Summer Trolleys Track Simpler Routes

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The city's popular free trolleys will start running on weekends beginning in March, part of an effort to ease congestion.
The city’s popular free trolleys are running as part of an effort to ease congestion.

Summer trolleys will roll along the same coastal route as the off-season weekend trolleys that began in March, running north to south along Coast Highway without detouring for a connection at the downtown bus depot.

In recent years, summer trolleys followed loops originating from the Broadway Street bus depot, heading south to the Ritz Carlton on Coast Highway and back, or north along Coast Highway to Cajon Street and back, or east along Laguna Canyon Road to the art festivals and parking lots and back. Anyone hopping on at one end of town had to change trolleys at the bus depot in order to get to the other end of town or out to the canyon.

The runaway success of the off-season weekend trolleys, which run solely on a coastal loop between the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel in the south and Cajon Street in the north, convinced city staff to rethink the summer routes. Ridership for the off-season weekend trolleys neared 90,000, Deputy Director of Community Services Tom Toman told the Council last week.

When the festival trolleys begin rolling on Friday, June 26, riders jumping on between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. seven days a week can chose between three routes: a “short” canyon route from ACT V and Laguna College of Art & Design parking lots to a frontage road near the art festivals; a “long” canyon route from parking lots to the bus depot and further downtown stops at Cleo, Legion and Laguna streets; or a coastal route extended north to El Morro Elementary from its southern terminus at the Ritz Carlton.

In peak times, thanks to three new trolleys partially funded by a grant, the city will operate a fleet of 25 trolleys, with 19 dedicated to the new coastal route, two making the short canyon loop and four running between the canyon lots and downtown stops.

Red trolleys will be designated for the downtown runs, and blue ones roll along Coast Highway, simplifying identification for riders, said Toman.

One advantage of the decentralized routes is that the depot will no longer be a focal point, said Deputy City Manager Ben Siegel.

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