The Jolley Trolley, traveling along the new extended route from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs, makes a stop in downtown Dunedin.
DUNEDIN – The Jolley Trolley was too full when Charlene Wood, visiting Dunedin for the weekend, tried to board at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 18.
So instead, she and her group waited for the next trolley, which came by at noon. The extended Jolley Trolley route, which runs from Clearwater through Dunedin and as far as the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, has been popular since it first opened Nov. 19. In fact, the route is on track to carry 25,000 to 30,000 passengers this year, said Bob Longenecker, Jolley Trolley Transportation of Clearwater executive director.
“We expect it to come in somewhere around that level,” he said. “Overall, it has been really well received.”
Initially, the nonprofit organization that runs the trolley anticipated that it would take a bit longer for potential riders to hear about the new route, which runs once an hour Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. But the route extension has had good publicity, through the local chambers of commerce, merchant associations, newspapers and the city governments themselves, Longenecker said.
The result is an unexpectedly high ridership.
“We’re OK, but it makes me wonder what’s going to happen in March and April, with the onslaught of tourists. I might look into adding another trolley or two into the routes just to keep up,” Longenecker said.
The four communities that the route serves – Tarpon Springs, unincorporated Palm Harbor through Pinellas County, Dunedin and Clearwater – gave funds to support the trolley’s extended route.
“Dunedin has probably been the most supportive of all the cities along the route, in terms of getting their residents behind this,” Longenecker said.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority matched the government contributions to make up the other half of the funding for the trolley.
“I think it’s fabulous that all the small municipalities came together for a common good,” said Siobhan Nehín, who was walking through downtown Dunedin Feb. 18. “I think everyone’s going to benefit.”
Nehín, owner of a Tarpon Springs-based business, said her city of residence could use a connection to the type of foot traffic and visitors Dunedin can attract. She pointed out the bustling activity along Main Street that sunny, Friday afternoon.
“Just look at this,” she said, a touch of envy in her voice. “Tarpon Springs really needs more traffic. We’re hoping that (the trolley) really changes things.”
While many local residents admit that they haven’t tried the route yet, the concept appeals to them.
“It was definitely a smart move,” said a Clearwater resident who gave his name as John M. “This is going to be good for the whole Pinellas.”
Terry and Joann Zeigler, who stay part time in a house in Dunedin, agree.
“I’m glad to have it,” Joann Zeigler said. “Parking is an issue in Clearwater, for sure. That’s really held us back from going sometimes.”
Wood, getting off the trolley in Dunedin after her trip to Clearwater, said her group had some difficulty identifying the trolley stops. The downtown Dunedin northbound stop, for example, is somewhat blocked by roped-off landscaping, forcing the bus to stop a block farther south.
“It was interesting,” Wood said of the overall trip.
Longenecker said the trolley route caters to leisure riders and tourists, though it is similar to a PSTA bus route, which runs seven days a week.
“Compared to PSTA route, it’s more direct going to these cities,” he said. “It’s a real relaxed atmosphere. Then you got the ambiance of the old trolleys. It’s just different.”
Longenecker said it’s interesting to watch the trolley’s clientele change with the time of day, from families and couples doing site seeing in the morning, to people headed to dinner as the afternoon wears on to a younger demographic headed out to party at night.
“In all of those cases, people don’t want to drive, or they definitely don’t want to drink and drive,” he said. “People are just being careful I think.”
Half of the trolleys used in the route are open trolleys, open to allow passengers fresh air, which most riders enjoy, Longenecker said.
“The only complaint we’ve had is that it’s not seven days,” he added. “It’s more people in passing, saying ‘Geez, I would use this more if I knew I was going to take it to work, or all the time.’”
He said he wasn’t sure if the route would eventually extend to offer service on more days of the week.
The Jolley Trolley costs $2 per ride or $4.50 for an unlimited daily pass. Per-ride fares are reduced to $1 for seniors and disabled individuals and $1.25 for students. Monthly, weekly and annual passes are available, as well as six-month “snow bird” passes and “haul passes” designed for the school year. Exact change is required.
The extended route connects up with the Jolley Trolley original routes through north and south Clearwater Beach in Clearwater. Passengers of the trolley can transfer free to PSTA bus routes, and vice versa.