Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens planning in-town bus routes

Miami Gardens is moving closer to finalizing its plans for a circulator transit system in the city.

The city expects the service, “Miami Gardens Dash,” to begin in January. Officials are waiting for approval of an agreement with Miami-Dade County and seeking a contractor to provide the bus service. The Board of County Commissioners will vote Tuesday.

The City Council also voted last month to approve a design for trolley-style buses for when the city eventually purchases its own circulator buses. Staff anticipates the contractor using hotel shuttle-style buses when the service begins next year. The city has also budgeted for a trolley program manager for the upcoming fiscal year.

City Manager Cameron Benson said that although the trolley-style buses are more expensive they are also more environmentally friendly. The trolleys can carry 24 to 35 passengers with two wheel chair spaces. The shuttle-style buses can carry 29 passengers with one wheelchair space.

The process started about a year ago when the Corradino Group prepared a study last October identifying areas of the city likely to draw the most riders, including Sun Life Stadium, St. Thomas and Florida Memorial universities, Calder Casino, and the city’s two Wal-Mart supercenters.

There are two proposed east to west routes that would connect with county buses, and the transportation study estimates an expected ridership ranging from 16,700 to 48,600 boardings per year. The city has about 110,000 residents according to U.S. Census data.

The Corradino study says the circulator buses will make it easier to get around Miami Gardens, because now travelers must use more than one Metrobus to get across town.

“A rider trying to cross the city would have to board more than one regional bus to get to their destination, resulting in frustration and time wasted,” the Corradino Group study stated.

The buses will be free for riders, and the agreements states that the city will be responsible for providing bus shelters and benches at the circulator bus stops.

The group’s study originally estimated that program’s capital costs would be about $962,000 for two vehicles and multiple signs and shelters placed along the potential routes and operating costs would total about $394,000, based on the group’s recommendations.

Funding for the program is expected to come from the city’s share of Miami-Dade’s half-penny sales tax for transportation. Miami Gardens, along with Doral and Cutler Bay, were initially left out of the tax money because they were incorporated after voters approved the tax in 2002. The county eventually granted them their share of the tax money in June 2012.

Miami Gardens, which incorporated in 2003, received its share of the tax and two years of retroactive payments totaling more than $8 million.