St. Louis — Trolleys To Go Project Description
GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN
Not that many years ago, big, colorful
vehicles roamed the streets of St. Louis. They helped build our city—and our
suburbs, and helped to build the style of life we live to this day. Today
the memory of those trolley cars fades and the myths about them multiply.
Not for long. Streetcars are experiencing a dramatic comeback all over our
country, and a new line is planned for Delmar and DeBaliviere in Univerity
City and western St. Louis.
There are extraordinarily good reasons
to bring back streetcars. Hopefully this text will dispel some of the myths
and answer the questions which many people are asking.
In their heyday, streetcars did much
more than just provide transportation. That they did very efficiently. They
also carried the mail allowing people to communicate faster before
telephones and the internet. Before air conditioning they let people take
cooling evening rides. Before television they let people attend all sorts of
entertainments, such as amusement parks, skating rinks, movies, world's
fairs, and more. Trolley crews often were neighbors who provided a sort of
neighborhood watch, especially keeping an eye on children, who had much
greater access to streets. Streetcars made large downtown stores and offices
possible. They also opened up the suburbs. There were party cars and funeral
cars. Streetcars took you to church, to visit grandma, to work, to shop, to
social gatherings and home again.
Since the last streetcars disappeared
here in 1966, perhaps a good starting p1ace is some terminology. A streetcar
is an urban rail vehicle which usually runs in city streets or near them in
medians, etc. Horse cars, cable cars (à la San Francisco) and trolley cars
are all streetcars. Trolley cars are electric streetcars. Light rail
vehicles are, more or less, trolley cars, all grown up and with a modern
The Delmar Loop district is a vibrant,
vital area of unique shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. It is near
Washington University and abounds with students. University City is a high
density residential area with large beautiful homes and with a great many
distinctive apartment buildings.
The Loop District, which took its name
from the streetcars which used to turn around there (10-Delmar, 05-Creve
Coeur), however, is not without problems. Traffic is dense, slow and
irritating. Parking is sometimes impossible. The district is also bursting
at the seams, needing an appropriate way to expand.
One of the major reasons to bring
streetcars to this area is the mitigation of both traffic and parking
problems. Because the streetcars will link the Loop District with the Delmar
MetroLink station, the area will effectively pick up thousands of free
parking spaces—those at MetroLink’s park-n-ride lots. As St. Louisans have
already demonstrated, they will leave their autos behind when comfortable,
convenient transport is available. It is anticipated that thousands of
people will park their cars and use the combination of MetroLink and the new
trolley line to access the loop.
Just east of University City, in western
St. Louis, Delmar enters an area that is somewhat blighted. These blocks are
ideal for loop expansion so another of the things the new line is expected
to do is attract economic development to this area. In other cities new
trolleys have done exactly this. Developers recognize that new
infrastructure required for the streetcars is a major community investment
and commitment, and they literally jump at chances to invest in such areas.
In Portland, for instance, where a new streetcar line began running in 2002,
there are already $18 dollars of new investment along the trolley’s route
for each $1 of public investment in the streetcar line.
Our entire region will see other
benefits. For instance, the ability of a streetcar line to attract tourists
is simply amazing. Kenosha, Wisconsin opened a new trolley line in 2001, and
within a year it was the number one tourist attraction in its county. San
Francisco has attracted billions of tourist dollars with its streetcars,
both trolley car and cable car and is today expanding their trolley system,
buying vintage cars everywhere they can.
After MetroLink opened, the East-West
Gateway Coordinating Council began looking for ideas to improve the
neighborhood around Delmar station and more conveniently link it with the
Delmar Loop District. At that point Joe Edwards, whose reputation of helping
the Loop District to revive and thrive is remarkable, conceived the idea of
the streetcar line.
WHERE ARE WE AND HOW DID WE GET HERE?
A few years ago Bi-State Development
Agency, our community transit operator now called METRO, was persuaded to do
a feasibility study to see if the trolley idea had merit. Two years and
$200,000 later, the study came back—a streetcar line would indeed be
feasible and is likely to directly improve traffic and parking in the loop,
is likely to be a catalyst for economic development in the blighted area,
and is likely to be a very big success with tourists. Bi-State put their
stamp of approval on the plan, but said they didn’t have the money to build
the line and turned to project over to Citizens for Modern Transit, the
transit lobbyists group whose campaign for MetroLink got it built.
After many planning sessions with
community leaders, streetcar experts and others, CMT created a new “entity”
to get the job done, the Loop Trolley Company. Joe Edwards, due to his
reputation for getting things done, was asked to be its president.
