A ferry and trolley service between St. Simons and Jekyll islands received the unanimous endorsement Wednesday from the Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen Williams asked the board, on behalf of Golden Isles Transit Co., for a letter of support which will be presented to the Glynn County Commission at an upcoming meeting.
“Ideally, a supportive letter would be great,” he said. “We felt like this would be better as a private enterprise.”
Williams described the venture as a ferry and micro mass transit system entirely privately funded.
Two 23-passenger ferries will shuttle people between the Jekyll Wharf and St. Simons Pier. The roundtrip fee is estimated between $15 and $17, he said. Annual passes and group discounts also would be offered.
The county would be paid for the right to connect to the pier at the going rate, and a franchise fee agreement would have to be negotiated with the Jekyll Island Authority.
Once passengers disembark, electric shuttles will take them to different locations, including Redfern Village, museums and the beaches. On Jekyll Island, the service will shuttle passengers to the convention center, Great Dunes, restaurants and other locations.
Williams said the shuttle service would help relieve parking congestion on both islands. The fee for the hop on/hop off shuttle service would be $7 a day. An app will be available so people know the exact location of the trolleys, he said.
The ferry and shuttle service could also be used to commute to jobs between the islands.
“The ability to jump on a shuttle for workers and residents could be a real benefit,” Williams said.
Water tours also will be offered, and the service will transport passengers to special events in Brunswick.
It’s possible the service could include Brunswick on a regular basis, depending on demand, he said.
The business will employ 20 to 22 people with a potential for more job opportunities in time.
Williams said the goal is to move the company from its headquarters in Fernandina Beach, Fla.
Another selling point is the ability to convert the ferrys into barges capable of carrying heavy loads or rescuing stranded residents on the island during disaster recovery.
Chamber members also discussed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the chamber to cancel many events and business trips such as the Washington fly-in. As for projections in coming weeks and months, it’s difficult to predict when the economy will begin to return to normal, it was noted.
Scott McQuade, director of the Golden Isles Visitors & Convention Bureau, said bed taxes were down 78 percent in May and 18 percent in June. But it could be worse.
“We have a 20 percent deficit in business,” he said. “Other areas of the United States are down 70 percent. We can be thankful.”
It will take creativity to generate more business, but a national publication has just named the Golden Isles the best in the nation.
“We’re still kind of a secret in national recognition,” McQuade said. “We’re really fortunate to get that recognition at this time.”