Currently viewing the tag: "EASY Card"

Miami-Dade Transit will be taking comments on their annual recently released their Transit Development Plan 2011 update. You can find the document here. The Transit Development Plan is required by State Law to, “present the operational and capital improvement needs of Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) and also serve as a planning tool to project future MDT needs for the implementation and operation of transit service.”

The Transit Development Plan is an important planning tool as it provides a complete picture of funding sources, revenues, and expenses (on the operations side), while also describing the existing transit network, demographics and planned service changes. It is the closest document we have to a ‘People’s Transportation Plan’.

In the years following the demise of the Orange Line MetroRail extension, the TDP has been focused on reducing the operating budget and squeezing efficiency from the existing system, while not really providing a clear framework for increases in ridership. The October 2009 update described its budgetary strategy as, “an avoidance of any major service expansion except for the MIC-Earlington Heights Metrorail connector service.”

Two years later, the TDP doesn’t paint a rosier picture for premium service expansions; none are envisioned in the near term.  But what the document does reveal is a department that is trying to do more with its existing infrastructure, both through increased efficiencies in the network and improved passenger amenities.

Several new ‘enhanced’ bus routes are also discussed, including the North Corridor Enhanced Bus project, and the SR 836 Express Bus Project. We’ll talk more about those later. What we can say now is that the service expansions envisioned by this latest TDP are very modest – and incremental – improvements to service around the county as an alternative to the ambitious and extensive PTP.

Aside from some new routes, MDT has been working on implementing improved passenger amenities, such as real-time bus tracking and WiFi access. MDT began rolling it its popular  Wi-Fi service in 2010, and currently provides service in all Metro-Rail trains, and approximately 20% of the bus fleet. The coming year will see the program expanded to the entire fleet of MetroBuses and all station platform areas. Future service expansions, such as the NW 27 Enhanced route, will also come equipped with Wi-Fi as a standard feature.

MDT is also moving forward with implementing a new AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location)  software system that will replace the current system (which dates from the late 90’s). The new system will provide for real-time tracking, and transit signal prioritization – elements that should help MDT make modest ridership gains using existing infrastructure. The real-time tracking will allow full integration with smart phones, and will also be a standard feature in future service expansions. This improvement will finally give the South Dade Busway the signal priority it was designed for, and shorten commute times along this heavily used transit corridor. MDT plans to issue an RFP for the system this year, with a launch scheduled for mid-2012.

Kudos to MDT for advancing these needed technological improvements - they will pay for themselves and then some. One need only look at the EasyCard system and Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs), implemented in 2009, which MDT has been using its to make targeted improvements to service schedules. The efficiencies created by using this data (adjusting/eliminating empty routes) has allowed MDT planners to use infrastructure more wisely.

This year’s TDP includes numerous service changes that involve adjusting routes using the APC data, along with staff recommendations, according to MDT Planner Maria Battista. Among the data used to make service changes, Battista said, “administrators have held monthly meetings with the drivers and superintendents that let us know what is going on in their routes.” The adjustments in service respond to the current ridership demands. Some routes are being reduced by 15-20 minutes at non-peak hours (prior to the morning rush, or during evening hours) based on data that showed no usage during these times. These surgical adjustments will help ensuring that MDT facilities are being used when and where they are needed most.

The TDP 2011 shows an agency working with what it has. No premium service expansions, but important improvements to existing service. This all comes against the backdrop of an agency - it would seem by the media- in disarray. No Director, serious FTA funding problems, a lackluster commission directive, and a newly installed Mayor whose commitment to transit involves converting a transit corridor into a highway. The changes proposed by the TDP 2011 set the stage for premium expansions sometime in the future. The incremental ramp-up of ridership in new enhanced bus routes, along with the improved passenger amenities, and GPS tracking abilities will allow our elected officials to take hold of the agency and provide the premium service expansion that this community demanded almost a decade ago.

Suggestions and comments on the annual TDP update can be sent to BPB@miamidade.gov.

Our long awaited EASY automated fare collection cards will become active on October 1. Check out the EASY Card website, where you will be able to add money to your card, check your balance,  and find locations around town that will be offering the new card. MDT will still be accepting cash, but transfers will be more expensive than with the EASY card.

We first heard about the new fare collection system last year when MDT approved the $79.1 million fare collection system. Since then, stations and buses have been fitted with new faregates, which will reduce the number of fare evaders, and streamline fare collection. The EASY Card does come with a one time $2 fee that some might balk at, especially when compared to the free cards offered by the New York MTA or Boston’s MBTA. Worry not, because MDT officials plan on giving away a few hundred thousand cards to get the program started, and they are meant to last about three years.

The EASY cards are a huge step for MDT because they give transit planners and elected officials better data on ridership levels and optimum routes, which will give them a better idea of where to invest transit dollars. Stay tuned.

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Photo of the Universal Gate 2100 Courtesy Cubic Transportation Systems

According to this article by Larry Lebowitz on the Miami Herald website, the Miami-Dade Transit Agency will be introducing SmartCard technology over the next year.  The first fare boxes are scheduled to begin appearing in Metrobuses starting this month, with a systemwide roll-out to be completed by the end of 2009.

Gone will be the days of bus drivers inflating their fare counts at the Dadeland South Metrorail station on the Busway lines, as they manually press the button for Metropass customers.  Here will be the days of discrete passenger counts at all stops, in order to provide information to the Federal Transit Administration, and, ostensibly to provide more accurate alignment of vehicle choice with the route.

The infosheet provided by the MDTA identifies Cubic Transportation Systems as the vendor the county has selected to implement this $42MM system.  Above, you will see a likely candidate for a fare gate that will be replacing the turnstiles which have been in use since Metrorail’s opening in 1982.  I’m certain that the county will, in the style of other transit systems around the country, raise a bar between gates to prevent people from climbing the gates.

One excellent feature of the system is that reloadable cards are available for all, with appropriate coding on the card for individuals who are eligible for discounts or free fares.  Photo identification can be integrated into the SmartCards, which should eliminate the trading and forging of cards which has plagued the manual system currently in place.

Perhaps the best feature is that for the Average Jane or Average Joe, they will be able to purchase the cards at Ticket Vending Machines at all Metrorail stations, and they’ll be able to reload these cards much like a SunPass can be reloaded.

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Well, the Miami-Dade County Commission did it again – they continued the mentality that rising fuel costs should amount to higher transit fares. As much as I would like to agree that transit fares were well below the point they should have been, I cannot justify anyone spending $100 for a monthly metropass.

Let us compare similar monthly passes across America:

Atlanta $52.50
Boston $59
Chicago $75
Dallas $50 or $80
LA $62 - $98
New York $81
Seattle $54-$108
Portland $76

Are we oblivious to what happens elsewhere around this country? Most cities have a zonal system of affixing prices to their tickets, charging more for longer distance trips. These long distance routes, service suburbia, places where transit really should not be servicing unless the area population density is well above 8 people/acre.

There is also the logical answer to the funding dilemma; charge drivers. Congestion pricing and parking pricing encourages greater transit ridership while reducing congestion (see London.) Those whose travel habits cost the greatest societal burden (drivers) pay the most for their services.

I could go on for hours on this subject (I assure you, I will) but the underlying message here is that we are continuing the flawed mentality regarding our automobile habits and transit funding.

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