Here’s a Scary Halloween Idea: Restarting the Trolley
Later this month, St. Louis taxpayers will face a spooky scenario just in time for Halloween. Should the Loop Trolley get another $1.3 million of their money?
The East-West Gateway Council of Government’s preliminary plan is to award a $1.3 million federal grant on October 27 to help restart the trolley (the East-West Gateway already has the federal grant money but is still making final decisions on how to spend it). The trolley has already received $51 million in taxpayer funding but didn’t even last two years because ridership and revenue were less than one-tenth of what was projected.
Members of the East-West Gateway board must remember that this is the same trolley organization that comes back to taxpayers in different costumes every year asking for more candy—er . . . money. Some years the disguise is construction delays; some years it’s money to get more cars on the tracks.
The costumes this year are congestion mitigation and air quality, but these new costumes aren’t any more convincing.
For the trolley to relieve traffic, Delmar Loop shoppers traveling from miles away must stop their cars just short of their destination and take the Loop Trolley for the final two miles of their trip rather than driving the last two miles and parking closer. Shoppers simply haven’t been willing to do this, as poor ridership numbers attest. More to the point, anyone who drove on Delmar Boulevard when the trolley was still running knows that a gigantic train car sharing the road with cars driving and parking only creates more confusion and congestion, not less.
Since the trolley runs on electricity it may in theory improve local air quality, and supposedly the trolley scored well on an East-West Gateway greenhouse gas emissions reductions test. But claiming that the trolley is going to significantly reduce emissions seems questionable. An electric trolley only reduces transportation emissions if it gets people out of their cars. Moreover, don’t forget how that electricity is generated—coal. Given that coal emits much more greenhouse gases than gasoline per unit of energy, the trolley would have to get a lot of people out of their cars to make even a slight difference.
If backers of the trolley really want to start the party again, securing funding from private investors would be much better than handing out tax dollars this Halloween.
Until this happens, however, maybe the most appropriate costume for the trolley is a zombie.