SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Starting next week, residents and visitors in the City of Sarasota will have access to a new mode of public transportation.
A free, open-air trolley called the ‘Bay Runner’ will hit the streets of Sarasota Wednesday, March 2.
The trolley will run every day from 8 a.m. to midnight, including holidays. There will be 12 stops between School Avenue and Main Street and Ted Sperling Park on the southern end of Lido Key.
City leaders hope the trolley will help alleviate traffic and parking concerns while also improving connectivity within the city.
Traffic is on the front of all of our minds, obviously. It is a very important issue to our community and our quality of life. This trolley is a tangible step forward in trying to improve options for residents to be able to get from point A to point B here,” said Commissioner Hagen Brody. “The hope is that people come into the City of Sarasota, they find a place to park and then they are able to get around to a number of different destinations quickly, easily and pleasurably,” he continued.
Some residents we spoke with say the extra mode of public transportation is long overdue.
“Traffic has gotten a lot worse, especially going to the beaches it is extremely hard. So I think a trolley like that is definitely a good idea and a lot of people are gonna like that,” said Paul Kurpiewski. “We don’t really have much public transportation and with how traffic and parking is, I think we need something like that,” he continued.
Some have expressed concerns about the cost to operate the trolley.
The three-year deal will cost more than $4 million. The cost will be covered by the FDOT grant ($1.5 million), $300k from the business improvement districts downtown and on St. Armands, and the city.
The city will foot the largest cost. More than $2.3 million will come out of the city’s Economic Development Fund, leaving only a small portion available for other items.
The EDF was created back in 2017. The money comes from local business tax receipts. Money that goes unused, will roll over to the next fiscal year. The Economic Development Fund for Fiscal Year 2021 has a $852,000 budget with $782,709 going to the Bay Runner trolley.
Commissioner Brody admits alternative transportation options are expensive, but he believes the Bay Runner and other plans for rentable scooters and bikes will be worthwhile investments.
“We are doing our best to spend money where we think it is most important and most needed and most desired by our residents.. and transportation and getting around s a top issue and priority,” said Brody.
The Sarasota Bay Runner app will track real-time information including approximate arrival times and will be available via the Apple App Store, Google Play, and www.SarasotaBayRunner.com A QR code on Bay Runner stop signs directs users to the app as well.