Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gulfport's familiar turquoise trolley makes last beach loop

John Miller drove a stand-in trolley the final days of the daily beach loop because the flamingo-clad turquoise one had broken down.

PATTI EWALD | Special to the Times

John Miller drove a stand-in trolley the final days of the daily beach loop because the flamingo-clad turquoise one had broken down.

GULFPORT — A few people got left out in residents' calls to save city workers during recent budget cuts: the trolley drivers.

As residents beseeched City Council to save the dispatchers — which it didn't — and to save the parks workers — which it did — trolley driver John Miller and the three other part-time drivers continued doing their jobs even though they suspected their days were numbered.

They were right.

The trolley that had been making a loop every hour, carrying people from Gulfport to St. Pete Beach and back again, seven days a week for three years made its final run last week, the day the Pinellas Suncoast Transportation Authority/Florida Department of Transportation grant ran out of funds.

The original plan was that PSTA would take over operation of the trolley after the grant expired, but it doesn't have the funding to support the route, which is used by about 600 riders a week, said City Manager Jim O'Reilly.

So, three drivers were let go.

Brian VanSlyke, who had been coordinating the drivers, will be retained in his part-time capacity, said Bob Williams, leisure services supervisor. Among his duties will be driving Gulfport's free trolley that runs Friday and Saturday nights.

While it was a sad day for trolley riders, they have options. They'll have to take as many as three buses to travel the 5 miles the trolley traverses, but they still can get there.

On the other hand, Miller, a resident of Gulfport, has no options. There aren't a lot of jobs for trolley drivers who haven't missed a day of work in two years.

Not many for drivers who are his age, either.

"I'm 72 but I'm not ready to retire," Miller said. "I never missed a day's work, and if they need someone to work overtime, I'm there. Johnny-on-the-spot.

"There's age discrimination," he said matter-of-factly without a hint of bitterness. "No one wants to hire someone my age; they're afraid we'll drop dead.

"I was hoping they had a spot open somewhere in the city, but I don't know. I might have to go on unemployment for the first time in my life," Miller said.

There are no jobs right now, Williams said, but there might be in the future.

The turquoise trolley with pink flamingos splashed down the length of both sides has come under fire almost from the day it was conceived.

Critics say it doesn't have enough riders.

Proponents of the trolley say it's a great perk and a nice thing to do, especially for elderly residents who used it to go shopping or to doctor's appointments.

"I would like to see somebody keep it, if even for a year at a time," Miller said.

Under terms of the grant, PSTA provided the trolley and Gulfport provided its driver, maintenance and fuel.

"It would be better if we could have gotten a newer trolley from PSTA that wouldn't break down all the time," Miller said.

Ironically, he said that from the driver's seat of Gulfport's red and green trolley, which was in service that day because the turquoise trolley had broken down.

. Fast facts

Traveling sans flamingos

Gulfport residents should board Bus 23 downtown and ride it to Gulfport Boulevard.

There, catch Bus 79 to South Pasadena.

Then transfer to Bus 35, which goes to St. Pete Beach.

For more information, call Brian VanSlyke at (727) 893-1069.

Gulfport's familiar turquoise trolley makes last beach loop 10/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2011 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. President Donald Trump during a rally in Huntsville, Ala., Sept. 22, 2017. Trump called for football fans to boycott NFL games unless the league fires or suspends players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.
  2. Rick and Tom podcast: Worst-Case (Keenum) scenario


    Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis in their latest podcast.

    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) scrambles away from Bucs defensive end William Gholston (92) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Tonight: Hear ideas for remaking downtown Tampa interchange


    TAMPA — New concepts for rebuilding the downtown interchange will be discussed at a Florida Department of Transportation community meeting Monday night.

    The Florida Department of Transportation renamed its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan is now known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  4. Did you watch the second episode of 'Star Trek: Discovery'? Or just the first?


    CBS finally, finally, finally premiered its long-awaited new Star Trek series Discovery on Sunday night, albeit a bit delayed after 60 Minutes.

    Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green play the captain and first officer of the Shenzhou.
  5. Rick Scott's office deleted critical messages related to post-hurricane nursing home deaths

    As Florida continues to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, more confusion builds around the 11 heat-related deaths at a South Florida nursing home following the storm earlier this month.

    Police surround the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills, Fla., which had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power. Several patients at the sweltering nursing home died in the storm's aftermath. [John McCall | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]