BY BILL LAITNER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
It's not serious transit on these party-style trolleys that seat 40 -- they will give free rides for six hours on just one night.
But plans for two rubber-tired trolleys to circle five cities in southeast Oakland County have city and business officials excited about everything from pumping up small downtowns to showing the value of mass transit.
The trolleys are to make 10 repeated stops, from 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday, in Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak. Stops include two city community centers, restaurants and a nightclub.
"We're hoping this will be as big a hit as it was when we did it in October" -- when Pleasant Ridge rented a trolley for a night just to run to Ferndale and Royal Oak, said Pleasant Ridge City Manager Sherry Ball.
"This time, we scheduled it to see Ferndale's ice sculptures," which will be on display after Saturday's daylong Ferndale Holiday Ice Festival.
Pleasant Ridge will pay $850 for each trolley for Saturday, but the five cities would share costs if the rides continue, Ball said.
As modest as the plan is now, there's hope to repeat it often in 2009, said Pleasant Ridge City Commissioner George Lenko.
"If we had a small bus loop like this all the time, it would help people ... sort of live locally," Lenko said.
The trolley riding comes as the Legislature is expected to approve a 12-stop light-rail system on Woodward in Detroit this week. Both are signs that metro Detroiters increasingly see the value of "getting out from behind their steering wheels," said Luke Forrest of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance.
People who rode the trolley in October not only enjoyed the convenience of not driving or parking, but they spent their money to help the local economy, said Christina Sheppard-Decius of the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority.
"There's networking and camaraderie and neighborly socializing. That's what's appealing to the consumer and gets people to step outside their usual spending patterns," such as buying on the Internet, from catalogs or at far-off malls, she said.
For Huntington Woods, joining the trolley plan was a byproduct of facing a tough economy and wanting to promote southeast Oakland County, said City Manager Alex Allie.
He said he expects Huntington Woods residents will enjoy seeing holiday lights, meeting their neighbors on the trolleys and going for a night out that doesn't risk drinking and driving.
"Obviously, we don't have our own downtown, but it's a way of showing off our neighborhoods," Allie said. The trolley plan also is a way for the cities to build toward more collaboration on other things, he said.
For details about Saturday's trolley stops, go to www.berkleymich.org.
Contact BILL LAITNER at 248-351-3297.
Posted by Erin Rose at 11:46 AM