Currently, Miami-Dade County is only offering COVID-19 testing through drive-through sites, except for senior citizens in the City of Miami, where the fire rescue is making homebound visits for testing.
On a normal day, 36% of essential workers in Miami are transit commuters. This population is continuing to work during the crisis and is at a higher risk of being exposed to the disease, however, it is largely left out by the current testing sites that require a vehicle.
Widespread testing that is accessible without a vehicle is extremely important, such as at-home testing, walk-in centers and mobile test sites in neighborhoods.
In order to allow riders to plan ahead, especially those that exclusively depend on mass transit, riders need at least a 2-day advance notice of any potential service changes or service reductions. So far, service changes have been communicated overnight or on the same day they have gone into effect.
Nationwide, agencies are following CDC recommendations to ensure that transit operators are adequately supported with masks, gloves, and other protective gear. This also protects against any potential spread of the virus to passengers in the event transit operators become exposed.
Service needs to be redistributed to the greatest extent possible to lessen crowding on transit and prevent COVID-19 from disproportionately harming Miamians who must ride buses and trains during the crisis.
With fare data no longer a meaningful metric of bus ridership, we expect bus operators to have unique insights and a keen sense for what should be done. In other cities, close coordination between labor and management, including personal visits and routine check-ins by transit agency executives at depots, has proven essential to making rapid service changes in response to COVID-19.
It is important to keep frequent service on high-demand routes to reduce crowding and allow riders that still depend on transit to adhere to safe social distancing practices, as well as protect operators from packed buses.
Scooters and bicycles provide an additional option for residents that lack reliable transportation, especially for first and last-mile connectivity. Bike shops have been deemed essential businesses state-wide, and mobility operators are able to sanitize vehicles at the same frequency as public transit (shared vehicles used for ride-sharing continue to operate normally). As far as we know, Miami-Dade County is the only major metropolitan area to suspend all micro-mobility services.
In other cities, shared scooter and bicycle operators have stepped up to provide free rides to essential workers, but the ban prevents this from being adopted in Miami-Dade County.
The transit department implemented rear-door boarding on March 22nd, with the front door still available to those who need the wheelchair ramp.
The transit department suspended all fares on March 22nd, supporting residents that are affected by the economic shock of COVID-19, but also to reduce the contact that takes place between riders and bus operators during the fare collection process.
The immense economic distress created by this crisis means more people than ever will be turning to transit to get to work and live their lives. It is crucial that the transit department begins planning for a future return of service that accounts for increased demand, which should include adopting the new Better Bus Project route network during the recovery.
More people are choosing to use their bikes and scooters to take care of their essential trips. As thousands of people lose their job and financial stability, many will give up or choose not to drive their cars to lower their expenses. We must start planning and building proper biking infrastructure now so that our residents can continue to move around safely once traffic returns to normal.
Throughout the nation, with the significant drop in car ridership, cities are repurposing their streets to accommodate for safer social distancing given the increase in pedestrian and cycling activities. We are calling for the closure of streets such as Ocean Drive to reclaim them as shared spaces.
See Transit Alliance, TransitCenter and Street Plans's webinar discussion exploring the challenges and opportunities for better transit and safer streets during the ongoing crisis.
Ashley Pryce Advocacy Associate, Transit Center
Azhar Chougle Executive Director, Transit Alliance
Dana Wall Senior Project Manager, Street Plans