Newport Beach considers trolley service to transport beach crowds

Newport Beach is looking into a trolley-style service that could move visitors and locals around the often-congested Balboa Peninsula during the busy summer months.

The peninsula is narrow, with a single main road that becomes crowded on hot summer weekends. Beachgoers and shoppers often circle around Balboa Boulevard as they hunt for a parking spot.


In response to a growing desire for public transportation from some residents and business owners, the city in May hired Dan Boyle & Associates, a San Diego-based transportation planning firm, to look into potential routes, cost and the market for a transit service along Balboa Boulevard.

The study, which is expected to be completed by the end of July, will cost about $10,000, according to a proposal from the firm.

Though the idea is in its early stages, Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon said a trolley service could increase access to Balboa Village, home to the Fun Zone, ExplorOcean and restaurants.

The city is renovating Balboa Village with streetscape and signage upgrades and repairs to business facades.

"The last remaining conundrum is how to get people down there," Dixon said.

This isn't the first time public transportation has been considered for the peninsula.

In the mid-1980s, a trolley-like bus service was available along Coast Highway and the Balboa Peninsula and at Newport Center. However, the city did not have the funds to sustain the line, and the service ended after one summer.

Some Orange County beach communities, such as Laguna Beach, have found success in operating similar systems.

Laguna Beach trolleys are free and run along Coast Highway every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from March through June 25.

Dana Point is set to launch its own service this summer.

Dixon envisions the Balboa transportation as privately managed and funded through customers instead of residents.

The service could allow riders to park off the peninsula and use the trolley while shopping and dining in the downtown area.

The system would help move people throughout the peninsula instead of concentrating visitors in one area, said city Community Development Director Kim Brandt.

"Once you get a spot down there, you feel like you've scored," Brandt said. "Most people don't want to move their car again. This would give them another option."