Challenges remain for weekend trolley service

The Riverside Avondale Weekend Trolley service was given a six-month extension, commencing September 1, 2016, by the Jacksonville Transit Authority’s board of directors at its July meeting, according to Leigh Ann Rassler, JTA public relations manager.

“The good news is that JTA is committed to this service more than ever,” said Allan DeVault, partner in Black Sheep Restaurant Group, in a report to sponsors and supporters of the weekend trolley service in Riverside and Avondale. “Though ridership is lower than we had hoped, the gradual increase in those numbers and positive PR it creates for all of us makes it an important route for JTA.”

Weekend trolley service begins at 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and runs until 2 a.m. Three trolleys make a continuous loop starting in 5 Points, swinging north to Rosselle Street before continuing to the Park and King Streets corridor, Fishweir Creek, and the Shoppes of Avondale.

A ridership report showed an average of 124 passenger trips per weekend from March 4 through July 9, with a high of 216 the weekend of April 8-9. Two-thirds of the expenses are covered by sponsors, while riders bear less than 10 percent of the cost. Approximately 25 percent of the costs are subsidized by the JTA.

“While it does not include last weekend [July 15-16], which was our biggest weekend to date with 247 trips, the report shows that this route has a 75% revenue recovery which, in the public transportation world, is amazing,” said DeVault. “Unfortunately, given that we are a predominantly choice rider-based route, that high support must remain intact – be it in ridership or sponsorships.”

JTA’s vote of confidence did come with a caveat: that a new title sponsor be signed by September 1. 

The current title sponsor, Champion Brands/MillerCoors, decided not to continue past the six-month trial basis, according to DeVault. He said the trolley support group has pitched to two potential title sponsors, who would pay $2,000 per month for advertising on three trolleys. The sponsor(s) would also bear the burden of approximately $4,000 in “wrapping” the trolleys with advertising.

“The trolley is an important piece of a larger goal to make parking, movement and transportation in our neighborhood easier for residents and visitors,” said DeVault.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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