The service will be operated by a new outside contractor after council during its April 6 meeting unanimously agreed to award LAZ Parking the contract for a five-year term.
The cost for the initial year of the contract is not to exceed $1.93 million and will be subject to annual budget approval.
“The trolley system has really become an iconic feature of Laguna Beach, and has been so for many years,” said Michael Litschi, deputy director of public works, during a staff presentation.
The Laguna Beach trolley system, which started as a seasonal service during the summer festival season, has grown to become one of Orange County’s largest city-operated transit systems. Rather than operating 10 or 11 weeks per year during the summer, Laguna Beach had been running the trolley year-round, seven days a week, making staffing and cost an issue.
The city trolley service staff included one full-time driver, nearly 100 part-time drivers and dispatchers, and two part-time administrative staff, all of whom have been furloughed during COVID.
Litschi said that some of the employees have worked on the trolley for many years and act as ambassadors for the city. Those people will be given opportunities for employment with LAZ Parking.
With the expansion of the trolley service throughout the years, the system has become increasingly difficult to manage, causing issues with the reliability of scheduled service and overtime costs, he said.
“We’ve tried a number of different recruitment techniques, but still have had difficulty filling shifts, particularly on weekends and holidays,” Litschi said. “Due to that, we’ve had to increase our overtime costs fairly significantly over the last several years in order to ensure that we had sufficient staff to run our trolleys.”
As part of the contract, LAZ Parking will be responsible for providing a combination of full- and part-time drivers and dispatchers, as well as on-site management staff. Administrative support for recruiting, processing timesheets, data reporting, as well as comprehensive safety and training programs will also be its responsibility.
The city will oversee marketing and advertising for the transit service, and will continue to own, store, and maintain all of the trolleys. Part-time city maintenance staff will be used to fuel, wash, and disinfect the trolleys in keeping with COVID-19 related protocols. Seasonal city trolley ambassadors will continue to assist passengers during the summer season.
LAZ Parking has transportation contracts with neighboring cities, including Irvine, Dana Point, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo, Anaheim, and Newport Beach.
Founded in 1981 by three childhood friends who started with one valet location, LAZ Parking now manages, leases or owns over a million parking spaces in thousands of locations across the country with an annual managed revenue of $1.4 billion.