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CRA ends trolley service in downtown Cape

By Staff | Sep 23, 2009

The days of regular trolly service in the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency’s district are over.
CRA board members voted Tuesday to discontinue trolly use following a five-month trial run, but decided to keep them running during special events like last weekend’s International Beer Festival.
A point of contention among the board was how best to judge the trolley’s success.
During the trial run, the trolly ran on Fridays and Saturdays only, carting 7,289 passengers during that time at a cost of roughly $123,000.
Board member Scott Hertz said that without clear-cut goals, it is impossible to understand what the trolly did or did not accomplish.
A lack of hard numbers prompted Hertz to add that trolly funds could be spent better elsewhere, especially without a clear-cut destination within the CRA’s boundaries.
“It’s too premature, I don’t think there’s a destination here yet,” he said. “We need vibrancy and destinations in order to move people.”
Vice chairman Don Heisler thought that the trolley’s trial run was conducted at the wrong time of the year.
Heisler said the trial run, which started in April, should have been conducted during season, when the Cape’s population swells.
“I think we missed the target by starting in April,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve given it the test it deserves.”
Only Heisler and Lou Simmons supported keeping the trolleys running through the season, while board member Frank Dethlefsen said continued service would be a benefit to local businesses.
“I think we need to support the businesses through the season with our transportation,” said Dethlefsen, despite voting to discontinue the trolley service on a regular basis.
The board was presented with two price bids Tuesday to continue the service.
Deerfield Beach-based South Florida Trolly, who was also the trial run provider, posed a $247,104 operating cost bid. It broke down to 54 hours a week at $88 per hour with $65 for additional hours.
Naples-based Dolphin Transportation posed a $210,600 operating cost bid, which broke down to 54 hours per week at $75 per hour with $90 for additional hours.
Expanding the trolly’s route to include stops along Beach Parkway or other areas outside of the CRA was discussed, but never explored.
While the board did not rule out the trolly’s return in the future if it were needed, for now it will only be seen during special events.
Board member Rich Greer said the trolly experiment accomplished what it set out to do.
“Downtown is going to grow,” he said, “and I think we learned what we needed to (from the trolly trial). We’ll shelf it to keep it warm for when we might need to reactivate it.”
The decision to end the trolly service in the CRA passed 5-2, with Simmons and Heisler dissenting.