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Taking the Bus in Miami

I believe there was a point in my life when I was excited to take the public bus in Miami.

I was probably around 14. I’d taken school buses for years, but those orange vehicles only would take you from point A (my neighborhood stop) to point B (school). The Metro bus however opened up all kinds of freedoms.  For sixty cents (for a student fare) plus a ten cent transfer you could go pretty much anywhere.  And every trip was an adventure. You never knew when you would get to your destination, but for a little while I was content with the journey. So much so that if my memory is correct I think there was one instance where a friend and I decided to hop on a random bus just to see where we would end up.

It didn’t take long for the novelty of the bus to wear off. The endless waits, the limitations of where the bus could take you, followed by the long walks in the Florida sun, made me impatient for the next thrill of driver’s licenses.

But from time to time I find myself forced to take public transportation. There are some slight differences to the Miami buses of my youth. Now the cost is $2.25. Instead of printed out bus schedules, whose arrival times are more fantasies then realities, there is an app with a bus tracker that also seems to spout out random arrival times rather than accurate ones.

Usually when I take the bus it’s to get off Miami Beach to get to the main land. It’s not too long a wait, nor too long a ride. I bring a book or a magazine, but often I get to my destination before I’m tempted to crack it open.

Recently I had to take a couple longer trips. I had to get from my home in South Beach to North Miami by 10 am. I’m a frequent enough public transportation user that I knew not to believe the Miami-Dade Transit mobile app’s arrival times. I left at 8:30 and figured an hour and a half should be enough time to make what was a 30 minute car ride. The first bus got me to Downtown in plenty of time. But the transfer is the killer. It took forever for that second bus that would take me north on  Biscayne  Boulevard. Fortunately the weather was nice and I had a good book. When it did come I took a seat and rotated between reading and people watching.

It was an enjoyable enough experience even if I was a little freaked out by the nasty cough the lady in front of me was hacking out every other minute with reckless abandon.

The driver worked hard, helping a wheelchair bound passenger get on and off the bus. We moved at a decent pace and I got all the way to 130th street with enough time to grab a drink at a convenience store before my 10:00 appointment.

The way back however, that was pretty brutal. It took forever for that Biscayne Boulevard bus to show up. A couple sat on the bench next to me and debated whether they had time to grab some food. The woman ran and came back just in time with a McDonald’s apple pie in her hand. We got on the bus only to find it so packed, it was standing room only. The woman ate her pie that was so delicious, she apparently thought it was finger licking good. As I saw her hand go from her mouth to the metal bus handle, I tried to do the math in my head of how exactly long ago that whole COVID thing was.

As the bus crawled through traffic, I kept hoping it would empty out a little, so I could get a seat. Eventually I had to settle on just standing by the back door where I could at least get a little private space. Around 79th street an older gentleman standing four people in front of me shouted to everyone “This just ain’t right. Blame Mayor Cava. It didn’t used to be like this. She messed up the buses. I call her office every day to say this ain’t right. It won’t change til y’all call her too.”

I always complain about the traffic in Miami whenever I have to drive, but this was a new circle of hell. Going so slow while having to stand in a jam packed enclosure with barely a couple inches to yourself had me thinking of calling up the mayor. Everyone knows there are too many cars on the road. It’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for punctuality, it’s bad for mental health. But if the buses are this packed who’s going to hop on one if given a choice except for the desperate, the impoverished, the DUI stricken?

And maybe the teenaged kid looking to get a sense of what a strange world it is we live in?

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