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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Transportation will improve in Miami with more trolleys

Por Damian

Every time Miami adds a new route to its popular free trolley system, it attracts more users and as a result, Miami-Dade County reduces bus service in that area. Meanwhile, the demand continues to rise, which is why the city manager has proposed investing another 1.4 million dollars in new routes in Little Haiti and Flagami.

The decision means a shift to more public transportation initiatives at the municipal level and portends a request for more funds for public transportation to Miami-Dade at times when users switch from county buses to trolleys, which are free.

As part of an 8 million dollars budget increase, it has proposed, city manager Emilio Gonzalez has asked the Miami Commission to approve 1.4 million dollars expansion for the flotilla of the so-called trams, which are actually buses with wood seats and the exterior similar to the trolleybuses of yesteryear.

Gonzalez told the Miami Herald that he expects more people to use public transportation when they bring in more trolleys this budget year and next. "We want anyone in Miami to be able to get on a trolley and go anywhere in the city", he added.

The administrator said that such an expansion would use all his share of the half-cent tax on sales throughout Miami-Dade approved to support public transportation and for the first time would affect the municipal budget itself. It is projected that Miami will receive about 16.5 million dollars of the tax for public transportation in the budget year 2018-2019. The Commission will discuss the 2018-2019 budget this summer and must approve it in the fall.

When Miami creates new trolley routes, the Department of Public Transportation of Miami-Dade makes an analysis and determines if the bus service is redundant and should be eliminated. In Miami, Route 24 of the Metrobus was modified so that it had limited stops between Coral Gables and the Metrorail station at Brickell Metrorail after the trolley route at Coral Way was added, and bus route 29 was removed after it began at operate the trolley in Coconut Grove.

"This is a permanent effort whenever a municipality adjusts or adds public transportation services and the impact to our routes is substantial", said Luis Espinoza, spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Department of Public Transportation.

It is possible that authorities in Miami request a greater part of the half-percent tax or ask for help from Tallahassee.

"Although nothing is being negotiated, the city is prepared to approach any interested party to ensure that our residents receive maximum benefits from their contributions and have public transportation solutions that benefit them", said Eugene Ramírez, a Miami spokeswoman.

The number of users of the municipal trolleys has increased by almost 1 million annually during the last four years. In 2013, 2.3 million people used the Miami trolleys. In 2017 the city reported 5 million users, and the largest increase was in Little Havana. The number of users there increased by more than half a million people between 2016 and 2017. Meanwhile, the number of users of the County buses has continued to decrease.

The Miami streetcar system has routes that go through Coconut Grove, Brickell, Allapattah, Coral Way, Little Haiti, Little Havana, Overtown, Wynwood, the hospital district and downtown Miami.