UM to shuttle students to home football games at Dolphin Stadium; school official says elimination of Transit rides not a major factor
By Scott E. Pacheco
The University of Miami promised students that transportation would be available to the football team's home games if they were moved to Dolphin Stadium.
Now that the Orange Bowl is gone and Miami-Dade Transit has just terminated its park-and-ride program for games, the university plans to be good to its word.
Dolphin Stadium "is the new home of Hurricanes football," said Margot Winick, university spokeswoman. "It's essential that we transfer all of our tradition from the Orange Bowl to our new home."
Miami-Dade Transit eliminated its 30-year-old park-and-ride service to UM and Miami Dolphins football games this year because of increased fuel costs and budget constraints.
Last year, the transit department came out $160,000 in the red on Dolphins games, though it didn't have numbers for UM games, John Labriola, information officer with Miami-Dade Transit, said this month.
"(Numbers) are a little bit moot since the Orange Bowl was torn down. Now that the Orange Bowl is gone, that number would not reflect continued service to UM games because they are no longer playing at the same venue," he said then.
Mr. Labriola said also that a new Federal Transit Administration rule would have interfered with the service even if the numbers would have worked out.
"Regardless of the cost, the FTA would have prohibited us continuing the service because any shuttle service that is outside the regular schedule would no longer be allowed," Mr. Labriola said.
The university is working with American Coach, the current vendor for its Hurry 'Canes shuttle service, on extending the service to get students to the team's six home games this season, including the first Aug. 28 against Charleston Southern University.
As for the cost of the service this year, Ms. Winick said "it's not going to come from tuition." She said via e-mail that the university is going to "decline to reveal specifics of the cost of the transportation for students to Dolphin Stadium."
Ms. Winick said she isn't sure exactly when the university found out that the transit department was going to cut off its park-and-ride service, but that the university had already been making plans to bus students directly to games. She said the availability of transit department buses "didn't have that much bearing" on the school's decision.
"Student leaders were driven on a bus to Dolphin Stadium during the negotiations [to move from the Orange Bowl], and their input was heavily sought by the administration," Ms. Winick said. "It was very important for the students to feel that Dolphin Stadium was a viable option for us."
Last season, many students took advantage of a program in which the university provided students with a pass to get on Metrorail to ride to a station where a metro bus would take them to the Orange Bowl.
Student participation in the program peaked at 3,429 for the UM-Marshall game, and was at a low of 2,318 for the UM-Florida International University game, according to Ms. Winick.
The service becomes even more important, she said, when considering that, for the first time, the university is restricting freshman resident students from having cars, which should result in 500 fewer cars on campus.
Buses are to pick students up on campus and transport them to Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, unlike last year when the county buses picked people up from a Metrorail station near the Orange Bowl. In time tests, Ms. Winick said busing from Coral Gables is about twice as fast as working out a pickup at a Metrorail station.