The long-awaited, much-cursed and hopefully-anticipated Loop Trolley is in operation.
Loop business owner Joe Edwards has been the unflagging booster of the 2.2-mile trolley line that runs from near Kingsland and Delmar in University City to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.
Edwards agreed to join me for my first ride on the trolley. We each figured out the ticket kiosk – Joe paid his $2 cash and I used a credit card. Two dollars buys a two-hour pass. Five bucks lets riders use the line for the whole day.
We waited in front of Fitz’s for about 15 minutes for the freshly painted red and cream car 001. The vintage car, originally built by the American Car Company in St. Louis had served Portland, Oregon. It, along with the other four cars that will serve the line, was refurbished in Iowa. Each car will have its own color scheme, said Edwards.
The 001 appeared to be the only trolley operating that day. Inside the car, we were shown how to swipe our tickets. The two-toned hardwood seats with brass finishings were lovely. And the car hummed smoothly over the embedded steel rails.
Edwards said the idea for the trolley was born at a Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood meeting in 1997.
The process has been a long one, involving formation of the Loop Trolley Transportation District, approvals and/or funding from the state of Missouri, the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and University City, Metro Transit and more. The project has survived court challenges as well.
“The Missouri Supreme Court said we had done everything correctly,” said Edwards.
As we ride, Edwards points out a building laced with scaffolding at 6160 Delmar. It will be home to Edward’s next project. Magic Mini Golf will include an indoor mini-golf course, shuffleboard courses and a 16-foot Ferris wheel..
He notes the vacant Wabash station that he hopes will become a combined MetroLink station and trolley stop. The new Loop Trolley Company headquarters building is at Hamilton and Delmar and includes a free 90-space public parking lot. On DeBaliviere, Edwards proudly points out the 100 new trees that have been planted and other revitalization planned for the street.
During the 4-minute stop at the History Museum, other trolley passengers recognize Edwards with his trademark silver-gray pony tail and ask to have their photos taken with him. He graciously receives their accolades.
“There is room for lots of types of transportation in St. Louis and this is one of them,” said Edwards, who points out that fewer young people are choosing to drive cars.
He hopes for eventual public support to extend the trolley line to the new Centene complex in Clayton and for it to loop through Forest Park, into the Central West End and perhaps to Grand Center and downtown.
Edwards believes the trolley will be a contributing catalyst for large conventions to choose St. Louis.
“St. Louis is poised for a comeback,” exclaimed Edwards. “There are so many great things happening here. Things like Cortex, the new Arch grounds, the refurbished Soldiers Memorial and in neighborhoods like South Grand, Cherokee, the Grove, the Central West End and the Loop.”
At ride’s end, Edwards walks back to the source of his energetic business and civic expansions since 1972, Blueberry Hill restaurant.
The trolley currently operates from noon to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a fun ride!