City seeks funds for trolleys

City officials submitted a request March 29 for Measure M money to buy and operate new trolleys next summer and to expand service in the following six years.

The Measure M half-cent sales tax in Orange County provides funding for transportation programs, including the purchase of local transit vehicles. Grants up to $525,000 per year for seven years require only a 10% match from the local agency.

"It is a two part-program," said Ken Fischer, deputy director of Public Works. "The first year, we would buy three new trolleys, which would reduce the wait time from 20 to 15 minutes during festival season."

In years 2 through 7, the grant would be used to offset operating costs, estimated at $30,000 a season and 90% funded by the grant after the first year. The grant would also help start service for 24 additional weekends, not including the festival season, scattered throughout the year.

"The additional service would operate on a continuous loop on Coast Highway, starting at the Bus Depot and going south to Aliso Beach and north to Cliff Drive," Fischer said. "We would use up to six trolleys."

Stops would be made at Laguna Beach hotels.

Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson suggested that the Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau might contribute toward the matching 10% of the funds, but could not get a commitment from bureau President Karyn Philippsen.

"We would have to explore this, but we won't meet until the middle of next month," Philippsen said.

Applications were due by the end of March and required the City Council approval and a commitment of the 10% match or $52,500.

"We are always looking at ways to trim expenses and raise funds," City Manager John Pietig said.

Grants may be terminated if the program does not prove beneficial or successful, according to the staff report submitted by Public Works Director Steve May.

The council rejected the idea of year-round weekend trolley service, which would cost the city an estimated $380,000 annually and require a $38,000 match.

None of the grant money will be used for the city's the Mainline bus service.

Fischer said the city could learn as early as May if its application is approved. It would be implemented in 2014, he said.

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