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Downtown Trolley Debuted Two Years Ago Today, Sunday Service Added Last Month

July 6, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Public Transit 9 Comments
ABOVE: Downtown Trolley at Broadway & Market with the Old Courthouse in background

The #99 MetroBus is also known as the “Downtown Trolley.” It’s not an actual trolley, just a standard short-length bus wrapped to vaguely resemble a trolley. From Metro’s website:

The #99 Downtown Trolley provides regular, all-day service throughout Downtown Saint Louis moving workers to jobs, visitors to cultural and sports venues, and everyone to the restaurants, retail, and service providers. The #99 Downtown Trolley route also recently expanded to serve downtown’s thriving residential developments, retail outlets, and cultural attractions along Washington Avenue. A reliable schedule, frequent trips, and quick connections to MetroLink and numerous MetroBus routes at the Civic Center Station make this route a practical option for traveling around Downtown Saint Louis.

The Downtown Trolley was introduced two years ago today and I’ve used it often in that time. Tourists use it as well to get from their hotel to different spots like City Museum and America’s Center. Conventional buses are intimidating to many but the cartoonish wrap, colorful signs for stops and simple route map put people at ease. The #99 Downtown Circulator bus that did a similar loop before the Downtown Trolley debuted didn’t have the same level of ridership.

Since many bus lines don’t go east of 14th Street many local transit riders have to take the #99 to reach their final destination. But when it began service it didn’t operate on Sundays, which presented challenges to locals and tourists in town on Sunday. Last month Sunday service was added.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Moe says:

    Flexible, no overhead clutter (wires), serves tourist and residents, circular route, wrapped to look like a trolley……U. City could learn a thing or two.

    • Shabadoo says:

      the vast majority of the loop trolley will be in the city of st. louis, not u. city, sorry

  2. RyleyinSTL says:

    Fixed track, overhead wires, serves tourist and residents, circular route, an actual trolley….would grab even more riders, especially tourists.

    • JZ71 says:

      But at what cost?  Remember, EVERY trip is heavily subsidized by the taxpayers!  But, given your hypothesis, that we have additional funds available (which we don’t), I’d vote to triple or quadruple service, from every 12-15 minutes to every 3-5 minutes and I’d make it free to ride – THAT would do a lot more to make it more useable and to “grab even more riders, especially tourists”!

    • msrdls says:

      If the “trolly look” draws in passengers, rather than invest in fixed track, overhead wires, etc etc, why not go 100 percent on the exterior embellishments to make the bus look even more like a trolly?

  3. Tpekren says:

    I believe the trolley look is cheesey, can’t put it any other way, and desired impression is easily accomplished by simply using any color scheme or even different buses that distinguishes the service different from regular service. 

    What should be sought for downtown circular in the immediate future is what JZ71 is suggesting with an add on.  Increase frequency during work hours and events/sporting, find a way to make it free, and improve the circular bus stop locations/surrounding pedesterian/lighting (my add on).  In other words, Tourists want cheap, convenient and safe.  While transit users don’t want to wait 15 minutes to go from one end of downtown to the other only to wait another 15-20 minutes at their connection, etc.

    Where I do think fixed transit has a place is tying surrounding neighborhoods into downtown (Downtown to CWE streetcar) or north south feeders to metrolink spine (Grand streetcar – N/S line).  In other words, where ridership allows fix capital cost to be overcome by cheaper operating costs (Buses drivers are expensive).  I believe some well placed but minimal number of street car lines would be advantageous for St. Louis.  At some point a city has to compete on its strength of promoting density in corridors that are able to retain population, development or see growth in the last decade.  In other parts of the city, You either need to embrace McKee or consolidate and promote non residential/commercial use of vacant land as Detriot is doing.


    • JZ71 says:

      Yes, it’s cheesey, but it also makes it immediately clear, especially to tourists, what it is.  Boulder, for years, has subsidized frequent service with cheesey route names . . . http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8823&Itemid=2989 . . . while Denver has operated free, frequent buses for decades on their 16th Street Mall . . . http://www.rtd-denver.com/FREEMallRide.shtml

      Both justify the costs for increased service for very valid reasons.  Boulder simply wants people to drive less and is committed to providing more-attractive options, while the Mall Shuttle in Denver is an integral part of their transit SYSTEM, tasked with keeping many routes out of the congested downtown area and increasing overall efficiency and decreasing total operating costs.

      The big difference between here and Denver is that Metro has one major transfer station downtown, at 14th & Spruce (the Civic Center), while Denver has two.  If St. Louis invested in a second transfer facility near the Convention Center (6th & Washington), we could better justify frequent shuttle service between the two locations.

      • Tpekren says:

        Agree, My understanding is that a Commuter Express Bus station is going in roughly the area your talking about and assume that is what your suggesting.  Also assume, it is still on tract for happening in the near future but haven’t seen/ready anyting to date.  I for one think a better Express Bus Service is desireable and consistent for St. Louis.  Downtown simply doesn’t have the workforce to justify a fixed commuter service that Chicago, Boston, New York, San Fran or the build out going on in LA.

  4. JZ71 says:

    Here’s a good, self-serving video – http://youtu.be/MgoF0odrJWU – we need to either get Metro, or someone with Metro’s blessing, to point out and build on the positives we have here.  A huge challenge here remains perception – I’m amazed by the number of people who view Metro as not just a second-class option, but something to be avoided at pretty much any cost . . . .


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