After years of delays and rising costs, the $51 million-dollar Loop Trolley finally opened to the public on Friday. However, passengers who were aboard the Trolley for its maiden voyage didn’t get quite the ride they expected.
One obstacle would have been difficult to predict. A two-car accident along the trolley’s route escalated into a shooting, and in the ensuing investigation police tape blocked the trolley’s path.
The other, longer-term problem involves not police tape but red tape, and should have been recognized and addressed long ago. The 2.2-mile vintage trolley line, which is supposed to transport passengers to and from the Delmar Loop, is only taking them halfway because of a dispute between the Trolley company and University City. According to Gregory Rose, U City’s city manager, the trolley enterprise hasn’t met the conditions required for the permit needed to operate there. U City will be off-limits to the trolley until (1) a $300,000 insurance bond is provided for cleanup efforts if the Trolley fails; and (2) a potentially dangerous electric pole along the route is removed. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the company has been aware of these issues for years. Which raises the question: Why weren’t these problems addressed earlier?
Since its inception nearly a decade ago, the Trolley has been plagued by construction delays and rising costs. It may even be responsible for the closure of numerous business, some of which had been in the Delmar Loop for decades.
Perhaps worst of all is that even if everything had gone smoothly for the trolley, there is little evidence that streetcars spur economic development. Considering the time and money that have been spent, and the revenue lost to local businesses during the construction, we’re long past the point of wondering whether the trolley was a worthwhile investment. The only question now is whether policymakers in St. Louis can learn from their mistakes.