Miami’s traffic is legendary for being really terrible. Every time there’s a ranking of the ten worst places for commuting, South Florida, which encompasses everything from Homestead to Palm Beach, comes out at or near the top… or the bottom. So thanks to age and convenience, I have been riding the county’s Metro Rail system since last September. Residents 65 and older get a free pass, and the nearest depot with covered parking ($11.25 a month) is six miles from my house. The travel time is about the same: an hour from door to door, both directions. It saves me about $100 a month in gas and untold stress on me and the car.
Being a creature of habit, I ride the same train every morning and I usually sit in the same place; a seat that puts me right at the exit to get off and get to the Metro Mover, the mini-train that passes by my office’s front door. I see the same people riding the train with me, and I’ve even made a couple of friends who share the commute with me. They’re like me; mid-level employees who like to get to work early or have a schedule that gets them out early, and we take the inevitable disruptions to the train service — the cars on Metro Rail date back to 1984 and the new ones are being rolled out slowly — in stride.
I also see a lot of blue-collar workers. There’s a lot of construction going on in downtown Miami and the train usually has a variety of men and women dressed for labor; hard hats, heavy boots, and equipment, and they’re of all ages; ranging from their twenties up to (I’m guessing) their fifties.
At 5:00 a.m. it’s a quiet ride. Most of us are either dozing or looking at their phones, some listening with earbuds, and the only sound is the rattle of the train and the scratchy P.A. “Green Line — Palmetto” as the doors open.
There are cracks and flaws in the system. Metro Rail was intended to cover a lot more of the county, including a line out to Miami Beach and back. But it was halted about half-way and plans to continue or finish it have stalled. The only new service in the last ten years was the addition of the Orange Line out to Miami International Airport. The funds initially set aside to expand it and improve it were spent on other things, and as I noted, the replacement cars — I’ve actually ridden one — are few and far between as they are being tested and certified. So, as one of my fellow commuters noted the other day, we’re moving really slowly to get someplace fast.
But it beats sitting in the middle of U.S. 1 and taking an hour and a half to go seventeen miles.