CEO driving force behind Scottsdale trolley company

by Georgann Yara – Dec. 27, 2011 06:25 PM
Special for The Republic

For many college students who hold a part-time job, the gig is a practical necessity to bring in extra cash for textbooks and late-night burger runs.

But the trolley-driving job Dunn Transportation CEO Margaret Dunn held while attending Arizona State University led to a career and lifetime passion for the Omaha, Neb., native.

Ollie the Trolley, Scottsdale’s free mode of public transportation, is the company’s most visible and popular feature. Dunn runs a total of 33 vehicles, including trolleys and buses that are available for special events.

“I love trolleys. Whenever I see one on the street, it’s as if I’ve never seen one before,” the Scottsdale business owner said.

As a college student, Dunn had no trouble socializing with people who boarded Molly the Trolley, the vehicle she drove in Scottsdale. Dunn viewed her services as “a little traveling chamber of commerce.”

At age 21, she left ASU and returned to her hometown to pursue a career. She launched Dunn Transportation in 1986.

At the time, being a female owner in the transportation industry was practically unheard of. Her youth didn’t help, either.

Even Dunn chuckles at the initial business plan she created while attempting to generate funding. But she turned the pessimism into an advantage.

“There’s a power to being underestimated,” Dunn said.

Dunn always wanted to return to Arizona, and when a friend sent her a news article about the end of Molly the Trolley’s run, it was her opportunity. Dunn Transportation was selected in a nationwide search, and in 1991, Dunn brought her business to Scottsdale.

Over the years, Dunn’s fleet grew, and there are more than 1 million boardings each year, Dunn said.

She went back to school and earn a degree in urban dynamics with a focus on transit-oriented development from ASU in 2010. Dunn is earning her MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU.

Dunn’s personality and work ethic are among the reasons Don Desmond, owner of Transportation Inc. in Phoenix, has worked with her for 15 years.

“She runs a very tight ship and is a very, very good person,” he said.

Passion for trolleys still drives Dunn.

“It’s just great to have people on board and see them enjoy the experience. … People don’t have that heartfelt joy for a regular bus. It’s all-American. Kind of like baseball and apple pie.”

Read more:

This entry was posted in Dunn Transportation, Ollie The Trolley. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.