South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) unveiled the first of its new Tri-Rail Commuter Connectors. The fleet of 28 new vehicles and two refurbished vehicles will replace the existing Tri-Rail shuttle buses.

The fleet will consist of four heavy-duty 35-foot and 26 medium-duty 35-foot buses and can accommodate up to 50 passengers each. All connectors will be wrapped in Tri-Rail’s iconic color scheme to make them easily identifiable to passengers. They are free for the use of Tri-Rail passengers.

Specifically to address safety issues, each connector has a seven-camera system of interior and exterior units providing for the capability of audio and visual recording. The cameras will be able to monitor the activities of passengers and the driver on the bus, as well as any external conditions that might impact the commute. There is real-time tracking built into the Tri-Rail App (Q1 2017) and Wi-Fi will be installed in vehicles in the future. 

The new vehicles are designed to provide fixed-route service 365 days a year and offer increased capacity. Airport connectors will have enhanced seating, standing room and luggage capacity. An ADA ramp can be lowered and raised at the push of a button by the driver, allowing for easier wheelchair access or for rolling luggage

on-board. The airport connectors were designed to improve passenger flow. There are dual entry and exit doors and a push button system to open and close them. They each contain a 108-inch luggage rack for additional storage space.

Fixed-route connectors will also be able to accommodate two wheelchairs and will have a three-space bike rack. ADA enhancements will make the new connectors more accommodating for persons with disabilities. The operator can remain inside the connector to activate the ADA ramp through push-button automation. The ramp will provide a low-floor entry free of curbside steps. 

The first new connector will go into service at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport Station Labor Day weekend. The entire new fleet will be in service by January 2017. Tri-Rail Connector service is being operated by Keolis under a five-year contract with two one-year options, which went into effect March 1, 2016. The value of the contract is $39.8 million.