Miami will soon be kicking it San Francisco-style with trolley transportation -- minus the hills.
On Monday, city commissioners announced the March 1 launch of a new trolley system that will begin servicing downtown destinations including the new Marlins Ballpark and Jackson Memorial Hospital. Routes will run along Northwest Seventh Avenue, Northwest 14th Avenue, Northwest 14th Street and Northwest 20th Street, with trolleys stopping at these major Downtown locations (view route map here):
- Civic Center Metrorail station
- UM’s Miller School of Medicine
- Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center
- Miami Dade College’s medical campus
- Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center
- UM’s Life Sciences Park
- Bascom Palmer Eye Institute
- Jackson Memorial Hospital
- UM’s Biomedical Research Institute
- Sylvester Cancer Center
- VA Hospital
- University of Miami Hospital
- Marlins Stadium
With the Marlins' controversial new garages securing space for season ticket holders and VIPs only, the city is hoping to alleviate traffic and frustration with more public transportation. The $20 million project -- think gussied-up buses more than charming, old-school rail cars -- will run Monday to Saturday every 15 minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. For the first year, at least, the city promises riders can jump on board for free.
But while the trolley system provides more means of getting around, some experts don't believe it's the long-term solution Miami needs.
"The rubber tire trolleys being proposed are a modest effort to capitalize on what we already know: people need more ways of getting around town that don’t involve being stuck in traffic," said Tony Garcia of the advocacy blog Transit Miami. "Unfortunately, trolleys are a short term answer to a problem that needs serious investment. Without investment in fixed-rail transit expansions, city leaders are not likely to see a noticeable change in the number of people taking transit.
"If city leaders want to make meaningful change in citizens transportation patterns, they should focus their energy on expanding Metrorail and Tri-Rail service, rather than trying to lure Miamians onto a repackaged bus."
In other words, added Transit Miami's Craig Chester, "Rubber-tire, diesel burning trolleys are a Band-Aid on the promise to expand transit, and we shouldn't be getting used to wearing Band-Aids. We need lasting solutions."
But for now, it seems, the trolley system is the city's solution. Officials say service will expand in the spring to include an additional route on Brickell Drive and Biscayne Boulevard to service downtown, as well as a route to connect the Health District and Overtown.
And in early 2013, the city plans to grow the system even further with routes on Northwest 20th Street from Northwest 27th Avenue to the Omni area, and on Coral Way from Southwest 37th Avenue to Brickell Drive.
Check out images of Miami's new trolley system, courtesy of the City of Miami: