Pierce Transit deemed the Gig Harbor trolley demonstration program a success this summer, and it plans to continue the program on a seasonal basis.
The agency will activate the trolley for the summer months, beginning Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day next year, Pierce Transit public relations officer Carol Mitchell said.
The trolley ran between downtown and the Uptown Gig Harbor Shopping Center with a 25-cent fare.
“The fare helped people want to ride it,” said Warren Zimmerman, the president and CEO of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “What else can you do for 25 cents?”
The fare currently is set to increase to regular Pierce Transit rates of $2, with discounted rates of 75 cents.
“The community investment team will be working with Pierce Transit to get the fare down,” Mitchell said.
The trolley will run on a similar route next year, but some adjustments will be made. That may include altering the route to continue the regular Route 100 service along with the trolley service, locating new equipment and a fare increase.
“Now that we have introduced the service, there are people that want to have it come back,” Mitchell said. “We are hoping the interest level will stay high during the next season.”
The trolley served 28,514 passengers during the 82-day demonstration period this summer, Mitchell said.
“That is pretty amazing for that short period of time,” she said. “I think part of it was the nostalgia, the experience, and it was inexpensive.”
When the program began, the transit agency hoped it could show if the service could potentially work in other areas. When the trolley is not in service in off months, it may be used in other locations.
“We have already been contacted by other parts of the service area that have requested using them for various projects,” Mitchell said.
Trolley in other areas will be a result of interest level and funding, she added.
Gig Harbor has wanted a trolley type of service for a number of years, Zimmerman said.
“We’ve been trying to get a partnership for some time to put this in effect because we have been hearing from visitors that this would be helpful,” he said.
The City of Gig Harbor, the chamber and Uptown Gig Harbor each contributed $10,000 toward the project, and the Downtown Waterfront Alliance contributed $5,000, Zimmerman said.
“The community wanted it and put some skin in the game,” Mitchell said.
Pierce Transit and the City of Gig Harbor used two surveys to measure satisfaction rates. Riders completed an on-board survey and showed a 94 percent satisfaction rate. A total of 614 riders completed the survey.
The majority of riders went to destinations such as the Gig Harbor Farmers Market, downtown, Uptown, the Peninsula branch of the Pierce County Library System and the Gig Harbor Skate Park.
Twenty-nine merchants completed a different survey, and 86 percent thought the service was beneficial. Fifty-five percent responded that it increased the number of customers who visited their business.
“It was successful because the community embraced the idea of the around-town transportation,” Zimmerman said. “It is nice for people to see the greater portion of Gig Harbor while they are here.”
Valery Jorgensen is a freelance reporter for the Gateway.