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As if waiting for the bus isn’t bad enough, passengers along South Miami-Dade’s Busway are taunted by shabby, neglected bus stops that don’t protect them from the rain, don’t shield them from the sun and remind them daily that mass transit is an afterthought in a county that desperately needs it.
The 56 shelters along the 20-mile Busway corridor that extends from Dadeland to Florida City provide no shelter at all. Most canopies have been missing for years. Some that were damaged during Hurricane Irma six months ago haven’t been replaced.
“We’re out here suffering,” said John Thompson, a barber who relies on Miami-Dade County’s bus system five to seven days a week. Standard fare is $2.25. “I got soaked by rain recently and it’s not even rainy season yet. It stinks.”
Thompson was standing under a tree at the southbound Southwest 136th Street station by the Falls mall. It was not a pretty sight, with trash, beer cans and abandoned shopping carts strewn about. The stations each feature green frames with no roof or side panels, making them look nonsensical, like someone forgot to finish building them. Yellow kiosks contain either a dead pay phone on which you can place a call to nowhere or a black hole where the phone used to be mounted.
“It’s nothing like New York, where everybody uses public transportation, but I’m used to it by now. Sometimes you’re sweating in this heat, then you finally get on the bus and the air conditioning is broken,” said Thompson, a New York native.
The shelters have one row of metal bleacher-style seats, which nobody sits on because they could burn your backside.
“Some places you can find shade under a tree, some you cannot,” said Elizabeth Andrew, who was waiting under a Royal Poinciana tree. “You better bring an umbrella.”
Christine Rupp, who commutes to her job in downtown Miami, has been riding the buses or riding her bike along the Busway bike lane for three years.
“It’s inexcusable that the shelters have never been fixed,” said Rupp, executive director of the Dade Heritage Trust. “The state of the bus stops is another indication of how dysfunctional the entire transit system continues to be.”
The Busway’s bus-exclusive lanes along the former Florida East Coast Railway line opened in 1997, designed to speed passengers past cars on traffic-clogged U.S. 1 that runs parallel to the route. The first phase connected Cutler Ridge to the Dadeland South Metrorail station. The last segment, completed in 2007, extended to Southwest 344th Street.
There were plans to replace the fabric awnings over the shelters with durable roofs and to build louvered side panels. A Miami-Dade Transit design rendering from 2006 touting the “state-of-the-art alternative to daily traffic congestion” shows more comfortable seats, too, and promises that “bus stations will convey each areas [sic] unique community flavor” with decorative, artistic and historical accents such as “station colors and pavement texture compatible with neighborhoods.”
A great idea to lend some character to the stations — but it wasn’t implemented. Each bland stop looks the same. Landscaping to “maximize use of canopy-shade trees and intersperse flowering trees for color” never came to be. A county promotional release says passengers can “enjoy an up-close view of the colorful landscape along the bike path that stretches the length of the Busway” — but there’s nothing lush or beautiful along the sun-blasted ribbon of pavement.
Each of the 56 shelters was to have maps and schedules posted in the yellow kiosks next to pay phones “for customer comfort and convenience” but it’s just a blank wall. Or you might find an occasional advertisement for Toro auto insurance or graffiti or a stray sticker, like one from the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.
Newspaper racks and bike racks the county planned to install?
“Nope,” Rupp said. “Do not exist.”
Like so many of Miami’s unattractive public spaces, the bus shelters represent wasted potential.
Miami-Dade Transit said it has been planning to make improvements with limited funding but that Hurricane Irma was a setback.
In the meantime, bring your umbrella.
“When the rain comes, you just get wet,” said Hilaria Kotto, 86, who stopped driving because of vision problems and relies on the bus. “On the other hand, the bus service is really quite good most of the time. I’m from Trinidad, and in comparison, Miami’s bus system is a peach.”