A previously approved and updated trolley route map and service plan will be implemented this summer in Dana Point after its initial use was cut short at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Collegiate News Service, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Collegiate News Service Editor Vik Jolly at vjolly@voiceofoc.org.

The trolley system’s two routes will resume Friday through Sunday starting May 28, with daily service starting June 25 through Labor Day. 

The City Council in April voted 4-0 to approve the proposal to bring back the trolley system. Council member Joe Muller was absent. Alongside the system’s return, previously approved and updated routes will be introduced.

The trolley system is funded based on meeting a ridership quota.

An Orange County Transportation Authority program funds the system in large part, and it requires a minimum of approximately 10 riders per trolley each hour.  If trolleys meet this quota, the cost of operations and maintenance to the city after funding from the transportation authority is projected to be around $235,000 for the program through the end of summer, according to a city staff report.

If trolleys only meet half of the minimum required riders per hour, the program funding decreases and the city would have to pay nearly double in operations and maintenance for the service, the report states.

Matthew Sinacori, the city’s director of public works, told the council he is optimistic that meeting the program’s criteria won’t be an issue.

“Because we’re open air, and we’re able to have most of our seats open on those buses, we don’t believe we’re going to have a ridership problem,” he said.

The buses will operate at near-full capacity with limits on standing passengers. Riders will be required to wear masks until regulations change, according to Sinacori.

The trolley routes have been updated to improve community reach. 

“We used to have one big route that went around the whole city,” Sinacori said.  With two routes, north and south, the trolley can cover more ground and still meet the 15 minute maximum wait time obligation, he added.

The trolley will hit spots on the Pacific Coast Highway and the top of Golden Lantern that it could not before with a single route.

Running a weekend trolley system after Labor Day is not intended, but not completely out of the question. “Depending on the success of the program this summer, city staff may consider operating the extended seasonal program at a later date,” the staff report said.

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