By Connie Leinbach
The long-awaited tram service in Ocracoke Village made its debut Saturday under warm, sunny skies.
Joseph Ramunni, who was awarded a contract from Hyde County to manage the tram operation, began driving two of four open-air, electric trams in the afternoon up Irvin Garrish Highway. It turned around at Howard’s Pub, then went down Back Road and back to the No. 1 stop at the newly built shelter in front of the NPS Visitors Center at Pilot Town Road.
Although there were no walk-on passengers from the just-arrived Swan Quarter ferry at 1 p.m. Saturday, Ramunni fired up the vehicle for an N.C Ferry worker and a member of the press.
Then it was on to stop No. 1 at Community Square.
“This is history,” Ramunni said as four Ocracoke School fifth graders hopped on.
The tram service, which was authorized last year as part of soon-to-be passenger ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke, is free for anyone to use.
Although the passenger ferry is still under construction, the electric trams will run daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., as necessary, Ramunni said.
“This is awesome!” said Juliette Jordan, one of the fifth-graders. “I’ve been waiting for this.”
“Don’t feed the animals,” Ramunni said as the open-air vehicle made its way through the Ocracoke “downtown.”
Some members of the Saturday Ladies Lunch group boarded at stop No. 4 between Howard’s Pub and 1718 Brewing Ocracoke.
Debbie Wells boarded with her dog.
“Yes; It’s pet friendly,” Ramunni said.
Finley Austin rode up front with Ramunni and grabbed the microphone.
“Keep your hands and feet inside,” she joked with the now-full tram.
“This is quite nice,” said Liz Hotchkiss. “People who don’t drive could use this.”
“It’s adorable,” said Marcy Brenner, co-owner of the Coyote Den.
Later Saturday afternoon, Ramunni said Ocracoke youth were taking advantage of the ride and were observed riding again on Sunday.
“Yep. The kids are using it,” he said.
He said he has several drivers to help and no special license is needed.
Starting at the NPS Visitors Center, the tram will make continuous trips on its route and will stop at the designated stops. Those are: Community Square, the Island Inn, the Variety Store, Howard’s Pub, on Back Road at Ocracoke Coffee Company and Zillie’s.
“We tried to make a stop at each area (of the village),” he said.
To fill in the service gaps, Norman LeBlanc, father of Justin LeBlanc, who owns Ocracoke Beach Tours, had that open-air vehicle waiting at the south-end ferry dock. Hand-made signs indicated the vehicle will give free shuttle service to island hotels and rental homes.
Although no walk-ons departed the Swan Quarter ferry, LeBlanc said he’d be back for the later arrivals.
This is a wonderful addition!! I think Springer’s Point and the Lighthouse should also be included. There is no parking at Springer’s Point.
WE USED TO VISIT THE ISLAND FOR MANY YEARS AND ENJOYED IT SO MUCH ,GLAD TO HEAR THAT THE STORM DID MINIMAL DAMAGE . WE CAN NOT VISIT ANY MORE AS MY WIFE FELL 8yrs AGO AND BROKE HER NECK AND HAS TROUBLE EVER SINCE BUT WE WILL GO BACK SOMEDAY ! MOST LOVELY PLACE !!
Fran & Carol Staples N.J .
Though I know it would not be a frequent need an Airport stop would also be very helpful – and might encourage more aircraft owners to fly in. Sometimes it is such an escapade to get a ride into town with our luggage. And since the NPS won’t let us run our rented golf cart past town limits and back out to the plane – the return trip can be just as much a challenge. There is so much potential for bringing in more folks through the airport. I hope that as the tram catches on, and the business gain more traffic that more stops can eventually be added – like the Lighthouse, Springer Point Trail (since there’s no parking), the Airport, and the Pony Pens. Thank you to everyone that helped make the tram possible!
I know the lengthy debate that took place concerning the tram stops but not including the Ocracoke Lighthouse is very disappointing. My family rode it on Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it! Thanks!
If the north end ferry docks were a stop (once the road is repaired of course!), seems like that would be a great way to pick up more traffic to the island. As someone who would likely be a day-tripper, I would consider walking on to the ferry at Hatteras if a tram was waiting to take me to the village once I got there…but with a family of four, the price is just too high for the passenger ferry.
Hi, Wesley. Thanks for your comment. We’ve heard that the Ferry Division is probably going to allow kids 12 and under to ride the passenger ferry for free, and all of that will be decided, but, if so, it may make the ride less expensive for you.
Good Luck with this endeavor! This could help reduce the number of private ( vacationer’s) vehicles off the road and , if successful, de-clog the main thoroughfares!
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