Hilton Head trolleys coming back in 2019 with new stops, late-night rides

The trolleys are coming back to Hilton Head Island, and this year you’ll be able to ride them home from dinner or a night out.

“The Breeze” trolley service announced its new stops and hours for the 2019 season on Thursday and moved the operating hours significantly later, according to executive director of Mary Lou Franzoni.

Starting April 1, the trolleys will run from 1 to 10:30 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday.

On Friday and Saturday, the trolleys will run from 1 p.m. until 12:30 a.m., Franzoni said.

That’s a much later schedule than the first season, when the trolleys were on the road from 9 a.m. until mid-evening.

Franzoni told The Island Packet in October that ridership in the mornings was significantly lower than expected. Although the trolley service has been identified by some as potential workforce transportation, she said 9 a.m. was too late a start for most employees on the island.

“It appeared that not that much ridership happened earlier in the day (in 2018),” Franzoni said. “We want to go ahead and start later in the day.”

Palmetto Breeze operates the two trolleys, which will run until Oct. 15 this year. The trolleys start mid-island at Shelter Cove and make stops on the route toward Coligny Beach.

New stops and trolley services for 2019

The trolley route has added stops at the Village at Wexford, the Hilton Head Motorcoach Resort, Captain Woody’s on Target Road and the USCB hospitality campus.

The trolley will still cost $1 to ride, and Franzoni said passengers can download the “Breeze Pass” and the “Catch the Breeze” apps to store payments and track the trolley, respectively.

Franzoni said Palmetto Breeze is expanding its ADA-accessible service in 2019.

The service, made available to those who apply with Palmetto Breeze, offers service within three-fourths of a mile of the established trolley route.

Riders must be registered with Palmetto Breeze and call at least 24 hours in advance to schedule a paratransit ride, Franzoni said.

How did things go last year?

Franzoni offered these updates to the town public planning committee in October on the service’s first summer on the road:

  • From July 16, when service began, to July 31, the 27-seat trolleys offered an average of 96 rides a day. Rides were free during that period.

  • In August, there were an average of 74 rides a day. A $1 fare kicked in Aug. 1, Franzoni said. The busiest day was Aug. 7 — a Tuesday with a Shelter Cove fireworks show — when there were 269 rides.

  • Ridership fell in September to an average 44 rides per day. Franzoni said Labor Day is the unofficial cut off for rides and summertime tourism to the island.

She said trolley drivers kept track of the number of rides rather than the number of riders because people can get on and off the trolley at a number of points along the route.

The second season of the trolley has high expectations from town officials who want to see the town’s $200,000 investment in Palmetto Breeze succeed. The Breeze trolleys are funded by federal and state grants as well as local matching from the town.

Franzoni said she’s optimistic about the upcoming season and the town’s investment.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” she said. “Last year was kind of a test, and I’m thinking we’re going to do a whole lot better now.”

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.