Item Coversheet



TO: Neighborhood/Community Affairs Committee Members

Jimmy L. Morales, City Manager

DATE: October 23, 2019



According to the 2019 Miami Beach Resident Survey, 75% of residents are satisfied with the City’s trolley service; however, 63% of residents are using their personal automobiles for trips within Miami Beach.  Additionally, the 2019 Miami Beach Business Survey rates transportation as one of the four most significant challenges for the future growth and stability of businesses.  According to the same survey, 48% of businesses are satisfied with the effectiveness of public transit for employee commuting.


The Better Bus Project is an advocacy-led and community-driven bus system redesign, led by Transit Alliance Miami and the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works.  Transit Alliance is a local, non-profit organization advocating for walkable streets, bikeable neighborhoods, and better public transit in Miami-Dade County. The Better Bus Project effort began in June 2019. The final plan will be voted on by the Board of County Commissioners between February and March 2020. 


The Better Bus Project is an intensive two-year community-driven project. A goal of the redesign is to position the system for ridership growth by creating a more effective service while remaining budget neutral. The overall network is somewhat aligned to the street grid, but stands to benefit from several key system-wide improvements:


·         Increase in high-frequency services

·         Create more viable connections

·         Better serve high population/employment centers

·         Resolve low productivity and circuitous routes

·         Integrate key municipal trolley services


The County currently operates ten bus routes that serve the City of Miami Beach.  Some of these routes, such as the 119 (S) and the 120 (Beach Express), are among the routes with the highest ridership in the County; however, there has been a steady decline in ridership over the past several years. While the Better Bus Project is focusing on the County bus network, it also looks at improvements to trolley services in the cities of Miami, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables, which account for 70% of trolley ridership in the county.


Last month, two network concepts were released by Transit Alliance (coverage concept and ridership concept). These concepts are not proposals, rather different ways of thinking about how the bus network could be designed, depending on goals that are found to be most important.


The coverage concept creates more high-frequency bus services in the urban core by better integrating county and municipal services, primarily in the City of Miami. This concept ensures that everyone who currently has access to transit service remains within a quarter mile of service.


The ridership concept is designed to maximize access to jobs and frequent service. It shifts service away from low density areas and low performing routes to high density areas and high performing routes.


For example, today 2% of jobs in Miami Beach are within a quarter mile of bus services that arrive every 10 minutes. In the coverage concept, this would increase to 52%. In the ridership concept, this would increase further to 76%.


Attachment A depicts Transit Alliance’s Summary of the Better Bus Project Network Concepts and impacts to Miami Beach. Attachment B depicts maps of the existing network, coverage concept, and ridership concept.


On October 7, 2019, the Transportation, Parking and Bicycle-Pedestrian Facilities Committee discussed the Better Bus Project and passed a motion in support of the ridership concept.



As it relates to the City’s trolley service, both the coverage concept and the ridership concept have been designed to keep the existing service hours and for the changes to be budget neutral to the City. Both concepts assume a wider stop spacing of about every two blocks to provide faster service. The Better Bus Project’s proposed changes to the City’s trolley service are depicted in the table below:   



Service Characteristics

Coverage Concept

Ridership Concept

South Beach Trolley

route alignment 1

Eliminate “Via 11 St. Loop”, Collins Park, and Belle Isle

service frequency

12 min

10 min

Middle Beach Loop

route alignment

Eliminate route segment along 17th St, Meridian Avenue, Dade Boulevard and 21st Street 2


Eliminate the Middle Beach Loop entirely and reassign vehicles to Collins Express to improve service frequency along that route due to high demand and capacity issues 3

service frequency

20 min

no service

Collins Express

route alignment

no changes

service frequency

15 min

10 min

North Beach Loop

route alignment

no changes

service frequency

no changes


1 Elimination of “Via 11 Street Loop” enables reassignment of vehicles to Loops A and B to achieve a higher service frequency. Both concepts suggest that Belle Isle would be served by an enhanced County Route 101 which would operate an all-day service across the Venetian Causeway from Omni Terminal to the existing Lincoln Road stop located between Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue and with a connection to the Sunset Harbour Publix.  Route 101 service hours would be similar to our trolley service, and service frequency would be 30 minutes under the coverage concept and 20 minutes under the ridership concept. Route A (101) would require a fare. Both concepts suggest that the Collins Park neighborhood would be served by the Collins Express trolley operating along Collins Avenue at a higher service frequency.


