Starting Monday, the Coral Gables Trolley will begin servicing the city’s MacFarlane Homestead Historic District area, a largely African-American neighborhood east of U.S. 1.
Dubbed “The Grand Avenue Loop,’’ the trolley route will begin at the Douglas Metrorail Station. The trolley will head south on Douglas Road, west on Grand Avenue, north on LeJeune Road and then travel east on Granello Avenue back to the Douglas Metrorail Station.
The five stops will be at several current Miami-Dade County bus stops:
▪ Douglas and Percival
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▪ Grand Avenue and Douglas
▪ Grand Avenue and Brooker Street
▪ Grand Avenue and Jefferson Street
▪ Grand Avenue and South Dixie Hwy
Passengers will be able to transfer to the trolleys going to downtown Coral Gables at the Metrorail Station. The free rides are expected to pass by every 12 to 15 minutes, Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The extension to the trolley service comes after a longtime battle between city officials and MacFarlane residents. For years the residents asked the council for the trolley stop but previous administrations did not get a trolley stop in the neighborhood.
The trolley service into the MacFarlane neighborhood was part of a bigger issue involving building a city garage in the neighborhood for the Gables trolleys. Federal transportation officials concluded the garage project violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by using federal funds and failing to consider the impact on minority communities. Federal officials cited the cities of Coral Gables and Miami and Miami-Dade County.
In February 2014, Gables commissioners unanimously agreed to move forward with a study of how to extend the city's trolley service into the neighborhood.
The study ultimately showed that it would cost approximately $120,000 a year to sustain the extension, and that the new route would require a new trolley, a $330,000 expense. To offset the cost, the Florida Department of Transportation provided a $65,000 grant for the first year of service, according to Kevin Kinney, the city’s parking director.
At the six-month mark, a report will be presented to the commission on traffic patterns and ridership data to see whether the current route works.
The city finally will put the trolley in play come July 27.
“We view this as an essential component of our city which has been unserviced since the inception of trolley services,” Commissioner Vince Lago told the Miami Herald Friday.
The MacFarlane Homestead Historic District lies east of U.S. 1, bordered by Grand Avenue and Brooker Street. George Merrick, founder of Coral Gables, carved this slice of the city from the West Grove in the 1920s for the black Bahamians who helped him and his father build Coral Gables.
Lago, who proposed the resolution last year, was at the forefront of making the trolley stop come to pass.
“This has been a battle that has been fought by the residents of MacFarlane, who really explained to me what it was that they viewed as their main points of contention,” Lago said. “You see many who live there are elderly individuals who would have to take the bus to go to downtown Coral Gables. Having this trolley service will allow them to visit at no cost, while providing a safe means of transportation.”
Current commissioners Patricia Keon and Vice Mayor Frank Quesada also echoed Lago’s thoughts.
"This is a public good to serve a community that has not been served," Keon has said.
Lago said he hopes neighboring cities will link their trolleys to to the Gables trolleys.
“I would hope to see the City of Miami meet us on Grand. Linking trolleys would be a huge effort to reduce congestion throughout all municipalities and provide connectivity.”