One of the perennial complaints from transit riders in South Florida is that they have to wait for buses under the blazing sun or in the rain.
Now, relief has arrived.
The first air-conditioned bus shelter in the region was formally opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Hialeah.
Miami-Dade County and Hialeah officials gathered last Wednesday to formally open the air-conditioned bus shelter at the Hialeah Metrorail station. The structure has a sliding door and contains a row of seats inside.
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The enclosed air-conditioned shelter has room for four people seated, and 11 standing.
It’s part of a pilot program that eventually could lead to the installation of more air-conditioned bus shelters in Miami-Dade.
The Hialeah facility might well be the first in the United States.
What is more common in the U.S. are heated bus stops in the Northeast and Midwest. Air-conditioned bus stops have proliferated in some desert locations in the Middle East such as Dubai.
“I read an article that up north they have heated shelters for buses, and then we found another where in Dubai they had an air-conditioned bus shelter and we said well, let’s try it out, that’s something that we know people want,” said Alice Bravo, the director of Miami-Dade County’s department of transportation and public works.
“We need to test the AC shelter out, so we installed this one shelter as a pilot program,” Bravo said. It was built at a cost of $65,000, she added.
Bravo, along with County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, whose district includes Hialeah, participated in the ceremony, as did Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández.
Gimenez invited Ana Barquero, a Nicaragua-born bus rider in Hialeah, to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony as well. Barquero, 77, was one of the first passengers to use the air-conditioned bus shelter.
“This is fantastic,” Barquero said. “We should all cooperate so that we can keep it clean.”
At the ceremony, Gimenez said the goal is to make public transportation more attractive.
“This makes it more comfortable,” he said. “We’ve had complaints about the heat and about rain and this is a prototype. We hope to put at least 30 of these around the county, in those areas where we have a high ridership of elderly that need to have protection.”
Hernández said bus shelters with air conditioning “are a fantastic idea.”
Said Sosa: “This will change the lives of a lot of people.”
Bravo said another incentive to draw passengers to transit is an upgraded version of the Miami-Dade Transit Tracker application.
“It has real time information regarding buses, so people can manage their time better,” said Bravo before the start of the Hialeah ceremony. “It’s been completely revamped. It’s more user-friendly. You go to the feature called ‘near me’ and it tells you all the bus routes around you. It actually shows you where the buses are and how long they'll take to get to where you are.”
Bravo said the application also has a trip planning feature with bus and trolley routes.
“What we did was to get information from all the municipalities that have trolleys and we added that to the transit option,” said Bravo. “So if you say you’re going to Mercy Hospital, it’ll tell you take this bus, take the train and take the City of Miami circulator.”
In another move to draw transit riders, Bravo said that during August and September her office will give away weekly transit passes that are good for Metrorail and Metrobus travel.
“We want August and September to be Try Transit months and we’re working with different partners and promotions to give away seven-day passes,” she said. “We are also using social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, for promotions where you could win the seven-day passes.”