Luke W. Henderson, Staff Writer
It seems like University City would forever be debating whether or not the creation of the trolley through The Loop was worth all of the headache or not. The project was continually delayed for years and cost $51 million before it finally launched. When it did, multiple complaints were voiced by the citizens of the trolley for causing traffic delays and hitting vehicles parked along the curb. Personally, I have had my heart skip a beat multiple times during rainy weather when my tires suddenly slip because of the tracks in the road.
The opponents may have been right after all, as more news slowly comes out about the deficiencies of the trolley. Simply put, the trolley is not bringing in enough revenue to justify the cost. Recent reporting from the Riverfront Times states that the trolley would need another $700,000 in order to make it through the end of the year, and another report from KSDK claimed that insiders on the project believe that it may not be enough to keep it open and they wouldn’t be surprised if that money was used to settle the accounts before an inevitable closing.
It’s about time that the city lets this vanity project die, and for the people of St. Louis to stop allowing this drain on the economy to continue. Clearly, it was doomed from the start. The official launch of the trolley was canceled due to snow and its first passage ended early due to a police investigation of a shooting, all of which should have been an omen. Though that was unfortunate, those who had taken the first ride were hopeful that the trolley would show younger generations how the older ones had gotten around. The question is if nostalgia is enough reason to keep resuscitating a project that was on its last leg from the beginning.
The business owners who had to deal with the 18 months of construction should be absolutely furious that the trolley would last only a year. When the special transit district tax was passed in 2008, increasing sales taxes to 12%, it caused a strain on businesses and caused some to leave or take huge hits. The Big Shark Bicycles shop had to close due to the lack of parking from construction and increased taxes. The Al-Tarboush deli saw their sales cut nearly in half during this time. University City even doled out loans to some businesses if they agreed to stay in the Loop for another three years during the construction. The district would see Rocket Fizz, Doughocracy, Snarf’s, Phoenix Rising, Wong’s Wok and Loop Living Furniture all close later in 2018. Frankly, if I had owned a business with promises of a reinvigorated shopping culture and more customers, I would be angry and not give the trolley company a single dime.
The fact is that the trolley just isn’t making the revenues or living up to the dreams of those who supported it. Back in March, the St. Louis Business Journal reported that in the first four months of operation, the trolley had only sold $8,000 worth of tickets when it requires nearly $8,300 a month. Anyone who would continue to fight for this lame horse may be relying too much on ideals and not willing to face the reality. The trolley will never be able to generate the money to keep its promises and it’s time to let it go.