Free Trolley Service Coming to Siesta Key


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, November 1st, 2016 – An open-air free trolley service to and from Siesta Key is expected to start operating between this December and February 2017. The Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) announced this October that bids are now being solicited for an operator to run this service which would help mitigate the perennial traffic and parking problems in the island, which is a major local tourist draw as well, as a prime destination for Sarasota homes for sale.

This solution for better island mobility has been a long time coming, with the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) considering a public trolley transport in the island for almost 15 years. The current plan, at least in the system’s early stages, calls for three trolleys alternately plying a single route confined within Siesta Key.

The trolleys would loop from Turtle Beach to Crescent Beach, run up to the Siesta Beach and Siesta Key Village area, and back again to Turtle Beach. Prior proposals included two routes traversing the island’s north and south bridges and extending onto the mainland, one up to the Southgate Mall and the other at the Sarasota Pavilion.

Neighbors’ Success Stories

Free Trolley Service Coming to Siesta Key

The Siesta Key-based trolleys would operate as a circulator similar to that in Anna Maria Island, which runs under the Manatee County Area Transportation (MCAT) system. A free service, the MCAT island trolleys run from 6:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at 20-minute intervals daily. In 2015, Anna Maria’s trolleys were used by some 600,000 passengers. Neighboring communities like Fort Myers and Clearwater have also adopted trolley service as a practical solution to traffic and parking.

SCAT already runs two Siesta Key bus routes (10 and 11) which passengers could soon use to link with the island’s free trolleys. It also operates the seasonal Route 33 from the Pinecraft area on Bahia Vista Street to Siesta Key Beach from November to April.

Public Ridership Campaigns

Aware that increased bus riders equate with lessened private vehicle traffic and parking problems, SCAT officials have undertaken marketing and public awareness campaigns for its Siesta Key service. Businesses under the SKAV are also being encouraged to work with the island’s condo homeowners’ associations to promote use of local public transport facilities.

With regards to parking spots, of which there are about 1,000 slots around Siesta Village, other ideas have been floated recently. One initiative that Sarasota County currently pursues is the acquisition of a 0.37-acre dune habitat at the edge of Beach Road which can add parking as well as public beach access. More conversion of right-of-way spaces has also been suggested though this would be adverse to some roadside businesses.

Parking Meters Mulled

Free Trolley Service Coming to Siesta Key

Paid parking is another solution which resonates especially amongst Siesta Key residents. Such a scheme, in one projection, could generate revenue approaching $4 million annually for the public parking at the newly renovated facilities of Siesta Key Beach.

Notably, paid parking is making a comeback in downtown Sarasota with city commissioners having approved in September the purchase of 458 parking meters. A paid parking system in the downtown area was instituted in 2012 but it was dropped due to technical difficulties.

To avoid these issues, workshops are set later this year to test and review different kinds of meters. On its first phase, the parking meters will be installed along Main Street and part of Palm Avenue and Ringling Boulevard by mid-2017. Hourly cost would be $1 which would be in effect between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Check back our website for updates on these developments affecting mobility in the downtown and in Siesta Key as well as interest on Sarasota homes for sale.