MIAMI, Fla. – Bus ridership has increased in South Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, but with more people riding the bus, the close quarters can be a place for coronavirus to spread if precautions are not taken.
The Miami-Dade Transportation Department said that any rider can report concerns about non-compliance with COVID-19 distancing measures by calling 311, but one rider told Local 10 that too many people are not following the rules.
They were just packing people in and at every single bus stop they would stop and load the people on there," Reverend Jerome Starling, a Miami activist, said.
Starling rode the bus in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties on Wednesday. He said photos that he took in Miami and videos from Broward showed a troubling amount of passengers not distancing. He said he saw riders taking off their masks when once they boarded the bus and others who uncovered their noses once on the bus.
“I said, ‘Listen, if you don’t cover your nose, you’re not covering yourself up.’ And one guy told me, ‘Well if you don’t want the virus, you shouldn’t catch the bus.”
Miami-Dade County Transportation Director Alice Bravo said the county does have guidelines in place.
"If someone is trying to get on without a mask, the driver is instructed to tell them that that is not acceptable," Bravo said.
She said the county is also depending on riders to be responsible and follow the guidelines. As for the images that Starling captured?
"From that photo, it looks like the bus is at our social distancing capacity," Bravo said.
The department has automatic passenger counters and supervisors can direct a full bus to skip a stop and send another bus in its place. The agency has also added rear-boarding, hand sanitizer and signs that indicate where to sit to keep people distanced.
Starling said those are all good measures, but he says the community isn’t always complying.
“People are removing the signs, so whatever transit is doing to try to make it better the people are saying, ‘No. We don’t want this.’ "
Starling believes it would take a monitor on nearly every bus to try to get people to follow regulations and he said it is the same problem in Broward County as well.
Local 10 spoke with a man in Broward County who said he has to take the bus to get to work every day. He reported his concerns to the county this week. He was told employees cannot force riders to wear masks.
He did not want to speak on camera because he said he feels as if he is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and he was planning on getting tested.