Since the SKVA held its meeting in August, board member Russell Matthes explained during the September session, he and former Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley had met with the CEO of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, Brad Miller. That organization operates a Jolley Trolley system, Matthes added.
“We got some valuable information,” Matthes continued. Miller talked with them about the successful facets of trolley operations in that county, Matthes noted. “They have a huge group up there who work on this [system],” he said. Altogether, about 25 trolleys operate in Pinellas County, Matthes pointed out. “It’s a different beast up there.”
Matthes said he is continuing to encourage Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) staff “to go to other communities to see what does work.” He remains hopeful, he continued, that the SKVA and county staff can pick and choose among features of those trolley systems to create one that will offer good service for Siesta Key.
Additionally, Matthes noted, Miller told him and Ley that Pinellas Suncoast Transit soon will be issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the continuation of its trolley service, because the Jolley Trolley company has “gotten some competition, finally.” Miller promised to send Matthes and Ley a copy of the RFP, with the hope that that might be helpful, as well.
Representatives of a Sarasota trolley company have been interested in bidding on a service for Siesta, Matthes pointed out, but “they’re having trouble with the financing of it when they put the numbers together, so the county’s definitely going to have to participate in some capacity [in funding an operation] for the first two, three, five years.”
After he receives the RFP, Matthes continued, he plans to set up a meeting with County Commission Chair Al Maio “to at least start a dialogue” about the county’s involvement in the trolley service. He is hopeful the County Commission will provide formal direction to the SCAT staff to work on a trolley proposal.
“Something needs to happen,” Matthes added.
Stephanie Brown, general manager of the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, then asked whether it would be possible to sell advertising displays for use on the trolleys to help cover the cost of their operation. That is exactly the type of option about which the county needs information, Matthes told her.