With Miami Beach commissioners expected to decide on some South Beach Local route modifications Wednesday, the Belle Isle bloggers went exploring this weekend and had one heck of a time. Some nuggets from our adventure:
— The buses were packed. We spent Sunday afternoon going all over South Beach and at various points in the ride, it was standing room only — every seat taken, some 35 folks on board, about 10 holding on to the strap hangers.
— The routes are super convenient. Up and down West and Washington Avenue, anywhere you’d want to go is no more than a two block walk from a bus stop. Changes should make them even better.
— Bus drivers sometimes get a bad rap, but these drivers rock. We saw them help handicapped riders on and off (including their wire grocery carts), joke with passengers, give walking directions and deftly manage masses of people.
— The most confusing part of the ride is around the Publix at Sunset Harbor and on Belle Isle. On Belle Isle, the bus loops Island Avenue, but drivers aren’t supposed to stop in front of any of Belle Isle’s condos, only at the designated stop on Venetian Way in front of Belle Isle park near the Grand Venetian.
The least busy stop was Belle Isle, and that’s a big issue for those of us who have come to appreciate what an asset and value the SBL can be. We spent the day on South Beach and paid 50 cents each to get around. How do you beat that?
The city added the Belle Isle stop and stops in Collins Park (at 21st Street and Park Avenue) last June. A memo sent to the city commission this week specifically mentions that ridership to and from Belle Isle will determine whether the island stays as part of the route, because it adds time to the overall loop around South Beach.
On Wednesday, the city will discuss changing the traffic pattern from Belle Isle to provide direct service to Collins Park, and to the social security office. The route also will extend to Collins Avenue and 23rd Street, which would connect Belle Isle to the Ganesvort. Elsewhere on the route, it would add a stop at Alton Road and Sixth Street, site of the new big box mall with Best Buy and Ross and Publix.
You can click through to see the current routes and the proposed changes Beach commissioners are likely to put in place on Wednesday.
The package commissioners received includes a letter backing the change from Scott Diffenderfer, president of the Belle Isle Residents Association, which has lobbied like crazy for the Belle Isle link. The association letter also suggests construction of a bus shelter on Belle Isle, and promises a vigorous educational campaign to boost ridership.
If commissioners approve the changes, they will take affect this June. The city administration has recommended them.
We’ll update after Wednesday’s meeting.