Charlie Reichman with the 30A Tram Committee made his case Tuesday morning to bring tram traffic to the Walton County beaches.
"We're close to getting the approvals needed," he told those gathered inside the conference room at the Walton County Chamber of Commerce office.
A small group of seven listened to Reichman make his case with the help of a PowerPoint presentation. Kellie Jo Kilberg, president of the Chamber, was in attendance as well as Government Affairs Committee chairman West Ritchie.
"It seems like a good idea to me," Ritchie said. "I don't know why some people would be against it."
The opposition, Reichman said, could come from the fact that a similar project failed over 10 years ago.
"I think it just left a lingering, bad taste," he said.
The proposition Reichman made is for a tram system that runs along Scenic 30A to be offered, for free, to the public. The 23-passenger trams could help in reducing vehicular traffic, clear some coveted parking spaces as well as provide an alternative mode of transportation for impaired drivers.
"We estimate that for every two seats, you'll eliminate about one car," said Reichman, who has worked as a project consultant with Finch Transportation and Friends of Scenic 30-A.
Everyone in the room seemed to be in agreement that trams would be a great answer for tourist transportation.
"Everybody thinks it's a great idea, but nobody wants to stroke the $50,000 check," said Jim Bagby, a city of Destin councilmember and town manager for Rosemary Beach Property Owners Association, Inc.
Reichman and the committee did their research and estimate the initial year funding could cost $1.1 million. That would include operating costs such as labor, fuel, insurance, repair and maintenance and administrative support as well as initial capital expenditures.
"We're looking into grants," Reichman said, "Pensacola Beach got grants from the federal government. Florida Department of Transportation does have money that has not been allocated. They have about $5 million unallocated."
The question of how many trams are needed is situational.
"The idea is to have four or five vehicles running along 30A, especially during summer season," Reichman said. "This is just an example. None of this is written in stone."
"I'm seeing the need for four times as many trams," Ritchie responded.
The 30A Tram Committee is awaiting word from the Florida State Attorney General, Pam Bondi to see if they can legally use funding from the Tourist Development Council. The Board of County Commissioners requested an opionion at their Jan. 22 meeting.
"If it is going to be funded by TDC, we'll have to cover Scenic 98," Reichman said. "We'll have to cover everybody."
Taking tourists beyond 30A to stops such as the outlets and Destin Commons should also be considered suggested Bagby.
"Getting with the TDC and surveying the guests will be important," he said. "If the tram doesn't go where the tourists go, then this isn't going to work."
The tram committee has asked the Board of County Commissioners to conduct a feasibility study, which costs $25,000.
"The question isn't should we have trams," said Ritchie. "But why hasn't this been done successfully before?"