The Miami-Dade MPO is considering an initiative which would bring waterborne commuter transportation soon to our shores. The 99 passenger catamarans would run every 30 minutes between the city of Miami and Haulover Marina in North Miami-Dade and Matheson Hammock in South Miami-Dade. A Miami terminal is planned for the dead end street just north of the Hotel Intercontinental, just one block away from the Bayfront Park Metromover Station. Catamaran acquisition as well as improvements to both Marinas is estimated to cost $18 Million.

I’ve heard this idea floating (pun intended) around for quite sometime now. Similar systems are already integral parts of other transportation networks including: New York, Boston, San Diego, Houston, San Francisco, Sydney, and even London. There are also plans to bring commuter ferries to Chicago along Lake Michigan and Washington D.C. along the Potomac River. Despite commuter ferry success elsewhere, I have many reservations about this project. The decentralization of our city makes such a project fairly difficult to attract sufficient riders. The given route also seems to be a bit redundant to existing public transportation (Tri-Rail and South-Dade Busway/Metrorail) which have thus far failed to successfully attract riders (likely due to the decentralization and inability to properly integrate transit with the surroundings.)

Now, I don’t want to completely discredit the idea either. The ferries would transport commuters from two fairly affluent neighborhoods, a concept which was recently proven to be successful with Metrorail station boarding statistics. The park and ride idea could also work well given that it doesn’t completely remove vehicular use from the commuter. I think the fare should be split between rides and parking however, to further encourage the reduced costs of carpooling or seeking alternative forms of arriving at the departure marinas. The commuter ferry should be a driving force for the city to vastly improve all of our waterfront space. Rather than creating a terminal by Bayfront Park as proposed, I believe the catamarans should berth in the cut just north of the American Airlines Arena alongside the upcoming museum park cultural center. The city should then work to bring the Miami-Key West Ferry from Key Biscayne to this same terminal essentially creating a local water transportation intermodal center which would be only one block from the Parkwest Metromover Station and easier to one day link with Baylink or a Miami Streetcar.

There are serious hurdles which need to be overcome, none of which can be solved by just the MPO or any other single branch of local government. In order to make our transit options successful we need to work to centralize our city while making commuting options as comfortable, seamless, and attractive as possible. Miami’s waterfront park space needs to become an integral part of our city, bustling with pedestrians and activity in order for this concept to succeed. Ferry service, if centralized, could one day offer locals and tourists alike easy affordable transit to our coastal cities, Key West, or even further abroad; after all we are the cruise capital of the world…

8 Responses to Miami: Water Commuting Capital of the World?

  1. Dave says:

    How much of that area is covered by those no-wake Manatee speed zones? I know most of the southern shore down to Matheson Hammock is part of a manatee zone. So would this be “rapid” transit taking you from South Dade to Bayside at a leisurely 5 MPH? The site seeing would be good at least.


  2. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Excellent Question, I’ll Look into it…


  3. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone thought of looking into a South Beach-Downtown water connection in the absence of Baylink? As a South Beach resident, I know that both locals and tourists would be more than receptive to the idea.


  4. Edward says:

    Is there any talk of a river route between the airport, downtown and perhaps Miami Beach? Would such a route be feasible? Given the pain it must be for tourists to get from the airport to the beach and downtown, a leisurely boat ride down Miami River seems like a great idea. Even it the river’s polluted and stinks.


  5. Anonymous says:

    You went way off the mark with the Key West ferry and completely missed a stop on the Beach. A stop that could relieve traffic on the causeways.

    There are also options to catamarans. Hydrofoils and hovercrafts both can move lotsa folks at high speeds, one in open waters and the other safely over marine mammals… and people.

    Anyway, all cities mentioned have ferries because they are to some extent “decentralized”. Their populations are spread out separated by water.

    I think you should rewrite this one.


  6. Manola Blablablanik says:

    Gabriel, I have always wondered this myself. It seems ridiculous that we don’t have water taxis here, but perhaps that has to do with the fact that the distance between the islands and the mainland really isn’t that significant. Yet this would be wonderful after Museum Park opens, I think. Come to think of it, there is no “affordable” way to really enjoy a water trip around here, even if you’re a local, so I think this would be a touristy thing to do even for locals.

    The issue here is what kind of transport people will use once they’re off the boat. You know, I’d still have to drive and park my car at the station.

    Also, I am troubled about using Matheson Hammock for this, which is an ecological treasure. Heck, why not the Mercy area? Now they are building that stupid condo instead.

    As for manatee zones … the ferries would have to run along main boating channels along Biscayne Bay anyway.


  7. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:


    You’re right it is a bit absurd that we don’t have water taxis here. I am quite skeptical of any proposal, I can’t really see any scenario becoming an economically feasible alternative given the state of our on-land public transit options, as you mentioned…The problem I see with the Mercy site is that it too close to the city itself, in a sense defeating the purpose of riding the ferry to begin with. Matheson Hammock affords us the possibility of free parking; it is situated near the southernmost metrorail terminus, and is located in an area where a large percentage of the population presumably works in downtown highrises…Will people ride though? I hate to doubt it from the beginning, but a lot of factors will have to fall into place in order for this project to succeed.


    Way off the mark? I didn’t invent the key west ferry, it already exists, I only moved its terminal from the parking lot of the Miami seaquarium to downtown where it can more reasonably connect with local and regional transportation…Good point on the Catamarans, I think that is what is being considered for purchase…The cities mentioned are not decentralized. A Miami Beach stop would be nice, but rather impractical for a startup trial project. A smaller water taxi like in Ft. Lauderdale would better suit those needs…I think you should rewrite your comment…


  8. […] Miami Water Commuting Capital of the World Transit Miami Posted by root 3 minutes ago ( Feb 28 2007 i know most of the southern shore down to matheson hammock is part of a manatee zone is there any talk of a river route between the airport downtown and perhaps miami beach i think you should rewrite your comment powered by wordpress and k2 mi Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Miami Water Commuting Capital of the World Transit Miami […]


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