South Beach Local may shift to safer route, but is ridership high enough to survive?

A packed South Beach Local makes its way south on West Avenue on Sunday.

Belle Isle residents who have held their breath as South Beach Local buses careen around the narrow Island Avenue curve may be relieved to know that a route change is being considered by Miami-Dade Transit.

The county transit types have agreed to consider changing the path of the SBL to the north side of the island, in front of The Standard and Belle Isle Key Apartments, Belle Isle Residents Association board member Barbara Cowan says.

Island residents have complained that the buses travel too fast around the Island Avenue half circle. Cowan said  transit officials seem receptive to changing the route — “everyone seems to be okay with it” — but a final decision won’t happen until it is formally studied.

The bigger issue for Belle Isle is whether the SBL will continue to include the island on its route, because ridership remains low.

The commuter bus route, which only costs 25 cents, picks up riders from a stop on Venetian Way on the north side of Belle Isle park, and circles South Beach — with stops at Publix at Sunset Harbour, at the big box stores at Fifth and Alton, up and down Washington Avenue and around the Collins Park area.

We chronicled a ride on the local last year, and found it was a great way to get around South Beach.

Belle Isle was added to the route two years ago on an experimental basis. With money tight at County Hall, the route is at risk. Cowan urged residents to try the bus at a recent residents association meeting.

“I know you all love your cars,” she said. “But try it. Just go to south beach, just go to the symphony, just go somewhere on this bus so when they have this discussion about whether to keep it there will be more people riding it,” she said. “There ain’t no money. Miami-Dade transit is in big trouble…when they begin to look at costs, they ask, ‘where can we cut this to get rid of 100 here and 100 there.'”


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