Bob Longenecker once lobbied against low-speed vehicle use on Clearwater Beach for not being safe.
And with new laws in place, Longenecker, president of the Jolley Trolley, recently launched a new service using slow-moving electric vehicles.
In May, he touted a plan bringing a circulator service to areas served by the trolley, including its coastal route through Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs. He planned to use ADA compliant vehicles that cost about $18,000, and wanted a full roll out of the program using 14 of them.
However, the Jolley Trolley On Demand program he recently rolled out is only available on Clearwater Beach.
The service uses golf-cart type, slow-moving electric vehicles that are not ADA compliant, and also a vehicle that looks like an Excaliber kit car and another that looks like a Jeep. It costs $6 for an On Demand ride to anywhere on Clearwater Beach for up to five people. It is $8 to Sand Key and Island Estates. Those routes use a van to navigate the Memorial Causeway.
The move is three years in the making, Longenecker said, referring to the service as part of the trolley business plan.
More passengers means more viability for public transit, Longenecker said. It would get more public support for public transit.
“We won’t get any revenue, but we’ll get passengers,” Longenecker said. “It’s all about numbers."
Longenecker feels that the direct-ride service, that is only available on the beach complements the Jolley Trolley and its routes, not competes with them. The Jolley Trolley recently stopped running a route through Clearwater Pointe on south Clearwater Beach.
“We’re comfortable with doing the local rides,” Longenecker said.
Popularity of Business Offering Free Rides Grows
Others in the industry don't agree.
One of the biggest competitors in the direct-ride market on Clearwater Beach may be Florida Free Rides.
One of its owners, Jason Gibertoni, said his company offers beachgoers a lift anywhere on Clearwater Beach and Sand Key on low emission vehicles that are mistaken as golf carts. The service also offers rides to Island Estates in a regular size van. Customers give tips, not fares, he said. The service is offered from 9 to 3 a.m.
His service, about a year old, is increasing rider numbers, and sponsors like the Hyatt, Frenchy’s and Shepherds have renewed contracts advertising on the electric vehicles.
Last year, Gibertoni had three vehicles. Now he has six — four electric and two minivans. The number of drivers expanded from two to eight. And still no crashes, Gibertoni said.
Gibertoni calls the Jolley Trolley On Demand offering a joke.
Gibertoni said the On Demand service is only competing with the trolley. Not his business. It might end up hurting some taxi services too, he said.
“He’s charging ... For something we do for free,” Gibertoni said.
Clearwater Clamps Down On Small, Low-Speed Operators
The city clamped down on slow-moving vehicle operators last year with the creation of an ordinance establishing a licensing process.
Low-speed, golf cart-type vehicles must have seat belts and head, stop and tail lamps. They are restricted to roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, essentially everywhere on the beach aside from getting to Island Estates, where the speed limit along Memorial Causeway is 45 mph. Drivers also cannot solicit business at bus or Jolley Trolley stops.
“The Jolley Trolley is quite pleased that you have cleaned up this industry that has flourished as a result of deregulation,” Longenecker said after the rules were passed in May 2012. “Some regulation is required and we appreciate your efforts.”
Aside from costs to meet those requirements, business owners also have to pay a $75 application fee and $50 permit fee for each driver of the for-hire vehicles.
Longenecker said he has 15 drivers registered with the city.
The other companies licensed on the beach include Florida Free Ride, Inc., Wheel Fun Rentals, Jolley Trolley On Demand, The Segway Adventure, Fun Ride Rentals and Fun Ride Taxi.
“Nothing with the ordinance has bothered us,” Gibertoni said. “If anything, it got all our low-end competitors off the road.”
One of the main reasons for the rules was safety, city officials said.
While city leaders debated rules to reign in low speed vehicles on Clearwater Beach, Longenecker sent an email Dec. 13, 2011 with a Youtube video from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety titled “Low Speed Vehicle Crash Tests.”
“I continue my search for an appropriate vehicle to insure the safety of our visitors while delivering some fun… but it is certainly not a golf cart!”
To use the Jolley Trolley On Demand service, visit jolleytrolleyondemand.ridecell.com.
- Jolley Trolley Creates 'On Demand' Service for Clearwater Beach
- Golf Cart Rules Get Final Go Ahead
- Jolley Trolley Adding App, Circulators A Possibility Too
- Golf Cart Regulations Approved for Clearwater Beach
- Golf Cart Regulations Coming to Clearwater Beach
*Article last updated Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 12:23 p.m.