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#99 Downtown Circulator now the #99 Downtown Trolley

July 6, 2010 Downtown, Public Transit 12 Comments

Last week the #99 Downtown Circulator bus was replaced by the #99 Downtown Trolley.

ABOVE: Maggie Campbell (left) and Kathleen Kitty Ratcliffe
ABOVE: Maggie Campbell (left) Pres & CEO Partnership for Downtown St. Louis; Kathleen "Kitty" Ratcliffe Pres St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

The trolley is still a bus — one of Metro’s 30ft buses (compared to the standard 40ft).  Some had expected a real trolley instead of a dressed up bus.  To me a real trolley rides on rails, not inflated rubber tires.  I detest those vehicles built to look like an old wood trolley.  No, they equipment used is a standard bus (30ft vs the normal 40ft) with a colorful wrap.

Watch the full press conference (10  min):


At the end of the press conference we all boarded three of the newly wrapped trolley buses to ride the full route.

ABOVE: new trolley at night on Washington Ave
ABOVE: new trolley at night on Washington Ave

What stayed the same:

  • Same 30ft buses used before, requiring steps or use of lift.
  • Washington, Broadway, 4th still served.
  • Serves the Convention Center MetroLink station and the Civic Center bus & MetroLink station on 14th.
  • You must pull the cord to signal you want to exit the bus.

What changed:

  • Different route goes west of Tucker on Washington to City Museum
  • Follows Market St rather than heading down Broadway by Busch Stadium, now serves Citygarden.
  • Better hours and more frequent service.
  • Special signs to mark stops
  • Friendly route maps posted where the trolley stops.
  • The fee structure changed dramatically.  You can still use your Metro monthly pass or a transfer from another line but now $2 will buy an all day pass on the trolley.  Kids, seniors and disabled is $1. Thus a family visiting St. Louis can ride the trolley to and from their hotel to many venues all day long for very little cash.
Hours and rates, Metro passes can also be used.

What is great about the changes:

  • The new vehicles are highly visible.
  • Service from 5:30am-Midnight Monday-Saturday.
  • 20 minute maximum wait.
  • People who don’t normally ride buses are riding this line.
The round trip takes approximately 20 minutes
The round trip takes approximately 20 minutes

What still needs to change:

  • Drivers need to announce the upcoming attractions along the route.
  • Route maps need to be posted inside the buses so visitors can review as they ride.
  • Sunday service?

ABOVE: #99 Downtown Trolley signs
ABOVE: #99 Downtown Trolley signs

I’ve ridden the 99 once since the press conference and the only riders were tourists — a family and a couple.  We finally have the downtown line that the old circulator should have been.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. Angelo says:

    Let's hope this is the city's way of gradually reintroducing real trolleys.

  2. Scartwr408 says:

    For what it's worth, in Dayton, OH we have trolley busses–busses that ride on tires but get their power from overhead electrical lines.

  3. G-Man says:

    Awful. What a disappointment. A faux-trolley bus would be a vast improvement over this.

  4. RETIRED1 says:

    The “trolley” is killing our taxicab driver's financially that make money off of shuttling tourists around downtown!

  5. mj314 says:

    20min. waits… I'd rather walk – its not like these routes are that long. Is this part of Metro's plan, and why they need the tax increase??

  6. Jimmy Dolan says:

    I love the maps. Metro should stick these at stops for every bus line!!

  7. JZ71 says:

    Positive – a step in the right direction. Negative – it should be both more frequent and free. Seriously. One of the best things that has helped downtown Denver thrive over the past 25 years is their free 16th Street Mall Shuttle. Since it runs as frequently as every 70 seconds (during rush hours), it ties together transit, office, dining, entertainment, service, parking and residential nodes with a truly viable, non-automotive alternative.

    As for trolley versus bus, for most users, it's frequency that really matters. Sure, trolleys/streetcars are more cuddly and less intimidating than buses, but for regular users, the shorter the wait, the better. Get it under 5 minutes, and you'll see use really increase . . .

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  9. Tpekren says:

    MJ, if you read the article fully you realize the wait drops to 10 minutes during 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. Prime time for workers/tourists alike. Its not a 20 minute wait the whole time.

    However, I do think you hit on what JZ explains. Frequency matters in transit and the downtown trolley really needs to have much less wait times. Like it is noted, the route and signage works wells. Now its time for downtown business to step up and propose a Transportation Development District, TDD. The TDD could support a more frequent and cheaper trolley (adult $1 and kids ride free).

    • JZ71 says:

      Denver's free Mall Shuttle is funded entirely by their transit sales tax. The logic for free is a bit convoluted, but works/survives scrutiny. Every trip on public transit subsidized by taxes, averaging out to approximately two-thirds of the cost of every trip. Longer trips generate less revenue than shorter trips, because there are fewer total boardings and because they require both more fuel and more manpower (you're paying the operator the same hourly wage whether the trip is 5 minutes or 45 minutes long). With a lot of riders riding only a few blocks, the subsidy, per rider, is reduced substantially, even if there is high frequency (one reason why a lower fare can be justified here). Add in the reality that many (40%-50%) of the weekday shuttle riders area already buying monthly passes, for their commutes in and out of downtown. It then becomes a question of whether or not it's cost-effective to collect 10 or 25 cents from every passenger? In reality, it's not, so it becomes both a marketing and a business decision to make the shuttle “free” to all riders.

  10. APS221 says:

    Gillig, the company that makes the buses Metro uses, does make a 30' faux trolley bus.
    I think most of Metro's fleet are Gillig Phantoms, which were discontinued in 2008. The Gillig Trolley bus is based on the Low Floor, Gillig's successor to the Phantom.

    • JZ71 says:

      Until the route proves itself, it's hard to justify investing in unique vehicles. There are both cost and maintenance issues associated with any group of vehicles, so transit agencies try to minimize variations as much as possible – to keep vehicles on the road, you need to stock spare parts, train mechanics and, hopefully, have vehicles that are easy to maintain. My experience is that cute works for attracting the occasional user, but that cheap (or free) and frequent work best for attracting and retaining regular, daily riders – I don't care what the vehicle looks like, just don't make me wait very long . . .


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