Saint Louis Streetcars Making a Comeback?
In the first half of the 20th century, Saint Louis boasted an extensive system of streetcars, which were slowly wiped out by the private automobile in the later 1940s and 1950s. One of the last profitable streetcar lines in the area served the Delmar Loop (so named because it was where the streetcar looped around), and it may be making a return:
[A] federal grant […] could finally make a long-sought streetcar route a reality.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today a $293 million investment in transportation projects around the country, including $24 million for a two-mile trolley line that would run between Forest Park and the University City Loop. […]
Supporters of the Loop trolley have said it could cost between $45 million and $55 million, with private donations covering the portion not covered by public funds.
I think it’s laudable that a great deal of the trolley’s expenses will be paid for with private funds, but I’m still suspicious of anything that requires federal funds. If it’s such a great idea for everyone involved, why can’t all the money be raised from Loop merchants and other donations or, if a government entity has to be involved, University City? Costs aside, I have a number of other reservations about the project.
Driving on Delmar between Skinker and Kingsland is already a nightmare, and I’m pretty sure a slow-moving trolley would make matters even worse. If the trolley only ran in the Loop itself, that wouldn’t be such a huge issue because people wishing to bypass the area already know how, but it will also be running up Delmar to DeBaliviere and from there to the art museum. Those are both pretty major thoroughfares, so the trolley could cause traffic to pile up, which will cut into any environmental benefit it might have.
Furthermore, this area is already overserved by rail. Anyone wishing to travel from Forest Park to the Loop can do so quite easily by hopping on the MetroLink, as the Loop Trolley Project’s own website shows. Granted, MetroLink can’t drop you off every block, but the entire Loop is only about seven blocks long, which is hardly a long walk from one end to another.
Finally, if trolley riders aren’t brought to the area by other forms of mass transit, they will have to park and ride. The Loop has a large parking lot, which is often near capacity as it is, but I am not sure where people wishing to ride from Forest Park are supposed to park their cars. Without more parking capacity, I don’t see how the line can attract enough riders to make it worthwhile, but I don’t know where they will put more parking.
I don’t think any of these points show definitively that the Loop Trolley is a bad idea, but they are questions that should be addressed before we start lavishing tax dollars on the plan.