Miami-Dade officials are trying out a new service on Metrorail, in a bid to show riders that transit can be a convenient option to driving.
Express Metrorail service to downtown is now being offered as a pilot program at peak hours mornings and afternoons from Dadeland South and Palmetto stations.
The service is one of the first major new transit offerings to passengers since Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez appointed veteran transportation manager Alice Bravo as new transit director in July.
Among instructions Giménez gave Bravo the day of the announcement was to make transit services more attractive and convenient to passengers so they drive less.
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Transportation has become a major concern locally in response to widespread public anger about a toll hike on State Road 836, increasing traffic backups on major roads and the realization that local transit agencies cannot afford to expand the Metrorail service anytime soon.
As a result, Bravo said in a telephone interview Friday, county transit wants to promote and enhance its existing services, which include Metrorail, Metromover and Metrobus.
“We want to make sure that the system is clean, safe and reliable for everyone,” Bravo said. “But we also want to make it very convenient. We think the best way is for people who use public transportation to save time and money.
We have these amazing assets like the Metrorail and the Busway and we want to enhance the convenience. The biggest part of our challenge is letting people know what we have and that they can save time and money using it.
Alice Bravo, transit director
“We have these amazing assets like the Metrorail and the Busway and we want to enhance the convenience. The biggest part of our challenge is letting people know what we have and that they can save time and money using it.”
Some of the riders interviewed Friday on an express run from Dadeland South station to Government Center downtown expressed satisfaction.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Jackie Chamberlain, an attorney who lives in Pinecrest and works downtown. “Most people, not everyone, but most people stop at Brickell and after. Most people go to Brickell, downtown and the area of the hospitals. Most major cities have express trains and they work very well. It saves time and helps with lessening the crowding.”
Chamberlain wants the service to become permanent.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea and I hope that they do continue it,” she said.
Jonathan Escobar, who commutes from Kendall to downtown, echoed Chamberlain.
“I like it,” said Escobar, who boarded the northbound express train and got off at Government Center to get to his job in a bank downtown. “It’s very convenient because it doesn’t stop at every station. It’s better.”
For now, the Downtown Express Metrorail service is a pilot project. It started Dec. 7 and will continue until approximately Dec. 30, when it might be extended a few more days.
The key feature of the service is limited stops. The express trains do not stop at all Metrorail stations.
For example, the northbound service that starts out at Dadeland South station stops at Dadeland North station, but then skips five stations — South Miami, University, Douglas Road, Coconut Grove and Vizcaya — before it stops again at Brickell and then Government Center.
The regular Metrorail train takes about 17 minutes to travel from Dadeland South to Brickell; the Downtown Express is about four to five minutes faster, according to transit officials.
Brickell serves the busy financial district on and around Brickell Avenue. Government Center is located in the heart of downtown near county and other major employment centers such as federal and county courts.
Express service southbound starts at Palmetto Station and proceeds without stopping to Civic Center, which serves the major hospital hub near the junction of State Road 836 and Northwest 12th Avenue.
The southbound service from Palmetto skips nine stations: Okeechobee, Hialeah, Tri-Rail, Northside, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Brownsville, Earlington Heights, Allapattah and Santa Clara.
Downtown Express Metrorail trains run twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon Monday through Friday.
Northbound express morning trains depart from Dadeland South at 7:03 and 8:03 a.m.
Southbound afternoon trains depart from Government Center at 4:48 and 5:18 p.m.
The Downtown Express to and from Palmetto Station leaves in the morning on the southbound service from Palmetto at 7:01 and 8:01 a.m. The afternoon run from Civic Center departs for Palmetto at 4:46 and 5:16 p.m.
The service can be tracked in real time on the MDT Tracker app for smart phones.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy