Hope for the Clearwater Beach Jolley Trolley
By Anne McKay Garris
Last March it was reported that neither the City of Clearwater nor the Pinellas Suncoast Transport Authority had plans to financially support the Clearwater Beach Jolley Trolley in the next budget year. Clearly the 27-year tourist attraction was not likely to survive without this support. Dismayed, both the Clearwater Beach Association and the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce went into action, letting the authorities know how they felt about this.
"First our civic center, then our small motels, and now the Jolley Trolley -- what will they take away from us next?" asked a CBA member.
"It's one of the few tourist attractions we offer our visitors," insisted a spokesman for the Beach Chamber.
A new director, Robert Longenecker, was appointed by the Jolley Trolley Board of Directors and intense efforts began to rescue the Trolley operation which has been a part of the Clearwater Beach scene since 1982.
In March, the board of the PSTA expressed reluctance to fund any of the Jolley Trolley operation, stating it was a duplication of service since the PSTA also had a Trolley on the route between North Mandalay and Sand Key.
But Clearwater Vice Mayor Paul Gibson, Clearwater's representative on the PSTA Board, subsequently brought before the board Longenecker's efforts to revive Jolley Trolley. He pointed out more Clearwater Beach business interests were beginning to support the Trolley. He described new plans in the works for special tours and charter opportunities and asked the PSTA to reconsider.
Convinced the PSTA board began negotiations to create an agreement in which PSTA will fund the Jolley Trolley with about $122,000 to replace its trolleys on Mandalay Avenue. PSTA passes will be reciprocal between the Trolley and PSTA buses and will be for sale by both parties.
Moving on to the Clearwater City Council, Vice Mayor Gibson reported the new interest of the PSTA and Beach businesses, and the comments of the CBA and Beach Chamber. Thus persuaded, the Clearwater Council agreed to take a new look at the issue and informally agreed, at the July 16 Council meeting, to re-establish the Trolley's annual $150,000. The money will come from Clearwater's Parking Fund which is now at $11 million and had been the source of funding for the Trolley since the beginning.
Mayor Frank Hibbard, threw down the gauntlet. "I'll agree for a year," he said. "And we'll see how much progress is made." The other Council members indicated their assent.
Vice Mayor Gibson believes the new plan will succeed far beyond one year. "The Jolley Trolley now has five strong revenue streams," he said, "consisting of increased customer fares, the $150,000 city contribution from the Parking Fund, $122,000 from PSTA, charter revenues and significantly increased advertising revenue. I believe the Jolley Trolley can thrive under the new management and look forward to its success."
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