A freshman’s guide to getting around Miami

Miami-Dade's new metrorail trains, as seen above, were put into service in 2017 as part of the People’s Transportation Plan. However, much of this plan, which promises much-needed changes to the city's public transportation system, have yet to be implemented.
Miami-Dade’s metrorail trains were put into service in 2017 as part of the People’s Transportation Plan. It is commonly used by UM students looking to inexpensively travel up and down South Florida. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Welcome to Miami! If you’re like me and grew up in a place with no public transportation, then you might be a little lost. Or, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who grew up in the heart of New York City. Either way this is your guide to navigating Miami.

No Car? No Problem!

At the University of Miami, freshmen are not allowed to have cars unless you are a commuter, which means you must find your way around the city on your own. But don’t worry, it isn’t as hard as it seems.

If you’re looking to explore the Coral Gables area, the city offers a free trolley service that runs every 15 minutes Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m to 8 p.m. There are two trolley routes that pick up passengers at the Douglas Road Metrorail Station, and can take you anywhere from the Shops at Merrick Park on Ponce de Leon Boulevard to Ponce Circle Park by Miracle Mile in Coral Gables.

While you’re still in Coral Gables be sure to take advantage of Freebee, a free door-to-door driver experience that runs seven days a week. Download the Freebee app and request a ride, then a driver will pick you up in an environmentally friendly electric vehicle and take you to your destination within South Coral Gables. Freebee runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is also offered in other areas in South Florida including Miami Beach and downtown Miami. Be sure to visit The Venetian Pool at the Biltmore Hotel or Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden for a beautiful, outdoor experience, or shop and dine on Miracle Mile, with over 120 restaurants and specialty shops.

Experience Miami

For anyone seeking the true Miami experience, you’ll have to leave the Coral Gables bubble. The easiest way to do this is by catching the Metrorail, which is located directly across from campus in between Ponce de Leon and US-1.

For only $2.25 students can hop on at the University stop and go as far south as the Dadeland Mall or head north toward Brickell, a glitzy urban neighborhood on Biscayne Bay. The line runs from 5 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. Plus, anyone looking to explore the Downtown Miami or Brickell areas can connect directly with the Metromover; a free train that loops around the city.

For holiday travels, the rail offers a direct line to the Miami International Airport, as well as connections to the Tri-Rail and the Brightline which reach Broward and Palm Beach counties.

A Night Out

While the Metrorail can take you to a lot of places, it does have its limitations. If you’re seeking a night out in popular areas such as Wynwood or South Beach there are no direct routes. Instead, ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft have become easy solutions, and when splitting the ride cost between a group of friends it can become an affordable option.

The Lyft app also gives you access to unlock Lyft Scooters, which can be found throughout the city. Other scooter apps that function in Miami include Bird, Lime and Spin.

Rent a Car

If you’re looking to run a few errands or wanting to get away for a long weekend, then renting a Zipcar is your best option, whether for an hour, a day or even a weekend. The student rate ranges from $9.50 an hour to $79 a day, plus the rate includes fuel, insurance and maintenance or roadside assistance in cases of emergency.

You won’t have to walk too far from your dorm room either, Zipcar vehicle stations located are located around campus including outside of both Hecht and Mahoney-Pearson Residential colleges. All you need is a driver’s license and to be at least 18 years old.

On Campus Transportation

Navigating campus is a little easier than finding your way around a big new city. There are three main options for getting around campus: the Hurry ‘Canes Shuttle, biking and walking.

The school offers two main shuttle loops: the Miller Circle and the Stanford Express. The Miller Circle route stops at the Miller Circle, School of Music, St. Augustine Church, University Village, Brescia Lot and Hecht, while the Stanford Express makes stops at the Metrorail, Ponce Garage, Stanford Circle and across from the Metrorail.

The shuttles run in 10 minute increments seven days a week. Servicing hours have not been set for the fall semester yet, but students can go to umshuttles.com to track a shuttle.

If for any reason you find yourself on campus after shuttle hours, the university has traditionally offered Safe Ride; an on-demand service that provides pick-ups and drop-offs on campus. Safe Ride was temporarily suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s unclear when it will return. However, when the program does return, its normal operating hours are Monday through Friday between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., and students may call (305) 298-6128 for a ride.

Another common way students move around campus is biking, and the school makes it pretty easy for students to own one. There are free air pump stations and bike parking racks located all around campus. All you need is a bike permit and a bike lock, but make sure you get those otherwise you might find your bike at the UMPD’s annual bike sale!

Students can register their bikes online or at the UMPD office located on the ground floor of the Flipse building. Registration is mandatory and comes with a free U-bicycle lock.

You’re Ready

From the Metrorail to Zipcars to even free services such as Freebee, navigating Miami isn’t as hard as it initially may have looked. If you’re up to the challenge, follow this guide and you’ll be discovering new places in no time.