Miami is preparing a plan to launch a new trolley route connecting downtown to South Beach in hopes of providing some relief to congestion on the MacArthur Causeway.
The plan, sponsored by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, is to run an express trolley between Bayside Marketplace and a spot near the Miami Beach Marina. The concept is still preliminary — although its proposed route has been mapped out, its finances have not.
The proposed extension of Miami's trolley service comes at the same time that the city is considering a new trolley route in Flagami.
New trolley routes require an agreement with the county because Miami-Dade Transit runs Metrobus routes throughout Miami. The causeway route wouldn't require approval or money from Miami Beach, although the two cities are in a conversation about the best location for the Miami Beach stop.
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An initial proposal for the Miami Beach route was mistakenly published on the agenda for Thursday's commission meeting. That plan calls for the city to buy three trolleys to run service seven days a week, from 4 p.m. to midnight. The trolley would not be free, but the fare has yet to be determined.
City Manager Emilio Gonzalez said he is still working on a proposal, so he wants the commission to consider the item later this summer.
"I'm deferring that item," he said. "Probably until the end of July."
The new route would connect the existing Biscayne and Coral Way routes in Miami to the South Beach trolley circulator. It would travel from Bayside Marketplace, east along the MacArthur Causeway, south on Alton Road, to Second Street, then Michigan Avenue, north to Fifth Street, west onto MacArthur Causeway, and back to Bayside Marketplace.
Under the initial plan, the trolley would drop riders off at a bus stop in front of the Murano Grande on Alton Road in the Beach, but the exact location of the stop could be changed, depending on recommendations from the Beach's transportation staff.
Local city-run trolleys have proven more popular than county buses in some corridors. Ridership on trolley routes in Miami and Miami Beach have increased sharply in recent years, prompting municipal officials to expand their reach.
The trolley would cover a small portion of the county Metrobus' route 120, which extends north to Aventura Mall. Even though this county bus already runs across the causeway, Suarez said an express trolley with a narrow purpose of getting people across Biscayne Bay could help reduce congestion.
"This can act as sort of a launching point to a Miami Beach-mainland connection," he said.
At the same time, Miami and the Beach are collaborating to develop a county express bus across the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which could shuttle hospitality workers from their neighborhoods on the mainland to their jobs on the island. The cities want to split funding and work through the Transportation Planning Organization to secure more money. That proposal is more complicated, and a decision is further off.
Commissioners on Thursday will also consider approval of a new $2.35 million Flagami trolley route, a price that includes the purchase of five new trolleys and signs at stops. The city will fund the route using its share of the countywide half-percent transportation sales tax, but officials hope to get some state and federal help through the Transportation Planning Organization.
Commissioner Manolo Reyes, who represents the district where the Flagami route will run, said seniors will be among its biggest beneficiaries. The stops were selected with input from the community, whose residents wanted to easily reach local retail and grocery stores, as well as Magic City Casino.
"They will have a free means of transporting themselves," he said.
If approved, the Flagami route is expected to launch in mid-July.