Current operator of Siesta Key trolley recommended for bid award to maintain service for another five years

County Commission to vote on bid award later this year

Following Sarasota County staff’s issuance of a solicitation in late April for bids to operate the free Siesta Key Breeze open-air trolley for the next five years, it appears that the current vendor will continue the service, based on the responses.

C.P.R. Medical Transportation LLC of Washington, D.C., which won the contract in 2018, submitted a new five-year bid for $5,986,090.40. The only other firm to respond — MTM Transit of Lake St. Louis in Missouri, turned in a bid that was approximately 62% higher — $9,715,602.

However, a form that the county’s Procurement Department issued, which showed its recommendation that the C.P.R. Medical bid be accepted, noted that 25 companies viewed the solicitation.

The initial term of service with C.P.R. Medical began on Aug. 29, 2018, following the July 10, 2018 County Commission approval of the contract.

C.P.R. Medical also won the contract to operate the City of Sarasota’s Bay Runner Trolley before that service was launched in March 2022. That vehicle makes a circuit between downtown Sarasota and St. Armands and Lido keys.

The county’s transit staff confirmed in a June 13 email that the new Siesta Key Breeze contract will be presented to the County Commission for approval “toward the end of summer” or in early fall.

In July 2018, the contract the board members approved with C.P.R. Medical put the initial three-year payment at $3,934,178. The Sarasota News Leader had not received a response to a public records request prior to the deadline for this issue that showed how much the county paid the company for the two, one-year renewals of that contract.

Among the details of the solicitation this year, the county required that a company provide at least four open-air trolleys, with at least three of them to be used for the service and at least one kept on hand in the event that problems — mechanical or otherwise — took a vehicle out of service.

Further, the county’s Scope of Services pointed out that Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), under whose supervision the trolley operates, may call for changes in the start and stopping times, frequency, location and service days in reflection of seasonal demand and special events. That part of the contract also notes that the operator may be asked to extend the Breeze’s normal hours on New Year’s Eve. That option is a result of “community engagement,” the document says.

The standard hours of operation, as pointed out in the Scope of Services, is 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Breeze circulates between Turtle Beach Park and Siesta Village, where it stops at Morton’s Siesta Market.

County Commissioner Mark Smith, a long-time leader of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, and other Chamber representatives have been working with county staff over the past few months to try to extend the trolley’s route farther north in Siesta Village.

New stop signs installed last year at the Whispering Sands Drive and Avenida Milano intersections with Ocean Boulevard would facilitate the trolley’s ability to maneuver out onto Ocean Boulevard for the return trip to Turtle Beach Park, Smith has explained.

An attachment with the new contract materials specifies each regular stop for the trolleys, including those at various condominium complexes, including Peppertree, Aloha Kai, Excelsior and Dolphin Bay.

Further, the contract says that, at county staff’s request, the vendor may need to provide a minimum of four vehicles with drivers to assist the county in the event of an emergency. In that case, the contract continues, the company would be paid an hourly rate stipulated by the Emergency Services Department.

The Scope of Services also showed that the county will pay the company $100,000 per year as a fuel allowance.

Among other details in the formal Invitation for Bids (IFB), the following are stipulations about the trolleys themselves:

  • Each vehicle should be between 30 and 35 feet in overall length.
  • At least 20 passenger seats are required.
  • The vehicles must be of the open-air type, with roll-down clear vinyl enclosures provided for use in the event of bad weather.
  • Each trolley must have a heating-ventilation-air conditioning (HVAC) system.
  • Every vehicle must have a wheelchair lift with a functioning safety interlock system.
  • The seating surfaces may be vinyl, wood “or another easy-to clean seat surface. Cloth seats will not be acceptable.”
  • Every trolley must have a “Global Positioning Tracking System (GPS), Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) capability, and Automatic Passenger Counting (APC) equipment” approved or provided by the county, with county staff able to access and use the equipment.
  • “Continuous video surveillance of the driver area, lift area, passenger area as viewed from front and rear, rear exterior to include the vehicle, curb, and street side view from front to back, and forward facing from inside the vehicle through the windshield are required.”

Moreover, the IFB said, “The Contractor shall be held to the highest standards for customer service.”

In July 2022, the Breeze recorded its millionth rider. The service began in March 2017. On April 9, 2018, the trolley celebrated its 250,000th passenger.