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    Ride on trolley now costs $1

    By DEBORAH O'NEIL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 2, 2002

    CLEARWATER -- Riding fares on the Jolley Trolley doubled Tuesday, bringing the cost to $1, or 50 cents for senior citizens.

    The change came after the city of Clearwater cut its subsidy for the trolley service by 10 percent this fall while trimming the city budget.

    The increase was recommended by the Jolley Trolley Board of Directors and was approved Dec. 19 by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, which controls the trolley's fares.

    "It's an increase that's long overdue and will be very beneficial to the trolley," said Hoyt Hamilton, a member of the Jolley Trolley board and a Clearwater city commissioner.

    City leaders say they support the rate increase because they want the nonprofit trolley corporation to become less reliant on city funding.

    This fall, the city cut $29,500 from the trolley's traditional subsidy of $295,000. At the time, city leaders indicated that there may be more cuts in the future.

    "Our long-term goal is for the trolley to be able to sustain itself and rely less on city operational subsidies," said City Manager Bill Horne. "I've always felt there a lot of ways they could achieve that and one of the ways was to put their fares more in line with what was required to sustain the operation."

    Just fewer than 200,000 passengers annually use the trolleys, said Al Sakey, president of Jolley Trolley Transportation Inc. The trolleys run north and south on Clearwater Beach, onto Island Estates and into downtown Clearwater from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

    The city's main interest in funding the trolley is its benefit to local tourism, but it also is used by beach residents.

    Leaders say the $1 fare still is a bargain.

    "A dollar to ride the trolley around the beach is, for tourists, extremely reasonable," Hamilton said. "When you compare it to a lot of other destinations . . . it's still below market rate."

    Seasonal resident Patrick Coyle, 66, agrees that the fares still are a good deal. He takes the the trolley from Island Estates to the beach and library during his four-month annual stay in Clearwater.

    "Everybody else has gone up," he said. "They're entitled to ask for it. In these times we live, it's not too much. Where else are we going to get so cheap?"

    Beach business owner Kosta Liakakos has a trolley stop in front of his Mandalay Avenue bakery and said the rate increase sounds reasonable.

    "The tourists, they come here and they want something; they get it," Liakakos said.

    "For a dollar, that's no big deal," Liakakos said. "If they raised it $5 or $6, that might be a different story."

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