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Ferry Connecting Miami And Miami Beach Could Be First In A New Water Transit Network

Poseidon Ferry Miami Beach.JPG
Daniel Rivero
The Poseidon Ferry is now running hourly trips between Miami and Miami Beach. Here, the ferry is at its slip on 5th Street and West Avenue in Miami Beach.

The ferry is currently running an hourly service between Miami and Miami Beach, with the trips taking 20 minutes in both directions.

For years, leaders in Miami-Dade County have mused about the creation of a ferry service that would sidestep gridlock traffic on the bridges and connect the cities of Miami and Miami Beach over the waterways.

At long last, the dream is now a reality. And the operators hope it will be the first of many potential ferry stops, connecting different parts of South Florida.

Poseidon Ferry, a private company, started operating a commuter-centric ferry service between the two cities in late November. The company has leased a slip in front of the James L. Knight Center on the Miami River, and a slip at the marina on 5th Street and West Avenue on Miami Beach — both areas close to the major job and residential centers of downtown Miami, Brickell and South Beach.

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The ferry is currently running an hourly service, with the trips taking about 20 minutes in both directions.

“It sucks being stuck in traffic and sometimes you get that on the MacArthur Causeway,” said Jordan Howey, a downtown resident who just used the service for the first time for a one-way trip to South Beach. “It’s kind of fun, you just hop on and enjoy some views and voila you’re kind of here already.”

Howey took the ferry with his husband Marty, and the two were already making plans to use the service again.

“We talked about how nice it is, because you can just invite a bunch of friends over, grab this from downtown and pregame before you go out to the beach,” added Marty Howey.

The ferry has a full bar and concessions on board.

So far, business has been slow. On a recent round trip, a WLRN reporter was the only person on board for both stretches. Since opening in late November, only about 650 trips had been booked — as of last Friday, according to Poseidon CEO Jonathan Silvia.

But as word-of-mouth starts to spread, the company expects and uptick of ridership. Every weekend has seen an increase of ridership with people taking the ferry for pleasure and familiarizing themselves with the service, he said.

The rides start at $5 per trip for locals, and $10 for non-locals.

The ultimate goal down the line is to add a $3 per-trip option for commuters who use the service daily, a fare that would make it comparable to public transit options and cheaper than ridesharing services.

“Miami is one of the only cities on the water that does not have a ferry transit system. So we’re excited to be getting people to think about commuting a different way,” Silvia said.

Within two years, Silvia said, the company hopes to add additional stops on its ferry service, connecting different areas of South Florida along the waterways.

Potential future stops include Black Point Park and Marina in South Dade, Matheson Hammock Park, and stops in Haulover Beach and Aventura.

Poseidon Ferry Miami River View.JPG
Daniel Rivero
The ferry trips pass through the mouth of the Miami River. The first stop is just beyond the first bridge on the downtown Miami side, but the boat is low enough that the bridge does not have to open for the boat to pass through.

The company is already preparing to expand its fleet of boats for future expansion.

“We have two boats in the works right now, we’re designing low-wash catamarans, with a low profile so they can fit under the bridges,” Silvia said. “The main bridge that is low is the Venetian Causeway. So we’re trying to make sure that we create a new vessel that will work and get under the bridges without having to open them. Because once you open up a bridge you’re creating more traffic.”

The company is privately owned.

“We’re not getting any subsidies or anything like that to operate,” Silvia said. “We just feel passionately about the cause and we know that it’s sorely needed in this area.”

Poseidon Ferry started working towards launching the service in February 2019. To finally get it off the ground, Silvia and his team worked closely with the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, as well as Miami-Dade County.

Tickets can be booked online, and both stops have in-person ticket booths.

“It’s an excellent service. It’s very easy to book tickets on the internet. Tickets come to your iPhone, or any phone,” said Gareth Williams, who is visiting Miami on a business trip.

Williams is staying in a hotel a few minutes from the stop in downtown Miami, and said had already taken the ferry to Miami Beach four times before boarding for another trip on a recent afternoon.

“I’d rather use this than take a cab,” he said.

Daniel Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN, covering Latino and criminal justice issues. Before joining the team, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion.