DUNEDIN — The Jolley Trolley ventured into new territory Wednesday, previewing North Pinellas' newest shuttle route from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs.
The trolley's route opens to the public this weekend, expanding from its decades-long loop that shuttled tourists along Clearwater Beach. Local government heads and business leaders piled on for the first ride of a service that they hope will roll tourists and locals past new sights and storefronts.
Two of the open-air trolleys, bright red and yellow and recently washed, began their maiden voyages at Dunedin's Pioneer Park. One shuttle headed south toward Clearwater while another rolled north toward Palm Harbor.
In Dunedin's Scottish tradition, men in kilts from the New World Celts guarded the entrance with longswords.
The trolley will run Friday and Saturdays, between 10 a.m. and midnight, and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. A trolley will hit each stop about every 30 minutes.
The shuttles are outfitted with the look of an old San Francisco cable car, all wooden and gold trim with a large headlight at front. Rides will cost $2 or $4.50 for a day pass.
The trolley's $235,000 yearly operating fund will be split between pledges from the cities and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, fares and bus-side advertising, much of which has been reserved by local restaurants, said trolley executive director Bob Longenecker.
As the trolley rolled along Douglas Avenue and onto the winding Bayshore Boulevard, riders laughed that it might need gas.
The trolley turned onto the Palm Harbor main drag, Florida Avenue, where the Palm Harbor University High School marching band and glasses of champagne greeted riders between the Thirsty Marlin and Peggy O'Neill's Irish pub.
Members from the local chambers of commerce hyped their local lures — Palm Harbor is the "pearl of Pinellas," Tarpon Springs the "Venice of the south" — and invited out-of-towners to come for a night.
It was trolley operator Jill Vanslette's first time driving the route, which included a special detour squeezing onto a brick road in Tarpon Springs downtown and onto the city's famed Sponge Docks. Vanslette was undeterred.
"I've been driving professionally for 31 years," Vanslette said. "I've got a lot under my belt."
Contact Drew Harwell at email@example.com or (727) 445-4170.