The city will begin testing a pilot trolley route this weekend when it launches its new Green Line that will shuttle passengers between San Clemente’s downtown corridor and the south end of town.
The additional free trolley, to operate on Saturdays and Sundays in conjunction with the existing Red Line, will largely travel along the southern stretch of El Camino Real starting on March 11 through May 21.
Commuters will be able to catch the Green Line from the San Clemente Pier and ride it to Calafia Beach Park and San Clemente State Beach. Other available stops include Avenida Barcelona, near the Ralphs; Avenida San Antonio; the Mendocino Overpass, where the Shell gas station sits; and near the assisted living facility Raya’s Paradise San Clemente, to name a few.
Jonathan Lightfoot, the city’s economic development officer, said the pilot route would provide more access along South El Camino Real, most notably for those camping in the State Beach or staying in the area’s hotels and motels, while also offering another beach access point.
“It gives (visitors) an opportunity to explore a little bit more … that’s the intent of this pilot, and it’ll run through mid-May,” Lightfoot said.
Councilmembers last month voted to launch the Green Line trolley, using $34,000 in coffers that the city has received from previous Orange County Transportation Authority grants and through fees that downtown restaurants pay to use public parking for outdoor dining decks.
Lightfoot said the pilot route will help the city collect ridership data when it comes time to apply for an additional grant opportunity that OCTA is expected to open later this year.
“One area of motivation for doing this pilot is we are expecting OCTA to release another call for grants related to Measure V and this trolley program,” Lightfoot said. “Assuming they do that, the city will be applying. We have an interest in expanding our trolley services.”
“Doing this pilot will give us some data for future applications with OCTA that will show how many people were riding this trolley at this time,” Lightfoot added.
Traditionally, the city’s free trolley service operates during the summer. But with the outdoor dining program fees and carryover funds from OCTA that weren’t used in 2020, the city was able to expand the Red Line trolley services for the weekends throughout the winter and spring.
“We expanded beyond the normal summer operations, and we’ve seen that be really successful,” Lightfoot said, adding that the city is hoping to make the expansions more permanent. “We’ll see if we have enough funding to offer weekend service year-round … if we are able to expand other lines, we are interested in that, as well.”
According to Lightfoot, the baseline ridership for the trolleys is 10 riders per hour.
“We want, ideally, to show we’re able, or that our ridership is about that level” for the Green Line, Lightfoot said.
The Green Line trolleys will operate in tandem with the Red Line trolley services on weekends throughout the spring. Red Line trolleys take passengers around San Clemente’s Pier Bowl and downtown district, and toward North Beach and the Outlets at San Clemente.
The weekend services for both trolleys will run from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sundays.
The Red Line will continue to operate on weekends through May 21, then switch to daily service starting on May 26 during Memorial Day weekend. At that time, the city’s Blue Line trolley switches into gear, transporting commuters daily to the north end of town and connecting to Dana Point’s trolley at Camino Mira Costa and Camino de Estrella.
Lightfoot explained that the two trolleys being used for the Green Line pilot route are meant for the northern route during the summer, per the city’s agreement with OCTA. When Memorial Day weekend arrives, the city must return those trolleys back to their intended usage for the Blue Line.
More information about the trolleys, route maps, holiday schedules and parking can be found at sctrolley.com.
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