Dina Richter was one of the guests who enjoyed cruising the roads along the 76 Flyer, Sarasota County's new route connecting the downtown area with Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.
Instead of having to worry about navigating traffic, Richter, the finance manager for Sarasota's transportation department, found she was free to relax and enjoy the trolley ride through locations including the grounds of the Hyatt Regency Sarasota and The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.
According to Jane Grogg, director of Sarasota County Area Transit, the new service, which employs two newly acquired trolleys, will benefit the whole county as well when it makes its official debut on Feb. 9.
Grogg said the trolleys' continuous service to and from the airport and eight different hotel locations will help take some of the cars off the road along U.S. 41, a high-volume corridor for transportation in Sarasota.
In the meantime, staff from county administration and transportation, hotel partners, Commissioner Mark Smith and members of the media gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 5 at The Bay Park.
The ceremony opened with remarks by Grogg and Smith, and concluded with attendees taking a spin on the two new trolleys.
“Offering a route that caters to these visitors is important,” he said. “It makes sense to our tourism economy and makes sense for alleviating traffic congestion, which consistently ranks as the top resident concern of Sarasota County’s annual citizen opinion survey.”
The project is part of an initiative by Sarasota County to expand its Breeze Transit public transportation system.
The county launched the Siesta Key Breeze trolley in 2017 and recently established Breeze OnDemand, a transportation service similar to Uber or Lyft.
At $2 per trip per passenger, the new airport service relies partially on funding from the county. The two trolleys have a capacity which Grogg estimates at 25, and closer to 30 when standing room is used. They feature luggage racks and ramps for loading and unloading.
Attendees enjoyed the chance to experience the service for themselves.
“It was nice to know how the guests will feel and how it will be for them,” said Gaby Sallum of Hyatt Regency Sarasota. “It was nice to ride the trolley. It was a pretty cool thing.”
Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.