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Q trolley a new way to explore downtown

Q trolley a new way to explore downtown

PNJ.Com

Troy Moon,

Sometimes, it doesn't matter where you're going. Just that you're going.

And for some Pensacola residents, the "Q" is the perfect vehicle to get there.

It's the free lunchtime trolley rolling through downtown during weekdays, making a 2.8-mile loop through the town. Sure, it's designed to help bolster lunchtime crowds at downtown eateries, but sometimes, the folks riding are there for the journey, not the destination.

"Now, this is cool," said Roger Jones, who, along with his wife, Teri, hopped on the Q at Community Maritime Park on a cold, frigid afternoon.

"Where are you going?" the couple was asked.

"We're just riding!," said Roger, a retired 61-year-old who lives on Barcelona Street, not far from the trolley route. "We read about it, and just wanted to take a ride."

Driver Aaron Copeland was happy to oblige.

"We get people who just want to take a little tour around downtown," Copeland said, steering the trolley north on Palafox Street. "It's just a relaxing ride for a lot of people."

Soon, Mayor Ashton Hayward was spied on the corner of Palafox and Government Street aboard a bicycle, posing for a picture.

"You never know what you're going to see," Copeland said, watching the mayor aboard the bicycle.

The Q began operating earlier this month and will continue to run weekdays through December. If ridership warrants it, the Q could be continued through the new year. The trolley operation is a collaboration between Seville Quarter and Pensacola business honcho Quint Studer. Hence the Q, right? Quint and the Quarter?

Not exactly.

Jack Williams, general manager of Seville Quarter, said the trolley was named the "Q" because it makes a "Q"-shaped route through town. (It's a printed "Q" route. A cursive "Q" route would be impossible, since no one remembers what a cursive "Q" looks like.)

So, the "Q" name doesn't refer to Quint or the Quarter?

"Well, it works," Williams admitted.

The trolley — actually, it's the Pensacola Blue Wahoos tram, painted and repurposed — begins its journey each weekday at 10:30 a.m. at Community Maritime Park, then moves down Main Street to Palafox and the popular SoGo area featuring the Bodacious Olive and other eateries. From there, the trolley rides past Jackson's restaurant to Tarragona Street, then up Government to Seville Quarter. Then, the trolley rolls back onto Palafox, moving north to Belmont Street. On Belmont, the trolley takes riders past Five Sisters Blues Cafe, then heads south on DeVilliers Street to complete the loop back to Community Maritime Park.

The route takes about 20 minutes.

"We don't really have specified stops," Williams said. "If (Copeland) sees you, he'll stop."

Williams said ridership "could be better," and admitted many residents still might not be aware of the free trolley. Williams said it's convenient for downtown workers who don't want to hassle with parking during lunchtime, or, who might be parked in a garage where it's not as convenient to get to.

On Friday, about six employees from the Studer Group, based at the Community Maritime Park, jumped on the trolley together to get a quick lunch at Seville Quarter.

But, Copeland said, sometimes, people just want to ride.

"Some people just want to get out of the office," he said.

He had one rider recently who brought his lunch and ate aboard the trolley while touring town.

"Kids love to ride," he said.

And sure enough, a minute or so later, there was little Christopher Simmons, a precious 2-year-old holding hands with his father, Dwayne Simmons, waiting for the trolley to stop at Community Maritime Park.

They hopped on and headed to the back of the empty trolley. They weren't going anywhere in particular.

"We come down to the park every day," Dwayne Simmons said, still hand-in-hand with his son. "Sometimes, he rides his bicycle. But sometimes, he just wants to ride the trolley."

The wide-eyed little boy peered out of the open air trolley at the lunchtime crowds eating at Al Fresco at the corner of Palafox and Main.

"It's just a nice time," said Simmons, an Escambia County School bus driver. "And I think it's great for Pensacola. It's convenient and it's free, and I think it's going to catch on."

Williams said he eventually would like to get a local celebrity to take part in the trolley rides, maybe pointing out unique and historical markers and places along the way.

"It's just another effort to continue to build Pensacola," Williams said. "We just hope people take advantage of it."

The Joneses plan on using the "Q" more often in the future.

"We can catch it just a block from our house," Teri Jones said. "We'll definitely be back."

(Maybe by then, they'll know where they're going.)

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