Ed Garces doesn’t drive.
“Obviously, being from New York I don’t know how to drive,” he said.
Splitting time between his Manhattan and South Beach homes, Garces hops on a train or bus with his 11-year-old Maltese-Yorkie, Bella, to get to wherever he needs to go.
His travels are now easier with the opening of a Tri-Rail station at Miami International Airport’s new transit hub.
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Tri-Rail rolled into the station for the first time Sunday, stopping at the transit center that also houses a Metrorail station and a car-rental complex.
“I was thrilled when I heard this was opening because it cuts my commute time by an hour,” said Garces, on his way to visit a friend in Fort Lauderdale.
Garces’ previous treks to Fort Lauderdale required taking a bus, the Metrorail and then Tri-Rail. His new commute requires only a bus ride to the Miami Airport Station to get to the commuter rail line.
The station’s debut was slow but smooth on the first day. The true test comes when the volume of commuters and travelers increases on Monday.
A few passengers boarded the train Sunday to visit friends or family. Others were on their way back home.
Rosario Capellán and Abraham Ferreras of the Dominican Republic arrived in South Florida a week ago for vacation. They went to watch Cirque du Soleil in Orlando and spent the rest of the time hanging out on South Beach and in downtown Miami.
“It’s back to reality for us,” Capellán said, about to head back home as they passed through the station.
They didn’t know Tri-Rail’s Miami Airport Station just opened, but they said it was more convenient to take the commuter train than to hail a cab or rent a car like they usually do.
“Paying $5 for the train instead of $100 for a taxi makes a big difference,” Ferreras said.
Transit officials typically launch major transportation projects on Sundays to iron out any issues before the workweek. Recent traffic shifts on the Dolphin and Palmetto expressways, for instance, have been introduced the past couple of Sundays.
The opening of the new Tri-Rail station marks the near-completion of the Miami Intermodal Center, or MIC, a $2 billion transportation hub that brings all major transportation services under one roof at the airport, including rental cars, buses, Metrorail and Amtrak. The transportation hub is not part of Miami International Airport but is considered a satellite terminal to the east, across busy LeJeune Road. Airline passengers can board an automated train, the MIA Mover, to get to the MIC and access the other transportation services.
Up until Sunday, airline passengers needing to board Tri-Rail had to take a shuttle bus to and from the Hialeah station and the airport. The former airport station was closed in 2011 to build the MIC.
“The key is connecting the airport to all forms of transportation,” said Bonnie Arnold, a spokeswoman for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which runs Tri-Rail.
“A world-class city needs a world-class transportation hub at its gateway,” she said Sunday at the station. “We’re finally getting there.”
Arnold took Tri-Rail from Deerfield Beach south to the new airport station on Sunday morning.
“It was a smooth ride and it was on time. You can’t ask for more than that,” she said. “And I didn’t have to get on I-95.”
With the addition of the airport stop, Tri-Rail now runs from the MIC, at Northwest 21st Street and 37th Avenue, north to Mangonia Park, just north of West Palm Beach. The route also includes a stop at the other major airport in the region, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, where passengers are connected to the terminals by shuttle buses.
Tri-Rail’s new stop
What: Miami Airport Station.
Where: Northwest 21st Street and 37th Avenue.
Fare: On weekends and holidays, passengers can ride Tri-Rail all day for $5. Round-trip rides during the week start at $4.40. Fares are calculated by zone and length of trip. To calculate train fares, visit http://www.tri-rail.com/fares/fare-calculator/.
Schedule: Visit http://www.tri-rail.com/train-schedules/wend.asp.