Beginning New Year’s Day, South Beach residents will have one less option to get around the area of Alton Road and West Avenue.
Created to ease traffic during the recent rebuilding of Alton Road, the city trolley that loops around Alton and West will stop running Jan. 1 as the Florida Department of Transportation puts the finishing touches on the Alton project.
The free service — paid for by taxpayers at a cost of about $63,000 a month — debuted in February 2014 along a torn-up Alton Road that was getting necessary drainage improvements to prevent flooding. According to data collected by the city, the average daily ridership during the last year has hovered between 900 and 1,100 people a day.
Miami-Dade Transit gave the city permission to run the trolley during the worst of the construction to minimize the pinch felt by merchants. The county agency has jurisdiction over the city’s public transportation programs.
$10 million estimated cost for a citywide trolley system
Neighborhood residents grew fond of the trolley, so Miami Beach transportation officials are in talks with the county to replace the loop and the county ’s local bus route with a wider-reaching trolley that would service all of South Beach.
“As proposed, the South Beach trolley service is intended to replace the current South Beach Local service,” city spokeswoman Nannette Rodriguez said. “[Miami-Dade Transit] had concerns with duplication of service if both the South Beach Trolley and South Beach Local operated concurrently. The municipal circulator service must be approved by Miami-Dade County via an interlocal agreement.”
The proposed route could go before a Beach commission committee this month, but it’s still early in the planning process. Officials say the South Beach trolley would not roll out until February 2017, at the earliest.
In the meantime, Miami-Dade Transit’s South Beach Local bus will remain for those who want to avoid driving cars on Miami Beach’s clogged streets.
Eight months after the Alton-West trolley launched, the city started a trolley in North Beach. Ridership quickly surpassed expectations, and it continues to grow. According to the latest numbers, about 2,200 people ride it each day. The yearly cost to operate this route costs is $1.6 million.
The popular service inspired Beach transit chiefs to propose a Middle Beach trolley. With a county approval already in place, two new routes that would connect the 41st Street corridor to North Beach could launch by summer 2016 at an estimated yearly cost of $5.9 million.
Eventually, the city wants to connect the whole city with trolleys to get cars off the the Beach’s congested roadways. The estimated cost for a citywide system is about $10 million.