Currently viewing the category: "bus"

Text and photos by Eric Van Vleet

Public transportation in many ways captures the zeitgeist of a time and place. Adorned with art nouveau entrances and gorgeous white tiled interiors, Paris’s metro harkens back to the days of grand public works. Bogota recently strengthened its image internationally with their successful and much imitated TransMilenio bus system.

Bus service in Miami-Dade expresses something profound as well, but not necessarily a vision the county would want to be widely known for. Plainly, in Miami-Dade the bus system’s only reliability is its unreliability.

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The most common topic of conversation between bus riders is not about local events or the weather, but the unreliability of the bus system. Ideas about the deficiencies in the bus system for many riders seems to reveal a profoundly cynical if not realistic understanding by working class people in Miami-Dade as to how much the county is willing to invest in their ability to move efficiently.

Just the other day I was waiting for a bus that was 40 minutes late. Finally as my bus arrived, an elderly woman who had waited much longer began to fume. As the door closed I heard her yell:

“This city only cares about tourists. They don’t care about us anymore!”

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Instead of shouting at the bus driver who is merely trying to navigate traffic and drive their route, often I will call Miami-Dade transit to lodge a complaint every time the bus is more than fifteen minutes late. One time while complaining about a late bus, I heard a man laughing behind me. When I got off the phone, he said to me:

“Don’t you know, nothing will change by you doing that.”

His cynical laughter toward my complaint echoed a kind of futility that I had heard in the voices of so many people complaining to each other about the bus service. They all just figured speaking would do not good since no one was listening.

Such a detached attitude might be possible if people did not rely on the bus for getting to work, running errands and seeing friends and family. Instead of letting go any expectations about it arriving on time, better that we as its most frequent riders continue to vocally demand better service.

Continuing to call each time the bus is late would at least provide the county with data so that they could better see where and when they experience delays. Their customer service number is 305-891-3131.

Once the bus system actually becomes more reliable, people may start to drive less and take the bus more, which would limit Miami’s other great source of collective suffering—traffic. Bringing innovations from the Metrorail like real-time updated schedules and information about delays would greatly benefit bus drivers and cut down on useless and anger-inducing waits for passengers.

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Increasing dedicated bus lanes could decrease traffic delays making busses more reliable and quicker. Certain routes like the #11 and #8 simply need more buses as they are frequently packed and seats are difficult to find. These and other improvements would improve service for current riders, while also likely attracting new riders, including tourists.

20141209_084452Any place like Miami that is as a ‘global city’ should not look in wonder only at its rapidly proliferating glass high rises sure to be readily filled by a transnational clientele, but it also should look at what’s happening on the ground and on the streets where citizens waiting for the bus are never quite sure when and if it is going to come.

Everyone equally deserves to move comfortably and efficiently to and from the diverse neighborhoods and local landmarks that make Miami-Dade so unique.

Eric Van Vleet is a PhD student in the Global & Sociocultural Studies program at Florida International University. He is a fixture on Miami-Dade bus route #8, though prefers route #24, through the banyan-lined roads of Coral Gables. His courses’ reading materials show erratic underlining because of the buses’ frequent and unexpectedly abrupt stops and drops into potholes.

May is National Bike Month. Biking is seeing a nationwide resurgence due to aggressive policies aimed to promote cycling, and as cities and towns in South Florida join the fold by increasing bike infrastructure, now is a particularly good time to bike in the Miami area. If you have a bike that needs a tune up or have been thinking about buying a two-wheeler for a while May is the perfect month to do so!

The bike is up there with man’s greatest inventions. It extends the range one can travel considerably, all while burning no fuel and providing excellent cardiovascular and exercise benefits. In urban traffic conditions, the bike is comparable with cars and public transportation on short/medium trips. One can usually bike around 5 miles in half an hour, which compares quite well with driving that distance under normal traffic conditions, and certainly with taking public transportation (particularly when having to walk to and wait for the bus).

