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Poll: Thoughts On The Loop Trolley Project

April 8, 2012 Featured, Public Transit, Transportation 53 Comments

The project to build a short streetcar line on DeBalivere & Delmar is moving forward:

The Loop Trolley project, having amassed almost all the $43 million it needs, is ready to move into high gear.

Construction is expected to begin late this year, with the trolleys in operation about a year later. (STLtoday.com)

A couple of open houses were held evenly to review the project.

ABOVE: A recent Loop Trolley open house, click image for official website

Not everyone is impressed:

The proposed initial service plan is still less than stellar. It’s still proposed to run 11am to 6pm Sunday to Thursday and 11am to midnight Friday to Saturday. Trains will arrive only every 20 minutes and take 20 minutes to travel end to end. Its fares will not be integrated with Metro, separate tickets will be required. (Gateway Streets)

Initial vehicles will be restored “heritage” streetcars, at a cost of about $150,000 each, per the consultant I spoke with. The good news is now the line and maintenance facility are being designed to handle the modern Škoda streetcar in use in cities like Portland OR and Tacoma WA.  These new vehicles cost several million dollars each so the significantly cheaper old vehicles are the only in the initial budget.

ABOVE: Modern streetcar in Portland OR

Even though I love streetcars I haven’t been excited about the Loop Trolley, until now. I know the higher operating costs of the heritage cars will lead to them being replaced in time. Ideally modern cars will be part of an expansion of the line further east on Delmar. Wheelchair lifts on the heritage cars won’t be convenient but the low floor of the future modern streetcars will be great for quick entry/exit of passengers.

The poll this week seeks your thoughts on the project at this point, vote in the right sidebar. Results on Wednesday April 18th.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "53 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    It’s a cliche, but “You only have one chance to make a good first impression”.  This seems like trying to make something, anything happen, and I see way too many hurdles to success for this to be anything more than a tourist attraction, something that will be ridden by locals about as frequently as we ride the trams to the top of the Arch.  Metro already serves the entire route with Metrolink and the 90 and 97 bus routes PLUS many, many points beyond.  People with Metro passes of any type (2-hour or monthly) will have no real incentive to pay another fare when they can use Metro for no additonal cost, other than to “give it a try” once or twice.  I predict that it will end up much like the Teco Trolley in Tampa:  http://www.tecolinestreetcar.org/

    • MrBobaloo says:

      Don’t underestimate the amount of nightlife that would be interested in spending their evening in both Forest Park and the Loop.  Lots of residents go to these locations often.  My family goes to the Zoo very frequently, as well as the history museum and the art museum.  Any time I have a friend in town, taking them to the Muny or the Loop is on the top of my list.  Out-of-towners also visit all of these locations.  The Pageant is a popular destination for people visiting St. Louis.

      Students, tourists, and drunks will all be interested in public transit.  It’s cheaper, more fun (as you can hang out with your friends while you are traveling), and better than getting a DUI.

      As for Metro, that’s a commuter line.  Downtown lines are different than commuter lines.  Take Chicago for instance, they have both the Metra (similar to the Metro) and the “L,” which has more stops and serves a denser area, similar to a trolley or streetcar.

  2. Guest says:

    I agree. This is a solution begging for a problem. The area between the History Museum and the Loop is already well served by Metro buses and Metrolink. People who use public transit will have no incentive (and with extra fare, a disincentive) to use this service. If they really wanted to encourage people to use transit, they would consider extending Metrolink to serve the Muny, the Art Museum, and the Zoo. Both St. Louisans and tourists would actually use that.

    • MrBobaloo says:

      Chicago has both the commuter line called the Metra (like the Metro) and the “L,” which has more stops and serves a denser area, similar to a trolley or streetcar.  Successful public transit needs a downtown line and a commuter line.

  3. seekette says:

    The trolley is for WUSTL students and the proposed expansion of WUSTL’s North-of-Delmar Campus.

  4. Msrdls says:

    I wouldn’t anticipate riding the trolley with my family more than once….and long before dusk. Maybe (maybe) out-of-town visitors will want to ride it, but I wonder if the Loop attracts many out-of-towners? I’ve lived near STL City 2 years and haven’t visited the Loop yet, so I can’t say for sure how many out of towners even visit the Loop. Provided Delmar Avenue is wide enough to accommodate the trolley cars without creating a hazardous condition for conventional motorists and even pedestrians (don’t you know how STL pedestrians don’t always utilize designated crosswalks or respect pedestrian signals?), I suspect that the trolley might survive at least for a few years, until most of the “locals” have ridden it once. But for long-term/successful operation, there has to be a REASON for the trolley. In San Francisco, New Orleans, even Tampa to an extent, there is an attraction beyond “the trolley”. Honestly, just what is that attraction in west-central STL and University City?

