Letters from the Issue of , 2002
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.
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.
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.
Some people must think there are happy humans with good attitudes out there just waiting to drive a bus all day through insane Miami traffic for ten to fifteen dollars an hour. That's funny! It is just like when you go to McDonald's and they always get your order wrong, can't speak properly, and have a bad attitude. What the hell do you expect? If they had any redeeming qualities at all, they could get a better job!
Great cities have great transportation, but not corrupt Miami: As I walked through the Graham Center at FIU you can imagine my surprise when I happened to glance at the stack of New Times papers featuring a smiling bus driver on the cover. As a regular (every day) rider of most forms of public transportation in Miami for several years, and one of the few students at FIU who opts not to drive to school and instead makes a two-hour bus/Metrorail journey, I am very definitely interested when there is any news about the dire circumstances of our public-transportation system.
As Francisco Alvarado pointed out, I fit right into the shoes of the average consumer of public transportation. I am an Hispanic female who is part of the lower socio-economic bracket in Miami. I have suffered through years of public transportation, which some might argue is self-inflicted, but I have chosen different priorities for my life, holding food and school higher than having a car. I do believe, however, my complaints have merit, because if Miami is to become the metropolis it wants to be, it needs to have an efficient way for people to get around the city.
I spent this past summer studying in Prague and was amazed by the clean, on-schedule trains and the routes that made sense, taking people to the universities, the urban centers, the museums, the concert halls, the airport, the malls. I almost didn't want to come home.
The corruption in Miami will never allow there to be any sort of real change in this area, which is sad because efficient public transportation is something that would change Miami for the better and make it a true, living city. It would also allow tourists more mobility, in effect improving our economy.
As it stands, Miami is merely a bunch of suburbs linked together by overcrowded highways. The public-transportation system consists of a rail system that goes virtually nowhere, is frequently is late, and breaks down; and buses that are never on time, run at odd hours, and also go virtually nowhere. The reason nothing is done about this is because the majority of people choose to drive and frankly couldn't care less about their bus-riding counterparts. Don't get me wrong, I love Miami, and it's because I love Miami that I wish the city had a better transportation system.
New Times deserves credit for caring enough to write about the issue and being brave enough to actually try out Miami-Dade Transit. Now imagine doing it every day of the week for most of your life! On behalf of all my frustrated Hispanic female bus-riding compatriots, I thank you.
Editor's note: Owing to a reporting error, the number of MDTA bus drivers was misstated. The correct number is 1885.
Certainly not Joe Arriola himself: Although I was mildly amused by The Bitch's self-described "far-fetched" conspiracy theory in her August 26 column, allow me to put to rest her game of six degrees of separation [in which school board candidates Evelyn Greer and Michael Kosnitzky both hired consultant, lobbyist, and alleged co-conspirator Steve Marin].
As with any civic-minded citizen, I do have preferences when it comes to candidates for public office, but much to what I imagine will be The Bitch's chagrin, they do not always coincide with those of my alleged co-conspirators. For instance, I supported Carlos Gimenez for the county commission and Ana Rivas-Logan for the school board, both rivals of my co-conspirator's clients.
Also, with regard to the city's contract with state Rep. Ralph Arza, through his advocacy the city was able to obtain several grants, including a $100,000 Reader's Digest grant for education programming, and another from the school board for more than $700,000 that allowed more than 1100 city children to obtain reading remediation in our parks over the past two summers. With that return on investment, I would make the same deal any day of the week.
The Bitch certainly has an overactive imagination. In her mind, my support for two candidates went from coincidence to conspiracy to pseudo-journalism. Yet in this case, reality makes for lousy copy.
Joe Arriola, city manager
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