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Miami-Dade Bus Fleet Enhancements Help Curb Costs, Emissions

Posted on April 26, 2011 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

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Aside from its bus fleet enhancements, Miami-Dade's rail service is getting a boost with the construction of the Metrorail AirportLink Project (rendering of completed project shown).
Aside from its bus fleet enhancements, Miami-Dade's rail service is getting a boost with the construction of the Metrorail AirportLink Project (rendering of completed project shown).

Airport rail extension

Besides its bus fleet enhancements, MDT's rail service is getting a boost with the construction of the Metrorail AirportLink Project. The 2.4-mile elevated extension of the Metrorail system from the existing Earlington Heights Station will connect to the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC), a major transportation hub being developed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) next to Miami International Airport (MIA).

Construction, 80 percent of which is complete, began in spring of 2009 and will be finished by spring of 2012. The project features a multilevel Miami International Airport Station which will provide passengers with a central transfer point to different modes of transportation, including Metrobus, Metrorail, Tri-Rail, Greyhound, tour buses, taxi cabs, rental cars, and an Automated People Mover that connects to MIA.

Funding for this project comes from the People's Transportation Plan ($406 million), known as the half-cent sales tax approved by Miami-Dade voters in 2002, and from FDOT ($100 million).

The AirportLink will provide residents and visitors with direct Metrorail access to MIA via the Automated People Mover. With this project, Miami-Dade County joins the ranks of other major cities with rapid transit connections to their airports.

More than 2,800 new daily riders are expected to board Metrorail at the Miami International Airport Station once it opens. It will significantly reduce carbon emissions from cars, thereby helping Miami-Dade County achieve its targets for reducing its carbon footprint, according to Kapoor.

Culture shift

With the new hybrid bus additions and the airport rail extension due for completion within a year, MDT has plenty to be proud of. Despite these achievements, the transit system achieved something even greater within the past five years by tackling its many challenges and affecting a cultural shift to basically right-size the organization.

When Kapoor took on the role of deputy director in 2006 and was appointed director in 2007, the transit system had numerous challenges including, financial, safety and service reliability as well as a lack of pride of ownership where the employees were concerned.

"We had chronic deficits of $25 million every year, we had service delivery issues," he says. "When I arrived, I was amazed that we had a newer four-year-old bus fleet, but it was the lowest in reliability, with about 2,300 miles in between service interruptions and on-time performance was 66 percent."

Safety was also an issue, he says, citing two fires on the heavy rail side, as well as problems with wheel and electrical fires on the bus side.

Service problems also arose from rapid expansion, which led to underused services and lost revenues. Other service-related problems included broken elevators/escalators, dirty buses, trains and stations. Communication problems within the transit system were also apparent.

"People were divided, there was no ownership or responsibility being taken for the problems," Kapoor says, adding, "There was a lot of finger pointing going on."

To mitigate the service issues, Kapoor began a major overhaul. MDT worked to right-size bus services by merging routes to eliminate duplication and cutting underused segments. In terms of reliability, the transit system can boast greatly improved performance figures for the current bus and rail fleets as well, which Kapoor credits to his experience using Six Sigma standards at WMATA.

"We had the highest reliability of a 10-year-old fleet average in the 27-year history of WMATA," Kapoor says. He cites WMATA's Assistant Chief Engineer Robert Golden, Chief Operating Officer Jack Requa and General Superintendent of Bus Maintenance Phil Wallace as instrumental in the achieved success.

To combat the communication problems, Kapoor dismantled the numerous committees that were in place and he restructured the organization from the top down. In addition to the use of Six Sigma processes, Kapoor also employed Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tools — which became crucial to creating a more proactive approach to system operations, and resulted in overall improvement in system performance and greater customer satisfaction in all areas of the transit system. MDT is one of the few agencies in the nation to have an independent performance management division monitoring the KPIs and trends.

"The Six Sigma process helped [the staff] to focus, which actually turned into a customer focus," Kapoor says. "I took the same people and showed them a way to do better for the customer."

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