Alejandra Agredo, whose command of transit policy and wry takes on its failings and potential in Miami-Dade County earned the attention of government and nonprofit leaders, died Nov. 26, her father said Monday. She was 17.
A well-known voice among Miami-Dade policy makers and advocacy groups involved in transit, Agredo used her Twitter feed to demand better from the county’s transportation system and showed up at city halls and county meetings to press her case in person.
In October, she launched a new nonprofit, the Miami Riders Alliance, with a stated mission to unite Miami’s bus, train and bike riders in a fight “for safe streets and reliable transit.” For fun, Agredo would take round trips on county buses and Metrorail trains to absorb more details about how Miami-Dade moved people.
“She would ride transit to ride transit,” said Kevin Amézaga, also 17 and a fellow founder of the Riders Alliance. “She just liked seeing how the system worked.”
Among Agredo’s side projects were a redesigned county transit pass with a mini rail map she created, and developing open-source software to track all of South Florida’s transit options, including city trolleys , Tri-Rail and Brightline. The early phases of that effort are available at wayline.co, a website she developed. “Wayline will reinvent South Florida commutes,” the site states. “Get out of your car.”
“She didn’t want people to be left out of life because they didn’t have access to transit,” Amézaga said. “She really liked the idea of connecting everybody in Miami, because we’re all the same.”
News of Agredo’s death became public Saturday, prompting a string of praise and remembrances from county office holders, community activists and everyday transit riders who became fans of Agredo’s @VirginTrainsMIA Twitter account.
“This is truly sad news,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, a 2020 candidate for county mayor, wrote on Twitter. “When having a conversation with Alejandra about transportation, transit or housing, I knew I had to be prepared.” Fellow commissioner and mayoral candidate Daniella Levine Cava wrote of Agredo: “She was well on her way to making incredible contributions locally and beyond. I mourn for the loss of this bright light and pledge to act in her memory.”
The cause of death was suicide, Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said Monday. He said investigators determined Agredo stepped in front a train on the Tri-Rail tracks the evening of Nov. 26 at Ives Dairy Road and NE 17th Avenue.
Agredo was born Feb. 17, 2002, in Elizabeth, N.J. Her parents, Freddy Agredo and Monica Unates, both from Colombia, were visiting Agredo’s family at the time. They soon moved to Miami, and later divorced, Freddy Agredo said. Agredo lived with her mother in Coral Gables, where she was a senior at Coral Gables Senior High. She would also take extended bus trips to visit her father regularly at his home in Pembroke Pines.
Freddy Agredo recalled Alejandra’s budding interest in transit at around 14, when she started venturing out by bus alone. Soon, he was encouraging her to pursue a driver’s license, but Alejandra had other ideas. “She didn’t like cars. She thought cars were dangerous,” he recalled during an interview Monday. “She was always telling me to look at the amount of accidents, and the number of people who die from cars. She didn’t want that to happen to her.”
He described a brave and diligent teenager who was adept at masking struggles with depression and determined to help others through transit. When Alejandra was putting in countless hours trying to develop Wayline into a transit app, her father suggested she try to make a little money by charging a dollar per download.
“She said, ‘No, I don’t want to charge for it,’ ” Freddy Agredo said. “’Some people riding the bus, they don’t have one dollar.’”
Agredo was well known to Miami-Dade’s transit leadership, both in and out of government. Carlos Cruz-Casas, an assistant director in Miami-Dade’s Transportation Department, met with Agredo in August about technology related to the Wayline project.
“I was definitely impressed with her knowledge and the work she had done already,” said Cruz-Casas, who added he only realized she was a teenager when Agredo mentioned the effort was part of a senior-year project. “Definitely a brilliant mind. Very passionate about transportation, and all coming from a pure heart.”
When the Riders Alliance prepared its launch in October, Agredo scheduled a conference call for Cruz-Casas and other transit leaders to solicit ideas on the group’s next steps, said Marta Viciedo, founder of Transit Alliance Miami. Agredo led the call, which ended up lasting about two hours, and Viciedo said one theme was not to limit the conversation to traditional parameters of mass transit.
“The thing she kept on driving in the conversation was there should be some emphasis on walking and biking, and pedestrians and safety,” Viciedo said. “Because at the end of the day, a transit rider is always a pedestrian. She had this holistic view about mobility. She understood what made mobility work.”
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Maspons Funeral Home at 3500 SW 8th St., Miami, from 2 to 6 p.m..