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Clang, clang, clang went the trolley


Twenty years from now December 5th, 2005, will be regarded as a significant date in the history of the St. Louis region. Why you ask? Today the ribbon was cut to open two restored trolley cars to the public. We are still a long way from the ridding the trolley cars from the History Museum to the U-City City Hall but this was an important next step.

Cutting the ribbon from left to right is Kim Tucci, Joe Edwards, Desmond Lee, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charles Dooley, and University City Mayor Joseph Adams.

Earlier today, generous St. Louisan Desmond Lee contributed $25,000 toward the $32 million dollar project.

I’m not going to go into all the details of the project here. You can read more from Citizens for Modern Transit, Trolleys To Go, and Heritage Trolley.

What I will say is this cannot come soon enough!


Yes, $32 million for 2.2 miles is a bit steep. Kinda like the cost to lure the Rams to St. Louis was more than if we had just given Bidwell the stadium he wanted to keep the football Cardinals in St. Louis, had we kept rail service in St. Louis we wouldn’t be looking at big start-up expenses.

Forty years have passed since anyone rode a streetcar in St. Louis, save for the display at the Transportation Museum. Four decades. Yes, we’ve had MetroLink light rail since the early 90s but it is just not the same. There is just something appealing about a transit car running down the street. This trolley line will do wonders for the developing East loop area.

One could argue that the loop, both East and West, is going fine and doesn’t need the federal dollars that it will likely receive to move this project forward. I agree philosophically. Cherokee Street comes to mind a commercial street that could benefit from an exciting transportation system such as this trolley system. But Cherokee Street doesn’t have a Joe Edwards pushing for anything. So I say build the trolley not where it is needed most but where we can get it built and where it will get used.

Once built the region, I hope, will demand more streetcars throughout the city and region.

For such an important day it is interesting to note who was not present. Other than Alderman Lyda Krewson no other members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen were there. I don’t know members of the County Council so I’m not sure if they were present or not, none where introduced. We are witnessing the elements that indicate a change in demographics away from sprawl and back to urbanity. You’d think our elected officials would want to participate? Perhaps they are so busy with some of the mundane details of their fiefdom they can’t see the big picture?

I look forward to the ribbon cutting for that first ride on the new trolley. That day will be far more significant than today. Lets just hope it comes soon.

– Steve


Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. stlterp says:

    Well, I guess one wawy to look at it is that $32 million for 2 miles is chump change compared to the price tag for 8 miles of the Cross-County extension of dubious value for most St. Louisans?

  2. will winter says:

    I think Joe Edwards has a lot of energy that is admirable, but this trolley plan is a boon-doogle for an area that has already demonstrated an ability to attract private investment without significant public subsidy. Yea, the East loop is different from the west loop, but it has grown significantly over the last couple years. Edwards should use his significant clout and salesmanship to reallocate these funds to a more pressing transportation needs–reworking public bus transportation or initiating Metrolink through other underserved parts of the region.

  3. Trevor Acorn says:

    Considering the disgustingly massive subsidization of road construction and maintenance in America I wouldn’t feel bad at all about getting federal money for a trolley system.

  4. Trevor Acorn says:


    I think supporting the trolley is a better idea than improving public bus systems. Why? Because transportation systems will succeed for ALL if they are built for ALL to use – this includes the upper and middle classes. Two classes which are usually ignored when non-car transportation solutions are considered. Also, if people with money use a system there will be a greater political and economical push to keep it working and to keep it clean and safe.
    Trolley is the best solution for all of St. Louis especially as energy cost rise in the future. Cars are too expensive once all costs are considered.
    I hope that reinstituting the trolley in the loop will be the start of its revival throughout the region and, maybe, even here in St. Charles.

  5. While the Loop is very successful, it is currently a very auto-centric environment. Cars are everywhere, Delmar is often at a standstill and many of the sidestreets dead-end to the north or are totally inaccesible to the south.

    The trolley will help relieve the congestion there while building on the density.

    However, one of the largest problems facing the Loop is the lack of connectivity of Delmar with the surrounding grid. To me, that is a huge problem that I would like to see Joe Edwards fix.

    One good thing that the trolley line would do is connect the History Museum to a vibrant neighborhood. Currently, the History Museum stands in a dead zone.

    As a northsider, however, I feel more than a little slighted by the trolleys. Why not build a trolley line from downtown north along Florissant? I’d rather ride streetcars than either buses or MetroLink trains. I wish that Metro would revise its expansion plan by replacing proposed MetroLink lines with new streetcar lines. They would be cheaper and faster to build and easier to connect with new lines that would be built in the future.

    Hopefully it’s not an either/or sitution.

  6. Joe Frank says:

    There are many, many pedestrian connections between the Delmar Loop and the surrounding neighborhoods.

    I don’t envision any streets that enter the area being reopened to car traffic, though. In fact, just the opposite is happening. See Board Bill #154, proposed by Ald. Lyda Krewson.

    As part of WashU’s “North Campus” development of University-owned (and very likely overpriced) graduate student housing, Rosedale and Clemens behind The Pageant are to be vacated. WashU owns all the property in this area.

    By the way, I’m surprised Frank Williamson wasn’t at the ribbon-cutting. His 26th ward includes the section of Delmar from Hodiamont to DeBaliviere – currently the most economically depressed area this trolley would serve. Does he not support the project?

  7. Jim Zavist says:

    A trolley is just a pretty bus with steel wheels. It’s no quicker than a bus, so it will do little to attract the daily rider. Sure, it’s attractive in a nostalgic sort of way, but if it is/was the greatest thing since sliced bread, they wouldn’t have been removed in the middle of the last century.

    Metrolink light rail “works” because it is quicker and moves a lot more people. As a tourist attraction or an economic generator, sure, consider building a trolley line, but only with local funds, from the businesses (and residents?) who benefit directly. Why should the rest of the metro area subsidize a boondoggle that’s planned for an area that’s already rebounding?!

    [REPLY – Couple of factual problems with your statement Jim. First, you assert the streetcars were removed in the middle of the 20th Century because GM, Standard Oil & Firestone conspired to remove them from American cities and replace them with private cars and GM buses. They were all given a slap on the wrist.

    True enough that a trolley/streetcar is not faster than a bus, I’ll give you that much. And yes, it gets you from A to B in the same way a bus would. But ridership on the new trolley lines will far surpass any bus running the same stretch at the same times. That means more people in a given area, a good bit of which needs the increased retail traffic. This could also reduce the need for more parking in the loop as people can come to any number of MetroLink park-n-ride lots and then take the trolley to the loop.

    Nostalgia is an interesting thing. They happened to pick vintage cars for this line but I’m guessing that if they had picked a brand new streetcar interest & ridership would be similar. We will attract people from all over just to ride the trolley. We’d never get that from announcing a new bus route. This is an economic development tool, no different than building a dome to attract people to an area. This form of development just doesn’t happen to involve major league sports. – SLP]

  8. Jeff says:

    I am all for it! Not something easy to put a bike on but something else to help with the East Loop and make it easier for people to get from one side to the next. I also like that you can connect to Forest Park! That way if you don’t need to get on metrolink for such a small distance.

    Keep Cycling,


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