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Date of Issue: July 03, 2008

Longboat Key trolley stop map doesn't exist

/7-2-08/trolley-ribbon.jpg
Hail the LBK trolley
Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann and Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, with scissors, cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially inaugurate the start of the Manatee County Area Transit-Sarasota County Area Transit trolley service from Coquina Beach through Longboat Key and St. Armands Circle to downtown Sarasota. The ceremony attended by officials from both counties took place June 30, while the service began on June 14. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
/7-2-08/trolley-scat3.jpg
Trolley: stop or no stop
Trolley stop locations on Longboat Key are designated with either the Manatee County Area Transit or Sarasota County Area Transit logo on a sign. The above logo is for MCAT in Manatee County. Some stops have benches and some have benches and a shelter. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Longboat Key residents looking to try the new Sarasota County Area Transit-Manatee County Area Transit trolley service from Coquina Beach to downtown Sarasota might have difficulty trying to find a map of trolley stop locations. There isn’t one, according to SCAT officials.

What is available at SCAT’s Web site is a trolley route map - Route 18 - for the new service. But examining that map could lead to more questions than answers.

The map shows what appear to be just three stop locations on Longboat Key. And one could easily believe he or she would have to walk, run or drive to one of three lettered locations noted on the route map to catch a trolley ride.

 That’s what Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce executive director Gail Loefgren believed after she downloaded the map from SCAT’s Web site to her computer for viewing. She had planned to give the stop locations to her members, but the map didn’t help.

“I was confused by the map. It looked to me like there were only six stops on the entire route, with just three on Longboat Key,” she said.

But the lettered locations and accompanying index on the Route 18 map are not necessarily trolley stops, said SCAT planner Sarah Blanchard. The map is “only for time points, what time the trolley should reach a particular point,” she said.

The trolley will stop at any location on Gulf of Mexico Drive where an MCAT or SCAT sign appears, Blanchard said, but as far as she knows, there’s no available map of these locations. Blanchard did not know how many trolley stops are on Longboat Key.

 According to Loefgren, however, there are 44 locations for a trolley stop on Longboat Key.

“I know, I counted them all,” she said.

Armed with her inspection, Loefgren is preparing a map and list of all the Longboat Key locations where the trolley will stop for waiting passengers. SCAT-MCAT, however, could have done a better job informing the public where the trolley will stop, she believes.

The Islander’s efforts to reach MCAT spokesperson Randy Beckwith to determine if he, unlike SCAT, had a map of all the trolley stops were unsuccessful.

According to the Route 18 map Loefgren downloaded, the trolley time check points on Longboat Key are at the Hilton Hotel, Bay Isles Road near the Longboat Key Town Hall and at Harborside Drive, about one mile south of the Bay Isles stop. Loefgren said that, from her personal inspection, these points are also trolley stops.

 According to the route map, the trolley should take about 30 minutes to complete a run from its origination at either Coquina Beach or downtown Sarasota to the other end of the route.

A ride on the Longboat Key trolley cost 75 cents to any designated stop, but the trolley is not an “on demand” service, said Sarasota County spokesperson Sarah Walsh. Passengers have to be at a stop designated by an MCAT or SCAT logo, she emphasized.

Despite the somewhat confusing start, Loefgren welcomes the trolley as something overdue for Longboat Key residents.

“We’ve wanted this for years,” she said, “but I’m a bit disappointed with the information provided about the stops. It’s very confusing.”

 While the service just started on June 14, Loefgren said she’s going to look for feedback from chamber members and the traveling public. “We need to know if this is going to be useful during the winter season,” she said.

“There needs to be a public awareness campaign for Longboat Key of where and how to get on and off the trolley,” Loefgren added. “And we need to have that in place before the season.”

In addition to the stop locations on Longboat Key, the trolley is also scheduled to pick up passengers at Mote Marine Laboratory and St. Armands Circle. It originates on First Street at SCAT’s downtown Sarasota bus terminal.

The route is operated jointly by SCAT and MCAT, with SCAT providing two of the three trolleys that will operate the Longboat Key Trolley service.

Service begins at 5:30 a.m. at the Sarasota termina station and the trolley makes its first return to that station at 6:50 a.m. A second trolley begins operating from Coquina Beach at 6:40 a.m., providing continuous north and south service throughout the day. The last trolley departs from Coquina Beach at 10:55 p.m. and reaches downtown Sarasota at 11:25 p.m., according to the route schedule.

The third trolley will be held in reserve to replace one of the operating trolleys as needed.

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