    • JMM says:

       I’m glad that you’re commenting and adding to the discussion, but I think it’s a little crazy that you’ve been in St. Louis for 2 years, haven’t visited the Loop even once, and are still comfortable saying that you’d be scared to be there after dusk. I recommend that you at least visit a place before you weigh in, otherwise you’re just basing your opinion on an uninformed perception of what a place is or is not. –Signed, A woman who grew up in St. Louis, lived on Washington & Des Peres without issue for a year, and has been to the Loop hundreds of times, including many times “after dusk”

    • Shabadoo says:

      ever heard of the central west end, or forest park, or the art museum, or the zoo, or the science center, or history museum, or the loop?  what the f___ is the attraction in f___ing tampa?

  5. GMichaud says:

    While I generally support investments in trolley, rail and so on in an effort to create a balanced transit systems, I also have to agree the U City trolley may not have the impact it should.
    There should be a broad understanding of what transit might look like in 20 or 30 years, there is not. For instance the Great Streets program eliminated a lane of traffic along the South Grand commercial district. Does this mean that there will not be transit changes along Grand? What will Grand Ave, far North to far South look like in 20 or 30 years, what do we as a city need it to look like if it is to be successful? What is best for the people, the future?
    Not even one question can be answered about the future of Grand Ave, nor for the U. City trolley and how it connects to a larger system.
    Urban planning is not a rigid process. The general future of transit in the region should be public knowledge and the center of debate. The fact it is not demonstrates a total collaspe and failure of governance, of corporate leadership and of the Main Stream Media.

    For instance I question if it would have not been better to run the trolley along Delmar, down to Euclid, and south through the West End. Forest Park is fine, but connecting two major commercial districts, one with numerous hotel rooms would have facilitated a later spur to Forest Park.

    But how can you know for sure if there is not a sense of overall community and economic development?   In any case there should be no question a trolley running from the Loop to the West End would have far more economic and developmental impact.

  6. Cheryl says:

    The fact that  the Delmar trolley this was not integrated with Metro belies a real attempt  to promote transit – a purpose the developers often allege.  I think this is mostly about promoting the businesses along the route  to tourists and I don’t see a bright future for  the success of the trolley to that purpose either.

  7. Moe says:

    Oh my, oh my….I find I’m in agreement with the thread of these comments.  For 43$million, I think we are getting a whimper for our buck instead of a bang.  Tourist are great, there are plenty of them in the Loop, the CWE, City Garden, and most importantly the Zoo, Art Museum, and other entities in Forest Park.  The problem I see is that we are starting off with a small chunk hoping for a larger segment as the line grows, the problem with that is “you only get one first impression” so the subsequent add ons are going to be harder and harder to justify.
    Metro alreadys services all of these, so yes, lets please re-invent the wheel.  But since we are, and since the people of Idaho and Alaska are footing most of the bill, I think it would have been smarter to bypass the History Museum and made the stop the far more popular Zoo (which a minor drop-off at the Art and History museum ( I mean how much more could it be to add two stops versus adding a destination….in other words reach farther and then back fill, rather than reach shorter and then reach again).
    Will this benefit WU students?  I don’t think that much.  About as much as helping St. Louisians….I mean, come on let’s face it…how many of us go to the Loop AND the History museum in the same day?  But I can certainly see much more going to the Zoo and also getting food in the Loop in the same trip. (The CWE would be competition for this though).
    As far as “what” the trolly will be…does it really matter if it’s ultra modern or antique?  Personally I will hate the clutter of the overhead lines….I would have been happy with the trollies they have in use now around town. 
    And then a seperate entity??????  This is the decade of consolidation, not expansion.  I understand Metro has a bad rap, but hey…they were here first and I would do a subsidiary rather than re-invent the administration wheel.  (and perhaps Metro might learn a thing or two from that in the process???)
    But overall, yeah, I’ll use it once or twice to show my visitors around town…other than that …probably not.

