On Monday, February 3rd 2014, The City of Miami Beach is launching a new free trolley bus that serves Alton Rd and West Ave between 5th St. and Lincoln Rd. The purpose of this trolley is “to help you get to Alton Rd and West Ave businesses” during the FDOT construction project of the same streets. The Alton/West Loop trolleys will travel from 5 Street to Lincoln Road, along Alton Road and West Avenue, with 21 stops along the way.
The service will run approximately every 10 minutes from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Sunday. The trolley has a capacity of 25 passengers and has an external bike rack and free Wi-Fi (coming soon). In addition to the free trolley, the City is providing Free Four-Hour Parking at Fifth & Alton Garage with the Trolley Voucher.
While I am not usually one to criticize public transportation projects, especially FREE ones of any sort, I do have some concerns about this particular trolley. Since the goal is to get people to shop at Alton Rd/West Ave businesses, the City seems to have assumed that the reason people are currently staying away from this area is because there is not sufficient parking available. However, this is, at least for me, not at all the reason I do not shop on Alton Road. I thought I would enlighten the City with my TOP 5 REASONS I’M NOT SHOPPING ON ALTON RD RIGHT NOW (and won’t even if the City sends me a free limo).
1. It is more scenic to walk in the trash dumpster alley between West and Alton than on Alton Rd.
Alton Rd is just plain ugly right now. It has always been ugly but now it’s uglier than ever. It’s just not a pleasant walk looking at all those construction signs and the torn up road. Why would I sit in a coffee shop on Alton, looking at a ripped-up street if I can enjoy a coffee on pleasant, pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Rd just a few blocks away? I guess I am not the only one to think this way since the local Latin cafeteria next to my building on Alton Rd recently closed shop.
2. It isn’t safe to be on West and Alton or Alton Rd.
I would rather not die like this. And you?
3. I’d rather not subject my lungs to breathing in the combined exhaust of 10,000 cars.
Yep, it looks like that around here lately. A lot.
4. The traffic lights suck for pedestrians.
Wait, I have to wait 3 minutes for the light to turn green for me, and then I get 22 second to spurt across the street? Nah, that sucks. I don’t even know how someone without my athletic abilities will achieve this (elderly, handicapped…). Pedestrians are really made to feel like second-class citizens with this kind of treatment. That’s why so many of them simply disrespect the lights and decide to cross anyway.
5. There is no bicycle infrastructure on Alton Rd/West Ave
So, as you can see from above, it’s kind of impossible, or really annoying, to be around Alton Rd by foot right now and since driving is not an option right now, there is really only one other alternative. Biking. Needless to say, the treatment for cyclists is even worse than the one for pedestrians since there is simply no infrastructure at all. No bike lane, no bike parking, not even a cutesie sharrow (I say cute because I like the little bike paintings on the street but consider them completely ineffective - but that’s another topic).
So instead of showing you a really great bike lane on Alton Rd, since there is none, I’ll show you one of the Ciclovia held in Bogota, a weekly event where the main street in Bogota is entirely shut down to traffic. This event is a huge success and is attended by thousands of people walking, biking, scooting, and running through downtown Bogota. It seemed to work real well for the local businesses to, as it is held on a Sunday morning which would otherwise not generate such a large crowd. As it turned out, to get people to downtown, no free trolley busses had to be installed by the city. People say Miami is South America - I can only hope this will be true one day.
Having said that, I still love to shop on Lincoln Rd so I will from now on refer to this trolley as the free Lincoln Rd shuttle. I’m sure tourists will be delighted they have a free connection between Ross and Lincoln Rd now. And of course, the homeless will be grateful for an air-conditioned place to rest their weary bones. However, I’m not sure it’ll do anything at all for those businesses suffering along on Alton Rd.
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