Navigating Miami’s public transportation system can be tricky. It’s a sprawling city, and if you want to knock out the best bars in Wynwood, the best Little Havana restaurants and still have time for Miami’s best drunk food, you’ll need to find a set of wheels. Luckily—thanks to Uber, the city’s rail system and other options such as the free trolley—getting around Miami is not as hard as it once was. But it still takes a little getting used to—especially if you’re new in town. So let’s figure out what Miami transportation system is right for you.
Miami transit and public transportation guide
Though it’s the biggest and most comprehensive transportation system we have, Miamians have a love/hate relationship with our city buses. The vehicles are clean and air-conditioned but they travel along congested routes and can run on unreliable schedules. The frequency of service varies by route, time and day of the week: as often as every 10 or 15 minutes or as far apart as every 45 minutes. A one-way bus fare starts at $2.25 and children less than 42 inches tall travel free. Different buses and routes can fluctuate by 25 cents or so, but nothing will cost you more than $3.
The Miami trolley is a great free way to get around certain areas of the city. On the mainland, these orange and green vehicles operate in Allapattah, Downtown, Brickell, Coconut Grove, Coral Way, Edgewater, Little Havana, Overtown, Wynwood and more. There’s also a particularly convenient and reliable trolley operating in Miami Beach. Trolley service starts at 6:30am on weekdays and runs till 7pm, 8pm, 11pm or midnight depending on location. You can track the trolley live online. When you see one, you can try to flag it down (they won’t stop if they’re full) or—the easier option—find a marked stop. When aboard, feel free to ask the driver the best place to get off for your destination.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Phillip Pessar
The Metromover is one of three train lines in Miami-Dade (Metromover, Metrorail and Tri-Rail). The Metromover is the smallest of the three but the most efficient and convenient—if you happen to be sticking around Downtown and Brickell. The elevated, electric monorail runs two very short loops—one inner, one outer—around Downtown (Mon–Thu 5am–11pm, Fri 5am–midnight, Sat 6am–midnight and Sun 6am–11pm). The Metromover is free and can help you bypass Downtown and Brickell's absolutely horrific traffic and offers direct stops at the Brickell City Centre and Bayfront Park.
Photograph: Flickr cc/Hugh Millward
Think of the Metrorail like the Metromover’s bigger, yet more complicated cousin. The 24.4-mile elevated train system runs from Palmetto (north) to Dadeland (south), with stops around every mile. But the Metrorail isn’t as easy as the free hop-on-hop-off Metromover. A single trip costs $2.25 and you must purchase an EASY Card or ticket (available at station vending machines) because cash is not accepted. But visitors may find Metrorail useful for trips to Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Vizcaya or coming from or going to Miami International Airport.
Photograph: Courtesy Miami-Dade County
The largest of Miami’s rail systems, the Tri-Rail—as the name implies—connects three counties: Miami, Broward and Palm Beach. Running in a pretty straight north/south line from Miami to West Palm Beach, the Tri-Rail is good for those looking to travel a far distance or see another county. It does connect with certain Metrorail stops and—like the Metrorail—cash is not an option. You must either have an EASY Card or a paper ticket, which you can buy online or at the station 20 minutes prior to your train departure. Fares depend on how far you’re going but remain reasonable—they hover around $2.50 to $6.90 for a one-way ticket.
Photograph: Flickr cc/Phillip Pessar
Taxis aren’t very popular with locals. They can expensive and unreliable. Meters start at approximately $2.50—but can vary from cab to cab, and not always in your favor. Tipping is expected as well. Taxis can sometimes be a good choice when leaving the airport, as Ubers and Lyfts can be tough to track and find at the busy terminals. But, other than that, we highly recommend using a ride-share app for quick, trustworthy results.
Photograph: Flickr cc/Leandro Neumann Ciuffo
It hasn’t taken long for Miami to embrace ride-share apps. An Uber or Lyft is generally cheaper and quicker than a taxi and can be tracked on your smartphone more reliably. Uber and Lyft also have options (called Uber Pool and Lyft Line) that will allow you to share a ride with other passengers, significantly cutting cost in exchange for a longer drive. Just make sure you have all young belongings when you exit. If you leave a phone or wallet behind in and Uber or Lyft, getting it back means you’ll have to try and call your driver through the app. And that can be a real pain.
Not a lot of folks know about the Freebee—which makes it a great option, especially in crowded areas such as South Beach. Like the name implies, the ride is free (thanks to adds that run along to top and side of the small electric cars). Tipping, though, is still strongly encouraged. A few dollars per person should be fine. Though they look a bit like tricked out golf carts, the Freebee is an essential app (you order one just like an Uber) for any Miamian. They operate in Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Downtown, Brickell, Wynwood, Miami Lakes and most of Miami Beach.
Photograph: Courtesy Freebee