Touch down, check in to your hotel and be lounging on the beach in less than an hour. Miami International Airport lands you right in the middle of all the action — just seven miles from Downtown Miami and 10 miles from Miami Beach and the ocean. Once on terra firma, getting around is easy by taxi, rental car, bus, train or bike.
On an average day, Miami International Airport (MIA) welcomes 91,788 travelers — 53 percent domestic and 47 percent international — flying 88 airlines to and from 129 destinations through 101 gates. It ranks second among U.S. airports for international passengers.
A multiyear $6.2 billion capital improvement program has already added a fourth runway and a new South Terminal. Now nearing completion, it will expand total terminal space to 7.5 million square feet, with more gates, counters and capacity.
Unveiled in 2007, the gleaming new South Terminal features vaulted ceilings, towering windows and lots of natural light. It serves Continental and 19 other carriers. A new North Terminal for American Airlines and American Eagle is quickly nearing completion. It is so big it has its own mile-long rooftop people mover, or Sky Train, to shuttle passengers between connections.
Miami Intermodal Center
Soon all roads — and flights and trains — will lead to a massive $1.7 billion transportation hub located near Miami International Airport called Miami Intermodal Center. Once complete, it will connect the passenger terminal to all modes of ground transportation, while reducing environmental impact.
Its new Rental Car Center debuted in 2010 to speed passengers into their cars and on with their vacations. It consolidates 16 rental agencies and 6,500 cars. By 2013, Miami Intermodal Center will incorporate terminals for the local Metrorail, regional Tri-Rail and intercity Amtrak, as well as Metrobus, intercity buses and taxis.
Follow that Cab
Meanwhile, catch taxis outside the baggage-claim areas. The centrality of MIA keeps taxi trips short and affordable. Reach northern Coral Gables in 15 minutes for a flat rate of $16 or South Beach in 20 minutes for a flat rate of $32.
Beyond the flat-rate zones, fares are determined by meters. For trips originating at Miami International Airport or Port of Miami, $2 is added. From MIA to Downtown Miami, for example, is around 20 minutes and $22.
Multiple riders can share a cab for no extra charge. Individuals can save a little by hopping a blue shared-ride shuttle van for door-to-door service with limited stops. To take a limousine, remember to make arrangements at least one hour in advance. Tipping is customary — usually about 15 percent.
Your Own Wheels
Cruise up the coast, head out to the Everglades, storm the megamall, or track down that hot restaurant. Greater Miami is a great place to rent a car. Exit the airport terminal on the lower level and look for the circulating white buses marked “Rental Car Shuttle.”
During 2011, the buses will be replaced by MIA Mover, a new dual-track, 1.25-mile, elevated tram designed to whisk 3,000 passengers per hour to the Rental Car Center, dramatically reducing vehicle traffic and emissions.
Drive Like A Native
Expressways are wide, flat and well maintained, and surface roads are laid out in an easy grid. Avenues run north and south, starting at Miami Avenue (Y-axis). Streets run east and west, starting at Flagler Street (X-axis). The exception is Coral Gables, where the winding streets and Mediterranean architecture make it a beautiful place in which to get lost.
Interstate 95 runs down the East Coast through Downtown Miami, terminating into South Dixie Highway (US 1). The central east-west highway is Dolphin Expressway (SR 836), which runs from Downtown 14 miles into the western suburbs. Airport Expressway (SR 112) runs from MIA east toward Miami Beach.
Palmetto Expressway (SR 826) rings the urban core like an inner beltway, while the Turnpike Extension serves as an outer beltway. Other expressways are Gratigny (SR 924) in the northwest and Don Shula (SR 874) and Snapper Creek (SR 878) in the southwest.
All expressways now charge tolls, except Palmetto and the right lanes of Interstate 95. Amounts depend on distance. MIA to Downtown or Miami Beach, for example, is $1.25.
The expressway authority has converted Gratigny, Don Shula and Snapper Creek to electronic open-road tolling, and it plans the same for the Turnpike Extension in 2011, Airport Expressway in 2012 and Dolphin Expressway in 2013. SunPass users pay the lowest rates. Rental-car agencies offer PlatePass or Pass24 to handle tolls electronically. Vehicles with no pass are billed, based on license-plate images, at premium rates.
Seven causeways cross Biscayne Bay to Miami Beach and northern beaches. Two charge tolls, the Broad ($1) and the Venetian ($1.50). With panoramic views of Downtown Miami, the Rickenbacker Causeway connects the mainland to Virginia Key and Key Biscayne ($1.50).
Metrobus, Metrorail and Metromover provide low-cost alternatives to taxis and rental cars.
Metrorail, the 22-mile, 22-station commuter line, runs like a transit spine from Hialeah south to Downtown Miami south to Dadeland. In 2012, a new rail link will connect Miami Intermodal Center directly to Metrorail.
Metrobus operates a hundred routes with a thousand buses covering 41 million miles per year. Beaches and other tourist favorites are especially well served. Equipped with luggage racks, a new Airport Flyer express bus runs every 30 minutes from MIA to South Beach via 41st Street and Collins Avenue. Flyers heading downtown or elsewhere can transfer to Metrorail at Earlington Heights.
Metromover, a 4.4-mile tram that loops around Downtown Miami, interconnects with Metrorail and Metrobus. Cars run every few minutes and stop every few blocks, and the service is free.
Most Metrobus and Metrorail trips cost $2, and the preferred payment method is a pre-paid, rechargeable Easy card. Airport Flyer and other expresses are $2.35. Shuttles are 25 cents. Buses accept dollar bills, quarters, dimes and nickels, but the train only accepts the card, which can be purchased at stations. An unlimited daily pass is $5, weekly pass is $26, and monthly pass is $100.
Find maps and schedules at the airport in the information center by Concourse E. Buy an Easy card and find computerized transit information in the bus-waiting room, on the lower level near short-term parking. Browse from your mobile device, or speak with an agent at 305-891-3131.
A green way to get around Miami Beach is the DecoBike sharing program, giving locals and visitors 18 or older easy access to beach cruisers at 100 solar-powered DecoStations, found at decobike.com or by downloading the app.
Riders can check out from any station and return to any station. Visitors can swipe a credit card and ride for $5 an hour or $14 all day. Locals can register and ride as much as they want for $15 a month.