Art Basel

Improved trolley service should ease art-fair traffic

Rickshaw drivers weave in and out of Wynwood traffic during Miami’s Art Week.
Rickshaw drivers weave in and out of Wynwood traffic during Miami’s Art Week. Miami Herald File

Overcrowded roads? Sure. Parking shortages. You bet. Trafficopalypse? No way, say local transportation officials and organizers of this year’s Art Week Miami extravaganza, which gets under way this week.

“There have been hot spots and problem areas for the past 12 years, and there’s no reason to think there won’t be some the 13th, too,” said Art Basel Miami Beach spokesman Bob Goodman. “That comes with the crowds. But I don’t see anything special on the horizon this year.”

In fact, local governments and transportation authorities have been more aggressive than usual as they seek to smooth out potential traffic snarls. They pushed to complete one repair project on Miami Beach’s Alton Road early and suspended another until after Art Basel ends.

Major roadwork on the Venetian Causeway, which could have triggered tie-ups on other Miami Beach approaches, won’t get under way until early next year.

The biggest traffic boon of all may be a special cooperative trolley service between the cities of Miami and Miami Beach that will link the main Art Basel site at the Miami Beach Convention Center with satellite fairs elsewhere on the beach and in the midtown Miami gallery scene.

“It’s a free shuttle service, and I think it’s the best news we’ve had to announce about traffic in a long, long time,” said Miami Beach spokeswoman Nannette Rodriguez.

The shuttle will follow three routes:

▪  Using a dedicated lane on the Julia Tuttle Causeway, it will carry riders back and forth between two stops on Miami Beach (the convention center at 17th Street and Washington, and the intersection of 41st Street and Royal Palm Avenue) and two in Miami (29th Street and Midtown Boulevard, and 36th Street and Buena Vista Avenue. Four trollies will ply the route, with departures every 30 minutes.

▪  Two vehicles will loop along the beach between the intersection of 10th Street and Washington Avenue, and Bandshell Park at 72nd Street and Collins, with departures every 60 minutes. The route will stop near several parking garages. “It’s part of our strategy to encourage people to park away from the convention center and then approach on shuttles,” Rodriguez said.

▪  Both routes will allow riders to connect with private shuttles serving individual satellite fairs, which will stop regularly at the Miami Beach Convention Center. On the mainland side, the routes will connect to the City of Miami’s regular trolley service, which ranges north to the intersection of NE 82nd Street and NE 2nd Avenue, and south to Brickell Avenue.

“We tried something similar last year, but we only got approval the night before Art Basel started, so most people didn’t know about it,” said Rodriguez. “And the ones that did got stuck in some bad traffic jams on the Tuttle Causeway because we didn’t have a dedicated lane.”

This year the shuttles have permission from the Florida Department of Transportation to use the shoulders of the Tuttle Causeway as dedicated lanes.

FDOT has also done its best to alleviate the chaos sewn by its repair work on Alton Road. “We’ll have a lot of Alton Road open for Art Basel,” said department spokeswoman Heather Leslie.

FDOT finished work on Alton Road between 17th and Eighth Streets last week, reopening that stretch to southbound traffic for the first time in a year. And it has suspended roadwork on Alton between Dade Boulevard and Michigan Avenue for the week of Art Basel.

Another bonus: Along with the usual fleet of yellow taxis, this year’s art lovers also can hail a ride from Uber or Lyft. Both are operating but are illegal under county law.

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story indicated that Uber and Lyft are legal. They are not.

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