ACCESSIBILITY/COMFORT RELATED CONCERNS AND ONGOING EFFORTS TO ADDRESS THOSE CONCERNS
Modified High-Floor/Kneeling Trolley Vehicles
From the commencement of the North Beach Loop, Middle Beach Loop, and Collins Express using modified high-floor/kneeling trolley vehicles, City staff has received fewer than a dozen passenger complaints regarding accessibility. The majority of these complaints pertain to drivers not deploying the automatic wheelchair lift in the rear of the vehicle when requested by passengers and informing passengers that the wheelchair lift is not operational. City staff investigated each of these complaints and, as a result, several trolley drivers were either disciplined or terminated from operating any of the City's trolley routes.
On February 8, 2018, City staff provided supplementary customer service training to all trolley drivers operating in Miami Beach. During the training, the importance of providing assistance to elderly and/or disabled passengers was emphasized, in addition to deploying the wheelchair lift upon a passenger's request.
Low-Floor Trolley Vehicles
Low-floor trolley vehicles are used exclusively on the three (3) South Beach Trolley Loops. Below are pertinent concerns that were raised by passengers and the South Beach community in regards to passenger comfort and convenience of low-floor trolley vehicles as well as efforts that are being made by the Administration and the trolley manufacturer (Hometown Trolley) to address each of those concerns.
- High benches above front wheels and narrow seat cushions on high benches.
To maximize seating capacity, the first row of benches is located above the front wheel wells and, as a result, are higher than standard, thus producing an uncomfortable experience for passengers who choose to sit on these benches. Additionally, the width of the middle passage way is affected by passengers sitting on the high benches. In order to increase the effective width of the middle passageway, the bench that is located over the left front wheel immediately behind the driver was removed and a storage rack has been manufactured and installed on one trolley vehicle for demonstration purposes. The design of the storage rack incorporates a horizontal railing to provide extra support for standing passengers. To improve seating comfort, the trolley manufacturer has developed a wider foot-rest that can provide additional support for passengers who choose to sit on the one remaining high bench above the front right wheel well. Several seat cushions are being replaced with wider cushions. Back cushions will also be installed on several seats for improved comfort.
- Lack of railing in the rear portion of the trolley and short leather straps.
An additional railing in the rear of the vehicle to provide support for passengers when transitioning from the high-floor portion at the rear of the vehicle to the low-floor portion of the vehicle (and vice-versa) was developed and installed on one trolley vehicle for demonstration purposes. Longer leather straps are also being acquired to provide support for shorter standing passengers.
- Low seats above rear wheels.
To improve the comfort of passengers sitting on the benches located above the rear wheel wells, these two (2) benches will be raised approximately 2” to allow for more passenger legroom.
Once all of the above modifications are completed on the demonstration low-floor trolley vehicle, the vehicle will be presented to elected officials and the community. Staff anticipates that this demonstration would occur within the next two (2) weeks. A high-floor trolley vehicle will also be presented at that time so that the accessibility and comfort of both types of vehicles can be assessed in a side-by-side comparison. Both demonstration vehicles will also be presented to the community at Rebecca Towers within the next couple of weeks.
If the above modifications intended to improve the accessibility and comfort of the low-floor trolley vehicle are approved, similar modifications would be made to the 11 remaining low-floor trolley vehicles. Hometown Trolley has committed to performing the above described modifications at an estimated cost of approximately $400 per vehicle (total of $4,800 for all 12 low-floor trolley vehicles). Should the City Commission choose to move forward with these modifications, the funding required for implementation is currently available from trolley operating savings.
The anticipated timeline for implementation of the above modifications to all 12 low-floor trolley vehicles is approximately four (4) weeks once approved by the City.
SOUTH BEACH TROLLEY RIDERSHIP
The South Beach Trolley service operates three (3) loops: Loop A (Clockwise) with 4 vehicles in operation and approximately 20 minute frequency of service; Loop B (Counterclockwise) with 4 vehicles in operation and approximately 20 minute frequency of service; and “Via 10 Street Loop” with 2 vehicles in operation and approximately 40 minute frequency of service. See attached route map. With the extension to Collins Park authorized by the Commission on January 17, 2018, the frequency of routes A and B have increased from 15 minutes to approximately the 20 minutes. The 10th Street loop continues to operate with a 38 minute frequency.
The average daily ridership from inception (November 20, 2017) to February 15, 2018 is as follows:
Loop A: 1,762 passengers per day
Loop B: 1,801 passengers per day
Via 10 Street Loop: 732 passengers per day
Via 10 Street Loop Ridership
While “Via 10 Street Loop” duplicates Loop A in area north of 10 Street and Loop B in area south of 10 Street due to its “figure 8” configuration. While “Via 10 Street Loop" does not operate in Collins Park, it is the only loop operating along 10 Street intended to serve Flamingo Park and provide a direct east-west connection between Alton Road and Washington Avenue. The average daily ridership at the three (3) stops along 10 Street from November 20, 2017 to February 15, 2018 is as follows:
Pennsylvania Avenue: 8 boardings and 47 alightings. Closest alternative stop is approximately 750 feet away (Washington Avenue)
Meridian Avenue: 12 boardings and 24 alightings. Closest alternative stop is approximately 1500 feet away (Alton Road or Washington Avenue)
Michigan Avenue: 36 boardings and 37 alightings. Closest alternative stop is approximately 900 feet away (Alton Road)
The total number of boardings for the three (3) stops along 10 street is 56 and alightings is 108. Staff has observed consistent average daily ridership at the above three (3) stops over the past three (3) months.
Belle Isle Ridership
Belle Isle is currently served by all three (3) South Beach Trolley loops and there is only one (1) stop in Belle Isle. The average number of daily boardings from November 20, 2017 to February 15, 2018 is approximately 34 and alightings is 26. These figures are similar to the previous South Beach Local ridership at this stop. Staff has observed a decrease in average daily ridership at the Belle Isle stop over the past three (3) months.
Collins Park Extension Ridership
Pursuant to City Commission direction on January 17, 2018, South Beach Loops A and B were extended to Collins Park on January 22, 2018. The combined number of average daily boardings from January 22 through February 15, 2018 along the extended route segment for the five (5) new stops along the extended route is 176 and alightings is 242. As a result of the recent route extension, the average service frequency along Loops A and B is currently 20 minutes (rather than 15 minutes prior to the extension).
COST IMPACTS OF 15 MINUTE HEADWAYS
Should the City Commission choose to reinstate 15 minute average service frequency for Loops A and B, while keeping the "Via 10 Street Loop" and Belle Isle stop as-is, then two (2) additional trolley vehicles would be required. The incremental cost associated with this addition is estimated to be $1 million annually.
It is important to note, that City trolley service is funded by a combination of Peoples Transportation Tax (PTP) from the County , Resort Tax Quality of Life Funds and Parking Surplus Revenues; fully utilizing the allocation of PTP and Resort Tax Quality of Life Funds. Further, as parking demand has been declining, so has Parking Surplus Revenues, limiting the availability of these funds for additional allocations and it is likely that transfers from the General Fund would be required, if available.