2 Affected trips could be conducted by connecting to more frequent routes, such as South Beach Trolley (every 12 minutes) and several County bus routes (Route 20, Route 101, and Route 115).


3 Service from Mount Sinai Medical Center to City Center (and vice-versa) would be replaced by proposed County Route 20 (which would require a fare) operating every 15 minutes and provide greater regional access.


In addition to the suggested trolley modifications described above, the Better Bus Project is proposing to replace Route 150/Airport Express, which currently provides direct service from Miami International Airport to Miami Beach, due to low ridership and low productivity.  Route 150 would be replaced by Route 20 in both concepts, which would allow workers and residents to make new frequent connections to Miami Beach, improving regional access.


Key Issues

  • Trolleys and buses serve different purposes but have never been comprehensively planned together for maximum effectiveness. Both the coverage and ridership concepts assume that the cities of Miami and Miami Beach would change their trolley networks to maximize job access overall. The trade-off is that trolley routes are the result of a community-driven process and are controlled by cities.  Service is free and different vehicles are used. To achieve the intended goal of the Better Bus Project, however, means changing municipal trolley routes and the County bus network concurrently to create the intended synergies in the transit network.


  • Fares: given that city trolleys are free to ride and county buses require a $2.25 fare, if some of the changes to the City’s trolley routes are implemented as suggested in the Better Bus Project, some riders who are currently riding the trolley for free will need to pay a fare to ride the County bus. However, through County programs like the Golden Passport and commuter-reduced fares, those most in need of free or affordable transportation are not severely affected.  As an example, if the Belle Isle extension of the South Beach Trolley is eliminated and replaced by an enhanced County Route A as suggested in the Better Bus Project, passengers not eligible for any County discount using service to/from Belle Isle would need to pay a fare. 


  • Transfers and walking distance: eliminating segments of the City's existing trolley routes will require that some residents transfer from trolley to bus and vice-versa or walk longer distances to complete their trip. For example, if the Collins Park extension of the South Beach Trolley is eliminated, Collins Park residents would need to walk a longer distance to Collins Avenue or 17th Street to board the Collins Express or South Beach Trolley. 


The Better Bus Project intends to maximize ridership potential of the County's bus system and represents a collaborative planning process between regional and local services that improves access to opportunities for residents, regional access for workers, and access to frequent service.


The Administration supports changes to the County bus service that would maximize access to jobs, increase ridership, and establish more frequent service for residents, workforce, and visitors of Miami Beach. While both concepts support these goals, further discussion on key issues listed above is required, particularly in terms of impacts to the residents of Miami Beach. 


Staff supports various recommendations in the Better Bus Project, including:

·         eliminating the Via 11 Street Loop of the South Beach Trolley

·         increasing service frequency for South Beach Trolley and Collins Express 

·         eliminating Belle Isle extension and replacing service with an enhanced County Route A to connect to the South Beach Trolley

·         reducing duplication between the Middle Beach Trolley and Collins Express routes


With higher service frequency along the Collins Express, the Middle Beach Trolley route can be modified to operate only along the 41st Street corridor between Mount Sinai Medical Campus and Collins Avenue connecting to the Collins Express.


Design a Better Bus Network is action item 13 in Resilient 305. The final network plan for both regional and local service will be developed by the Better Bus Project team based on direction by the City of Miami Beach, City of Miami, and Miami-Dade County and will require intergovernmental cooperation and collaboration. The final plan will be voted on by the Board of County Commissioners between February and March 2020.


Changes to the proposed trolley alignments, if any, will require City Commission approval.

Applicable Area

Is this a Resident Right to Know item? Does this item utilize G.O. Bond Funds?
No  No 

Strategic Connection

Mobility - Increase multi-modal mobility citywide and connectivity regionally.
Attachment AOther
Attachment BOther