By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Miami Commissioner Wilfredo Gort has been campaigning to both the Miami and Miami Beach City Commissions to vote towards a resolution regarding building connected public transit.
Miami Beach is one of the few cities in America that is largely surrounded by water yet does not offer any government-provided waterborne transportation services. New York, San Francisco and Jacksonville all operate successful water taxis. Gort’s proposal includes establishing transit routes from the mainland of Miami to the island of Miami Beach.
“We’ve tried water taxis for many years,” Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Gongora said during a Neighborhood and Community Affairs Committee meeting. “For some reason, we’ve never been able to make a success out of something that in theory sounds like it would work great.”
The City of Miami Beach tested a pilot program in 2016. The water taxi transported passengers from downtown Miami and the Miami Beach Marina. One-way tickets were priced at $15, a sharp increase compared to the $2.25 bus fare.
In a year-long trial, less than 150 people utilized the service. Miami and Miami Beach combined have a population of over 550,000 residents.
The latest bill lists the City of Miami, Miami Beach and the Florida Department of Transportation working in conjunction implementing Miami-Dade’s Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan. The SMART Plan recognizes the Beach Corridor Connection Project as one of the county’s top transportation priorities.
The Beach Corridor extends from midtown Miami to the Miami Beach Convention Center. In the bill draft, the estimated total cost of the government-funded water taxi service is $10 million. The Florida Department of Transportation is slotted to fund half of the project.
Miami-Dade County is expected to finance $3,750,000 or 37.5 percent in Charter County Transportation Surtax Funds. The remaining $1,250,000 will be contributed by Miami Beach and Miami.
Water shuttle services have the possibility of directly combating traffic congestion. According to the South Florida Business Journal, Miami Beach and Miami drivers have the worst commute times in South Florida, respectively.
Nearly 25 percent of Miami Beach commuters drive between an hour and 89 minutes to get to work.