In his recent “Trolley Trash” column, J.J. Gasparotti is spot on regarding “free trolley service.” Laguna Beach is a destination resort where 95 percent of tourists are daytrippers that ride the trolleys but spend little money in town.
Using trolley boarding numbers and costs provided by the city, there were 852,000 trolley boardings in fiscal year 2017-2018 and total costs of $3,250,000. Some division shows our costs at $3.81 per boarder. However, this number includes three routes with very low ridership (extended neighborhood, summer breeze and weekend canyon) which combined had 33,818 boarders which cost the taxpayers $15.41 per boarder. Eliminating these three loser routes yields a cost of $3.93 per boarder for the remaining high traffic routes. So lets say $4 per boarder based on the four most popular routes.
The big issues here are: how much of the cost does the city want to recover, implementation and policy.
It seems to me that it’s impractical to charge someone $4 every time they board on a given day, so charge $5 for the day for adult riders, with children under a certain age free. So two adults and two children are $8 for the day. Riders could get a hand stamp for that day.
Now there are simple electronic means of payment from your phone or credit card payment services such as SQUARE. For cash payments, the city can still use SQUARE to provide a receipt for cash and for the city to keep track of cash payments.
Currently when you go to Disneyland destination resort, the charge to park your car and take a shuttle to the park entrance is $20 per car. With this in mind, $5 per adult to ride our trolleys all day is a bargain. Currently the city takes about $21 million from property tax revenues in part to pay for the trolleys.
So if we saved $3 million, it’s a start in making tourists pay for the service provided by the city which in reality is paid by the taxpayers (you).
George Orff, Laguna Beach