Despite the sparkling new skyscrapers popping up on the bay and along the oceanfront, most of Miami is flat, very spread out and suburban. For this reason, accommodating the transportation needs of 2.5 million people, not including visitors, has become somewhat of a nightmare. The city has very limited rail service, inadequate bus service, few cabs for a city of its size and relatively few black cars or limousines. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo recently summed up the problem this way: “We designed a mass-transit system that basically runs from north to south in a city that grew from east to west.”
So, though visitors who come during, say, Art Basel are amazed to see shuttle services and taxi stands at every corner, they are dismayed to find upon their return during a less hectic time only ghosts of the stands that once were. Frequently, tourists are stuck trying to figure out how to safely navigate the city without going broke. And it took a long time just to get cab companies to adopt credit-card payment systems. The app-centric Uber and Lyft services that seem to be working in high-density urban areas like New York are finding resistance here. But for all the accusations made against these companies, including some legitimate ones regarding their not abiding by the rule of law and getting permission to operate, they do have something very powerful on their side: tech-savvy consumers who are using this new technology in cities throughout the world—something a place so dependent on tourism and business travel desperately needs.