When you see Fort Lauderdale's new free downtown transportation, you might do a double take: It could be a bus masquerading as a trolley.
It'll have bigger windows and a boxier shape more typical of a standard bus. It'll also include a cupola, bell and design finishes typical of a trolley.
The trolley-style bus also is more fuel efficient and has lower maintenance costs, officials say.
Modern-day trolleys are basically "gussied up" buses, said Diane Colonna, director of Delray Beach's Community Redevelopment Agency, which has been running its own fleet of trolleys along Atlantic Avenue for almost a year.
The older-style trolleys can't meet current handicapped-access regulations and fuel-efficiency standards, she said.
"They have to be somewhat modern," Colonna said. "You want something that's going to be up-to-date with the latest amenities."
Fort Lauderdale commissioners are expected to accept a new federal grant Tuesday to pay for the trolley-style bus.
Officials still haven't decided if they'll keep the wood-bench interior typical of trolleys for this latest addition, or go with plusher seating to cater to the business people who make up the largest portion of the downtown route's riders.
"We might think about looking at a different seating configuration, to make it more comfortable for our business traveler," said Patricia Zeiler, managing director of the downtown's Transportation Management Association that runs the Sun Trolley fleet.
The trolleys come with a premium price. In Fort Lauderdale, the $248,000 cost of the new one is about $75,000 to $100,000 more than for the same vehicle without the trolley features, Zeiler said.
The trolley look is important in the city's downtown, giving it a character that appeals to visitors, Zeiler said. But the look isn't needed everywhere. SunTrolley recently added two similar buses to its northwest route — still in a red-and-yellow motif — that have only a picture of a trolley on their logo.
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