There is a joke among locals in Miami that goes something like this: Tourists land at the airport, catch a cab to South Beach and don’t leave until it’s time to go back to the airport. While the joke is at the expense of tourists, it does hold a grain of truth and is good-hearted in nature. Driving in the Miami-Dade area can be quite daunting for tourists. If you don’t live here, it’s easy to get frustrated and decide to either rely on public transportation or stay put.
If you want to drive in Miami and really get to know the town, taking a few hours to educate yourself can make all the difference in the world. Yes, traffic is heavy. Yes, people who live here drive like they own the place, but technically, they sort of do. You can drive like you own the place too, once you understand how the streets are laid out.
All avenues in the city run north to south. A roadway labeled court or place also runs in that direction. Streets, drives, lanes and terraces run east to west. Once you’ve gotten used to that, break it down into quarters. The quarters are designated NE, NW, SE and SW. The X-axis of the grid is Flagler Street. The Y-axis of the city is Miami Avenue.
In all fairness, the grid can be hard to understand for a newcomer who hasn’t bothered to look at a real map. The city tried to lay it out but as the population grew and the city expanded, so did the grid. It eventually trailed through the county and bumped into other cities. Those cities either adopted the pattern or, unfortunately, already had their own in place and left things as they were. Again, looking at a map can help you understand how things are laid out.
Here is the tip that will serve you best on your visit to Miami: If you are hoping to get anywhere fast during your vacation, you should avoid the expressways at all costs. You don’t have to avoid it all day, but you don’t want to be anywhere near it during the rush hour period. People who commute in and out of the city for work can’t stay off the expressways, but you certainly can.
Let’s say that you study the maps. You get a decent understanding of the grid system and feel confident you can get where you need to be. What happens when you get there? You’re going to need to leave your vehicle somewhere. The good news is that there are signs everywhere telling you what you can’t do in terms of parking.
Before you move your car to the curb or even into a marked parking space, look for signs. If you’re one of those people who are used to meters, don’t assume that you are good to go if you don’t see one. Miami and Miami Beach are slowly moving to an app system for parking payments. If there isn’t a meter, check for signage that tells you to pay by app.
No matter where you decide to park, make sure you are doing it legally. If you park incorrectly in South Beach, you will likely have your car towed. In general, if you park incorrectly in Miami, you’ll be issued a ticket. The city is busy, and parking laws are taken fairly seriously.
Most people assume that large, bustling cities have an excellent public transportation system. Miami does have a public transit system, most notably the Metrobus, but whether it’s excellent or not is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. One thing to know is that buses are rarely on time. If you are in a hurry or have to be somewhere at a specific time, you may want to consider taking the bus that arrives before the one you really need to take.
The city also has Metrorail. This is a rail that runs through the county. It’s not exactly used by tourists to get from one place to another because it is normally packed full with commuters. However, it is a good site-seeing trip.
Depending on where you are in the city, you can rent a bike to ride or you can walk to your destination if it is close enough. Any of these options may be more appealing to you than trying to drive in the city on your own, but each has its own drawbacks.
Now that you know a bit about how the city is laid out and your options for getting around without getting lost, it’s time to learn about how to actually drive through the city while you are here on vacation. Read part 2 of our series on driving tips for tourists for some more helpful tips, especially for international tourists. In the meantime, if you do happen to be involved in a car accident in Miami, reach out to our team of car accident attorneys for assistance.