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Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 4 years ago

Firm halts Siesta transit plan

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Stan Mitts has a copyright with a wide scope.

So, it’s not surprising to the 82-year-old owner of Trolley Illusions when he discovers someone has infringed on his copyrighted idea to use graphics to turn buses into trolleys.

Sarasota County’s plan to spend an estimated $30,500 to wrap five new buses so they resemble trolleys for a Siesta Key route is Mitts’ most recent discovery.

“There’s no doubt in my mind he’s not going to let that get by,” said Trolley Illusions Sales Manager Bob Ramirez, in a Feb. 5 phone interview.

Ramirez said his firm would gladly work with the county to get trolley-altered buses into circulation. The cost is more than double the county’s estimated amount, or $61,250 for five buses, according to a quote Mitts mailed to Sarasota County Area Transit General Manager Glama Carter.

“We worked with them before, and they were more expensive,” Carter said of Trolley Illusions when she held a similar position with Collier County.

Per bus, Mitts’ firm charges $8,450 for the materials for the design and $3,800 for travel and installation costs.

Commissioners will have the final say in the design.

Using graphics to make a bus look like a trolley is cheaper than buying a trolley hardware package, which can cost 10 times as much, according to a SCAT presentation.

“Obviously, cost is a concern for us,” said Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson. “But, we need to be concerned about Siesta Key, because it’s a major tourist attraction.”

Carter wants to add “cuteness” to buses bound for island routes, such as those slated in 2014, for Siesta Key. That doesn’t necessarily mean a trolley design is the only option.

County staff will assemble two or three design ideas throughout the next six months, then seek community input from Siesta businesses, Carter said.

Carter has ideas that include a sunset mural with text that reads, “Welcome to paradise!”

But, Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson alerted members of the Siesta Key Village Association during a Feb. 5 meeting that it takes Gillig LLC 18 months to build, inspect and ship the buses necessary for the new island routes.

The California firm doesn’t have a single warehouse filled with bus parts and must cherry-pick each piece from other companies, Carter said.

Commissioners will likely decide on a design after federal money becomes available in early 2014.

“Let me put it this way, if they were to resemble a trolley, we would have to be very careful,” Carter said.

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