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Location: Fort Lauderdale
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595 Express Buses
Express buses roll on I-595, but few take advantage of free rides on first day
By Michael Turnbell, Sun Sentinel
May 30, 2012
Just as billed, the service is fast and reliable. And for this week, it's free. Yet only 68 commuters took advantage of the new 595 Express buses that rolled out for the first time Tuesday morning.
But officials aren't worried: The 95 Express buses from Broward to downtown Miami also took a while to catch on and now most of the buses are packed, with ridership growing every month.
The new service is expected to lure commuters who don't want to put up with two more years of construction on I-595. It includes two routes from the Bank Atlantic Center parking lot in Sunrise — one to downtown Fort Lauderdale, the other to downtown Miami — with buses running every 30 minutes at rush hour.
The buses are equipped with free Wi-Fi and an outlet is located under each seat to charge electronics. Jacqueline Binns said being able to catch up on emails and work while commuting is a big selling point. "I logged onto my computer and everything was perfect," she said.
Binns calculated that it costs her about $3 a day to drive 26 miles roundtrip from Weston to downtown Fort Lauderdale, about the same cost to ride the bus daily. "It's going to be about break-even," she said.
So why ride the bus?
"It's the convenience," Binns said. "Not having the stress of driving the road and battling with traffic and trying to get through this construction."
Arlene Jardine hopes to ride the express bus every day to the Broward County Governmental Center to cut her driving time in half from Miramar.
"There's some mornings where I just can't face traffic," she said. "Sometimes I'm tired coming home from work and I really have to stay alert. This would be a great alternative for me."
Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan also is a fan of the buses after riding to Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday morning.
"I commute each day in my car on the same route. I can tell you today's trip to work was the least stressful commute I can remember," Ryan said.
On Tuesday morning, the buses carried 40 to Miami and 26 to Fort Lauderdale, and picked up two for the reverse commute from Fort Lauderdale to Sawgrass Mills. For the most part, the buses ran on time and reached all their stops within a minute or two.
There were a few minor glitches. On one bus to downtown Fort Lauderdale, passengers didn't know they had to pull the cord to let the bus driver know they wanted to get off at the next stop. The bus driver accommodated them by driving around the block.
Also, the eastbound lanes were predictably jammed Tuesday morning from Flamingo Road to University Drive. For now, the buses must use the regular lanes of I-595, so they were stuck in the same congested traffic as other vehicles.
But in 2014, when the reconstruction of I-595 is expected to be completed, the buses will use reversible express lanes being built in the median. The reversible lanes, which will be separated from the other lanes by concrete barriers, will allow for faster travel eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening on weekdays.
Officials say they will monitor the buses' on-time performance this week and may tweak the routes if it means getting riders to work faster.
For instance, the Fort Lauderdale route travels north on U.S. 1 from I-595. But with so many commuters headed downtown, traffic comes to a standstill approaching State Road 84 and Southeast 17th Street. Instead, buses might exit I-595 onto S.R. 84, then head downtown via Andrews and Southeast Third avenues if officials find that route is faster.
A 595 Express bus route from Weston is planned in the fall, including service to Miami's Civic Center area near Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The Florida Department of Transportation is covering the $2.1 million annual cost of the Sunrise and Weston routes. The state also gave $13.8 million to Broward County to buy the buses and make improvements to the park-and-ride lots and stops.
Commuters currently are directed to park in a temporary lot at Bank Atlantic Center while a permanent park-and-ride lot with about 350 spaces, bus shelters, signs and lighting is being built. The permanent lot should be finished in about 3 months.
Starting Monday, fares will be $2.35 for a one-way trip, $23.50 for a 10-ride bus pass and $85 for a premium monthly pass. The monthly passes are good for trips on all Broward County Transit buses.
Bus passes can be bought online at broward.org/bct under "bus pass purchase"; at the central bus terminal on Broward Boulevard; or at Miramar, Pembroke Pines/Walter C. Young and South Regional/Broward College libraries.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-356-4155, 561-243-6550, Twitter @MikeTurnpike
Fort Lauderdale route
Eastbound buses to downtown Fort Lauderdale leave every 30 minutes from 6:05 to 8:30 a.m. The buses stop at Broward General Medical Center, Broward School Board, Federal Courthouse, Broward County Governmental Center, Broward Central Bus Terminal and the Tri-Rail station off Broward Boulevard.
In the afternoon, westbound buses to Sunrise leave at 3:30 to 6:05 p.m., starting at the Tri-Rail station off Broward.
The Fort Lauderdale buses make three morning and three afternoon reverse trips to and from Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise.
Southbound buses to downtown Miami depart from 5:20 to 7:40 a.m., every 30 minutes, and end at the Brickell Plaza, at Southwest Ninth Street and South Miami Avenue. The buses stop at Overtown Metrorail Station, the Federal Courthouse and are within walking distance of both the Miami-Dade Government Center and Miami-Dade College.
The Miami route also stop at Tri-Rail's Fort Lauderdale Airport Station in Dania Beach, which has a park-and-ride lot.
In the afternoon, northbound buses to Sunrise depart from 3:35 to 6:05 p.m. every 30 minutes from the Brickell Metrorail Station at Southwest 10th Street and Southwest First Avenue.
For more information, go to 595expressbus.com, or call 954-357-8400.