By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
Can things get any worse at the Miami-Dade Transit Agency? In early February county Mayor Carlos Alvarez killed a bailout plan that would have used $143 million from the half-penny transit tax to cover a decade's worth of operating deficits and looming shortfalls at the beleaguered agency. That came after county officials revealed last year that the transit tax won't generate enough money to fund all the items promised to voters in the People's Transportation Plan (PTP), which includes a major expansion of Metrorail by more than 88 miles, and doubling the Metrobus fleet.
Of lesser long-term portent but of great immediate concern, the twenty-year-old automated bus washer has now gone kaput.
With no cash on hand to buy a new machine, the agency has resorted to using handicapped workers from Goodwill Industries of South Florida, a nonprofit organization that trains and finds jobs for people with physical and mental disabilities. Miami-Dade Transit already has an existing contract with Goodwill to provide cleaners at bus stops and at Metrorail and Metromover stations. Tapping into that contract allows the agency to keep its fleet spic-and-span, says spokeswoman Tarnell Carroll. She also notes a request for proposals to buy a new bus-washing system, which is set to be funded through the PTP.
In the meantime, Carroll says, the agency employs workers who are "accustomed to simple repetitive tasks" to clean the exterior of Metrobuses. "We understand this work is labor intensive and automation is probably the best alternative, but we are committed to keeping our bus fleet presentable at all times," Carroll says.