Miami without a car

Sometimes everyone needs a departure from the status quo. Like posts about Cristina Fernández or Brazil’s judicial system. This week was one of those cases. Faced with staying in New York through a heat wave and stowing away on my partner’s business trip to Miami, I chose the latter. Sound glamorous? Well the glamour ended when I found out we would be staying not catching the surf combing breezes at the South Beach Delano or popping bottles at the Brickell Conrad, but rather at the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel. Bummer.

But, being the adventuresome soul that I am, I turned my frown into a determination to do something different on this trip. Given the recent opening of the Metrorail service to MIA, and my general aversion to cars, I embarked on the most un-Miami of Miami visits, going automobile-free in the Magic City. Who else?

My evening arrival to MIA was a bad sign of things to come, when I took the airport’s new MIA mover to the rental car center/Metrorail stop in the hopes of walking across the street to the Sheraton hotel from the rental car center. After several dirty looks and a half hour walking around the garage, I caved and called the hotel and the only advice they offered was for me to go all the way back to the airport on the people mover to be later picked up by a Sheraton shuttle to the hotel. The parking attendant told me to use the “fire door” and “walk quickly” when the alarm went off. Those options out, I just pretended to be a car and walked out the way that rentals drive to the highway. Surely a bad sign.

Later that evening, against protestations from my better half, I boarded the 10:30 orange line to Brickell station, arriving only 16 minutes later into the heart of Miami’s flashiest area, faster than I would have arrived driving. Sure, I was alone most of the way. Sure, it was a little creepy. But so is the C train, any time of day, any day of the week. The airport station was spotless, and a testament to an ambitious plan to reinvent the city’s transportation system through a Central Train station at the airport connecting the Metrorail, the Tri-Rail to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Amtrak, and Miami International.

All dressed up and nowhere to go                               Making a grand entrance

The next day, I returned to Brickell and Downtown Miami to do some sightseeing, and find a spot to do work that didn’t look over a golf course.

A room with a view at the Sheraton

And yet again, confounding the hotel valets as I walked past confidently without asking for a car, taxi or shuttle to the MIA airport station. Another 16 minutes and I was in the heart of downtown Miami, where I could transfer to the quaint but efficient MetroMover, a people mover that soars high above the city, affording spectacular views of the construction site that is central Miami these days. The best part? Like Ocean Drive in the 80’s, everyone rides for free.

The fascinating Metromover The built environment

I had to ride back to the hotel for a conference call later in the day, but then had to return yet again in the evening to Brickell. All of this travel, and I spent less than one valet parking ticket. I did cheat later that evening, since my friend and writer for the Latin Business Chronicle (no better host to Brickell) Mark Keller, insisted on giving me a ride home.

But if you think the airport to Brickell is the only place to fly on Miami’s public transportation, you’d be wrong. Also available from the airport is the super efficient, and every-half-hour express bus to Miami Beach, which departs from the same place as the subway and is connected to the airport by the MIA Mover system. The bus takes 20 minutes to get to 41st St. and Alton Road, and then winds its way down Collins Avenue and Washington Ave. to the bottom of South Beach. Door-to-door, hotel to Lincoln Road, 35 minutes.

Constant construction            Bridging Brickell

Once on South Beach, I was pleasantly surprised to find a new bike share program, DecoBike, where day trippers like me can pay the (somewhat steep) access fee ($4 for a 1/2 hour, $10 for two hours) and return bikes anywhere else there is a station. Taking a ride down to the point of Miami Beach was exceedingly pleasant, and knowing that there was no car waiting for me to be ticketed, towed or sticky hot when returning was a pleasure.

Florida        DecoBike

On the bus back to the luxurious airport hotel, I thought, wow this hasn’t been such a bad trip. I didn’t have to deal with Miami’s famously terrible drivers, didn’t have to pay ridiculous sums to park in the city’s hotspot establishments, and didn’t have to endure the judging glares of valets when I parked my rented Ford Focus amongst Maseratis and Porsche Cayennes.

Plus I got to see Miami from above, in all its bizarre splendor. I even got the chance to brush up on my Creole.

A birds-eye view

Just in case you couldn't figure it out        Creole Lessons

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