Miami-Dade County

Two new technologies are coming to Miami-Dade’s transportation system

A rider boards a Miami-Dade bus in Westchester.
A rider boards a Miami-Dade bus in Westchester. MIAMI HERALD FILE

Miami-Dade transit officials are banking on new technologies to attract more riders to their Metrorail and Metrobus systems.

In Washington, D.C., Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who serves as the chairman of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations subcommittee, announced last week a $2.35 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the low-emission or no-emission vehicle program for the purchase of electric buses in Miami-Dade.

And transit officials said they are planning to implement a mobile ticketing application through which riders will be able to pay for their tickets from their smartphones.

Alice Bravo, the director of the Department of Transportation and Public Works, said both initiatives will help push her strategy to persuade more people to leave their cars at home and use transit instead.

“We hope that this is something that makes it a lot easier for people to give transit a try, and that makes it a lot easier for people already using the system,” Bravo said. “Mobile ticketing lets you create an account, and then you can replenish that account online, and just like Apple Pay or Google Pay, that’s where you can pull up your phone to the fare gate and that will serve as your pass.”

The new application, Bravo said, will reduce lines at EASY Card ticket vending machines and give transit riders additional options for “loading value” onto their EASY cards.

Diaz-Balart said the electric bus grant will help update the fleet.

“I am pleased to announce that Miami-Dade County was awarded $2.35 million for the purchase of electric buses and to modernize the county’s bus fleet,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement. “As chairman of the transportation appropriations subcommittee, I worked to ensure that funding for this program was included in the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016.”

Bravo said her department applied for the grant that will go toward purchasing some of the 30 electric buses the department plans to acquire, with an option for an additional 20. The buses will be put into operation in several months.

“We’ve had two of these buses here that different companies have brought for us to test them out and they’re amazing,” Bravo said. “You can be standing right next to the bus and you can’t tell that it’s on, and as the bus pulls away it makes zero noise.”

As for mobile ticketing, a statement from the department of transportation and public works said its technicians will upgrade the automated fare collection system to incorporate the new application. The process will take a few more months to go into effect.

Bravo said mobile ticketing is one of several new technological advances the department will implement to enhance existing services.

“Mayor Carlos Giménez has challenged us to use the latest technology to leverage our current infrastructure,” Bravo said. “He understands the importance of technology, and how it can simplify the way people access county services.”

The application, she added, also will improve how the county “engages with residents” by allowing the department to send notifications such as rider alerts and service updates.

The program will later expand to offer riders deals like a free pass if they buy products at certain stores, Bravo said.

“We want to create incentives,” she said, to entice more people to use transit. “Mobile ticketing eliminates a lot of hurdles. It’s a huge modernization.”