LISTEN: Joe Edwards still has faith the Loop Trolley will survive

Politicians react to news the trolley needs more taxpayer money

Kevin Killeen
October 14, 2019 - 5:48 pm

UNIVERSITY CITY, MO (KMOX) - The Loop Trolley believers and doubters are reacting to news that the struggling tourist train wants $700,000 to keep running.

Operators of the two-mile trolley that runs from Forest Park to the Delmar Loop say they need $200,000 by November and another $500,000 for next year to continue operating.

"It's tricky, it's a tricky time," said Trolley Booster Joe Edwards of Blueberry Hill, "One thing about St. Louis, we don't give up on our sports teams, even if it looks dire."

Edwards believes the trolley can become self-sustaining once the third car is up and running, once ridership improves, once corporate sponsors arrive, once it can be better promoted, and once revenues rise from the transportation tax district.

"We didn't give up on our Arch grounds getting done, even though that came in quite a bit more and several years later, or Ballpark Village took a long time because the Great Recession hit," Edwards said.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says he's "willing to listen" and hear what the Loop Trolley company wants, but stressed he's remaining neutral for now.

"I would be open to considering more funding for the trolley, once I see a long-term, comprehensive plan for how it's going to remain solvent in the future--and I haven't seen that yet," Page said.

Councilman Mark Harder has already made up his mind.

"I think it's laughable. He tried this before, about a year, year-and-a-half ago, and we didn't even consider it; we're not going to consider it now," Harder says "the feds" ought to look into how the trolley has spent the money it already was given.

Councilwoman Lisa Clancy says the suddenness of the request to get more funding to stay operational raises several questions. 

"What's their business model from the beginning? And why are they falling so short on where they are right now?" Clancy said. "And what's going to be done to make it better, so that in the long term it's a sustainable project and there's a good return on investment?"

Councilman Tim Fitch was the first to announce the shortfall over the weekend, saying he would oppose giving more county taxpayer money to the project.

Edwards blames the shortfall on the cascading effect of not having a third trolley car delivered on time. That, he says, caused disruptions in service when one of the two remaining cars had to be sidetracked.  That, he says, frustrated passengers and hurt ridership numbers. That, he says, scared away corporate sponsors.

The third car arrived in January and has been undergoing "safety testing," Edwards said.  

Consumer Watchdog Tom Sullivan has been a critic of the Loop Trolley from the start.

"Well, it's not much of a surprise. The Loop Trolley has been having problems all along," Sullivan said, "All you have to do is watch the trolley going up and down Delmar and many days there's nobody on it. Problem is there not having riders, and if you don't have riders, you can't sell tickets."

Ever the optimist, Edwards believes the Loop Trolley can survive its rough start. 

"I'm hoping everybody can pull together," Edwards said.

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