Transportation’s Future, Part 2: Metrorail schedule includes fewer trains

Lily Gourlitz, a junior at the University of Miami, could not remember how long she had been waiting for a green line Metrorail train at the Earlington Heights station. She had come from the airport station, accessible only by the orange line, after dropping her brother off there, and was heading back to the University of Miami.

Gourlitz has been taking the Metrorail for two years. Decreased frequency of trains that started with the pandemic is a serious issue, she says.

How long does she usually have to wait? 

“Forever,” Gourlitz says. “I honestly don’t know. Probably like 25 minutes.”

Miami’s 25-mile Metrorail service includes two lines. The green line runs between Palmetto station in Medley and Dadeland South station, near Kendall and Pinecrest. Ridership is better than last year — when it shrunk to almost nothing as people avoided mass transit because of the pandemic. In June, it was almost 20 percent above the 2020 figure, according to the most recently available public report. But that is far less improvement than buses (30 percent), the Metromover (40 percent) or publicly funded paratransit (90 percent). 

To read part one of this series, click here

One reason may be that the latest service pattern has the orange line only run between the airport station and the following station, Earlington Heights, where passengers must then transfer to the green line for a train going north or south. 

Since the orange line is not running its full length, all 15 Metrorail stations that are normally served by both lines have longer wait times between trains. 

David Jones, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works, said that this service pattern was put in place as a result of the pandemic. 

A sign at the Miami International Airport Metrorail station explains the difference between the orange and green lines.
(Juan Minera Jr./SFMN)

The orange line follows a truncated version of the green line’s route from Dadeland South north to Earlington Heights, which lies on the southern fringes of Liberty City. After this station, the train follows a newer route, opened in 2012, which takes people to the Miami intermodal Center, which includes connections to county buses, Tri-Rail, Greyhound, and a rental car center.

Gourlitz, originally from New Jersey, said that she has used the Metrorail to go to places like Brickell and Dadeland Mall, where she once worked. She said she doesn’t own a car.

“It’s still probably the cheapest way to get around town,” she said.

According to Miami-Dade County’s website, trains run every 10 to 15 minutes, depending on peak hours. Evening weekday and all-day weekend services have trains coming every 30 minutes.

Gourlitz said that arriving at the station on time is key to avoiding wait times of over 15 minutes between trains. Missing a train can leave riders waiting for up to 30 minutes for the next one.

She is okay with the odd schedules the trains are now running.

“I’m used to it now, I don’t mind,” she said.

Photo by Juan Minera

Brenda Czencz, a long-time Metrorail rider, is pleased by at least some of the changes because there are less crowded platforms and less packed parking garages.

Czencz, a law firm employee in Brickell, said there is no delay to board trains because there are fewer passengers at the stations.  

“I haven’t had to wait long at all,” she said.

Czencz said she has taken the Metrorail for 37 years, and currently commutes from the Dadeland South Metrorail station to Brickell station. 

She said that she has recently had success at finding a parking spot at the station’s parking garage in the morning, which was a difficult task before the pandemic.

“At 10 [or] 10:30 you weren’t guaranteed any parking spots, at least at Dadeland South,” she said.

Czencz said that although Metrorail service is not better than it was before, it’s not worse either. 

“There was a period when the trains were breaking down constantly,” she said.

Masks are required on public transportation nationwide. The current mandate has been in place since January. Czencz said she likes the requirement because she feels protected from germs. 

She also said that certain seats on Metrorail cars are no longer marked off for social distancing, but riders still keep their distance.

“They used to have seats labeled every other seat,” she said, “Now they took them off, but people are still hesitant.”

Juan Minera Jr. is a senior at Florida International University from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is studying journalism and plans on pursuing a career as a writer in Miami.