And just like that . . . the best commute in all of Miami-Dade County’s less-than-perfect bus system has been taken away. The downtown Miami-to-Aventura along Alton Road and Collins Avenue “S” bus route has been the most used in the whole system, with an impressive 24,000 weekly boardings, according to the county’s reporting.
It has towered over almost every other route. Only three others come close, and they were still running when the county launched its Better Bus Network overhaul on Nov. 13, an attempt to reallocate and rationalize resources by “updating” the bus system.
So little has worked in Miami-Dade when it comes to public transportation, but I guarantee that the heavily used S bus mostly did. It has made living in South Beach, on the residential west side, doable if you worked in the downtown area, where a whole lot of employment is located, even without a car. It has made reaching the transit hub at Government Center a single-bus situation — no getting on and off needed.
Not anymore. Now riders heading to downtown or north have to change at least once, or walk for blocks to get one of the other routes. The message this sends: “Might as well take you car — if you have one.” The county’s site says this change will add only about five minutes to your trip, but for those who have had to change buses and experienced endlessly late arrivals or stalled Metromover cars, this seems improbable.
And what of older or less able residents who now are told to walk eight blocks to get a bus and may not even feel safe at night doing so?
Why would the county eliminate the most popular route in the system? If you are downsizing in a business, or reallocating resources, the maxim of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” always applies. Government needs to run both efficiently like a private enterprise, but also be a service organization that, well, serves the people.
Was the S bus axed because retaining routes along Washington Avenue that feed the economic engine of tourism is just more important than maintaining service along the Alton Road west side residential corridor? Is it because Miami Beach is not thought of as an in-need community, and people here are seen as being able to afford cars or an Uber instead of the bus? Are we just not as politically powerful as other neighborhoods? Is government-led change that employs outside planners just inherently hamhanded?
Commuters who took the S bus should put on their comfortable walking shoes, leave home at least 10 minutes earlier than before and be prepared to get hotter and sweatier during our eight months of summer on a long walk to the bus stop.
It’s an inexplicable change, confirmation yet again that we live in one of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas with one of the most irrational public transportation systems.
Robert Rosenberg is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, and arts and nonprofit consultant, who has lived in South Beach for the past three decades.