Across Miami-Dade County, our community is grappling with the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19. To flatten the curve and keep residents out of harm’s way, our elected officials have adopted strict and necessary social distancing measures that have dramatically affected our highly mobile lives.
We understand that the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) is working hard, every day, to find ways to continue providing service under the most challenging of circumstances, as there remain a significant number of individuals that still depend on frequent, reliable, and accessible public transportation and shared mobility options.
In the face of immense uncertainty and an unprecedented disruption that strains all of our resources, it is crucial that our mass transit system can continue providing essential services to our community.
Last night, DTPW announced reasonable and appropriate service reductions to Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus schedules due to sharply declining ridership. However:
- The service changes were announced with less than 12 hours notice
- New schedules and frequencies for affected bus lines were not made available
- 311 has not been provided information in order to effectively communicate with riders
For our workers delivering food to our homes, to the security guards keeping our critical buildings open – transit is a lifeline service they can’t live without – making accessible and accurate information about service changes is more important than ever.
Furthermore, as thousands of residents are losing their jobs and facing financial instability, transit will become an increasingly critical service for all our residents.
Transit Alliance has been in contact with advocacy organizations nationwide to share measures that can alleviate and reduce the negative impacts that COVID-19 will have on our transit system and our residents’ ability to utilize bus, train, and shared mobility options. As DTPW works to prepare emergency plans that may include additional service modifications, we urge the department to consider adopting these measures for our County:
- Adopt best practices that are emerging nationwide. Agencies across the country are being forced to reduce service due to a sharp decline in ridership, but must do so carefully – guided by data and emerging best practices. For example, reducing peak services instead of cuts to all-day service, maintaining frequency on high-demand routes, and prioritizing vulnerable residents by continuing to provide STS service.
- Communicate service changes with at least 48-hour notice. 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.
- Allow shared mobility operations (scooters and bicycle sharing). Scooters and bicycles provide an additional option for residents that lack reliable transportation, especially for first and last-mile connectivity. Mobility operators are able to sanitize vehicles at the same frequency as public transit, and 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 micro-mobility services.
- Prioritize the safety and health of operators and riders. 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.
- Implement all-door boarding. To comply with social distancing guidelines, agencies are allowing for all-door boarding to limit unnecessary crowding and limit overexposure between operators and passengers.
- Implement free fares. Agencies are eliminating fare collection temporarily, not only to support 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.
- Prepare for the rebound. 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 DTPW begins planning for a future return of service that accounts for increased demand, which should include adopting recommendations from the Better Bus Project during the recovery.
Transit Alliance is ready and able to support the department to inform and serve our community – and we are grateful for the tireless work of the department, our elected leaders, and transit operators to keep us safe, healthy, and resilient.