New trolley line connects UM with Downtown Coral Gables

Miami Trolley cruises down Miracle Mile in Coral Gables. Photo Credit: Phillip Pessar on Wikimedia Commons

Want to explore the city but can’t stand driving in Miami traffic? The City of Coral Gables has the answer — the Downtown Express. The newest Coral Gables trolley route runs to and from destinations near the University of Miami to Downtown Coral Gables.

The Downtown Express ran for the first time on Oct. 1. This free route runs on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and includes northbound and southbound routes that run roughly every 20 minutes.

The northbound route begins at Kerdyk Park and continues to The Standard, Red Road Commons, the University Metrorail stop and Life Time before arriving at the Downtown Coral Gables locations of Miracle Mile and Giralda. The southbound route makes all of these stops, except for The Standard stop, in reverse order.

UM sits on the border of Coral Gables, making it convenient for many students and other southern Coral Gables residents to visit locations outside the city rather than going downtown, which the Downtown Express attempts to mitigate.

“You tend to go to places like South Miami or the Grove just because it’s closer, so we wanted to provide a convienent transportation to Downtown Coral Gables where you don’t have to worry about parking, driving or sitting in traffic,” Solanch Lopez, the Marketing Manager of the City of Coral Gables Economic Development, said.

According to Lopez, the Economic Development Department found that 78% of Coral Gables customers were not residents, with most of the credit card data history being tracked back to residents of the greater Miami area.

“We’re missing a big chunk of our own residents that we want to be able to enjoy the dining, shopping and activties that our downtown has to offer,” Lopez said.

Transportation is responsible for 46% of the greenhouse gas emissions in Coral Gables, which was another reason the Downtown Express was implemented.

“We wanted to provide more alternative transportation options to our residents, visitors and students and get them around the city more efficiently,” said Matthew Anderson, Assistant Director of Mobility & Sustainability of the City of Coral Gables Parking & Mobility Services Department.

The City of Coral Gables runs two other trolley routes from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, utilizing seven trolleys during the week, but only had five trolleys running on Saturday, which made the implementation of the Downtown Express possible.

“We had more resources to be able to add and also support the goal of our Economic Development office and bringing people downtown, and we thought the afternoon into evening time on Saturday would be the best time to bring in more people from the southern part of the city,” Anderson said.

In its first weekend, the Downtown Express saw great success with 70 passengers and a positive reception from the community.

“Some of our elected officials have already received emails complimenting the route,” Anderson said.

There was a launch party for the route on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. with the Coral Gables Economic Development and Operation teams as well as Mayor Vince Lago, Vice Mayor Rhonda Anderson, commissioner Ariel Fernandez, UM Sustainability Manager Teddy L’Houtellier and UM Student Government President Niles Niseem.

“This new trolley route is being created for a younger audience so that there’s engagement in Downtown Coral Gables and so that people can go and enjoy what the city has to offer,” said Niseem, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and electronic media. “It’s a great opporunity for students to get plugged in with the city and all it has to offer.”

As an incentive for people to ride Downtown Express, Lopez is working with Coral Gables businesses to offer promotions only available to Downtown Express riders.

“We’re going to have the information on the trolley itself, so you have to be riding the trolley to unlock and access those promotions,” Lopez said.

Current promotions include discounts on products at Stem Boutique and Häagen-Dazs, both located on Miracle Mile, with discounts at more stores being confirmed.

The Downtown Express, along with all Coral Gables Trolleys, can be tracked on the ETA SPOT website and app.

“We have a lot of technology in place so people are able to plan their trip effectively and not be waiting at a stop for any extended period of time,” Anderson said.

Free WiFi is also available on the trolley.

Visit the Coral Gables Website for more information on the Downtown Express.