Photo of the Universal Gate 2100 Courtesy Cubic Transportation Systems
According to this article by Larry Lebowitz on the Miami Herald website, the Miami-Dade Transit Agency will be introducing SmartCard technology over the next year. The first fare boxes are scheduled to begin appearing in Metrobuses starting this month, with a systemwide roll-out to be completed by the end of 2009.
Gone will be the days of bus drivers inflating their fare counts at the Dadeland South Metrorail station on the Busway lines, as they manually press the button for Metropass customers. Here will be the days of discrete passenger counts at all stops, in order to provide information to the Federal Transit Administration, and, ostensibly to provide more accurate alignment of vehicle choice with the route.
The infosheet provided by the MDTA identifies Cubic Transportation Systems as the vendor the county has selected to implement this $42MM system. Above, you will see a likely candidate for a fare gate that will be replacing the turnstiles which have been in use since Metrorail’s opening in 1982. I’m certain that the county will, in the style of other transit systems around the country, raise a bar between gates to prevent people from climbing the gates.
One excellent feature of the system is that reloadable cards are available for all, with appropriate coding on the card for individuals who are eligible for discounts or free fares. Photo identification can be integrated into the SmartCards, which should eliminate the trading and forging of cards which has plagued the manual system currently in place.
Perhaps the best feature is that for the Average Jane or Average Joe, they will be able to purchase the cards at Ticket Vending Machines at all Metrorail stations, and they’ll be able to reload these cards much like a SunPass can be reloaded.
Well, the Miami-Dade County Commission did it again – they continued the mentality that rising fuel costs should amount to higher transit fares. As much as I would like to agree that transit fares were well below the point they should have been, I cannot justify anyone spending $100 for a monthly metropass.
Let us compare similar monthly passes across America:
Dallas $50 or $80
LA $62 - $98
New York $81
Are we oblivious to what happens elsewhere around this country? Most cities have a zonal system of affixing prices to their tickets, charging more for longer distance trips. These long distance routes, service suburbia, places where transit really should not be servicing unless the area population density is well above 8 people/acre.
There is also the logical answer to the funding dilemma; charge drivers. Congestion pricing and parking pricing encourages greater transit ridership while reducing congestion (see London.) Those whose travel habits cost the greatest societal burden (drivers) pay the most for their services.
I could go on for hours on this subject (I assure you, I will) but the underlying message here is that we are continuing the flawed mentality regarding our automobile habits and transit funding.
Listed are the comparable monthly passes (basic all purpose pass for busses, trains and transfers) and what the single cash fare would be for one trip. The number of trips listed is how many trips you would have to make in a month for the pass to be worth while for simple round trips.
Miami monthly metropass: $75, single fare $1.50 (50 trips)
Boston monthly metropass: $59, single fare $2 (29.5 trips)
New York monthly metropass: $76, single fare $2 (38 trips)
Chicago monthly metropass: $75, single fare $2 (37.5 trips)
San Francisco (Muni&some Bart stations) metropass: $45, single fare $1.50 (30 trips)
Maybe its because Miami-Dade’s transit thinks we need to pay more than other cities for our monthly pass because we use the transit system so much more often than these other cities do (sarcasm)?
The $19 pass will come with a countywide transit system map including detailed maps of Miami Beach and downtown Miami showing visitors how to get to numerous tourist attractions and destinations using Metrobus, Metrorail and Metromover. A scratch-off calendar will let passengers choose the seven consecutive days they wish to use the pass.
The pass will initially be sold at Miami International Airport, four visitor centers, select hotels and businesses and MDT’s transit service centers. For exact pass sales locations and hours of operation, call 305-770-3131 or visit www.miamidade.gov/transit. Online sales of the pass will begin in the fall on MDT’s website as well as a number of international travel websites.
This level of service is completely unacceptable, yet it seems to happen much too frequently. The bottom line: we need a legitimate farecard system. It’s such a pain in the arse to walk around with pockets full of change or having to break larger bills to get tokens. This is a big money loser for MDT as well; I wonder how many people are allowed through without paying their full fare (or any fare) because of a system breakdown like this?
I know one thing for sure, I would ride Metrorail more often during months I am without a Metropass if I wasn’t hassled by the payment options of the current system. If I don’t have any tokens left, or no $1 or $5 bills, I’m stuck either breaking a larger bill at a store for a pack of gum, or finding an ATM, taking out $20 (plus $2.00 service fee), then finding a store to break my $20 on a pack of gum so I can ride the Metrorail. I’m sure thousands of other people go through similar ordeals so they can ride. Perhaps thousands of choice riders stay away because of such inefficiency.
For example, let’s use New York’s MetroCard. If I don’t own a car and I plan on using subways and/or buses for most trips, I’ll buy a monthly card (similar to Miami’s Metropass) for about $76 dollars, which allows for an unlimited number of rides that month. However, unlike Miami’s Metropass, if I ride my bike to work sometimes I may not need to spend $76 for an unlimited monthly card. I could then buy a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard (from automated kiosks, by the way), and pay only half as much as a monthly unlimited card. Moreover, I can refill the card as needed, and can use it to pay for up to four people at a time. This would make life easy when family visited, because instead of renting a car or dealing with the hassle of change/tokens for each member, the host could use their farecard to pay for family/friends. Or, depending on how long your family/friends are staying and how much transit you intend to use, they could each purchase unlimited day ($7) or unlimited week ($24) cards. This would give us total transit freedom and eliminate payment hassles. Transfers between transit lines/modes would be free under most circumstances mentioned above. Even for non-transit riders, this means fewer cars on the road because tourists and visitors would feel less obliged to rent cars (thousands of cars on Miami roads each day are rentals).
For anyone who wants to voice their displeasure with our inefficient, antiquated fare system, click here.
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