Weekend visitors in downtown Annapolis don't have to fight traffic and haggle for a parking spot in front of their favorite store or restaurant anymore: The trolley is here.
Shuttle service from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to downtown began two weeks ago, and business owners say the idea of leaving the driving to someone else seems to be appealing to the weekend crowds.
"On the first Saturday, we parked about 100 cars, and those people used the trolley," said Jerry South, general manager of Towne Park, the company running the service. "On the second Sunday, we parked 200 cars."
Sharon Russian, president of the Annapolis Business Coalition and manager of the Jackeroo's clothing store on Main Street, said the trolley makes coming to Annapolis a more "pleasant experience" by reducing congestion. Other merchants agree.
"It has helped traffic," said Wendy Woodward, manager of Southmoon Under, another clothing store on Main Street. "It's convenient. People see the sign on Route 50 as they come in, and it catches their eye."
But Netta Singh, whose mother, Manjit Anand, ownes the Fashinque clothing store on Main Street, said she does not think BTC the trolley does much to bring business into that store.
"People like to walk around down here, and parking at the stadium can be very inconvenient," she said.
The trolley runs on weekends from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The ride from the stadium through downtown to City Dock is free. Trolleys make four stops: the Visitors Center near Gott's Court garage, the Naval Academy Visitor Center at Gate 1, City Dock and the top of Main Street. Parking at the stadium is $4 a day.
The shuttle service is paid for by city, the state and contributions from downtown businesses, Mr. South said. It will cost about $25,000 for the 12-week trial period that ends the first weekend in October.
"The majority of the traffic is people from out of town," Mr. South said. "We are trying to manage those people, the day-trippers. I can see this increasing to 250 cars a day."
Ms. Russian said the more parking spaces downtown that can be freed for shorter-term parking, the better it will be for the local merchants and the local shoppers who just want to run into their favorite store to pick something up.
Annapolis Alderman Louise Hammond said she has ridden the trolley twice and that people like the idea and enjoy the ride.
"It wasn't so crowded that people could not get on," she said.
Ms. Hammond said she hopes the service can be expanded to the weekdays.
"We hope this is successful this summer," she said. "I don't think people realize yet that it is free and they can get on and off at any stop."