Countys Costs For Transit Security Continue To Mount
By Shannon Pettypiece
Miami-Dade County has been paying a higher price for private security on its transit systems since 9/11 and the beginning of a voter-mandated transit expansion.
The county commission this month voted to increase the contract between Miami-Dade Transit and the Wackenhut Corp. by $14.8 million through November to compensate for added security since 1999, when the contract was approved.
Since 9/11, Miami-Dade Transit has added 560 hours of weekly security to its main bus-maintenance facilities, according to department documents, costing $756,000 a year and adding 336 weekly hours to Metrorail and Metromover facilities, costing $785,000 annually, according to department documents.
In order to meet these requirements, Wackenhut maintains that it has had to add equipment and employees to properly man the transit system at a cost of $211,000 a year.
The average monthly ridership, according to Miami-Dade Transit, on Metrorail is 1.4 million, on Metromover 450,000 and on Metrobus 9 million.
The 24-hour Metrorail and Metromover service that went into effect in June has meant $1.6 million a year for Wackenhut security personnel, who ride the trains at all times, according to the county’s contract with Wackenhut.
The 24-hour security detail went into effect in June when the round-the-clock service approved by voters November 2002 started.
When voters approved transit expansion to be paid for with the half-penny tax they also approved better security on the county’s buses at the price tag of $1.1 million a year for Wackenhut guards to ride the buses and keep vandalism and crime down, wrote county Surface Transportation Manager Carlos Bonzon.
Funding for additional security will come from Miami-Dade Transit operating funds, but could be paid for with the half-penny tax revenue if approved by the citizen’s watchdog group overseeing the transit tax.
For security reasons, Miami-Dade Transit and Wackenhut officials said they were unable to comment on security improvements.