Tarpon Springs resident Jackie Hesdorff is taking her first ride on the Clearwater Jolley Trolley’s new line passing through Dunedin, and, as the car rolls into downtown Clearwater, she is full of questions.
It’s a chill morning, and she’s asking: What route is the trolley taking? Where does it stop? How close to Clearwater Beach does it go?
The trolley car crosses the Clearwater Memorial Causeway and the open, blue expanse of the Clearwater Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway takes the 70-year-old aback.
“Look at the view. Imagine if you were from Chicago or Phoenix or somewhere,” said Hesdorff.
It’s a moment of joy on the new service that circles from the Tarpon Springs sponge docks, through Palm Harbor and Dunedin to Island Estates Plaza in Clearwater via downtown Clearwater.
“It offers more to the area,” Hesdorff said. She no longer owns a vehicle. “It offers more to residents like myself.”
The service extension received widespread support from governments and businesses, said Bob Longenecker, executive director of the Clearwater-based non-profit transportation service. Twenty-three elected officials from participating municipalities or the Pinellas County government voted in favor of the new line, he said. The Dunedin Chamber of Commerce and city Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski, who sits on the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, pushed for the line in Dunedin as a way to facilitate commerce.
“It gives businesses in Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs access to [Clearwater’s] high-density visitors,” he said. “It’s got to be a plus for the community.”
The new line started Nov. 19 and follows the PSTA bus route. The price tag for running the extension route is roughly $265,000 annually. Dunedin fronts about $25,000 annually. PSTA matches that figure, and the remaining expense comes from participating governments, advertising and fares.
Riders and downtown business owners feel optimistic that it will bring more business to the area.
“I personally think it’s the best thing to ever happen to downtown,” Kathy Carlson, co-owner of , and in Dunedin, said.
“We’ve had people come in who didn’t know we were there,” Jesse Lane said, referring to Strachan Homemade Ice Cream in Palm Harbor. The ice cream shop also has a Dunedin location. Lane began working at in 2008 and grew up in Tarpon Springs. He said he remembers a trolley service that ran through the town when he was young, but that it eventually failed as a Tarpon-specific route. The new trolley extension through north Pinellas, Lane said, is good for “sightseeing alone, because people might not have seen all the little quiet, tiny towns.”
Longenecker said the trolley is expected to attract about 20 to 25,000 riders in its first year. The service’s North and South Clearwater Beach line attracts about 140,000 riders a year. He predicts that the Trolley extension service will be beyond capacity come March and April when spring break and spring training seasons are in full swing.
Plan to ride? The extension service travels hourly along PSTA routes from Island Estates Plaza in Clearwater to the Tarpon Springs sponge docks.
When: It runs Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to midnight and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: Main Street in Dunedin now has four designated, but unmarked stops. Unofficially, drivers will make an effort to stop anywhere along the line that they’re being waved down. You can also catch it at any PSTA bus stop.
Cost: Day passes are available for $4.50 and can be purchased with cash aboard the trolley. Weekly and monthly passes are also available. Trolley and PSTA passes are interchangeable.
More info: Click Clearwater Jolley Trolley for a full map and price list.