Loop Trolley On Track For Spring Debut

Citizens for Modern Transit assembled the principals of the Loop Trolley project at the Regional Arts Commission on Sept. 22.

Loop Trolley Transportation Development District (TDD) Administrator Chris Taylor and president of the Loop Trolley Co. Les Sterman provided updates at the meeting. The 2.2-mile Loop Trolley is expected to begin operating in spring 2017.

“I never imagined I’d be standing here today actually responsible for running this thing as a retiree,” Sterman said.

Taylor said the maintenance facility, the remainder of track and wiring are the largest elements remaining on the project.

“All we really have left to pave, essentially, is from the city-limit stop, (east) down Delmar. We’re working with the city (St. Louis), within their schedule, to get it completed over the next few months,” Taylor said.

The maintenance facility at the Hamilton Avenue stop will house two repair bays, office space and a large open area with observation windows into the bays. Taylor said this section will also house trolley memorabilia from Loop entrepreneur Joe Edwards’ collection as part of a permanent exhibit on St. Louis trolley history.

The refurbished trolley cars on display at Commerce Bank along Delmar and in front of the Missouri History Museum were considered for service until Portland, Ore., made two vintage trolleys available a year-and-a-half ago.

Taylor said the big issue with the trolley cars from the Portland deal is getting them fitted with wheelchair lifts.

“We didn’t really want to put ramps on the street, so we had to reconfigure the inside of the cars, and the seating, to allow wheelchairs access through the full length of the car,” Taylor said.

The three cars purchased in Seattle will have wheelchair lifts in the middle of the car. The Seattle cars are currently being stored by MetroLink; the Portland cars are being refurbished in Iowa.

“Ultimately, we’re going to have a five car fleet. We’re only getting three of them rehabbed now; we’re working on funds to get the other two done,” Taylor said.

Each trolley will be painted a different color. The cars in Iowa are expected to arrive soon. Once the trolleys arrive, testing of the system will begin in November.

“We’ll see the trolleys going through the alignment very slowly and increasing in speed over the next months,” Taylor said.

Revenues Ahead

The TDD owns the project and the Loop Trolley Co. is a separate non-profit entity created to help advocate for the project. Taylor said the initial plan at the TDD was to hire a third-party operator to run the system. The Loop Trolley Co. submitted the only bid.

“We have a contract with the Loop Trolley Co. where they will operate the system, and essentially we take the tax proceeds from the TDD and give it to the trolley company,” Taylor said.

Sterman said there will be four revenue sources for operating the system. Retail businesses within the Transportation Development District will collect an additional one-cent sales tax. The tax is expected to generate $800,000 per year.

Fare collection will be the second-largest source of funding, followed by advertising and “ancillary revenue” related to merchandising.

“The good thing about our finances is we’re not incurring any long-term debt, nor are we taking any funds out of regional transit which Metro needs to operate its system. We hope, given these funding sources, we’ll essentially be break-even in about three years,” Sterman said.

The trolley company will collect fares through use of ticket machines similar to the multi-space parking pay stations used in St. Louis and Clayton.

“We’re working on a fare structure. We think it’s going to be very similar to MetroLink, but this operation is a little different. People are going to want to get on and off the trolley at multiple places, so there will be time-based tickets,” Sterman said.

Sterman said managing crowds at peak times will be a challenge. Busy summer Saturday nights and big park events could put a strain on the 20-minute, two-car rotation around the tracks.

“Obviously, there are unknowns – streetcars have not been here in a long, long, time,” Sterman said.

The initial trolley schedule is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

West End Word © October 2016

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