The new age of trolley riding is growing in Kendall. On the heels of a newly initiated Westchester trolley between Tropical Park and Florida International University, Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan C. Zapata has initiated planning for a trolley route linking key destinations in the “West End” area west of SW 137th Avenue.
As approved by a county commission resolution on Nov. 14, Mayor Carlos Giminez was directed to prepare a feasibility study for a “West End Circulator” bus route interconnecting at FIU with the Westchester shuttle.
The study will include recommendations to create a transportation loop connecting three major areas of the West End with a crossover station at the intersection of SW 88th Street and 147th Avenue.
As described by Zapata, the proposed transit route would link community services and green spaces in and around three key parks and two institutions: Hammocks Community Park, Boystown Pineland County Park, Water Oaks Park, the FIU campus and West Kendall Baptist Hospital. The proposed route also would connect bicycle, hiking, and walking trails located throughout the West End while identifying potential route alignments, stop locations, funding sources, ridership estimates, service hours and frequency, according to Kiel Green, aide to Zapata.
In his Nov. 10 newsletter, Zapata hailed the project as “another step toward less congestion…one of the many ways we are trying to improve connectivity, reduce traffic, and ultimately increase the quality of life for residents.”
Basis for the study is the FIU College of Architecture’s “West End Strategy: A Vision for the Future,” a comprehensive Master Plan for the 200,000-plus residents residing south of SW Eight Street (Tamiami Trail) to SW 152nd Street, a 194-page report released earlier this year to better define growth throughout the area.
The study noted that the “the West End is typical of low density suburban development patterns with high dependence on vehicle trips for conveniences, low walkability, and in some locations difficult pedestrian conditions.”
The report noted “a higher than average dependence and use of automobiles for work and non-work travel in the West End in comparison to other areas of Miami-Dade County.”
An advantage in place for potential trolley riders is the Miami-Dade Transit Service bus station, installed two years ago next to the Town Center property and West Baptist Hospital for Kendall’s major bus route connecting the West End with the Dadeand North Metrorail Station.
While no timetable was provided for a shuttle operation to begin, the study is directed to include potential funding sources, an estimate of ridership and land use studies to optimize efficiency.
Initiated more than a year ago by District 10 Commissioner Javier Souto, the Westchester Circulator began operations in July at 25 cents per ride from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a Monday-Friday schedule. The operational cost was estimated at $266,000, according to Miami- Dade Transit.
Sharing revenue from the half-penny tax collection approved by voters in 2002, trolleys have now expanded to 27 municipalities, including Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Hialeah.
In October, Miami City Commissioners approved an extension of the downtown system into Wynwood, Coconut Grove and other nearby neighborhoods with Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez noting downtown shuttles are used by 360,000 riders each month, “well beyond our initial modeling.”