Miami commissioners have approved an expansion to its trolley service to South Beach that could launch before the end of the year.
Commissioners on Thursday authorized City Manager Emilio Gonzalez to develop an agreement with the city of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County in order to run a “CrossBay Express” service, a double-decker bus running between downtown Miami and South Beach. Unlike existing trolleys in both cities, the express service would charge a fare, which has not yet been determined.
“This is something great for bi-city transit,” said Mayor Francis Suarez.
The preliminary plan has the bus running from Bayside Marketplace to Fifth Street and Washington Avenue. Commissioner Ken Russell, whose district includes downtown, suggested another possible stop at the Metromover station at the Pérez Art Museum Miami and Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.
Specific details such as the hours of operation, fare and final route have not been finalized, and the county still needs to agree to allow the bus to run. The county has to sign off on transit projects that cover the same area as Miami-Dade Transit vehicles. In this case, the express bus would replicate a portion of the county Metrobus route 120, which extends north to Aventura.
Miami officials believe there will be enough riders who want to move strictly between downtown and South Beach to justify the express bus, but the administration aims to negotiate a one-year agreement with a vendor, after which the commission could evaluate the route’s popularity.
The city hopes to launch the express route by Labor Day weekend. Ride fares are expected to fund the CrossBay Express, and the vehicles would be owned by the vendor.
At Thursday’s meeting, commissioners Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes raised concerns about who would shoulder the cost of any shortfalls in fare revenue. Miami administrators said they want to work with Miami Beach to see if the city will split those costs if they come up.
Suarez pointed out that all existing Miami trolleys are free and paid for through the city’s share of a countywide half-percent sales tax meant to fund transit, so at worst, the city would be paying for another transit route for no more than a year.
“This could potentially be the first trolley that breaks even or makes the city money,” he said.