    And Msrdls…..2 years????? come on now….Please tell us you’ve been at least to South Grand or the CWE at least once!! LOL

    • JZ71 says:

      . . . . and Metro was formed by consolidating 15 unprofitable private transit companies attempting to serve the St. Louis region in the 1960’s – from Metro’s website:

      “In the 1950’s, the public transit industry in the St. Louis region was in the hands of 15 private firms.  However, a lack of transfers and coordination among the different transit systems discouraged ridership, raised costs to passengers and caused economic hardship for the firms.  By 1960, the plight of public transit in the region was one of the top news stories of the year.  A study commissioned by the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County recommended a unified, regional approach to the public transit situation.In response, St. Louis County Supervisor James McNary proposed that the Bi-State Development Agency (BSDA) acquire all transit facilities in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the Illinois counties of St. Clair and Madison, and operate them as a coordinated, single system.  In 1963, the BSDA officially took over operations of the transit facilities it purchased from the region’s 15 private firms.”

      • GMichaud says:

         Actually you are wrong, consolidation occurred much earlier, From 1940 to 1963, St. Louis Public Service Co. was mostly controlled by National City Lines. National City Lines is the oil cartel that shut down trolley and streetcar systems across the nation, including St. Louis.

        • JZ71 says:

          If I’m “wrong” then Metro is putting out bad information.  But that’s not the point, the point is that the best transit SYSTEMS offer seamless transfers, not independent, disconnected segments, which is precisely what Loop trolley will be . . . . until it fails financially and is dumped in Metro’s lap . . . .

          • Douglas Duckworth says:

            JZ, we agree on something. This project is a joke, could fail, and if it does will set a negative tone regarding streetcars in Saint Louis.  Considering the amount of public money being put into the project, it should be vastly improved with modern low-floor cars, free transfers, and double tracking.  

    • Msrdls says:

      I have driven through the So Grand strip on two separate occasions, but I have not patronized any of the businesses there. I have been to the CWE.  My wife and I and two sons decided to eat at The Drunken Fish one early evening before attending a concert at Peabody. (Great food, by the way!) We parked in a nearby parking garage, where my wife’s convertible top was slashed so that thieves could get to her portable GPS. (I know! We should have concealed it in the glove compartment, but we just forgot.) I know this can happen anywhere, but the episode sort of soured us on venturing out into the city, unless absolutely necessary.

      • Douglas Duckworth says:

        You will never experience the city through the driver’s seat of a car.  

        Don’t make mistakes and pass the blame onto someone else.  

        Why are you commenting on this blog if you have never been to landmark places in the city and find it scary?  What are you worried about?  Someone pulling a gun on you in the middle of Maryland Plaza’s crowds?  Billions have been invested into the City in the past decade.  The chances of a serious incident in these places are slim to nonexistent. as long as you don’t act a fool.                

        • Msrdls says:

          …and thanks so much for your topping advice. Perhaps I’ll switch to the passenger side, where I’m almost certain to improve my perspective, ya think?

          …don’t recall that I “blamed” our unfortunate experience on “someone else.”
          …don’t even recall mentioning “someone else.”

          …didn’t know (until now) that this blog is an exclusive club, comprised of only those who frequent so-called city-based “landmark places.” I’m hopeful that, with time, I can become a cosmo kinda guy like you with world-wide bearing and urban polish.

          …gee, it’s unfortunate that I can’t act like a “fool” just anywhere I go. Darn. I suppose I’ll have to limit my foolishness to non-city venues.

          …I can’t imagine why your comments about my perspective would take precedence over any original thoughts that you might originate from the area upwards of your shoulders. 

  8. Chris says:

    “Ideally modern cars will be part of an expansion of the line further east on Delmar.”

    How will that be feasible considering it’s going down to the History Museum?  Will it go down DeBaliviere and then back up to Delmar and continue on its merry way? 

    This whole trolley is DOA.

    • I assume that any eastward expansion of the trolley will result in a 2 line system or the DeBaliviere branch becoming nothing more than a spur of the main route.

  9. Tpekren says:

    I think it would be even more of a failure if you try to make something of a tourist line into something more then intended goal.  Personally, once this fails and gets dumped into Metro’s lap – prediction that I would agree with as the most likely outcome even though I hope for the better – it is time to double down on the tourist part by extending the extra half mile to the zoo entrance (or even adding a left turn with the turn around in front of the Science north/park entrance) if Forest Park Forever can raise the funds just as the Loop Trolley has brought in a mix of funding from outside sources.  I don’t see why this doesn’t go the extra mile to connect the loop directly with a destination that attracts 3 million visitors a year.  Yes, most visitors travel to the zoo by car, but the loop trolley needs fares and a fare that it might capture is a zoo visitor grabbing a lunch and/or early dinner in the loop, etc.

    As far a streetcar line, I think your better off served and more prudent use of those dollars by looking at fixed rail on Grand or Downtown before spending anymore money on transit in an area that is already well served by buses and the existing metrolink line.   

