It’s raining. Hard. Every day.
The sun is shining. Hard. Every day.
Yet bus shelters built to protect passengers from Miami’s merciless summer elements provide no shelter at all.
The canopies on the shelters have not been replaced since Hurricane Irma blew them away or damaged them 10 months ago. Others were missing months prior to Irma.
Now thunderstorms and scalding temperatures have returned with a vengeance, and still no fixes along the South Dade Busway for the people who rely on public transit.
They wait. They sweat. They wait. They get wet. They wait.
The lack of repairs at the neglected stations is emblematic of Miami-Dade County’s indifference toward public transportation, passengers say.
“They want people to use the bus and Metrorail but they don’t care about us,” said Ashley Stone, who commutes from South Miami-Dade to Jackson Memorial Hospital for her job. “It pours and people get soaked. The sun is beating down. We’re waiting usually at least 20 minutes. How hard can it be to put up a little protection?”
Stone, carrying an umbrella, was at the Southwest 136th Street station, where the county attached two temporary gray canopies. The one on the northbound side blew off within days. Everybody tends to huddle under the one on the southbound side, which leaks.
“It is so hot and we’re a mess by the time we get to work,” said Elena Gregory at the Southwest 200th Street station where she was standing in the only sliver of shade she could find under a beam. “The service is terrible. I call and complain and they say, ‘Oh, we’re sorry, we’ll take care of that,’ and nothing changes. We’re paying taxes, taxes, taxes — for what?”
Most of the 56 shelters along the 20-mile TransitWay that extends from Dadeland to Florida City feature green frames with no roof or side panels. Yellow kiosks contain broken or missing pay phones.
The corridor’s bus-exclusive lanes along the former Florida East Coast Railway line opened in 1997, designed to speed passengers past cars on traffic-clogged U.S. 1, which runs parallel to the route. The first phase connected Cutler Ridge to the Dadeland South Metrorail station. The last segment, completed in 2007, extended to Southwest 344th Street.
From Southwest 112th Avenue south, the stations have a newer design, nicer seating, louvered side panels and metal roofs.
But at the older stations, only 16 of the 85 sections have canopies right now. At least seven stations have zero cover. When the Miami Herald wrote about the damaged shelters in March, Transportation and Public Works Director Alice Bravo said the county was soliciting a contract to replace the missing sections with a more durable fabric, and expected them to be fixed by summer. It’s July, the county has a vendor, and a purchase order was issued June 14. After the new material arrives, installation is expected take up to four months, with the stops with highest ridership finished first, a transportation department spokesperson said.
The county decided to stick with the canopies rather than retrofitting stations with metal roofs - a process that could take up to two-and-a-half years.
In the meantime, the county has improved signal priority along the corridor for a faster ride and installed new stainless steel trash cans in an effort to clean up the stations.
Melody May and Johnny Weaver waited for the northbound bus at the Southwest 184th Street/Eureka Drive station where three of six canopies are intact.
“A lot of these were missing long before Irma,” Weaver said. “What are they doing with the money?”
Said May, who travels from North Miami-Dade to Goulds: “It’s not important for them to serve the people down south.”
Dominique Volmar uses the bus to get to job training at Robert Morgan vocational center, but if it’s raining he uses Uber, even though he has paid $112 for a monthly bus pass.
Jeffrey G, a trainer at a gym in the Pinecrest area, said the county’s patch job at the 136th Street shelter wasn’t sturdy enough.
“We’re supposed to be a cosmopolitan city, but look at this,” he said, gesturing around the station. “We’ve got to have an effective public transit system because the traffic situation is only going to get worse and worse. But it’s always broken. Run on time. Don’t pack us in like sardines. Give us some shelter.
“They control the money. We’re just the little working people.”