Three Arch gets trolleys for transport

Residents of Three Arch Bay will finally be able to hop aboard a convenient, free Laguna Beach trolley — at least for the first two weekends of the summer season.

The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved on March 24 a long-sought summer transportation program that will service the community, on an experimental basis.

Residents of Three Arch Bay have petitioned for the service for two years, but city officials say it is too expensive and difficult to create a route that serves the gated community, because the trolleys are unable to turn around at Three Arch Bay. The trolleys run south on Coast Highway to South Coast Medical Center, nearly a mile north of Three Arch Bay.

“We love downtown and want to go there and not contribute to traffic and pollution,” Three Arch Bay resident Fouad Houalla told the council. “There are 500 households in Three Arch Bay and we all want the service.”


The city hired a transit consultant, Dan Boyle, in October to look into Three Arch Bay trolley service. Boyle came up with three options:

 Adding a trolley to the route, at a cost of $71,000;

 Providing a shuttle service between Three Arch Bay and South Coast Medical Center, a normal trolley stop, at a cost of $42,000; or

 Extending the hours of the Ritz Carlton transit route during the summer season, at a cost of $38,000.


The city expects to spend more money this year to provide the same level of service on the heavily used south route, City Manager Ken Frank told the council.

That route handled 221,973 riders in 2008, 48% of the total summer trolley ridership, according to a staff report.

“We really need an extra bus, but it’s too expensive,” Frank said.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman worried that return service might not be available and riders could get stranded.

“We might not get them back to Three Arch,” Iseman said. “It’s a problem. I’ve had to walk back [home] late at night.”

Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson’s motion to try out Three Arch Bay trolley service during the first two weeks of the summer on a trial basis was unanimously approved.

The trolleys could turn around at Gelson’s in Dana Point.

CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or