Bob Longenecker spent three years looking for just the right vehicle.
It had to be safe and it had to provide the ability for anyone, regardless of disability, to board.
Longenecker, the president of the , has worked for months on a plan to bring “circulator” buses to help ferry potential passengers to bus stops or destinations. The idea is to increase ridership by making it easier to get to riders.
“We just think there’s some real advantages to this,” Longenecker said.
He plans to start taking the plan to transportation officials this month, while agency officials are heating up budget discussions.
There’s An App for That
Longenecker said a Jolley Trolley mobile app is also on the way.
Users will be able to see on a digital map where the trolley is and how long it will take before it gets to their stop.
This technology leads into Longenecker’s next plan to integrate a hybrid fixed route that would use trolleys based on need.
The app is expected to come out in June for testing. The hope is it could lead to more efficiency and reduce up to 70 miles daily. The technology developed at Georgia Tech is going to be tested on six buses this summer.
Circulating the Jolley Trolley
Getting financial backing for the plan is going to be similar to a couple years ago when Longenecker went town to town pitching an idea to fund the Coastal Route for the Jolley Trolley.
That route circles from the Tarpon Springs sponge docks, through Palm Harbor and Dunedin to Island Estates Plaza in Clearwater. The price tag for running the extension is about $265,000 a year. Each town pays a portion, which is matched by the PSTA. The remaining money for the service comes from advertising and fares.
The circulators cost about $18,000. Longenecker foresees the full roll out of the program using 14 of them. He said it would take the manufacturer about 12 weeks to build them.
Longenecker said the circulator service could be used by potential riders in Clearwater Beach, Island Estates, downtown Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Ozona and Tarpon Springs.
Longenecker said an example of the circulator’s use could be taking a Harbor Oaks resident to a show at the or navigating the more narrow, dimly-lit streets in Ozona.
PSTA also is floating the idea of circulator routes. Their plan is to use Regional Connector Routes in north Pinellas to help connect more riders to routes.
Longenecker said his proposal still has to go before PSTA officials and the Coastal Route cities including Clearwater, Dunedin and Palm Harbor.
“I think this’ll fly,” Longenecker said.