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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Miami and Ft. Lauderdale Public Transportation Options

February 2016

This blog post contains information about several transportation options in southern Florida. We started our day with a beautiful sunrise, and view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan as we departed Laguardia airport.
view from plane

view from plane







Fort Lauderdale airport (FLL) shuttle pickup for Dania Beach Tri-rail airport station

Since it can cost anywhere from $50 to over $100 for car service between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, we decided to take the Tri-rail from FLL to MIA for $3.75 each. The station is not accessible from the airport, so we needed to take a shuttle bus to the Dania Beach Station. The shuttle sign was straight ahead when we came down the escalator to baggage claim in terminal 2.

sign in terminal 2

I had researched the Tri-rail shuttle schedule online beforehand for the shuttle pick up times, and pick up locations in the airport. The sign in the terminal directed us to where I had expected. There were more shuttle buses operating than the times listed in the schedule I had printed before our trip. It looked like extra shuttle runs were being added about the time of our travel. Two buses were arriving when we walked outside to the pick up area. The first bus was full, and we boarded the second bus. I did not track the exact time that it took us to get to the station, although I would guess it was about 15 minutes. We made one more stop inside the airport where more passengers got on. The drive to the station area did not take that much longer; however, we then waited several minutes for two stoplights near I-95 when we got close to the station.

Boarding, and purchasing tickets at Dania Beach Station

To board the southbound train to Miami, you need to cross the tracks to the east side after exiting the shuttle bus. The crosswalk is next to Griffin Rd. This was not clearly marked, and the ticket purchasing process was inefficient. There were only two kiosks to purchase tickets from on each side of the tracks (so, four total), and many people were trying to purchase tickets. One machine on each side was for cash purchases only, and the other one [on each side] was for credit card purchases only. I had planned to pay with a credit card; however, there were more people making credit card purchases, so I ended up using cash. To make matters worse, you can only purchase one ticket at a time! I put $20 in the machine to purchase all three of our tickets. I then found out I could only purchase one at a time, so I received a bunch of $1 coins back. Which, I then had to re-feed to the machine for our remaining tickets.

I got kind of stressed during this process because our train arrived before we had our tickets, and I was afraid we were going to miss it. My schedule showed that the train only departed once an hour in the afternoon, and we did not really want to sit at the station for that long.

Tri-rail ride and arrival at Miami Central Station/MIA

The train ride was efficient and comfortable. There was plenty of room to store our luggage. We arrived at Miami Central Station at 2:00 p.m., and then we had to take the MIA mover to the airport. Some hotels will pick up guests at Miami Central Station; however, the Residence Inn had told us we needed to go to the airport to get the hotel shuttle bus.

Even though the Tri-rail process was not very streamlined, I would consider it again, depending on our flight arrival time. The current schedule shows departures from FLL to MIA at 17 after the hour on weekday afternoons (the times are more frequent in the mornings and evenings). Our flight arrived at 12:30 p.m., and we were rushed to get on the 1:17 p.m. train. If you are arriving in the morning, evening, or afternoon between the top and bottom of the hour, you should have plenty of time to make it on the southbound train. I think we ended up experiencing the least opportune arrival time!

Metrorail to downtown Miami from MIA airport area

We took the Metrorail from Miami Central Station to downtown Miami for the boat show. When I entered an address near the airport, and a downtown address [into the Metrorail system, or on google maps], the results shown were all bus routes, which included switching buses. Rail systems are usually more efficient than busses, so we decided taking the Orange line to Government Center was the best option. From Government Center, we could then walk the ½ mile to the closest water taxi stop, or we could take the Omni Loop Metromover to Knight Center.

On our return, we took the Inner Loop on the Metromover from Knight Center to Government Station (different loops go different directions).

