By Jane Smith
Delray Beach city commissioners conceded in mid-April that the diesel-spewing trolleys would have to operate on Atlantic Avenue for another two months. If they hadn’t, First Transit would have stopped driving the city trolleys on April 30.
The reason: The fixed-route contract with the Delray Downtowner won’t be ready until mid-May at the earliest. The cost: $80,000, which will be paid by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to First Transit.
The free trolleys have operated every year since 2006. Two trolleys operate on one route, which has 23 stops between the Tri-Rail station on Congress Avenue and the municipal beach. The route travels through Delray Beach’s downtown business core of Atlantic Avenue.
When the trolley service abruptly stopped last fall, city commissioners received complaints about employees not being able to get to work, according to the backup materials provided to the commission for its April 16 meeting.
The Downtown Development Authority and business community stressed that tourists would not have access to free trolley services previously provided, the backup material also stated.
The extra time granted in April is needed to allow the city’s CRA staff to finish negotiating the contract with the Downtowner team. That group promised three vans with 14 seats for the fixed-route service. The vans, which would be powered by propane gas, would be decked out to look like surfboards with a fin on each roof.
The vans will stop at the Old School Square garage to pick up passengers who want to go east and eventually to the beach.
That stop would create a park-and-ride situation for passengers from outside the city, a Downtowner principal said in March.
That route will not travel east on Atlantic into the often-clogged downtown core. Instead, the vans will go north on Swinton Avenue, make a right at Northeast First Street, stop at the OSS garage and then continue east on Northeast First Street to Federal Highway.
The city also wants to provide a marketing/transition plan for the new vehicles and the stops, according to Laura Simon, the DDA executive director. She spoke about the plan at the DDA’s Downtown Town Hall on April 17.
The Delray Downtowner team was also awarded the point-to-point shuttle service contract in March.
Under that contract, the firm will lease nine global electric motorcar vehicles, with four picking up passengers in the CRA area at any one time while the others recharge.
That area includes Atlantic Avenue from Interstate 95 east to the beach and one block north and south along A1A.