County Hopes To Increase Ridership By Changing Buses Image
By Shannon Pettypiece
Getting people out of cars and into buses is as much about image as service, transit officials say, so the county wants to make its vehicles more sleek and stylish.
Miami-Dade Transit plans to redesign 118 of its smaller buses by putting three-dimensional decals with trolley images on the outside of the buses. Bus-stop signs would have a trolley theme, and drivers’ uniforms might change. Inside, the buses would look and operate the same as they do now.
"People want something that is exciting," Miami-Dade Transit Director Roosevelt Bradley said. "We are looking for something more aerodynamic, more Art Deco."
Mr. Bradley said changing the look of the buses should increase ridership with people who typically would not think of getting on a bus and could decrease graffiti and vandalism.
Redesigning the 30-foot buses that seat 28 people would cost about $6,000 each, Mr. Bradley said.
Coral Gables recently introduced a bus that looks and feels like a trolley. That effort has been so successful that city officials are planning to expand service.
Mr. Bradley said about 70 new minibuses are being used in some parts of the county and are popular because of their more modern look.
The county plans to add 2.1 million miles of bus service this year and 15.5 million during the next five years. The extensions would be funded by a half-cent sales tax voters approved in 2002 for transportation expenditures.
During the next few months, Mr. Bradley said, the county will start installing new bus shelters. The shelters, he said, would be more aesthetic than current ones, be lit by solar panels and have route maps and electronic message boards telling riders when the next bus will arrive. Advertising could help the county pay for structures, he said.
Mr. Bradley said the county eventually will replace almost all bus benches with the new shelters, which would provide protection from the weather.
"We are trying to get out of the bench business," Mr. Bradley said. "What people in this community want are shelters that shield them from the rain and sun."
The county plans to launch a Web site at www.miamidade.gov/transit in December that would instantly map travel routes for commuters. The county has a similar service now, but users have to wait at least 24 hours while their route is mapped manually.