Brickell Shuttle Likely First Step In Downtown Plan
By Candi Calkins
Transportation planners say a shuttle service for the Brickell area could be a first step in a plan that calls for bus links between downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
A feasibility study on shuttle services for downtown Miami released in June recommended three routes serving Brickell Avenue, Overtown and the Flagler Street corridor.
If federal funding is approved this year, local officials say the Brickell Avenue loop has a realistic chance of becoming the first phase.
The initial Brickell route would stop on Brickell Key, at the Brickell Metromover station and at Publix.
"I think it will help the traffic flow quite a bit and get people to go to shop downtown," said Miami Commissioner Willy Gort, who chairs the Downtown Development Authority, an independent agency responsible for economic development initiatives.
"Transportation is vital for the business community," Mr. Gort said. "The more access and the easier access you have, the better it is for everyone."
The Brickell shuttle route, which would cost $182,000 a year to operate, is among several transportation projects included in the county’s application for a WAGES Transit grant of $1 million.
"It looks very promising that we’ll get at least money to start with one bus," said Adam Lukin, project manager for the Downtown Development Authority.
The federal transportation grant is part of the national welfare-to-work program aimed at getting welfare recipients into the workforce. Officials say that adding shuttles would help low-income workers get to jobs.
Jes£s Guerra, project manager with the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county transportation agency that sponsored the shuttle study, said the Brickell shuttle would help workers get from the Metrorail to new hotels soon to open along Brickell. "We are trying to move people from one side to another."
If grant funds become available, Mr. Guerra said, the Miami-Dade Transit Agency would operate the Brickell shuttle during the first year as a pilot project. He said if it’s successful, the Brickell route would be expanded north of the Miami River to Bayside.
Later, as funding becomes available, officials say they would add a downtown route linking Flagler Street with the Omni mall and an Overtown route that eventually would link Flagler Street to the Lyric Theater and Cedars Medical Center.
Mr. Guerra said the Metropolitan Planning Organization later may consider hiring contractors to operate expanded shuttle routes.
"I think it came up with some good routes that have potential," Ed Carson, transit programs administrator for District 6 of the Florida Department of Transportation, said of the shuttle feasibility study.
"Now it’s just a matter of finding the money to do them all."
Mr. Carson said the shuttle is part of a growing trend to localize transportation, citing the Electrowave shuttle in Miami Beach and neighborhood circulators planned next year for Hialeah.