Bus and rail use dropped in Miami-Dade County as jobs fell off
By Ashley D. Torres
Following national public transportation ridership trends, Miami-Dade Transit Metrobus and Metrorail ridership declined in 2010 amid a slight increase in Metromover riders.
A contributing factor to nationwide declines in transit ridership is the country's record unemployment. With nearly 60% of transit trips being work-related, said Virginia Miller, the American Public Transportation Association's spokeswoman, during "recessions it is common to see ridership decline because we have seen jobs decline."
Miami-Dade Metrobus ridership dropped 2.45% year over year in 2010 with 71.48 million passengers compared to 2009's 73.27 million.
Nonetheless, transit has seen a positive response to bus services that target car-owners such as the Interstate 95 Dade-Broward Express buses, the route 150 Airport Flyer and the route 288 Kendall Cruiser.
"By introducing new technology, like diesel-electric hybrid buses, free Wi-Fi on our Metrorail trains and hybrid buses, and free bus-to-bus transfers with an EASY Card or EASY Ticket," said Harpal S. Kapoor, transit's director, via email, "we're seeing an increase in what we call "choice riders' — people who own cars but are choosing to use transit to commute to work."
In an effort to continue attracting Kendall-based choice riders, said Susanna Guzman-Arean, transit's systems support manager, the department is to open on Feb. 20 the West Kendall Transit Terminal, 9155 SW 162nd Ave. The terminal is to offer service to six bus routes and include covered seating and 40 free parking spaces.
Ridership on the Metrorail also saw a roughly 2% year-over-year decline in 2010 to 17.44 million passengers from 17.79 million in 2009.
With WiFi planned for all Metrorail trains within the next few months and technology such as the online Train Tracker providing estimated Metrorail arrival and departure times, transit anticipates to attract additional riders this year.
Nationwide, public transportation ridership declined 0.67% between July and September after a slight 0.1% rise from April to June. Nonetheless, the deep declines recorded in 2009 and the first quarter of 2010, Ms. Miller said, seem to have stopped.
Metromover ridership, which is counted by infrared when riders pass through metal columns upon entering and exiting stations, rose year over year 2.6% to 8.27 million over 2009's roughly 8 million riders.
Part of the slight increase in Metromover ridership, said Ms. Guzman-Arean, has been the automatic passenger counter that collects more accurate data.
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