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Front Page » Opinion » Solve mystery of vanishing transit riders, halt the bleeding

Solve mystery of vanishing transit riders, halt the bleeding

Written by on March 6, 2018
Solve mystery of vanishing transit riders, halt the bleeding

The news about Miami-Dade Transit goes from horrible to far worse. How much more can we endure? And when will we see the county do something more to slow the number of riders who are flat out giving up on our transit system?

We wrote three weeks ago about the rapidly increasing outflow of passengers from our trains and buses. We noted that three years ago the system lost 3.8% of its riders. Then two years ago it lost 6.9% of those who remained. The following year we lost a staggering 9.6% of all who were then left. And then in November we lost 11.3% of those who had been riding the November before.

Bad as that steep drop-off was, it pales when compared to the latest figures.

In December, our trains and buses carried 14.4% fewer riders than in December 2016. That’s right: for every seven riders in December 2016, only six remained 12 months later.

In fact, from December 2013 to December 2017, more than a quarter of all transit riders just plain disappeared. Four years, 25.1% gone.

Where are the alarm bells in county hall? Commissioners are talking about adding new transit, which would be very nice, but where are the cries of rage about losing 25% of the riders we had?

In hard numbers, in those four years we lost exactly 2,277,073 December transit rides as monthly rides fell from 9,060,265 to 6,783,192.

Officials will tell you that if we add the six transit legs they seek – which would take more than a decade – we will gain new riders. And they are absolutely correct, six legs of transit at costs ranging from $3.6 billion to $8 billion, depending on who is doing the estimating on what day, will gain new riders.

But if you’re talking about riders on new rail legs and figure that those legs could add 150% to today’s rail ridership, those new transit lines that would cost multiple billions would not replace the riders we already had but lost in the past 48 months.

Here are the hard numbers: Metrorail in December carried 1,517,341 persons. If we added to that 150% we’d be adding 2,276,012 riders – fewer added than the total riders transit lost over the past four Decembers.

So we could spend billions and billions of dollars and still be down riders from December 2013.

Okay, big numbers are intimidating, so let’s keep it simple:

We are living “Groundhog Day” over and over every single time our transit department releases figures on riders, but each report is worse and more and more people give up on transit even while driving anywhere in Miami-Dade is also getting worse. The figures prove that.

It’s no secret that our buses and trains are dirtier and ignore schedules, we run buses and trains less often to save money, and the transit system’s reputation is in the toilet and deteriorating. Could those be reasons for transit’s accelerating meltdown?

If not those obvious suspects, then who has a solution to the “Mystery of the Vanishing Transit Rider”? And why aren’t we hearing the mayor and commissioners telling us what they will be doing right now – starting today – to solve the mystery and stop the bleeding?

One thing is clear: money is being set aside for new rail, but there doesn’t seem to be any will at county hall to juggle budgets to spend right now to keep present transit riders on board and bring back those we just lost.

Any good business person will tell you it’s far less costly to keep present customers using your product than it is to get an equal number of new customers.

Translated to transit, that means spending X dollars effectively to boost what we already have will get far more riders per dollar than spending the same amount to get new riders elsewhere on new transit lines.

This newspaper has always sought added mass transit. It’s vital.

But it’s doubly vital today to serve – and retain – the customers we already have who are jumping off the bus and train right into deathly slow highway traffic.

There is only one reason for most of that: transit riders find a traffic jam on Dixie Highway or the Palmetto or wherever vastly preferable to riding our transit.

Unless the county puts its primary emphasis on keeping today’s riders and getting more people onto our present trains and buses – and backs that up with enough money and creativity to make it happen – it can build all the transit it wants for billions of dollars and still be carrying fewer people in a decade than it was four years ago.

Nobody says the solution is easy, but isn’t it obvious? So why is county hall oblivious to the obvious?

8 Responses to Solve mystery of vanishing transit riders, halt the bleeding

  1. Big Daddy

    March 7, 2018 at 12:45 am

    Hmmm, Vanishing Riders, I dont think so……

    Your answer will be found in pretty simple logic.

    First, Look and Read thru all of the articles on the internet about our Under funded Transit System in Miami which is in total Dispair. From Buses constantly breaking down, no working AC on the buses and also our dejected bus shelters along the bus ways, etc etc.

    Now, tomorrow get on any Miami Dade Transit bus and ask the Operators if there Fare Meters are working properly, good chance there NOT!

    The Miami Dade Transit Dept has become a circus, thanks to Alice Bravo (Director).

    No Money to fix anything…

    So in conclusion, its obvious that Ridership may seem like its going down because they are collecting less money, but in reality its just that most of the Fare Vending Equipment is not even working properly, if it all!!!!!

