MANHATTAN BEACH — Trolley service here could be derailed after less than a year unless American Trolley Lines corrects problems to satisfy city officials.
Council members voted this week to terminate the contract in about three months, saying that the company hasn't complied with its terms.
According to David Long, city administrative aide, American Trolley failed to provide service on 12 days since Memorial Day. He said that mechanical failures were responsible for most of the disruptions.
"One day of non-service is not acceptable," Long said. "One hour of non-service is not acceptable."
Long also complained that a yellow school bus has replaced the trackless trolley car, which is being repaired.
The school bus does not meet the contract, he said. "Anybody can ride a bus."
David Shumway, president of the Arizona-based American Trolley Lines, could not be reached for comment, but Long said the company has indicated that it will comply with the contract. If it does not comply, he said, the council will consider replacing the company or eliminating the service.
The council's notification to terminate the company's contract is meant to improve American's services rather than eliminate them, Long said.
American Trolley began operating in Manhattan Beach on Feb. 17 and provided service that satisfied the city until the disruptions began on Memorial Day, Long said.
"They are prone to mechanical difficulties," Long said. "It's an idiosyncrasy, we understand that." But, he added, "When all of a sudden that service isn't provided correctly, the result is an unhappy community."
Mechanical difficulties were not the only reason for the 12 days without service. The driver did not report to work on Memorial Day or on July 4 and 5.
Dora Dale, the only full-time driver for the city's route, said she did not report for work on Memorial Day because she did not know that she was supposed to work holidays. Dale was sick on several other days, including July 4 and 5, she said. It is the company's responsibility to replace her, she added.
But Dale said she is confident that her company will not lose its Manhattan Beach route.
Riders expressed disappointment Wednesday about the possible elimination of service. For some, the trolley is the most convenient way to get to work or to do errands.
Litianna Caginitoba called it "the perfect transportation."
Greg Durfee of Hermosa Beach relies on the trolley to get to his job at the Manhattan Village Mall, but he said he doesn't mind walking the three miles when the trolley does not operate.
He considers the trolley to be more than just transportation.
"Anaheim has Disneyland; L. A. has the Dodgers. This is what Manhattan Beach has. It's kind of a nostalgia. I'd hate to see it leave.
"I think it's good for the city," he said. "It gives it a little character . . . like the old horse-and-buggy days. It gives people a sense of pride. They look for it." Some people suntanning on the beach listen for the trolley's bells as a signal to turn over, he said.
Betty Phillips and her grandson, Kevin Phillips, planned to take a ride around Manhattan Beach on the trolley Wednesday, but were surprised when a yellow school bus arrived instead.
"It's not as cute," said Irleen Eshliman, a regular trolley rider, "but actually, it's more comfortable."
Driver Dale said she does not know when the trolley will be back in service.
The trolley attracts about 75 riders a day, while the bus is used by about 50, she said.
Manhattan Beach provides a $2,000-a-month subsidy for the trolley, which operates Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and costs 50 cents a ride.
American Trolley Lines provided service, without subsidy, for a short time in Redondo Beach and Santa Monica but pulled out of those cities last year when it determined that it could not make a profit.