By Victoria Kertz & Christopher Trela | NB Indy
Clang, clang, clang went the trolley—well, more like honk honk, as the Balboa Peninsula Trolley made its inaugural run last Friday, taking members of the media and local leaders to four picturesque points on the peninsula the day before the trolley service rolled out to the public.
The shuttle-style buses, whimsically painted as Red Cars from the early 20th century, transport visitors and residents from the Sunset Lot at Hoag Hospital to various stops on the peninsula each summer weekend (and July 4) through September 3.
Four trolleys run in tandem throughout the day. The air-conditioned shuttles each have 20 seats, with room for luggage and beach gear. Surf boards up to six feet in length may be brought aboard, and up to two bikes can be stored on the front of each shuttle.
In a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of Balboa Pavilion last Friday, council member Diane Dixon, alongside community leaders and city staff, thanked the Balboa Village Advisory Committee, residents, and the merchants of the peninsula, whom she called the “innovators and creators” of what eventually became the trolley program.
“Welcome to an exciting new symbol of our revitalization of the Balboa Peninsula,” Dixon remarked. She represents District 1, which includes the Balboa Peninsula. “I want to give credit and recognize the Balboa Village Merchants Association, and the Balboa Village Advisory Committee. They are the real innovators of this wonderful idea that has taken many years to bear fruit. It is through their persistence that we have this great reminder of the economic vitality of Balboa Peninsula. When I first heard about this project, I said let’s do it. The business owners want it, the residents want it.”
Dixon noted that the trolley is a pilot program that if successful can be renewed for seven years. She said that the city will review the program at the end of the summer to see if the ridership numbers are sufficient to warrant continuing the trolley program the following year.
Dixon also said that money from the parking meter fund specifically on the peninsula helped to subsidize small portion of the trolley program that was not covered in a grant from the Orange County Transportation Authority.
“We want this to be phenomenally successful,” echoed Newport Beach and Company President and CEO Gary Sherwin, who spoke after Dixon. “What is great is that it connects us with our history. In so many ways this area is the heart and soul of Newport Beach. If you go back 100 years, this area was formed by the Red Line to help get Pasadena residents down by the water. That train was the focal point. Now we have this great shuttle going along the same route.”
And, as Dixon notes, with 100,000 vehicles a day looking for a place to park during the summer, the Trolley will play a part in alleviating the traffic congestion.
Vice President of the Balboa Village Merchants Association Kelly Carlson spoke just before the ribbon was cut in front of Balboa Pavilion. She thanked the city’s staff for their hard work on behalf of the local merchants.
Carlson, who owns Balboa Water Sports and Balboa Beach and Bicycle Boutique, gave a special shout-out to the late Ralph Rodheim, who was an enthusiastic proponent of the trolley service before his death earlier this year. “I’m sure he’s looking down and is really excited about all this energy, and seeing this shuttle and everything that it’s going to do for the merchants down here.”
The initial ridership reports for the first weekend of the trolley service was encouraging.
City staff had set a modest goal of 437 riders per day, but the trolley transported 777 riders last Saturday (the first official day of service). On Sunday, ridership increased to 894.
“We had a very successful weekend,” Newport Beach Deputy Director of Community Development Brenda Wisneski confirmed.
The Balboa Peninsula Trolley runs every weekend plus July 4 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., through Sept. 3. There are 18 stops along the peninsula. The trolley is free. More information about the Balboa Peninsula Trolley can be found at newportbeachca.gov/trolley.