  10. Moe says:

    Wow….some people actually agree with me!  Msrdls….I think Doug was trying to convey that just because your car was broken into should not let it jade you on the entire City.    And while admitting you don’t go to City locations could be taken to lessen the “value” of your comments, let’s face it all…We really don’t know what experience each of us has with the City….For all some of you know, Oh Great Blogger Steve could be living in Kansas City and he could be plotting the overthrow of St. Louis with his sometimes negative comments. LOL

    But any case….the Trollys….I think putting permant lines in, either by rail or wire is a waste.  You are then locked into that movement.  Not very smart in this day and age.  And as for distances covered, well, I’ve already spoken on that.

  11. Held Over says:

    As a former resident of the NOLA area, the streetcars there were one of the few positive things about the city.

    As for STL, I would like to see a streetcar line running along Gravois, from South City to downtown.

    • JZ71 says:

      Do you currently use Metro’s bus service that runs on Gravois?  If not, why not?  And how would a streetcar be better than the current bus service?

      • halfasleep says:

         If the streetcar would go into downtown instead of dropping everybody off at the time consuming and inconvenient civic center, it would be a great improvement over the busline that runs Gravois.

        • JZ71 says:

          And if the bus would go into downtown (at least where you want to go), it would also be an improvement – it’s not the vehicle, it’s the route.  The real problem is that downtown is congested (slow traffic, for drivers, buses AND streetcars) and Murphy’s Law applies (the bus you’re on invariably does not go exactly where you want to go, so you have to transfer or walk).

          The Civic Center transfer facility is only a problem (time consuming and inconvenient) because it’s an incomplete answer.  Metro needs to do what RTD does in Denver, and run one or more high-frequency (< every 3-5 minutes) circulators serving all the major employment and government centers downtown.  (RTD's Mall Shuttle runs as frequently as every 70 seconds / 50 buses per hour between two major bus transfer facilities and intersecting with the main light rail lines.)

  12. Ruby says:

    why does MRDLS always comment on here when he never goes to the city or knows anything about it?

    • Msrdls says:

      Ruby: Thanks for your inquiry. Imagine a supermarket that offers only one brand of food; a political system that offers only one candidate; an economic system that offers only one choice of occupation. Imagine a school system that offers only one set of assumptions about learning, discipline and teaching.  Non city-residents are certainly capable of directly and authentically participating in the intellectual and social makeup of their broader community, and in my opinion, the community obviously badly needs them to do this. 

      Has my point been made, Ruby?  Or do you need me to use a broader brush?

      • JMM says:

        You can weigh in with your opinion, to be sure, but it can hardly be considered an “informed opinion,” that’s all.

    • Msrdls says:

      Ruby: Oh, I forgot something else! You’re right. I stay away from downtown unless I just have to go there; I avoid CWE as much as I can. Soulard, Laclede’s Landing don’t interstest me much. But I do frequent several businesses in St. Louis Hills, Southhampton, and Dog-Town. I feel as if my family is safer in these areas.  Just my preference, Ruby.

  13. My issue with this is mostly in the plan. I would like to see something more in terms of scale. How does this reflect the master plans in terms of transit? I worry that this is just a feeble attempt to placate mass transit enthusiasts without really getting to the core of the issues St. Louis has with mass transit (which arguably have a great deal to do with urban sprawl and decentralization) 

    Don’t get me wrong… I am all for connective means via mass transit lines. They add enclaves to cities via their inherent stations that promote local businesses and add interactivity to the mass populous. I am just a bit weary about how this all works into the the collective scheme of a real solution for moving the masses…

  14. Mtroberts says:

    It will be a wonderful amusement ride and novelty for a while.  As such, and perhaps this as happened, the business owners along the Loop should pay the full cost of construction, maintenance, and operation.  I don’t see how this is a federal project at all.

  15. This must look serious!!

  16. Guest 56 says:

    Some of these people who are against this are a bunch of psychics and needs to have their fantasylands scrapped.  Those who are for the trolley project are telling the truth.  I am for the trolley project.  Delmar Blvd. once had a streetcar line that ran until 1963.  And now with it being impossible to find a place to park on Delmar and Delmar is already a traffic nightmare, it is time to give the tourists something positive.  Just because it doesn’t pollute, does NOT mean it will be less attractive than a bus. Dallas is one citiy that uses historic trolleys along McKinney Avenue. 

  17. moe says:

    @Guest56….No we aren’t a bunch of psychics.  We prefer some common sense and wise use of Federal tax dollars….that would be mine, yours, and everyone else that posts on here.  43 Million is a waste for something that only has 2 destinations and covers less than 2 miles.  If it were private funds, I wouldn’t have  a problem with it.  And I’m a Democrat but this is still a waste!

