TREASURE ISLAND — A transportation service that focuses on providing traveling entertainment, rather than just standard trips between destinations, recently kicked off its inaugural service along Gulf Boulevard with rides into Madeira Beach, Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach.
In the next few months, BITE Trolley, an acronym for Barrier Island Transport Entertainment, will also offer specialty trips from John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk north to Pier 60 in Clearwater and east to the St. Pete Pier in downtown St. Petersburg.
BITE Trolley owner Sonny Flynn, who is also an owner of the Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center at John’s Pass Village and is president of the John’s Pass Merchants Association, told Tampa Bay Newspapers the BITE concept “is similar to many open-air trolley services; our focus will be more on the entertainment value instead of being just transportation. With the number of tourists visiting our area, BITE will help with the transportation needs.”
The company’s web site boasts: “From the beautiful old-fashioned oak interiors, taking the BITE Trolley is truly a unique open-air ride. Our concierges on wheels and our unique vehicles both add to that special ambiance when taking a trolley ride. Don’t be surprised if a special exotic animal guest is joining the ride.”
Rides can vary from individuals to groups. Trolleys can also be hired for charter service or custom excursions, weddings, pub crawls, family events, bachelor and bachelorette parties or corporate outings.
The trolley’s primary service, the Sand Dollar Loop, has been operating since Oct. 1. It lists 15 potential stops in Madeira Beach, Treasure Island and north St. Pete Beach, within walking distance to more than 25 restaurants and bars. Trolleys leave John’s Pass Village hourly.
The service will complement those of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and its Bus Rapid Transit, Flynn said.
“Jolley Trolley services predominantly north county,” she said. “PSTA and the BRT is a much-needed service to get employees and local riders to and from the St. Pete Beach area. The main difference is our focus on making a fun ride, with entertainment, an occasional exotic animal, planned tours such as Service Industry Night, Trivia Night and a few built in pub crawls.”
John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk is the hub of the operation and all routes will stop there, Flynn said. The trolley will help alleviate parking shortages and will cater to tourists and locals who don’t want to fight traffic or pay for parking.
“All mass transportation is valuable,” Flynn said. “Each provides the best service they can for their riders. We are focused on more than transportation from point A to point B, we desire to add the entertainment factor.”
BITE currently operates three trolleys, with a fourth under construction. The plan is to ultimately have a total fleet of six trolleys. Each seats from 28 to 35 riders, with a maximum capacity of 42. The fleet currently has three drivers, with the company in the process of hiring more personnel.
A one-day Sand Dollar Loop pass is $7.50 per person, a three-day pass $21, five-day pass $35 and seven-day pass $47.
“By Feb. 15, the beginning of tourist season, we will be operating 4 routes 7 days a week, with 15 established stops along Gulf Boulevard in the three island cities,” Flynn said.
Other trips with adventurous sounding names include the Snake Bite route, which will entertain riders on a sojourn from John's Pass to the St. Pete Pier, with service beginning Nov. 1, from noon to 10 p.m. Friday to Sunday. A northern route, The Gator Bite, will take travelers from John’s Pass to Pier 60 in Clearwater. A trip on both the Gator Bite and Snake Bite routes costs $9 per ride for a single fare, with a child 3 to 9 years of age riding for $5 with an adult.
An excursion called The Lemur Hop is a trip from Pier 60 to John's Pass and on to the St. Pete Pier, starting on Dec. 1. Trolleys run starting at noon until 10 p.m. from Friday to Sunday. A single fare on the Lemur Hop is $13 per ride, with children 3 to 9 riding for $7 with an adult.
On its website, the trolley service said a percentage of its profits is contributed to Johns Pass Rescue to support its conservation efforts.
“As for the future,” Flynn said, “we may venture as far north as Indian Rocks Beach. At this time we have no other plans.”
To catch a ride on BITE Trolley, visit the website at bitetrolley.com or call (727) 623-4637.