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Downtown trolley to offer park-and-ride option

By Staff | Apr 18, 2009

By GRAY ROHRER, grohrer@breezenewspapers.com
Trolleys will make their debut Friday in Cape Coral, and the Community Redevelopment Agency is already giving the trial run of the cars rave reviews.
Two trolleys will run from 10 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays in the downtown area, the CRA’s purview, for a three-month period beginning Friday.
John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA, said the trolleys will be an attraction themselves as well as boosting downtown businesses.
“It’s just going to be a fun thing to do. We think it’s going to be a wonderful adjunct to the businesses,” Jacobsen said.
The trolleys, operated by South Florida Trolleys, will cost the CRA about $73,000 to run for the trial period.
The route set for the trial period has the trolleys running eastbound on Southeast 47th Terrace, circling around Southeast 47th Street before heading south on Del Prado Boulevard, veering west on Lafayette Street, turning south on Coronado Parkway to serve the Yacht Club before turning around to head north and shifting onto Victoria Drive, and arriving back at Southeast 47th Terrace via Tarpon Court.
There will be 22 official stops (exact locations have not been officially decided) and drivers will let riders off at any point along the route as they request it.
The trolleys will take about 30 minutes to complete the route, and CRA officials are aiming for a maximum wait time of 15 minutes for riders at each stop.
Trolley rides are being offered free to patrons and the CRA is counting on advertising revenues to offset the cost of the cable cars.
“It’s going to be something free for people to do when times are tough,” Jacobsen said.
Some downtown businesses, already bracing for a down time post-snowbird season during a recession, are hoping the trolley will bring in more potential customers to the area.
“If it helps business, I love it,” Jane Hartz, owner of Jane’s Hallmark, said. “It’s been slow all year long, anything that could possibly help would be great,” she added.
The CRA is hoping for large numbers of riders but it will base the trial period’s success on more than just ridership statistics.
“It’s not just a number of riders, it’s also going to be feedback from downtown businesses,” Jacobsen said.
Ultimately the popularity of the trolleys, or lack thereof, will determine if they become a staple for the downtown area beyond the initial three months.
“Community enthusiasm is going to be a tremendous measure,” CRA boardmember Don Heisler said. “This is a demonstration project and for it to grow and expand we need the support of the community,” he added.
The cable cars are intended to bring a new amenity to the south Cape lifestyle, allowing residents to park in city lots then use the new public transport to hop from place to place instead of trekking all over downtown.
Besides being a convenience for shoppers and those running errands, the trolleys are also designed to be a draw for residents looking to beef up on their local history.
Aided by the Cape Coral Historical Society, trolley drivers will point out historical landmarks in the Cape’s oldest district.
“Even though our history is short, it’s still fun and useful for people to learn,” Jacobsen said.
On Friday, the CRA will have its fingers crossed for positive reviews from the city’s most discerning critics — citizens.
“We don’t know until it starts running how many trips it’s going to take,” Jacobsen said.