All buses in Miami Dade and Broward County are outfitted with bike extensions. This opens up the possibility of using the bicycle as part of a multimodal trip. If you take multiple rides on your commute, consider biking to replace part of the trip, saving time, money, and enjoying the many exercise benefits of riding.

Of course, going from theory to practice can take some work, so here are some things to consider before hitting the road.

Things you’ll need to bike on the road:

A helmet: it’s not required for those older than 16, it’s usually not comfortable, but it is worth it. Most serious injuries and bike fatalities can be prevented by the simple use of a helmet.

Lights: White for the front, red for the back. Try to get removable ones so they don’t get stolen.

Bell: A loud bell will come in handy, particularly if you are biking on a mixture of roads and sidewalks.

In most places, these common sense accessories are legally required.

If you have never biked in traffic there are easy ways to ease into it. Always stay on the right side of the road. While riding your bike you are legally considered a car and need to obey all traffic laws, stop signs, and lights. Take advantage of the grid and bike down calmer less trafficked streets where possible. Familiarize yourself with the areas in which you want to bike and test out different routes.

One of the frustrating things about biking in the area is that most good bike lanes come to an end at major thoroughfares or ends of towns. But, with a few exceptions, most municipalities in South Florida allow for biking on the sidewalk. Google maps now has an option for bike directions, and smartphone users can use maps to figure out where they are and see which minor trafficked and low speed-limit streets they can take to reach their destinations.

If you don’t have a bike, you can take advantage of low-cost subscriptions to cycle hires like DecoBike in Miami Beach, and B-cycles in Broward County. I would still suggest taking a helmet with you if you plan to use one on the road. These bike systems also make use of smartphone GSP apps, with the deco bike app allowing you to see where you can rent/return bikes. The beauty of this is the short utility trip to the grocery store or other quick stop that would be too short for a car trip but a bit too far to walk. The bike serves as a great equalizer between walking and transit. So if you have been thinking of exercising, cutting down on car/transportation costs, and see the bike as an option I highly suggest giving it a try during this National Bike Month.

Ride safe!

 

TransitMiami can’t help but give a great neighborhood bar, The DRB, some unsolicited praise for its ingenious selection of an otherwise neglected downtown office building for its new location.

By choosing to site its new bar in the part of downtown dominated by boring institutional land-uses, The DRB chose to bring some vibrancy and character to an otherwise lifeless part of downtown. The very phrase itself — “lifeless part of downtown” — is an unfortunate contradiction, an oxymoron of a poorly planned urban milieu.

The building in question — situated on NE 5th Street and 1st Ave. — is surrounded almost exclusively by  institutional land-uses (occupied by, e.g., federal courthouses, a community college, a church, etc.) and lots of shamefully vacant and/or completely undeveloped, prime-for-mixed-use-development downtown parcels.

When New Urbanists and other community design-oriented folks refer to the evils of homogeneous land-use configurations, the image most typically invoked is that of miles upon miles of single-family residential land-use. Indeed, monolithic residential land-use embodies the notion of ‘urban sprawl’.

Elected officials, planners, and developers must also recognize, though, that large areas of homogeneous institutional land-use in the downtown core is at least as toxic (if not more so) for our city as sprawling single-family cookie-cutter houses along the periphery.

We need more transit-oriented development (TOD) in Miami’s de facto government-institution district. That area already has a great combination of Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus access. We must augment this healthy transportation configuration with a healthier land-use configuration.

And we must certainly continue to push our elected officials to expand the public transit network. However, we must also push them to better incentivize more commercial in-fill near the highly viable sections of public transit we already have, especially in downtown. It’s the hustle and bustle of downtown that build’s a city’s personality.

Kudos to you, Democratic Republic of Beer, for selecting a site so wonderfully accessible by transit, foot, and bicycle. Now all those bureaucrats and college students have a nice neighborhood spot in which to enjoy one of your exotic specialty brews from one of the corners of the globe.

(This author recommends the Sri Lankan Lion Stout.)

