Miami-Dade County

The waiting game at Miami bus stops could soon be a headache of the past

Transit Alliance Miami presents the Better Bus Project

Transit Alliance Miami presented an intensive 2-year community-driven project to build a better bus system, starting with a complete redesign of the route network.
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Transit Alliance Miami presented an intensive 2-year community-driven project to build a better bus system, starting with a complete redesign of the route network.

Taking the bus in Miami can be an arduous, exasperating journey that doesn’t get you where you want to go at the time you want to be there.

But sweating it out at the bus stop — waiting and wondering and sweating some more — could be reduced to a bad memory once Miami-Dade County’s loopy route network is overhauled.

The bus could become a viable, efficient, perhaps even appealing transportation option on Miami’s car-clogged streets.

Redesigning the bus system to make it more useful for more people is the goal of Transit Alliance Miami, which is launching its Better Bus Project with plans to have a new network in place within 18 months.

“This is a common sense, near-term solution,” said Azhar Chougle, president of the nonprofit organization that advocates for improved public transit. “The best part is that while it is typical for millions of dollars to be spent on conceptual studies, this project will have an actual outcome — an operating network by December 2020.”

The Better Bus Project is a collaboration between Transit Alliance, the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works and the Office of Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, with $630,000 in funding provided by the county, the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, Microsoft, TransitCenter, the Miami Foundation, Health Foundation of South Florida, Lyft, Alliance members and private donors.

The project sets a precedent by being the first in the country driven by community input, the Transit Alliance said. Rider surveys, workshops, neighborhood and station presentations and public debate will determine how the system is designed. Bus passengers are encouraged to contribute their insights.

The current system meanders into every corner of the sprawling county with some antiquated and roller coaster routes to the detriment of frequency. Chougle, who once described the circuitous routes as “the most creative form of abstract art to emerge from Miami,” aims to reduce chronic tardiness and strengthen corridors that have high demand.

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Here’s an example of a Miami-Dade bus system route in need of redesign. Transit Alliance Miami

“How much area do we want to cover versus how much should we focus on high-frequency, all-day service?” Chougle said, noting how Houston and Seattle revamped their systems to concentrate on high-use routes. “The most popular routes have a 15-minute frequency but there are only four or five of those out of 95 total routes. The others you’re talking 30 to 60 minutes or more.”

On the reliable S route that runs between downtown and Miami Beach “you know you will not have to wait more than 15 minutes to get your bus,” said Chougle, a regular bus user who does not own a car and rode the system during a 24-hour marathon in December, interviewing riders along the way. The “Where’s My Bus?” series of reports by Transit Alliance also examined the state of the system.

Two out of three public transit users rely on the county’s bus fleet, yet ridership has declined from 78 million boardings in 2013 to 52 million last year. A vicious cycle of service cuts exacerbated the decrease as did higher rates of car ownership that have added to Miami’s worsening traffic congestion and frustrating commutes. Shorter wait times rewarded with faster journeys should draw more passengers.

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Azhar Chougle, left, and Richard Hankins, right, on the 150 Express bus during Hour 10 of a planned 24-hour marathon of riding Miami-Dade buses to draw attention to fixes needed for the system. The marathon took place on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. DOUGLAS HANKS dhanks@miamiherald.com

Fragmentation problems have hurt the system. The project calls for better connectivity with trolley service offered in Miami, Miami Beach and Coral Gables.

“We want riders and residents to get involved,” Chougle said. “Miami-Dade has changed a lot in 30 years and the new system needs to reflect the growth and travel patterns.”

Track the status of the project and give feedback at www.betterbus.miami.

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