Just in time for the holidays, the Loop Trolley had its first full weekend of operation beginning Nov. 23.
“It was as exciting as could be to see people riding the trolley and enjoying it,” Joe Edwards said. He is the local businessman who backed the project and is the chairman of the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District (TDD). The Loop Trolley TDD owns the line, trolley cars and manages the project.
With delay upon delay, this has been a long time coming. After multiple start date delays and interminable waiting for local, state and federal officials to cut through red tape, this autumn continued the Loop Trolley Company’s frustration.
During testing, trolley cars struck parked vehicles along Delmar Boulevard, one in October and one Nov. 13. After multiple delays, the project that began in March 2015 was finally slated to open on Nov. 15. Mother Nature had other ideas. Three to five inches of snow froze out the ribbon-cutting.
The following day, the trolley opened but only in St. Louis City. According to the Gregory Rose, city manager for University City, the two trolley cars could not enter the city due to an incomplete punch list of issues needed for a conditional-use permit, two of them critical.
First, Rose said the Loop Trolley Company failed to provide a $300,000 bond for University City to use to pay for track and electric line demolition and Delmar Boulevard’s restoration if the trolley project permanently stops operating.
Second, the trolley company erected an electrical pole near the University City Library that concerned Rose and other city officials as a potential safety hazard to drivers.
Trolley company officials spent the weekend before Thanksgiving correcting the crucial issues. They agreed on Nov. 19 to pay University City the bond money the city council initially requested in 2013 and reminded the trolley company leadership about via a letter in January 2017. The city of St. Louis did not require a similar bond from the trolley company.
Just before Turkey Day, the trolley company received clearance for its cars to use the entire 2.2-mile line through University City’s Loop District, starting Nov. 23. Rose green-lighted the project after temporary barriers went up around the potentially worrisome utility pole. The other seven issues on the list, which range from sealing cracks to installing pavers to aid disabled access at certain points, will be corrected after full operations begin, Rose added.
After the trolley’s first full weekend of operation, the frustration is gone, according to Joe Edwards.
“I am so happy,” Edwards said. “Things went beautifully over the weekend with the Loop Trolley.”
The trolley company offered free service all day Nov. 24 as part of Small Business Saturday while passengers paid fares on Nov. 23 and 25.
Edwards said no issues had been reported during the holiday weekend, citing the staff members’ preparation and hard work to make the trolley’s first, full opening weekend “seamless.” He described Nov. 23 as “very, very busy” and Nov. 24 as “really, really busy.”
People who boarded the trolley cars expecting to see a sterile, utilitarian environment were surprised to find two-toned woodwork and brass fittings onboard, Edwards said.
Currently, the trolley offers partial service, running Thursdays through Sundays. Times are from noon to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays and noon to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. A third trolley car will join the first two next spring, allowing for expanded trolley service.
Edwards said his dream now is to expand the trolley service to connect more area neighborhoods. Off the top of his head, he listed the rest of Forest Park, the Central West End, Grand Center and Downtown St. Louis as places he’d like to see the trolley connect in the future.
The 2.2-mile, $51 million line provides service between western terminus of the Delmar Loop in U. City and the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.
To ride the trolley purchase a ticket at a vending machine located at any of the 10 platform stations. Standard tickets are $2 for a two-hour fare and $5 for an all-day fare. A 50 percent reduced rate is available for seniors, age 65 and older; individuals with disabilities; and children age 5-12 with an adult. For more details, visit www.looptrolley.com.