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Trolley for Treasure Island holds promise

(ran Beach edition)

Kinks in the plan are smoothing out. Commissioners will make a decision Sept. 19.

Two new developments appear to have put the trolley on track in Treasure Island.

City commissioners learned last week that the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority plans to initiate a Central Avenue trolley from downtown St. Petersburg to Gulf Boulevard. That eliminated their concerns about getting passengers from St. Petersburg to a similar Gulf Boulevard trolley system.

Their second concern was getting residents from the city's five neighborhoods to the proposed Gulf Boulevard transit system. The city manager presented a plan Tuesday to use a city van to take residents to the trolley.

If the city eliminates its current bus system, City Manager Chuck Coward said he could buy a van to travel through each neighborhood three days a week. It would cost riders 25 cents a day and cost the city about $25,000 a year.

City commissioners said they will discuss the proposals again Sept. 19 and make a decision that night about whether to extend the Gulf Boulevard trolley to the city and whether they will continue some sort of inner-city transportation system as well. A final vote is expected Sept. 26. Both meetings are at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 120 108th Ave.

On Tuesday, City Commissioner Stephanie Lavino said she liked the idea of using a city van along with the trolley, but she wanted it to operate five days a week. Previously, Lavino wanted the city to continue its current bus system along with the Gulf Boulevard trolley.

Mayor Leaon Atkinson said he didn't think the city had the riders to support a five-day-a-week van service.

"We can't have a 24-hour taxi service," he said.

The county transit authority plans to extend its Gulf Boulevard trolley system from Clearwater to Madeira Beach in January. If Treasure Island joins the system, trolleys would travel along Gulf Boulevard, through Treasure Island to the limits of St. Pete Beach. That city also is considering a plan to bring the trolley to the southern tip of Gulf Boulevard at Pass-a-Grille.

St. Pete Beach commissioners are scheduled to discuss the trolley at a workshop at 4 p.m. Sept. 18 at City Hall, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. They plan to take a final vote during their regular meeting the following night at 7.

The PSTA trolley would cost Treasure Island about $80,000 a year, or $50,000 more than the current city bus system. But the trolley would operate more often. The current buses operate six days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The proposed Gulf Boulevard trolley would travel seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and stop about every half-hour at designated locations in each city.

St. Pete Beach would pay about $160,000 a year for the trolley service. It currently pays about $110,000 a year to Bats Taxi Co. to provide daily bus service throughout that city.

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