A plan to keep the Trolley running for four more years under Metro’s guidance received no supporting votes during a recent Bi-State Development Agency (Metro) committee meeting. Metro had spent a month deliberating on the fate of the Trolley, with the recent vote being the latest development.
One part of the proposed plan was to allow riders to use Metro passes to pay for Trolley rides. The plan also would have used the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District (LTTDD) revenue to develop (page 3) a park-and-ride pass program to encourage—or potentially force—Loop business employees to park at a distance and take the trolley to work. If forcing people to park in inconvenient locations is the best way to get people to ride the trolley, that should tell you all you need to know about actual demand for the trolley.
Since this new plan received no support, it will not be sent to the Metro board of directors. Further, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)—the source of the $34 million federal dollars to construct the trolley—has indicated it may sue the trolley’s tax district for $25 million. If the FTA does file suit, several entities that benefited from the federal money, such as St. Louis City and County, the LTTDD, and University City, could be on the hook for repayment.
The threatened lawsuit combined with the trolley closing has Metro concerned about future transportation grants being jeopardized. However, sinking millions of dollars more into the trolley is a poor way to try and save face. Bad projects should be allowed to end to make way for better ones, not kept alongside them.
St. Louis County has reiterated that no additional county funds will be spent on the trolley. The question of what to do will now be passed to the LTTDD. The LTTDD board members that have commented indicated they did not know what would come next, while the mayor of the City of St. Louis would like Bi-State to reconsider. If there is a market-based solution to keep the trolley running, let’s hear it. Until then, no more taxpayer money should be spent.