Two Miami Beach commissioners have asked to discuss the future of the South Beach Local when the city commission meets Wednesday, and the Belle Isle’s future with the commuter bus route could be at stake.
The city has discussed doubling the 25 cent fare for the SBL, the commuter bus that loops South Beach in two directions. It’s also considering eliminating the stop at Belle Isle Park, because of low ridership.
Commissioners Jerry Libben and Jonah Wolfson have asked to discuss the SBL this week.
Miami Beach’s Transportation and Parking Committee members voted in February double the SBL fare to 50 cents in order to stave off looming funding cuts by Miami-Dade Transit.
The SBL has been in operation since 2005. It boasts a gross ridership of more than 130,000 a month. It runs from 7:40 a.m. to 1 a.m. each day.
It stops at Publix, goes north and south on Alton Road/West Avenue, hits the big box stores at Fifth and Alton, and sweeps north on Washington Avenue, and around the north side of the Convention Center.
The city of Miami Beach pays about one-third of the $3.3 million annual cost; Miami-Dade County pays the rest.
Two years ago, Miami-Dade Transit added a stop on Belle Isle at the urging of the Belle Isle Residents Association. But ridership from the island has been slow to build.
A ridership report that Commissioner Libben requested for Wednesday’s meeting showed an average total of 51 riders boarding the bus each day during the month of December 2010, one of the least used stops on the route — although a few stops showed smaller ridership.
But residents association President Scott Diffenderfer has argued the county should move the SBL’s path to the north side of the island, so it passes in front of The Standard before heading east on Venetian Way to the stop in front of Belle Isle Park.
Diffenderfer said in a letter to the city that ridership has grown since the SBL route was tweaked a year ago. Belle Isle has roughly 10 percent of South Beach’s population, so it’s logical to believe the Belle Isle stop will be successful over time, he argues.