By. Chris Stritzel
Its been a project years (literally years) in the making but as the Loop Trolley finally nears completion and the official grand opening, bumps in the road are already appearing to doom the trolley before it can even carry passengers up and down Delmar and Debalivere. Several factors have been taken into account when writing this post and most revolve around how the project has been coming along, how it is planned to runs and even more. Let's get started.
The Loop Trolley has been envisioned for years by "Loop Mayor Joe Edwards". It's his brainchild of creating a better Delmar Loop which he plays a key roll in. Now as the trolley prepares to open, we are starting to see clear cuts in a plan that, looking back, was doomed from the beginning. There will be (or at least should be) 4 Trolley cars. 2 from Seattle and 2 from Portland that will run along the 2.2 Mile Fixed route along Delmar Boulevard and Debalivere Avenue. The route will connect the whole of the Loop to Forest Park. Sounds great doesn't it? It sure does, but fractures in funding have appeared.
The project is severely over budget. SEVERELY! This is clearly causing issues for the way the system is supposed to operate. Throughout late 2016 and Early 2017, the Loop Trolley Company has pushed back the opening date more than 3 times. Originally, it was scheduled to open in Spring 2017. That quickly changed to Early Summer 2017. Finally, the plan changed to move the opening date to sometime in Late Summer 2017. Now even this seems to be out the window as the Trolley Cars still need serious work done to them to make them fit in more with traffic along the route.
That is where he over budget factor comes into play. The Trolley company is basically running on a shoestring budget following the construction phase of the project. This issue is holding back the opening for the system thus making many people feel as if the project is nearing death before it even opens. Only 2 of the 4 streetcars have been fully restored, but in some cases, not very street safe.
According to Chris Sommers, owner of the Loop's Pi Pizza Location, this interesting quote was said and shared on the UrbanSTL Forum.
"Just learned today that the REAL reason for the Loop Trolley delay is that in first day of testing, they realized that from just 15mph, these shitty, 100 year old trolleys take SEVENTY feet to stop. So, when they run in traffic lanes, they can't stop. Like at all. Potential solutions are to run the trolley cars at FIVE mph the entire route, or totally overhaul the cars. They don't have money for the latter. The delay is now indefinite.
Well done, STL. Well done!
Meanwhile, check out the MODERN streetcars in Cincy, KC, Milwaukee and virtually every other city. They get it. We don't. Because we can't have anything nice. And we want to live in the past. Ding, Ding."
If this is true, it is not good news for the Loop Trolley at all. This is also clearly not good news for those who want to see the system at its maximum potential. Joe Edwards needs to be worrying about this project or forever have a failure associated with his name. This is surely something that he does not want after all the success in the Loop. Besides just the trolleys taking forever to stop (rumored), the only place left to turn is something that could nail the coffin shut on the Loop Trolley as a whole within its opening year. That is the chance of a fare to ride the system.
A fare would be disastrous for such a trolley system. It is going to be a novelty connecting huge tourist attractions in the city's furthest West attraction. Many visitors will not want to pay a large fare to ride the trolley. It is ridiculous to pay a fare for a system that only connects two regions, it's not even a viable form of transit. Some locals will use it, but not much and with the fare, even less locals will use it. Why pay a fare for a trolley that can only take you so far or take a Metro Bus that goes even further than a trolley for roughly the same fare price?
Note to Mr. Edwards and others working on this project, follow Kansas City's lead and do not charge a fare for the Streetcar/trolley. It has clearly worked out very well for them, so try it here. You may be surprised with the results of not charging a fare.
In the end, I see the loop trolley as being something that will be cool to have if it only works as originally promised and helps promote development. Hell, I'll even go as far to say I will ride it if it comes out to be a great thing to have. Maybe even one day, the trolley will connect to a larger Streetcar system in the City and County, but those days are surely to far off to envision.
For the skeptics about this post and where some information came from, here are some sources I used.