses ran less frequently than before. Adjustments affected major routes including Miami Beach, downtown Miami, Biscayne Boulevard and Homestead.

Changes largely covered routes that were deemed to have below-average productivity.

Transit figures show that buses carry the bulk of transit riders, with more than 255,000 weekday boardings.

In the coming lineup, changes are largely tweaks in which service intervals between buses are lengthened or shortened, said Bryan. Overall, Bryan said, about 20 routes will have some type of adjustment.

For example, intervals between buses on the MDT 95 Express will be lengthened during so-called minor holiday Mondays like Columbus Day or Presidents Day when many people work.

On those days, he said, 95 Express buses will run every 10 or 15 minutes instead of every 5 minutes, on average, during peak hours.

“On these minor holidays, ridership goes way down,” Bryan said. “We are matching demand with service.”

The 95 Express service is popular with passengers.

“I ride the 95 Express because it relieves the stress of having to drive,” said Alicia Martínez, who lives in Broward and works in downtown Miami.

Another passenger, Merlyn Puente, said she rides the 95 Express because it saves her $600 a month in gas and tolls.

But on Route 77, which runs from the Golden Glades interchange in North Miami-Dade to downtown Miami largely on Northwest Seventh Avenue, service will be increased. Intervals between buses will be shortened during weekday midday hours to 12 minutes from 15, Bryan said.

In another change, the portion of Route 56 that serves Miami-Dade College Kendall Campus will now be covered by Route 71.

In addition, Route 70 weekday service to Saga Bay will be discontinued because of low ridership.

Karla Damian, the MDT spokeswoman, said that when finalized the list of changes will be posted on the department’s website,

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