As Miami Beach rolled out its new trolley route Tuesday in Middle Beach, two seniors had different opinions on the free city-run transit system.
Alicia Lopez-Hidalgo, a senior who lives at 27th Street and Collins Avenue, sat near the front as she explained how excited she was to have a free way to easily run errands and get coffee on 41st Street, as well as take care of her medical needs.
“I can go see my doctor at Mount Sinai Medical Center,” she said after taking her seat for the inaugural ride.
Meanwhile, Sarah Lipschutz tested the elevator system in the back of the vehicle. After the driver got off the trolley and opened the door in the back, she wheeled her walker onto a platform that folded out. She gripped handles as the platform lifted her to reach the high floor of the trolley.
“It’s cumbersome. It takes too long. It’s isolating,” she told a reporter after giving that feedback to a city transportation official.
The new route, which connects the Lincoln Road area to the 41st Street corridor, is one of two new routes that will soon connect North Beach to South Beach via city-run trolleys. The new route is called the Middle Beach loop.
In December, the city will debut a Collins Link route, which will connect Middle Beach with an existing North Beach loop, making it possible to travel from the city’s north shore down to South Beach using local circulator trolleys. All city trolleys are free for everyone.
The city has been slowly getting into the business of mass transit since February 2014, when it started its first trolley around Alton and West Avenue to help locals get around the torn-up street while Alton Road was under construction.
Since then, a more popular North Beach route has been added. The city might expand the South Beach route but could require the elimination of the South Beach Local, Miami-Dade’s bus, in order to avoid redundancy.
Some residents, including those who use wheelchairs and walkers, have advocated keeping the South Beach Local. The county buses already have low floors, and some people board the vehicles with more ease.
The city commission is expected to consider its South Beach options Dec. 14.
Jose Gonzalez, the Beach’s transportation director, said that a city-run South Beach service would have 12 low-floor vehicles. Of the trolley system’s 15 high-floor vehicles, 14 can kneel down and have elevators and modified steps for accessibility.
Even if the city sticks with the county-run bus in South Beach, the route will be expanded to improve east-west connectivity.
With the new routes in Middle Beach, the total cost to the city for the whole system is $7.2 million annually.
Miami Herald staff photographer Carl Juste contributed to this article.