Sanford is adding a free trolley to transport visitors on a scenic ride around Lake Monroe to its historic downtown.

Sonia Fonseca, executive director of the city’s community redevelopment agency (CRA), is hoping the old-fashioned trolley will lure more visitors to its downtown that includes eclectic shops, art galleries, micro-breweries and quaint sidewalk restaurants.

“We have some ground transportation challenges,” Fonseca said. “Like many local cities, SunRail stops outside our downtown district. We want to give people a pedestrian-friendly lifestyle with the new trolley.”

Sanford starting a downtown shuttle van service in 2009 to pick up passengers at the Amtrak Auto Train Station, where they drop off their cars in the morning but have several hours wait before their train leaves. The service was expanded to include SunRail when it began in 2014 and a stop was added this year at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

Last month, the van service picked up 865 Amtrak passengers, 269 at the SunRail station and 269 at zoo for a total of 1,513 riders. But Fonseca said drivers of the 16-passenger van often have to turn riders away because it fills up fast.

The new trolley will nearly triple the capacity with 45 seats. The tourist-style trolley will look like those that ferry passengers around International Drive.

The proposed trolley route will run from the Sanford SunRail station at 2720 W. State Road 46 to the Amtrak Auto Train station, then head along the southern shore of the Lake Monroe. It will stop at the Central Florida Zoo, the Historic Sanford Welcome Center, Marina Isle and popular restaurants along First Street before heading back to the SunRail station.

Along with larger capacity, the trolley will bring extended hours. The van picks up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the trolley will run from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, in hopes that tourists will stay downtown for dinner. The current shuttle van will continue running from noon to 3 p.m. Sundays and Mondays.

The trolley rides will cost the city’s CRA about $125,000 a year, compared to the $74,000 it spent on the van service, according to Fonseca. The city is looking for funding partners to add a second trolley with additional stops at the Orlando Sanford International Airport and the Seminole Towne Center mall.

The trolley will begin running. Oct. 1.

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