ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Over the past few days, the historic business districts have clanged with trolley gongs — a sound Transportation Director Richard Newell hopes will eventually become almost as recognizable on the streets of Annapolis as in the heart of San Francisco.
The bells herald the city’s new loop service, also known as the Annapolis Circulator, which officially launched last week. The trolleys are part of a six-month pilot program intended to connect residents and tourists who park in three of the city’s garages with key areas along Inner West Street, Main Street, City Dock and the vicinity of the state government buildings.
Here’s how it works: Park in either the Knighton, Park Place or Gott’s garage, then use the parking stub as the circulator ticket, good for an entire day of rides along the loop. Without a stub, a ride costs 50 cents.
Listen for those gongs, Newell says. A trolley should arrive every 10 minutes.
Not only is the new service devised to encourage more parking in the under-utilized garages but to cater to late-night bar patrons. The circulator operates seven days a week. On Sunday through Thursday, the trolleys will run from 7:30 a.m. to midnight; the hours will extend from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. That’s late enough to even pick up customers at the bars with 2 a.m. liquor licenses.
City officials also are trying to win back the county and state government workers who park at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. If those same motorists instead parked in the Park Place garage, a public facility just a few hundred yards away, the city would make revenue on both bus fares and parking fees.
Newell said they recently lowered the price of Park Place, as well as Knighton, to $5 a day to compete with the rate offered at the stadium. He believes that will be enough to entice more business, as the garage provides shelter from the summer heat and winter snow and ice.
But some state workers who are used to the zippy Navy Blue Shuttle trip on Rowe Boulevard from the stadium lot to the government buildings may need some time to get used to the idea. On Friday, the first day of the new circulator, a few state workers complained of how long it took for the trolley to make it all the way around the route. The entire circuit took about 30 minutes to complete. Depending on the traffic and time of day, however, that could vary.
Jim Brady, who has taken a shuttle for 11 years while working in the state’s Legislative Services Building, said the system is not nearly as convenient as the old shuttle.
“It just makes for a much longer trip for us — that’s all,” he said. “I think the city’s going to end up spending a lot more on gas.”
Newell knows that the transit department can’t please everyone. In fact, making specific arrangements for individuals instead of looking at the big picture is one of the major institutional problems he’s trying to overhaul.
“Our service has been designed to provide services to different groups, and that’s just no way to run a transit agency,” Newell said. “The best way to design the transit routes is to consider the overall needs of a community and provide a service that is timely, courteous and safe.”
Others seemed satisfied with the new ride. The trolleys, some with attractive woodgrain furnishings, were a respite from the grueling humidity Friday. Some tourists who hopped on at Church Circle said it was simple and easy. Joseph Egler, a Philadelphia area resident, said he had just dropped his son off for a cross-country summer camp at the Naval Academy. This made his eighth visit to Annapolis. Prior to the visit, he had never taken an Annapolis bus.
The loop trolley seemed like a good selling point to him.
“Sure, we’d come here and park in the lots,” he said. “We’d do it again.”
City officials said over the next week or so they’ll be working out all the kinks. They intend to bolster the marketing materials and increase the signs at each stop with circulator information.
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)