Miami, On A Budget, Public Transportation, Service, Travel Tips

The Bus

For the last ten years, I have been traveling by public transportation. Seven out of those ten years, I traveled from Miami Beach to the Mandarin Oriental, located on Brickell Key, south of Downtown Miami and the Miami River. Rain or shine, weekday or weekend, Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, I was at the bus stop at 5:30 AM to be on time for my 7:00 AM shift. I would place my bicycle on the bus rack and then bike back in the afternoon.

On Christmas Day, around 6:00AM, just before turning onto the MacArthur Causeway,  while still being on Alton Road, I suddenly realized that I was the only passenger left on the bus. December 25, 2012.

On Christmas Day, around 6:00AM, just before turning onto the MacArthur Causeway, while still being on Alton Road, I suddenly realized that I was the only passenger left on the bus. December 25, 2012.

It was an adventure. In the winter months, while the bus drove over the MacArthur Causeway, I saw the full moon hanging over Biscayne Bay. In the summer months, I enjoyed the sunrise and how the black sky would turn blue and pink. Sometimes one of those mega cruise ships entered the Port of Miami at the same time as the bus drove over the bridge. For a little while we were then moving the same way, almost at the same pace, almost next to each other. It made the bus look like a toy bus and I felt like a miniature passenger.

Some bus drivers I got to know by name, Carlos, Ms. Wanda, and Lawrence. I learned that each six month the drivers change routes and that the routes are assigned by seniority. In those ten years, many bus routes were shortened, taken out completely (the K bus) or rerouted (the 120 bus). Bus stops disappeared too. The fairs increased from $1.50 to $2.25. The Mandarin Oriental was a green hotel. One of the few hotels I know. Employees could apply for a bus pass through Human Resources. Each month the hotel would pay $60 and the employee $40.

The stop I got off was in Downtown Miami, on Second Avenue and Second Street, right across from my favorite hole in the wall restaurant, the Bali Café. On Sundays, one of the drivers who had a twin brother, always waited for me to get my bike off the rack and then bike away. Downtown on Sundays was so quiet, at times eerie. The driver wanted to make sure I was not left alone without a working bicycle and would have to walk the last few blocks.

Once, I found my lady driver sitting towards the side with a checklist. There was a male driver behind the wheel. I chatted a little bit with her that morning. She was a trainer and so was I at the Mandarin Oriental. We shared some training techniques while she was keeping an eye on the new driver. Then, she said to me: “I need to tell him to stop at your stop.” “My stop,” I asked. “What do you mean?” “Your stop is not a stop,” she answered. That stop has been taken away ages ago.” “But we are stopping there every day,” I responded. “I get off and so does the gentleman who works at the InterContinental Hotel.” “Yes,” she said with a smile, “we know, that’s why we still stop there.”

I did not belief her. When I got off the bus, I checked the stop. Indeed, the S bus was not stopping there at all. The lady driver was right. It made me feel so good and still does. I had a personal bus stop with one other gentleman. All morning drivers on that route knew and new drivers were informed. How is that for personalized service on your city’s public transportation?

**Insider Tips:

A lot of my guests, considering that I am and have worked at five star properties, do not travel by public transportation, not in Miami or in their hometowns. They have chauffeurs on staff. When in Miami, they reserve a black car through the Concierge. I have only had a few guests who wanted to get a feel for ‘the real Miami’ and who asked about the bus.

Always ask your Concierge about the bus routes. Busses are in general not fast, but there are some max buses with limited stops. The 120 Max Bus is a popular route and takes visitors from Miami Beach to the Aventura Mall or from Miami Beach to Downtown Miami. Some Concierges keep schedules of the most popular routes at their desk. If they don’t, then they will be happy to check out the Miami Dade Transit website for you. All routes and times are listed there.

The fare is $2.25. You are required to put the money into a machine. The drivers do not carry change so make sure you have enough one dollar bills and quarters.

There is a Miami Dade Transit Bus App. It is advertised as a bus tracker, but that is mostly not the case. What you see is the actual schedule. In my experience, only the first buses of the day, which come directly from the bus depot, run on time. After that you will just have to wait and see. Sometimes you will even see two of the same bus numbers driving right behind each other. This means that one bus is late and the other one is one time.

You can bring your bicycle. All buses have racks. They hold two bicycles. Some buses have the newer racks which hold three bicycles.

Check out the Rosa Parks memorial sign. You will find it on all buses, on the driver’s side, stuck to the window, above the first row of three seats.

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