SAFETY HARBOR — The Jolley Trolley's brass rails and wooden benches could soon signal a boon to Safety Harbor businesses.
After nearly 18 months of planning and negotiating, an eight-month pilot program to bring a trolley to downtown Safety Harbor will start Feb. 1.
"I think it's more of a business morale boost to see the Jolley Trolley up and down the street every hour with riders," City Manager Matt Spoor said. "It's a shot in the arm … to see people get off and on the trolley. I think that's the key. What good it brings after that, we'll be able to gauge and study."
On Friday through Sunday, a trolley will run from Dunedin, stop at Countryside Mall, stop in Safety Harbor and loop back to Dunedin. It will run from 6 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Hours could expand after the pilot program.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 4 p.m. Monday at the John Wilson Park Gazebo. Two trolleys will be there offering free rides up and down Main Street.
Officials hope the route is seen as another option to get to Safety Harbor or for residents and tourists to explore more.
"We think it's huge," said Susan Petersen, director of the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce. "We're really excited about the prospect of more people coming to town for our merchants. … Dunedin gets a lot of traffic and we feel like we are kind of hidden over here."
Riders will buy a $4.50 day pass to ride the route.
The route is funded with a $40,000 federal grant, $5,000 from the chamber, $5,000 from the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, and $11,667 from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.
Officials aren't looking for a specific ridership number. Monthly numbers will be discussed and reviewed when they become available, Spoor said.
Eventually, the route could be a permanent extension of the Jolley Trolley coastal route, which runs from Clearwater Beach to Tarpon Springs with stops in Dunedin and Palm Harbor, said Rosemary Longenecker, president of the Jolley Trolley.
"Our goal will be to make (the Safety Harbor) route successful and another extension of that coastal route," Longenecker said.
Jared Leone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jared_leone on Twitter.