Council renews deal for trolleys

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — Riders of the Royal Trolley can keep using the bus service for another five years.

Town Council voted on Monday to renew Front Royal’s franchise agreement with Virginia Regional Transport, also known as Front Royal Area Transit or the Royal Trolley, to provide a passenger-bus service in town. The renewal extends the franchise for five years beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30.

Town Manager Steve Burke said Tuesday the Royal Trolley remains a popular form of transportation.

“I’ve not received any negative comments [about the service],” Burke said. “Typically people are pleased that a transit service is available.

“I think it’s a very good service that’s available to citizens so that if they don’t have access to private transportation they have the ability to get around town at an economical value,” Burke added.

Ridership varies from 1,000 to 2,000 people per month depending on the time of year, Burke said. The service operates Monday-Friday for the general public. Royal Trolley also provides service to Randolph-Macon Academy on the weekends through a separate agreement.

“The routes were set up to facilitate travel to the major shopping opportunities in town as well as medical facilities and government offices,” Burke said.

Royal Trolley first began providing bus service in the town in 2004 and council renewed the franchise agreement in 2009.

“Originally the town did have a bus and, working with VRT, we transitioned to the trolley to provide a more quaint appearance to the transit service,” Burke recalled.

Under the agreement, Virginia Regional Transport can run buses that seat 13-35 people on one or more routes set by the town based on provider surveys. Buses come with wheelchair lifts and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The agreement calls for the provider to pay the town $1 each year. Front Royal picks up 32 percent of the hourly costs to run the operation. State and federal contributions cover the remaining costs. Virginia Regional Transport bears 85 percent of the cost to buy, equip and decorate buses. The town covers the remaining 15 percent.

The town puts approximately $30,000 in its annual budget to cover the local cost of the service, Burke said.

Town Council sets the bus fares by adopting a resolution and can establish rates for adults, senior citizens, people with physical disabilities, students and children.

Council voted to approve the ordinance, on a second reading, that renews the town code section pertaining to the operation of a public passenger bus service. No one spoke at a public hearing held earlier this month on the renewal. Council also discussed the agreement at work sessions this summer.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com