Miami Gardens residents can officially hop aboard the “Miami Gardens Express” as the city celebrated the service’s launch at City Hall Monday morning.
The free circulator transit system, which has been in the works for the past few years, started its pilot program and riders can expect to see the two limousine-style buses making their way around the city.
The program is funded by the city’s share of Miami-Dade’s halfpenny sales tax for transportation. Miami Gardens received its share of the funding starting in 2012. Mayor Oliver Gilbert said that the plans for the shuttle were in the works long before that and thanked staff for working to put the program together.
“We said we want a shuttle to take you from place connecting people and places in the city, because that’s one of the tenets of being in a community,” Gilbert said.
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The pilot program will operate for about six months from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The service currently operates hourly along two routes and the buses can seat about 26 riders.
Route A travels along the east side of the city reaching major roads like State Road 441 and Northwest 199th Street and reaching locations like Sun Life Stadium and both of the city’s Walmart Supercenters.
Route B travels along the west side and goes as far north as Northwest 207th Street and south of the Palmetto Expressway down to Northwest 151st Street, with stops at Florida Memorial and St. Thomas Universities and CBT College.
Natasha Alexander, the city’s transit program manager, said she based the routes on an initial study completed by the Corradino Group in 2013 but also on feedback from residents and several rides across the city.
“I started by thinking about how I could connect people to places,” Alexander said. “I drove all of the routes many times and many days.”
Alexander said the city has reached out to the Florida Department of Transportation and other sources for additional funding to expand the program and to purchase multiple trolley buses when the pilot program is finished. She plans to have GPS tracking on the buses so residents can better predict when the shuttle will arrive at each stop.
Staff said the success of the program will be determined by the ridership during the initial run.
A group of residents who went on the first ride from City Hall at noon, traveling on the eastern route, enjoyed the ride and said they could see senior citizens really taking advantage of the service.
“I can go to the doctor, the social security office and stop by the grocery store,” Yvonne Goodwin said. “And I’ll have some extra change in my pocket.”
For more information on the “Miami Gardens Express” program and to see the two routes visit http://miamigardens-fl.gov/publicworks/express.html.