Details and costs:
  • To get to Miami Central Station, we took the hotel shuttle to the airport, and then we took the MIA mover to the station. 
  • When we returned, I wanted to walk back to the Residence Inn from Central Station, which is just under 1½ miles along NW 37th Ave and NW 13th St (a route we have walked before). The people I was traveling with did not want to walk, so we went back to the airport, and then waited for our hotel shuttle. 
  • A one-way ride on the Orange Line was $2.25 (so, $4.50 each roundtrip). An all day Metrorail pass was $5.65. We purchased roundtrip tickets at the kiosk in Miami Central Station - again, you can only purchase one ticket at a time!
  • There is no cost to ride the Metromover downtown. It operates 7 days a week, and the Omni Loop stops at Government Center every 5 minutes.
  • Even though there was no charge to ride the Metromover, we had to scan our tickets after we got off the Orange Line at Government Center to get on the Omni Loop Metromover. We were worried this was going to deduct our return ride; however, it did not. Our tickets were still good for our return trip on the Orange Line. 
  • We did not need to scan anything to get on the Inner Loop Metromover in Knight Station for the return loop.
  • walking route from Miami Central Station to hotel  

Uber ride from Residence Inn to Port of Miami

The last time we took a cab from the Residence Inn to the cruise port, the cost was over $30. The Uber estimate was less than $15, so we decided to try it. This was our first experience with Uber. I had read some bad reviews from passengers who ended up paying more than they expected, so I had hoped to make an advance reservation with a confirmed price. After I had gotten the online estimate, I downloaded the app, and set up my account. I then learned that Uber does not take reservations. A friend of mine had told me she called for her ride in the Grand Rapids (Michigan) area when she used Uber; however, I did not see a telephone number for the Miami area. I wanted to place a call, because I wanted to confirm the pricing and the promotion code I had. The Uber app said to contact them via the app when we were ready, so I did.

Our ride arrived within 10 minutes; however, I was not able to confirm the rate or coupon code with the driver or via the app. We ended up hoping for the best, and when I received my receipt after the trip, my promotion code had been applied correctly; our first Uber ride was free (other than the tip).

I had read several online posts about tipping Uber drivers, and Uber ratings of passengers who did not tip. Uber maintains that tipping is not needed, and the app does not allow a place to add in a tip. Even so, it appeared that most drivers expected this, so we brought a small amount of cash for a tip. I checked my Uber rating after the trip, and we received a 5.

John's Car Service from Port of Miami to Ft. Lauderdale hotel

I contacted several transportation services for a non-shared ride after the cruise, and John's Car Service offered the best rate. The only hesitation I had with booking our reservation, was that he had several rides booked that day, so we needed to book ours for 8:30 a.m. I knew we would be able to disembark the ship early, as we have VIP status; however, I was still a bit stressed about making our reservation so early. John gave the impression he did not think this would be a problem, and on our last return to Miami on the Carnival Breeze, we had disembarked and arrived at our Miami airport hotel before 8:00 a.m.

As it happened, we were off the ship before 8:00 a.m. (without rushing), and John's Car Service was not ready for us. I had sent two texts, as he had requested (one before we left the ship, and another after we were out of the terminal). When I did not receive a reply, I called him just before 8:00 a.m. He said we were 45 minutes early, and that he would contact our driver. Our diver called us right back, and said he would be about 30 minutes. He arrived in a town car less than 30 minutes later. The car was comfortable and clean.

Although I would recommend John's Car Service, I think I would book a one-way rental car from the cruise port next time. I did not think of that option until a few days before our cruise, and I did not feel right about canceling our reservation with John that close to our departure. This would have saved us over $20, and we could have made stops on the way to the hotel. I knew the rental car company would not be as inconvenienced as a family car service, if we happened to be running late (and, I would have made the reservation for after 9:00 a.m.). Enterprise offered the best car rental rate when I researched this. They would have picked us up at the port, and they had a return location in Dania Beach less than two miles from our hotel.  

Please feel free to share this post for others looking for Florida transportation needs!