  2. Lo pang Wo

    March 7, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Uber and lyft made public transit options almost obsolete for those who can afford 5 to 15 dollars per trip. If you notice how badly congested Miami has become as far as driving. It’s due to more of the amount of these ride sharing cars on the streets. People don’t want to wait 25,40 minutes in the blazing hot sun or the pouring rain for a bus that has to stop and go or may not show up at all. They want dependability in which they found in Uber and lyft. Miami-Dade transit has been set up to fail by your local government. Underfunded maintenance, using faulty equipment over and over again pushing it past its shelf life, a mayor and director who keeps employees in highly stressful highly physical conditions then turns around and complains about sick occurrences. Miami-Dade transit has definitely gotten worse under this current Administration. They don’t do much of anything to fix the problems they put half a bandage on a bullet wound. Because ultimately they want the problem to keep getting worse so they can just get rid of the current system and privatize it with someone they know. The mayor wants the system to run under cheap labor and no union. He has been clear he doesn’t like the current structure of the system for Miami Dade transit. So he chooses to punish the transit employees with terrible work conditions less take home pay and more aggressive work policies he punishes frontline employees but not punish anyone labeled administration. They are incentivized. They get pay raises and overtime and don’t have to work under tension other than their normal job duties. It’s horrible what they have done to this system. Hired a director who knows how to find money and has been working this long and hasn’t found any new source of money at all. Now he’s trying to hire another deputy director. Everything that is going on is all due to poor vindictive leadership of the mayor. He lacks innovative ideas but has plenty of blame to give out for all the problems in the county.

  3. DC Copeland

    March 7, 2018 at 9:35 am

    I would not encourage MetroDade Transit to fix current transit right now with money they don’t have. That’s what they did with the PTP. Money raised in the ½ cent sales tax was promised on the ballot to go directly to constructing new mass transit. Unfortunately for those living here, MDT systematically (with the help of county commissioners and mayor) changed the rules after the fact to get at that money to fix their broken system. Subsequently, nothing got built except the MIA spur.

  4. Robert Becerra

    March 7, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Find it ironic that commissioners have put the kibosh on building road bridges where auto traffic needs it, in favor of this dilapidated, neglected, dysfunctional system, and then tell us we should all ride mass transit! I would rather be in my clean, comfortable, undilapidated car, listening to my radio, in traffic, than ride what has become, in just a couple of years, a third world system (that’s a compliment). I thought mass transit was supposed to get better, not worse.

  5. Jose Sopla

    March 8, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Why throw more money at 1950s technology that increasingly more people very obviously don’t appreciate anymore?

    The real solution, if any, is 21st century technology, personal (not mass), and mostly private funded.

  6. Jenny

    March 8, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    Like the first commenter stated.

    The Private Contracted Vendor called CLEVER is responsible for the Electronic communications aboard the buses and half of the time, Fare Vending Machines are not working at all!

    If the bus Fare Collections equipment is not collecting any money because its broken most of the time, it is going to seem like Ridership is dropping.

    This is the results of private entities contracted to service our Transit Equipment.

    Why is Ms Alice Bravo still Director of Miami Dade Transit
    is beyond my guess. It doesnt take a Genius to figure this stuff out.

    Ms Bravo is totally lost and useless as the head of Miami Transit.

  7. Jose Roeder

    March 9, 2018 at 10:37 am

    How many people here actually use mass transit ? I do and had to stop. I was getting to work late as my starting time is 7:30am I would get to the office by 8:30 or 9:00am. Everyday there was an issue as to why there were 45 minute delays on Metrorail. I live by the Douglas Station and had to stop using the rail.

    As for “Uber and lyft made public transit options almost obsolete”? Answer is No. I have taken Uber and lyft numerous times and Uber drivers have cancelled on me because they cant get to me, yes they get lost in downtown Miami. So while Uber is an excellent idea it does not replace mass transit.

    As a customer of 24 years of Miami mass transit I had to find alternatives due to their horrible service. Currently, I drive to work and pay $50 a month to park.

    Listen to your customers we are also taxpayers and vote.

  8. YoursTruly

    March 13, 2018 at 11:00 am

    Brightline builds a train from Miami to Orlando (300 miles long) in under 3 years and without so mmuch time/ money wasted on continous studies.

    Miami Dade Politicians have not even put together a serious plan to expand our Transit Infastructure after 30 years.

    All of these Miami Dade Polictians just talk fast, talk smart, and talk big. Talk, talk talk talk, but no action.

    But hey, as citizens we put up with it and never get involved , so I guess the joke is on us!

    Stop whining about the problems and you NEED to Get more involved and Demand Change !