For more than a year, FIU physics professor Stephan Linn warned campus administrators and Miami-Dade Transit that using the bus to get to and from campus was risky for students. In letter after letter, he complained of bus stops that were inconvenient, unsheltered, and unsafe— located too far from campus. He was repeatedly ignored.
And then earlier this month, an FIU student was abducted from one of those stops. On May 18, the woman was waiting along Southwest 107th Avenue at 16th Street, off campus, when a man in a white Jeep Cherokee approached and threatened her with a knife, forcing her into his car. She was finally able to escape at Dolphin Mall, but not before being inappropriately groped. The man was later arrested.
“I thought something could happen,” says Linn, who has taken the bus to FIU for 10 years by choice. “It’s a quarter-mile walk to campus. It’s a little weird there, and not very pedestrian friendly.”
Linn, who teaches experimental particle physics, relies on the bus to get from his home in Little Havana to FIU and back home again. He enjoys reading and working during the commute, and likes that a car-free status means he’s helping reduce his carbon footprint. But he has grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of attention paid to faculty and students who ride the bus, especially by the university.
“The problem is that it’s a university designed for cars,” Linn says. “There’s plenty of parking garages for people who want to drive. The city and county could care less about making bus ridership easier or more comfortable.”
One afternoon early last year, as Linn waited for a bus to take him home, a severe thunderstorm blew in from the South. As rain poured down, shelters did little to protect the 30 or so people who had huddled underneath. That night, Linn rode the bus home freezing and wet, and decided it was time to complain.
In a February 2014 letter addressed to Miami-Dade Transit Director Ysela Llort and FIU President Mark Rosenberg, he told of the “dismal state of public transportation at the FIU Southwest Eighth St. campus.” The terminal, he wrote, “consists of two inadequate shelters in the middle of a steaming hot parking lot.” He suggested busses be allowed to access students and staff at a “convenient, sheltered, and safe location inside campus.” And he pointed out one such appropriate spot — in between two large parking garages, in a turnaround area.
A few weeks later, Linn received a response from Albert Hernandez, the assistant director at Miami-Dade Transit, who told of plans to construct a new transit terminal and update the existing one. He also informed Linn of a study underway to “find solutions to gain safe and convenient access to the site.”
But well over a year later, those changes have not been put into place. There’s still no bus stop on campus. An additional email from Hernandez sent earlier this year rejected Linn’s suggestion for an on-campus stop, listing reasons that Linn calls “absurd.” Linn says he’s never received a response to his request from the university.
In an email to New Times, FIU Media Relations Director Maydel Santana-Bravo says that the recent abduction did not occur on university property so the school couldn't have better protected the student.
“The safety of the FIU community is our top concern and FIU is indeed a very safe campus,” she wrote in an email. “The bus stops are not technically on our campus but FIU police works closely with Miami-Dade Police to ensure safety.”
Linn says he wants to see the county and university pay closer attention to the needs of faculty and students who use public transport.
“The problem is that people who work in transit don’t take the bus,” he says. “There should be a rule that they try to take the metro or bus to work and see how it goes.”
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