Sarasota County Commissioners and island leaders take inaugural ride on Siesta Key Breeze trolley.
Mark Smith has a simple hope for the Siesta Key Breeze trolley service.
"That it be here forever and ever on end," the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce chairman said at Monday's ribbon cutting ceremony for Siesta Key's new open-air circulator service.
County staff and island leaders gathered near the Siesta Key Village gazebo to commemorate Siesta Key Beach's recent No. 1 ranking as American's best beach in Trip Advisor's recent ranking.
The trolley service was made possible with a partial grant from the Florida Department of Transportation. The grant is due to expire in August, making the future of the service uncertain.
"This is a pilot project," Sarasota County Area Transit Director Rocky Burke said at the event. "We don't know where it's going or how it's going to turn out."
County leaders and proponents of the service hope that maintaining high ridership numbers will increase the likelihood of the trolley's longevity.
"You get as many people as possible in the next few months to ride this thing," County Commissioner Alan Maio told island stakeholders during his address, "so when it comes time to extend it, we have bonafide numbers on the use and the need."
Although island interests have been lobbying for a trolley for years, Smith agreed that introducing a free public transportation option that links the Siesta Key Village with the Turtle Beach and the southern commercial district can only aid the key.
"It will absolutely unify (Siesta Key)," Smith said.