Letters from the Issue of , 2002

Bus People: Don't Bother Complaining

Miami-Dade Transit customer service -- now there's an oxymoron:Kudos to Francisco Alvarado for exposing the mismanagement and lack of commitment to customer service so rampant at the Miami-Dade Transit Agency ("Critical Mass Transit," September 2). My dependency on transit is a constant frustration and has a profound impact on me. The inconvenient schedules and the ineffectual customer-service department have been a source of endless disappointment.

It is mind-boggling that in a city the size of Miami, most transit routes cease service at around 8:00 p.m. This was especially aggravating when I attended FIU and the only route that came close to my apartment (or the Kendall area, for that matter) was the 71, for which southbound service ends at 8:05 p.m. Forget taking a night class, forget cramming during finals. (Thanks to this poor service, I have actually developed friendships with several cab drivers.) Needless to say, I may as well live on a country road in a one-stop-light town. In fact the demand exists for longer and more frequent service, yet despite the need it is never "in the budget."

While there are so many valid criticisms of MDTA (e.g., circuitous routes that look as though they were scribbled on a map by a two-year-old), Alvarado was right on the money to cite rude drivers. But to this laundry list I would add that the customer-service system is seriously flawed. All complaints are assigned an interminable reference number. (Better have a pen and paper.) The caller is then instructed to wait ten business days and call the agency back, only to hear that no action has been taken. All this is only if the agent decides to log a complaint -- some will defend a driver at all costs. What private business could get away with this?

When a driver decided to pass me up while I had handfuls of groceries and was freezing, I contacted MDTA director Roosevelt Bradley's office via certified letter. I never received a reply, even though his secretary confirmed receipt. (I had asked only that the incident be investigated.) I was therefore heartened to read of his zero-tolerance policy for abusive drivers, and will be happy to furnish him with my address should he ever decide to respond to my inquiry.

Indeed there is much room for improvement at MDTA and Bradley has his work cut out for him. I don't envy him at all. Now I must hurry and finish this before I miss the last bus home.

Julianne Liberty

Kendall

Bus People: Don't Risk Your Life

I was nearly killed while on my bike -- and MDTA scolded me for it:I would like to say something about some of the MDTA bus drivers who have no regard for others. I am a senior citizen and ride my bike for exercise up and down Collins Avenue, mostly in the mornings. Around 57th Street and Collins I was riding my bike at the foot of the curb on the street when this double-size bus cut me off. If I hadn't fallen to the curb on the sidewalk, I surely would have been dead.

While this bus was picking up passengers, I ran over to the side where the bus driver sits to tell her that she almost killed me. I knocked on her side window. Inside was a large, very heavy-set woman whose breast was resting over the steering wheel -- how she steered the bus I will never know. She slid open the window, curious as to why I was knocking to get her attention. I said to her: "Didn't you see? You almost knocked me down. You came right over where I was riding and practically brushed me off the road."

She responded by shutting the window. I remember her bus number because it was simple: 12345. When I got up and brushed myself off and examined the bicycle, I rode to the opposite side of the road so as to get away from her. As I was riding up Collins, suddenly she brought the bus over to my side and blew the horn really loud, as if to say F.U.

When I got home I called Miami-Dade Transit and told them what had happened, gave them the bus number and the description of the driver. This man, whoever he was, said, "Did you have a witness?" I said no. There were people in the bus but I don't know if they saw what happened. He said, "Ride your bike on the pavement," and then hung up. This isn't the only time I have had such a bad experience.

Julius Clearfield

Miami Beach

Bus People: Don't Expect Smiles

A very special kind of human ends up driving a bus: I have worked in the bus industry for years and here is the bottom line: The obnoxious, rude, overweight drivers that bus riders complain about are the only human beings on this planet willing to be bus drivers. If you fire those people, you will have no one to drive the buses. That's just the way bus drivers are.

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