Siesta Key trolley service rebranded as Route 77 Siesta Islander

Name change linked to rebranding of county bus service as Breeze Transit

This is a view of a trolley with the new branding. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

As Sarasota County government leaders this week commemorated the 2 millionth passenger to have ridden on the Siesta Key trolley, the county’s Transit staff marked the occasion by rebranding the Siesta Key Breeze the Route 77 Siesta Islander, staff announced on May 9.

The rebranding initiative includes an updated appearance and improved app features for the trolley, a news release notes.

On the morning of March 20, 2017, two county commissioners joined representatives of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce for the formal launch of what was dubbed the Siesta Key Breeze, as The Sarasota News Leader reported at that time.

Business owners on the island had lobbied commissioners and the directors of what was then Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) to provide an open-air trolley service on the Key, given the popularity of such transportation initiatives in other areas.

“It’s only taken seven years,” Wendall Jacobsen, general manager of Beach Bazaar and the last president of the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA), joked with the News Leader about the Siesta Key Breeze after a ceremony was conducted near the gazebo at the four-way stop in Siesta Village. Leaders of the SKVA, whose members generally were Village business owners and merchants, had been among the staunchest advocates for the trolley service.

As for the original name: Kendra Keiderling, then the marketing, outreach and customer service manager for SCAT, told the News Leader that because a business already used “Siesta Key Trolley,” staff had to come up with a different moniker. “So I was brainstorming with one of my co-workers,” she continued, talking about the fact that riders would be in the open air, with the breeze blowing their hair. That was it, she realized: Siesta Key Breeze.

From its start, the Siesta Key Breeze has operated between Turtle Beach Park, on the southern end of the barrier island, and the grocery store known now as Morton’s Siesta Market, near the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Canal Road in the Village.

On March 20, 2017, then-Commissioner Alan Maio (third from left) prepares to cut the ribbon to officially launch the Siesta Key Breeze trolley service on the island. With him are (from left) Mark Smith, who then was the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce chair, along with County Commissioner Mike Moran, then-SCAT Director Rocky Burke and Assistant County Administrator Mark Cunningham. File photo

On July 12, 2022, as he was making announcements at the beginning of a regular County Commission meeting, then-Chair Alan Maio — who was present for the Siesta Key Breeze launch more than five years earlier — reported that the trolley had marked “a major milestone” in June 2022: It had carried its millionth passenger.

“I think it was an imaginative way to cut down on some of the traffic on the Key,” Maio continued. Like Siesta architect Mark Smith — who served as a leader of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce for decades before winning a seat on the commission in November 2022 — Maio said that he believed every two passengers on the trolley represented one less car on Siesta roads.

Therefore, Maio added, he believed the Breeze had kept about 500,000 vehicles from circulating on the island.

Also in the summer of 2022, as the May 9 county news release explained, the Sarasota County Commission approved a transitioning of the county’s entire transit system to the “Breeze” brand, “and the Transit Department rolled out the Breeze Rider app for standard bus routes.”

The release added, “The Transit Department has been installing technology on the trolleys that allows them to work with the Breeze Rider app.” Passengers are able to use the app to view the 77 Siesta Islander’s arrival times and track the routes of the vehicles.

The trolleys’ new design with Breeze branding will complement Breeze buses, Breeze OnDemand minivans and future Breeze Plus paratransit vehicles,” the release pointed out.

“We’re delighted to introduce the refreshed 77 Siesta Islander trolleys in coordination with the 2 millionth rider milestone,” said Transit Director Jane Grogg in the May 9 release. “We know how important mobile app technology is to public transit users, and we want to present our services in a way that visually resonates with Sarasota County’s coastal community.”

“Traveling on the 77 Siesta Islander continues to be free for all passengers,” the release added. The trolleys operate daily from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. For more information on the 77 Siesta Islander, visit call 311.

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