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Time for a Trolley?

 
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As we strive to build a walkable urban core and a revitalized beachside tourist area, we need mass transit to get people, both residents and tourists, out of their cars and to move them around without cars. A trolley service could meet that goal. 

 

WHAT WOULD IT ACCOMPLISH?

This trolley service would service tourists - allow them to explore all the businesses on A1A and Beach Street without getting in their cars and incurring the inconvenience and expense of multiple parking fees. This trolley service would allow residents the same freedom. 

You could walk on the beach and, instead of turning around when you THINK you're halfway tired, you could walk until you need to stop and take the trolley home. Or you could walk from beachside to Beach Street, go to a restaurant, see a movie, walk in Riverfront Park, and then take the trolley home. Or you could leave your apartment in the new Frameworks building and go to the beach without a car.

HOW WOULD IT WORK?

Ideally the service would be every 15 to 20 minutes.  The shorter the service interval, the more likely the service is to be used.  Since we are such a party destination, we might want to consider extended service on weekend nights or during events and holidays.  Large events could be disruptive to the schedule in the core tourist area on A1A but I have every faith that Votran can adjust as they do for their bus routes.

 

This trolley could be a partnership between the private sector and the public sector where Votran provides the administrative services, training, equipment/drivers, and grant funding.  Public funds would also be needed for annual operations but that could be offset by the need to build fewer garage parking spaces on the beachside and on Beach Street as well as representing a shift in thinking that mass transit needs to pay for itself while roads do not bear that same cost burden. The private sector would need to subsidize the effort with some advertising, hopefully seeing an increase in business to make their investment worthwhile.

 

Alternatively – would it be possible for the three cities on this proposed trolley route to have a separate contract with Votran for the trolley?  This would also need private investment.

HAS IT BEEN DONE SUCCESSFULLY?

Manatee County Transit Authority (MCAT) runs a free trolley 6 AM to 10:30 PM, 7 days a week with service every 20 minutes.  They have a ridership of approximately 500,000 passengers a year – imagine the impact of having 500,000 customers moving around our core tourist areas throughout the year WITHOUT cars!

THIS TROLLEY IS FREE FOR RIDERS

1. Runs every 20 minutes

2. Runs from 6 AM to 10:30 PM, 7 days a week, except for Christmas Eve when they shut down early

3. Customized new buses for trolley: 550-600K per vehicle

4. Route is about 7 miles

5. Need 4 buses to provide service every 20 minutes

6. Annual TOTAL operation cost ~ $700K per year

7. Run by county system, saves on administrative costs.

8. Needs 10 operators and a supervisor – about $500K per year

9. Annual maintenance - $100K per year

10. Fuel - $60K per year

11. Annual ridership – 500K per year

12. Funding

     a. FDOT State Congested Corridors – 50% of cost once an established route

     b. Federal Funds – based on number of miles and hours

     c. Local Funds – Hotels, Island Chamber Ad program $60K per year

WHERE WOULD IT GO?

We need a trolley route to service A1A from  Dunlawton to Granada with a loop over to Beach Street in the middle.  This would be similar to the route used by the Votran trolley in the winter months in 2011-2012.