– Via Autoblog

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I sincerely love riding our community’s Metrobuses. They’re generally clean, safe, and comfortable. Mind you, it really depends on which route you ride: some buses, and the people you find on them, are a bit more pleasant than others. Nevertheless, for the most part, there is an underlying sense of camaraderie and a tacit respect for one’s fellow passengers which pervades the public bus-riding experience.

Public transit brings people together and engenders cohesiveness. Unspoken bonds are formed between strangers of all races, socio-economic statuses, and walks-of-life during the shared passage to their respective destinations. In a city as diverse and socio-ethnically/socio-economically segregated as Miami, we need more transit-facilitated social capital.

Sometimes, though, I can’t help but be overcome by indignation when encountering people on the buses (or trains) who seem to have no sense of basic transit etiquette.

You know who I’m talking about: those star-crossed lovers who want the whole bus to endure the loud, profanity-ridden telephone drama they’re having with their significant others; that obnoxious group of young, want-to-be rappers free-styling (poorly) to beats blasting out of their Smartphones; the girl who spills her soda and indifferently moves to a different seat to avoid the mess she just created; that sad homeless guy in unwashed clothes who, saturated by the smell of cigarettes and stale urine, just can’t resist to strike-up a halitosis-filled conversation about his past lives (only to then ask for money from any sympathetic listener) . . . the list goes on.

Among the very worst violations of transit etiquette, though, is the most common to find, and that’s what makes it the most infuriating. Some people just don’t understand the principle of one-seat per person. On packed buses, this is intolerable.

You’ve already taken up more than one full seat for your body, must your bags take the other two next to you?! Where’s the basic transit etiquette?

So please, when you have a bag — or two, or three, or four — with you on transit, please volunteer to remove it from the seat. Place the item(s) on your lap, under the seat, or, when available, in the overhead luggage rack.

Nobody should bear the burden of actually having to ask permission to occupy a seat covered by bags, or your extended feet, or your left-over slice of pizza, etc. The burden shouldn’t fall on the person looking for a seat. The seat(s) should be graciously offered by the person whose articles occupy it by removing them invitingly as those in need of a seat board the bus.

Please occupy only one seat until you’re absolutely sure you’re not denying any other passenger a place to sit. It makes the whole public transit experience better for all . . .

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Tuesday nights my wife and I often ride the Fort Lauderdale Urban Ride with the South Florida Bike Club, the same ride recently featured on the Sun-Sentinel. It’s a fun 20 mile ride with a mix of fast and slow riders and fat and skinny tired bikes. Tonight we rode with a group of about 20 riders and witnessed the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac, sand piled up around the Fort Lauderdale beach wall and onto A1A. Below is one of the cleaner areas, with sand only covering the bike lane. Some areas had sand piled into the travel lane as well that we picked our way around.

I am used to being harassed by motorists, especially when I ride outside the bike lane to avoid the door zone. I generally ignore them and just assume they are ignorant of safe riding techniques. But on a day like this, with sand piled everywhere, you would think drivers would be a little more understanding. Maybe the tropical storm winds cooled off some of the hot heads around here? Nope, not in South Florida. First we had a Broward County Transit bus honk at us while the driver ran a red light in his desperate quest to pass us. Then a motorist trying to sound nice passed us slowly in the other lane, saying, “shouldn’t you be over there in the bike lane?”

Right. Might as well ride on the beach if I wanted to ride on sand. Life goes on in South Florida, and bicyclists are quickly put back in last place where the motoring public believes they belong.

 

This is the EyeStop Bus Stop developed by MIT’s Senseable Lab.

The EyeStop is partially covered with touch-sensitive e-INK and screens, and features state-of-the art sensing technologies and a variety of interactive services. Riders can plan a bus trip on an interactive map,  surf the Web, monitor their real-time exposure to pollutants and use their mobile devices as an interface with the bus shelter. They can also post ads and community announcements to an electronic bulletin board at the bus stop, enhancing the EyeStop’s functionality as a community gathering space.

 

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