I am literally only few weeks away from being done with my YAV year in Miami. And, I thought if I didn’t write at least one blog post about my experience using the public transportation, I would be leaving out a big, I mean huge, part of my year.
Can I just start by saying that I LOVE THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION? It might be surprising to some folks who have heard me complain about the long hours it takes for me to get anywhere or occasional tardiness or even absence of buses gravely impacting my schedule, like missing an important meeting for my placement. In which regards, yes, it is not fun when I have to come to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to go to some events in time or even miss them because there is simply no way that I will get to multiple places all over Miami on time when using public transit. And, it does limit and restrict my mobility some, especially on weekends. But, I have never felt more independent and free in my life as I have done riding the public transportation.
As a person who was deathly afraid of driving and who got her driver license late in life, riding public transportation granted me an alternative opportunity to not drive but go to places at the same time. Miami-Dade Transit system is like the city’s veins, branching out to all of its corners, providing means of transportation to many people for whom this is the only way that they can go to work, to school, to place of worship or anywhere else one goes daily. This means that many things in your life revolves around where the bus goes and where it stops. Even though it may sound restricting, it really is one of the most incredible ways to know the city. It might limit the choices of places you WOULD have gone normally, but it pushes you to go to places that you haven’t thought of going before. And, this process of understanding and getting to know the city by agents other than your own limited knowledge widens your perspective of the city in ways that is just special and intimate. It’s like the city is challenging you to walk the streets that not many people walk, and see the things that it has hidden for only some.
Especially in Miami, learning the city’s diverse population and its cultures is easier in public transportation. The tiny bus captures a miniature representation of the town it circulates. If I ride the bus in little Haiti, there are many Haitians carrying conversations in Creole. If I ride the bus in Little Havana, I would meet many Cubans, speaking Spanish to me even though I panic in facing this beautiful language spoken with accents unfamiliar to me. If I ride the bus near the South Beach, I would see more tourists and visitors of the city. It really is hard to ride the bus in some parts like Doral or Coral Gables because the bus doesn’t run as often and the green bus stop signs are hidden behind beautiful trees because not many people use public transit in these parts of the town. Which means I often miss the bus stop and have to walk a long path, under a hot Miami sun. Even though I grumble through my walking through the neighborhoods, it is another chance for me to get to know that part of the city, outside of a tiny vehicle that sometimes narrows my vision to the road and road only.
Can you tell how much I love public transportation? It really has been a blessing. Nevertheless, I also recognize that using the public transportation for many people means absence of certain privileges that great number of people in this country take for granted without knowing. Having a car means you can choose to go anywhere and anytime. It means you have a safer mode of transportation when things come up. It is seen as a must in this fast-paced, busy society. It really is hard for one to keep a job, carry out all the responsibilities that many jobs require and demand, without a car. If not for my supervisor who understands and flexibility of my placement, I would have been fired a long time ago. It really is a challenge to use the public transportation to fit in today’s life styles, if you are not in a big metropolitan city like New York.
I didn’t mean to write this long of a post, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how much the public trans has contributed to my YAV experience. The MDT is connected to all my memories of going to actions and protests in the crack of dawn, in pouring rain, and late nights. It is a part of my daily life when I get so mad to see the bus passing before me but also feel so grateful when passengers see a poor girl with a huge backpack running after the bus and calls the bus driver to stop. I am going to miss Miami, but I don’t think I would have poured out so much of myself into this city without public transportation challenging me to intimately touch, breath in, and walk the parts of the city otherwise not known to me. And, I plan on giving public transportation another try at home, because I want to love and know the city in which I grew up the way I got to know Miami this year. And, that will be another adventure!