  18. moe says:

    And if parking was such an issue, then let University City step up to the plate, since most of the traffic is in their city….not the people of Idaho and New York and the entire state of Missouri.
    And Msrdls….keep posting, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

  19. U City Resident says:

    My concern with the Trolley project that is suppose to help the businesses along it’s route is- Will there still be businesses when the Trolley project is finally complete??
    What make the loop unique is that is it a collection of small businesses run by hard working people that want to bring something different to St. Louis- now I will admit that in more recent years a chain or two has crept into the loop- but majority of the cornerstone businesses- Vintage Vinyl, Ziezo, Phoenix Rising, Tivoli and many more are what make the loop so special!
    How are these businesses expected to survive when the street that they are on is ripped up?? Of the $44 Million to fund this project is any used twords subsidies for these businesses? My guess is no.
    These businesses had NO say in this project- There was a vote- but it was not by the Shops and restaurants that make up the lively Loop- it was by the property owners. That is right – only land owners got a say- and considering a LARGE majority of the buildings along this route are owned by one individual that there is no question to his exuberant passion for this project. Not to downplay the good he has done for this neighborhood in the past but he is an antiquated man that is not being realistic about what the actual impact will be of tearing up the streets to clog an already congested traffic area to make room for Old outdated trolleys that were removed for a reason and have great potential to add to the crime I the loop the same way the metro has done in the past. Why not a trolley car on wheels? It no longer is the hybrid progressive vehicle we were originally promised. A lot of baiting and switching going on…… It it even possible to stop this train wreak from happening at this point?

  20. Please refrain from using language I need to edit. Thanks.

  21. MrBobaloo says:

    Brilliant idea.  This is what successful transit looks like.  Chicago is a great example.  They have both a commuter line called the Metra (similar to MetroLink) and a downtown line with more stops that serves higher density (the “L”).  While we have the start of a commuter line in St. Louis, we don’t have a downtown line.  A streetcar system is the best solution and is much needed to complement the MetroLink.  

    One of the biggest costs of building public transit is condemnation….buying up the real estate to have space to build the line.  In St. Louis, we already have wide streets which would support a streetcar going down them.  That’s what our streets were originally built for when we had the old trolley system!  No need to reinvent the wheel, because we already have a viable option.  We should build on a system already in place with new, modern streetcars.

  22. JZ71 says:

    Actually, our Metrolink light rail system is more similar similar to the L in Chicago, than Metra.  We don’t have anything similar to, nor, apparently, any need for, something similar to Metra, which is heavy-rail commuter service.  A streetcar line was / would be much more like a bus line than Metrolink is (and Chicago has a robust bus system [and no streetcars], operated by the CTA, aka the Chicago Transit Authority):  http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/clickable_system_map/200806C.htm

    BTW – what this map shows is how a “real” transit system works, focusing on providing a grid of bus routes, not focusing on maintaining a hub-and-spoke bus route structure focused on an increasingly irrelevent downtown.

    • MetroLink is our limited stop transit service designed for speed, in that sense it’s our equal to Metra.

      • JZ71 says:

        Metrolink may be “designed for speed” along certain segments, but it is certainly NOT commuter rail in the traditional sense of commuter rail service* (and the travel times between the Shrewsbury Station and downtown St. Louis are similar whether one uses Metrolink or Metrobus).  The nearest thing we have to commuter rail here is the limited Amtrak service between the downtown multi-modal station and Kirkwood.

        “Commuter rail lines were in Metro’s plans in 1994 when voters approved a one-fourth transit sales tax, but official dropped them later because the cost was not worth the benefit and the fare would be expensive.” **

        * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commuter_rail_in_North_America

        * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commuter_rail

        ** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis_Commuter_Rail

        • Google Maps says Shrewsbury MetroLink to Civic Center MetroLink takes 28 minutes but takes 53 minutes on the #11 MetroBus.

          • JZ71 says:

            It depends where you’re headed downtown – I was thinking more of Jefferson & Market, and I get 46 minutes via the 11 bus (alone) versus 37-45 minutes via Metrolink transferring to Metrobus versus about 42 minutes via Metrolink and walking.  Yes, station-to-station will invariably be quicker on rail, but rarely is either / both your origin and / or your destination going to be exactly at / near a train station, while you’re much more likely to get close(r) by bus (or streetcar).

          • Duh, if you’re trying to reach a destination not close to a MetroLink station it makes sense to just take a bus.


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