Vol 7 No. 12 - December 13, 2006

Trolley run around Bean Point problematic


PHOTO/MCAT
MCAT Director Ralf Heseler and Supervisor Mark Beck check out the trolley at the base of the humpback bridge

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA - A request by a resident to extend the trolley route up and around Bean Point will probably not be granted.

Manatee County Area Transit Director Ralf Heseler and Supervisor Mark Beck made a trial run around the north end of the Island last week from the trolley's northern terminus at the city pier.

"It's very tight quarters," said Beck.

"There's very little room when the trolley meets an oncoming vehicle," added Heseler.

This reporter from The Island Sun accompanied Heseler and Beck around the potential route.

Beck, who was driving the trolley, checked out several possibilities. He first drove over the humpback bridge on North Bay Boulevard and headed north to the intersection with North Shore Drive on Bean Point.

The hump back bridge presented the first challenge. Beck had to floor the accelerator to get the trolley up and over the bridge.

Heseler, who was standing on the far side of the bridge as the trolley went over, noticed the sound.

"Whoever lives just across the bridge is going to be bothered by the engine noise," he said. "It's quite loud with the power this trolley needs to get across the bridge."

The trolley proceeded north until it came to the stop sign at the intersection of North Bay Boulevard and North Shore Drive.

There, the vehicle had to make a very wide turn to get onto North Shore. Just after the turn, the trolley met an oncoming car. Both vehicles slowed, and both had to swing a little off the pavement to pass each other. Even so, the car and the trolley were extremely close as they passed.

The trolley swung around the Bean Point area and proceeded south. Where North Shore Drive runs along the Gulf just south of the point, the road curves. In those curves, which are close together, short and swing from east to west, the trolley's wheels were on the shoulder of the road as Beck maneuvered the vehicle through the turns.

"This is primarily a residential area," Heseler noted. "There are several ground-level houses. The trolley lights shining in their windows after dark as the trolley maneuvers these curves will disturb the occupants. The lights will shine right into the front windows."

The trolleys run every 20 minutes between 6 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Weekend hours go later.

"It's not usual to run public transportation through residential areas," Heseler said. "Usually, you run your routes along the main thoroughfares and in the business districts."

He added that where there is a demand, sometimes exceptions are made.

Heseler, who took his present position of MCAT director after the initiation of the trolley on the Island, said it was his understanding that there had been quite a bit of opposition to running the route around the north end of the Island.

"My predecessor's report stated that the residents were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the trolley out of this area," he said. "There were also some technical difficulties with running the route up here, so I wanted to check it out for myself."

Heseler said that as the earlier report stated, the roads are quite narrow, the area is exclusively residential and it's questionable whether or not the bridge can take the trolley's weight every day, every 20 minutes.

"It's one thing when a large truck goes over the bridge once in a while, but it's quite different to run the trolley over every 20 minutes," he said.

Another of Heseler's concerns is what the extension of the route along the north shore would do to the trolley's schedule.

"We certainly wouldn't be able to keep to the schedule," he said. "The wait between trolleys would be longer. I'm not sure people would like that."

Heseler said that during March it's already difficult to keep to the schedule.

"We have upwards of 3,000 riders a day then," he said.

Heseler said he will study the information he collected and put together a report for the Island Transportation Organization.

"I don't make policy decisions," he said. "My job is to put the facts together so that the people who make the decisions have what they need to make informed decisions."

He said he expects the report to be ready within the next week or so.

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