From convenient rail to posh pedal power, South Florida residents have plenty of reasons to leave the car in the garage.
Whether by water taxi, high-speed train or high-tech bicycles, Greater Fort Lauderdale residents and visitors are enjoying creative alternatives to automobile travel, trading Interstate 95 traffic headaches for new ways to get where they’re going – and having fun doing it.
“Traditionally, people like the idea of mass transit and public transportation, but the experience hasn’t always been what we hoped it would be,” says Ben Porritt, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Brightline, the high-speed rail line that connects Miami with Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and, soon, Orlando. “The journey matters.”
Ride the Rails in Greater Fort Lauderdale
Brightline, established in 2018, was booming pre-pandemic, carrying more than 1 million passengers in its first year. With its attractive, streamlined cars, handy schedules, immaculate touchless stations featuring craft cuisine, free wireless internet and comfortable lounge areas, the new rail line immediately won local hearts.
Closed due to the pandemic since March 2020, the line is coming back strong in 2021, a reflection of the public’s hunger for its hassle-free, reliable and – dare we say fun? – brand of travel, whether it be for a daily commute, a day-trip or to catch a sporting event.
“In the past, train travel was typically gray and dreary
and smelled bad, but we’ve turned it into a
bright, energy-filled experience.”
Ben Porritt | Brightline
“You walk in to one of our stations, and people say, ‘Wow, this is a totally different vibe.’,” Porritt says. “They love taking the train. And it takes you anywhere you want to go.”
Greater Fort Lauderdale also enjoys Tri-Rail, a commuter rail that connects Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and convenient public transportation options include Broward County Transit bus system or Sun Trolley.
Get Your Exercise on Two Wheels
Those who prefer smaller, albeit slower, wheels beneath them are cruising around the area on readily available bicycles.
Broward BCycle, one of the first bike-sharing services in the United States, offers 21 stations in Broward County, 17 in Fort Lauderdale and more in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Hollywood and Pompano Beach.
Did You Know?
Travelers making a quick point-to-point trip can check out a bike at one station, then drop it off at another location – a boon for both commuters and recreational riders.
In addition to its user-friendly, traditional high-end Trek bikes – “like the difference between driving a new Honda Accord versus the jalopy we drove in college,” says company Executive Director Jeff Torkelson – Broward BCycle customers can choose new ultra-high-tech models, which offer riders a bit of help.
“You can hop on and get some electrical assist, a little extra muscle, which is very fluid and fun,” Torkelson says. “A person can go further, faster on an e-bike, and you can get the same aerobic benefit as a traditional bike.”
Take to the Water
Known as the Venice of America, Greater Fort Lauderdale takes combined advantage of miles of Intracoastal Waterway and the vibrant hospitality and tourism industries with its city-supported Water Taxi service.
With 10 stops in the city, the Water Taxi’s yellow-and-white boats ferry passengers along the waterways past mansions, landmarks and astonishing yachts to some of the city’s best restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.
“We operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week,” says owner Bill Walker. “You can hop on and off along the route or go to a specific destination — maybe see a show, take a boat ride, have a little dinner. It’s very cool. The city is so different from what you see from a car.”
And Don’t Forget the Ports
Greater Fort Lauderdale is served by Port Everglades, the 10th busiest U.S. port for handling 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers in 2019. The port is also one of the world’s busiest cruise ports and enjoys the distinction of having the most home-ported cruise ships.
Residents and businesses are well-served by air service, anchored by Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), which ranked 19th in the U.S. for total passenger traffic in 2019, serving a record 36.7 million passengers. The airport is in the midst of a $3.2 billion improvement program that includes terminal expansions and the addition of 30 new gates.
The region also offers the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), which serves private, corporate and government aviation needs and averages more than 163,000 takeoffs and landings each year, the 10th busiest in the nation.
North Perry Airport and Pompano Beach Air Park provide a full range of general aviation services. The City of Fort Lauderdale runs John Fuhrer Downtown Helistop, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week to serve the region’s corporate community.