The Balboa Peninsula Trolley is ready to roll.
The shuttle, which begins transporting Newport Beach visitors and residents on Saturday, had a preview run Friday that celebrated the new service and hit the peninsula's highlights.
Outside the Balboa Pavilion, City Councilwoman Diane Dixon cut a ribbon stretched across one of the fleet's four red vans.
The peninsula, with centers of activity around the Balboa and Newport piers, has narrow streets and chronic parking and congestion issues during the summer high season. City leaders hope to alleviate that with the free-to-ride shuttle.
"This truly is a fine example of government listening to its community," Dixon said.
Kelly Carlson, a shuttle proponent and businesswoman who with her husband owns Balboa Peninsula businesses that rent bicycles, paddleboards and personal watercraft, said late Newport Beach resident and civic fixture Ralph Rodheim — also a champion of the shuttle — would have been thrilled to see the vans on the road.
The service covers a 19-stop loop from the parking lot on the southwest corner of the Hoag Hospital campus near West Coast Highway and Superior Avenue to Balboa Pier and back. Vans will run every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 3, plus Tuesday, July 4. The shuttle also will make a 7:30 a.m. run for passengers who plan to ride the ferry from Newport to Catalina Island.
On Friday at McFadden Square at Newport Pier, veteran Newport Beach lifeguard Mike Halphide gave a brief history of the area and a rundown of the attractions within easy walking distance of the pier — from Seaside Bakery and Stag Bar to the Dory Fleet fish market and Blackies and Newport Point — locations he hoped shuttle riders would visit.
The preview tour also included Marina Park and Lido Marina Village, two major stops on the route.
The Orange County Transportation Authority awarded Newport Beach a $685,454 grant last year to operate the shuttle. The grant, to be distributed over seven years, is funded through Measure M, Orange County's half-cent sales tax for transportation projects.
The city is renting 40 spaces in the Hoag parking lot at a rate of $5 per space per day as a place for shuttle riders to leave their cars for free.
The city expects about 437 riders per day, or close to 11,000 for the season.