Miami-Dade County's recent bus system overhaul, dubbed the 'Better Bus Network,' has been met with mixed reactions from local commuters. According to a report by WSVN, many riders have voiced concerns over increased travel difficulties following the changes, notably the removal of at least 1,200 bus stops as of the network's launch in November. Among those affected is Barbara Walters, a 79-year-old transit activist who lamented the loss of her nearby bus stop, which was just blocks away from her home in Kendall, now a more than 30-minute walk. "I went to the bus stop and I see the sign on the bus that as of the 13th of November, no more bus service at that area," Walters told WSVN.
The 'Better Bus Network', which started with the hopes of efficiency and streamlined service and was backed by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, promised high-frequency buses with arrivals every ten to 15 minutes. Yet the planned ease has transmuted into strain for some, like Maurice Byrd, a bus rider who now has to wake up an hour earlier to get to work because of crowding issues. "I gotta get up an hour earlier now to go to work because the buses is much crowded and it ain't too much room on the buses," Byrd related in an interview with WSVN. Higgins, herself a frequent bus user, has previously expressed frustration at slow service, especially during weekends, as she related to WLRN.
Other riders, such as Rhett Ennis, also complained to WSVN, "It hasn’t been a better system. It’s been worse." Barbara Walters attempted to utilize "Metro Connect", an on-demand ride service meant to bridge the gap to bus stations; however, the service has been unable to meet demand, leaving her and others struggling to access public transportation. Emily Norton, another commuter, explained the inconvenience as well. "Some stops have made it a little bit harder for me to get to work on time and stuff because they changed the bus stops," she pointed out.
The intention behind the Better Bus Network was, in part, to replace fixed routes with the flexible "MetroConnect" service in certain regions, as Higgins told WLRN, "So if download the app free, you can preorder a ride from, let's say, your home to anywhere in the service area or to a more convenient transit stop. That means we don't have to run a fixed bus once an hour there," she explained. Despite initial hiccups and a recognition that the first week would be "stressful" with volunteers on hand to guide confused riders, Higgins maintains that the restructured services will eventually prove to be more efficient.
While Miami-Dade Transit, as WSVN reported, anticipated "some confusion and frustration among riders," and deemed it "completely understandable," specifics on handling the removed stops and Metro Connect’s availability issues haven't been addressed. With the county promising no changes until next April, riders like Walters remain outspoken about the need for public input. "When you’ve got a situation where we only had one bus to depend on and they’ve taken that away from us. I think there should have been more input from the riding public," Walters emphasized.