I visit South Florida often to see family and take vacation. I’ve had to convince my wife and family that the area does, in fact, have ways to get around that are not car-based–despite land-use planning that makes transit planning a challenge.
On a Saturday morning, I took Broward County Transit from my parents’ house in Plantation (a western suburb of Fort Lauderdale) to a museum in downtown Fort Lauderdale. My sister-in-law dropped me and my nephew at the bus stop–a one minute drive that replaced about a 15 minute walk. The #30 bus arrived on time and brought us right to the heart of downtown, a couple of blocks walk to our final destination (the New River Inn). The bus was fairly crowded for a Saturday morning.
The fare for my nephew and me came to $1.85 ($1.25 for me, $.60 for him). I did not carefully study the fares beforehand to know that his fare would be the slightly awkward 60 cents, so I didn’t get any change back for a 75 cent payment. But it looks as if the youth fares will increase to 75 cents shortly. I was glad to see that fares for youth (roughly half the regular fare) applied to anyone 18 or younger, especially since lots of teenagers might take the bus to jobs and not have a lot of disposable income. I did not need a full-day pass so I didn’t get one, though the price ($3) seems fairly reasonable given that would be cheaper than three regular fares. The monthly pass ($46) also seems fair given that works out to paying less than two fares a day.
More generally, in terms of finances, I am fairly certain we saved money on the bus without much (or any) real inconvenience. Had we driven, it would have taken about 15-20 minutes (instead of the 25-30), and it would have cost me both the gas and the parking. We stayed for around three hours, so parking would probably have run at least $3 if we were able to park close to the site (very limited spaces). Factoring in gas, I would estimate we cut our costs about in half.
We had another interesting and somewhat difference experience taking our nephews to the Miami Zoo. Leaving from downtown Fort Lauderdale, we boarded Tri-Rail, the commuter line connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and the Palm Beaches. We had about a 30 minute ride ($6.75 roundtrip per adult, $4 per kid–total $28.25) to the transfer point for Miami’s Metrorail, where we rode the elevated subway for about 40 minutes ($2 per adults, $1 per kid–$7 each way, $14 total), and then transferred to a 30-minute Metrobus ride to the zoo’s entrance (free with the train ticket). Altogether, we were in transit more than two hours each way to get to the zoo, and we spent around $45 on transit for three adults and two kids.
One interesting element of the Metrobus ride was the use of a dedicated lane for buses to avoid traffic on US 1 parallel to it. It made the bus ride much more expedient and pleasant.
Driving, we would have needed at least an hour each way, perhaps as much as an hour and a half or more with traffic on the Florida Turnpike, plus around six gallons of gas (in a Nissan Armada SUV, around $12 now, though was double recently), plus tolls ($4 total with Sunpass). Financially, driving had an edge (fairly substantial); chronologically, it also had an edge (less substantial).
My wife and sister-in-law did the transit route to make me happy, and the kids enjoyed it, too; they like the adventure of riding transit. But I think it’s a tough sell, particularly when you’re looking at 2-3 different tickets to ride and paying significantly more than you might by driving. I think it points to the possible need either for locating zoos nearer to transit (where fewer changes are needed) or for creating more local zoos rather than the larger regional model like the Miami Metrozoo.
I also think transit systems located adjacent to one another could consider developing a shared card (comparable to the TexTag here that works on toll roads around the state). That way, you could store value on it for commuter rail, light rail, subway, bus, etc. and easily transfer from one to the other without worrying about remembering different fare amounts or stopping for tickets.