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Tram time

LeeTran launches new way to get around on the beach.

February 12, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Every time the tram picked up a little speed, its riders could here a "woooo!" coming from 3-year-old June Hirschmann.

Under the watchful eyes of parents Ben and Nicole Hirshmann and grandma Linda Sharpe, June threw her arms in the air to enjoy the exciting ride on her vacation.

LeeTran launched its new pilot project, the beach tram, Monday, Feb. 12.

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The LeeTran's pilot project, the beach tram, held its first day of operation on Monday.

The new tram traverses the first two miles of the most-trafficked areas of Fort Myers Beach, running from Bowditch Point to the Fort Myers Beach Library and returning to Bowditch via a jog down Crescent Street and up Old San Carlos Boulevard.

"We loved it. It's a free ride, that was great," Sharpe said.

The tram is free to ride and stops at the trolley stops along its route. There will be two trams in operation, with the goal of being able to pick it up every 20 minutes, said Katie Meckley, LeeTran's spokeswoman.

The tram runs from 6 10 p.m., and even had a few early bird riders on its first day.

"As people started waking up and going to the beach, they're hopping up," Meckley said.

The tram connects the island's two trolleys. Now, the Lover's Key trolley, 410, runs from Lovers Key to the library and back. The Beach Park and Ride runs from the Park and Ride facility on Pine Ridge Road to Bowditch point and back.

The tram is a new project for LeeTran, attempting to add a new and more fun way to get around the island instead of driving. It will be a seasonal service replacing two of the five beach trolleys in operation. With its easy hop-on, hop off idea, it's designed to be a quicker method to get around than the trolley.

Its speed is still reliant on traffic flow, Meckley said. But if you're on the tram - or the trolley - you don't have to worry about anything except enjoying the ride.

LeeTran first introduced the tram idea to the Fort Myers Beach Town Council in November 2017. The county had already budgeted for the new program. The trolley system costs $814,903 to operate; the new trams added an additional $200,000, pushing beach transportation operation costs to more than $1 million.

According to the presentation, LeeTran is poised to lose about $51,000 in fare revenue by switching to the free tram in the commercial district; the trolleys cost 75 cents to ride.

For its riders, it's a definite perk not to fumble for change before getting on.

Karen and Bob Machota of Michigan decided to give the tram a test-run on Monday to see where they could take it. The couple has been vacationing on Fort Myers Beach for 15 years.

Bob said he saw the tram advertised and thought it looked like a cool concept.

"We're loving it," Karen Machota said. "We've already figured out where we can take it, like going to Nervous Nellies."



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