Loop Trolley has been working ever since
to bring all the pieces together and make it happen. Here's the plan.
The new Loop Trolley line will have a
route just over two miles long. It will consist mostly of double track in
the street and will start in front of the University City Hall at Trinity
and Delmar. From there it will proceed east through the Loop District, serve
the Delmar MetroLiilk Station, continue east to DeBaliviere and then turn
south. It will run on to the Forest Park MetroLink station, cross the
Parkway and Lindell Blvd, enter Forest Park and make a wide loop around the
This line will be a real streetcar line,
not little buses in trolley disguise. It will have real tracks and real
overhead wire for power. The cars will most likely be a combination of brand
new streetcars built just for this service; cars with air conditioning,
wheel chair lifts and thoroughly modern motors, controllers, brakes, and
other equipment, but the look will be built to actual streetcar designs from
the turn of the last century. Some will be actual vintage cars which have
been painstakingly restored.
The fleet will probably consist of 8
cars which will run seven days a week, providing very real transportation
service for the area. Cars will ply the streets every fifteen minutes during
heavy periods, less at slow times. Crews will be a combination of volunteer
workers and paid staff. All will be thoroughly trained.
Map of the proposed Loop Trolley prepared by Trolleys To Go.
MORE ABOUT THE ROUTE
The new streetcar line, which will be a
real trolley line using modern methods and materials but using vintage and
replica streetcars, will begin in front of the University City Hall. A small
loop with a layover track will allow cars to turn around here.
Trinity Loop Area
This portion of the line consists of
large, historic buildings, such as University City’s city hall building, the
library, several churches, the Lion Gates, the St. Louis Symphony School of
Music, CASA. The last two are large concert halls/theaters which often
attract performances at the same time and which can attract 1500 or more
people for those performances. Parking is at a premium, especially when both
major venues have performances on the same evenings.
Kingsland to Skinker Area
This section contained the “old” Delmar
Loop which gave the district its name. The entire district to Skinker is a
vibrant area of restaurants, unique shops, arts and entertainment venues,
professional offices and much more. It is a heavily populated area with
dense housing, condos, and apartments. Washington University is to the
immediate south and the area literally “crawls” with college students.
Sidewalk cafes abound and the street scene is robust and “electric.” There
is much historic restoration including the beautiful Tivoli Theater. This
stretch of Delmar is plagued with heavy, clogged traffic and has a definite
East of Skinker
Until recently considered blighted, this
portion of Delmar is now marked by major new construction and restoration.
The new Pageant (3500 seats) live concert theater is one of the most popular
in the entire Midwest. This area is rapidly providing space vitally needed
for “loop district” expansion. New shops and offices are filling in between
long existing businesses and the area is definitely looking up but
additional economic stimulus is highly desirable.
Hodiamont to Debaliviere
Now blighted but improving, the new
trolley line is expected to be a major catalyst for the continued economic
development of this area, a nicely rehabbed neighborhood of residences,
apartments, small businesses, restaurants, and more. Again, an economic
catalyst would be welcome in this area. Additionally, convenient
transportation to the Loop area and to Forest Park will be a boon to the
residents of this beautiful neighborhood.
St. Louis’ extremely well liked light
rail system serves about 55,000 riders per day. Delmar Station is a major
station about midway from Lambert International Airport and downtown St.
Louis. The line continues across the Mississippi for another 21 miles to
Scott AFB/Shiloh. The new trolley will provide a convenient, safe,
comfortable link between MetroLink and the Loop District.
The Forest Park Station now serves the
original MetroLink line but will soon also be the “first” stop new Cross
County Line which is now under construction. The new line will link Clayton
and, Shrewsbury and other county communities with MetroLink, downtown,
Illinois, the Airport and more. The new trolley line will also link these
areas to Forest Park and to the Loop District.
History Museum, Muny & Forest Park
The Missouri Historical Society Museum
is a multimillion dollar major traffic generator within walking distance of
Muny, a popular summer theater with 12,000 seats. It is also the gateway to
Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in America and full of
attractions and institutions such as the Zoo. The new streetcar line will
follow the new circular road around the museum's new expansion area, forming
a loop and the end of the line. A separate proposal suggests a single track
extension from this loop to the area near the bandstand in front of Muny,
allowing easy access during their season, but this proposal has not been
included in plans at this time.
That is the new line in a nutshell. But
there is much yet to tell. Here is a minor discussion of some of the
benefits you can expect if the line is built.
Starting in the Trinity Loop area, two
major entertainment venues generate a great deal of traffic—and parking
problems. The Loop Trolley will allow people to park anywhere in the
district or at any MetroLink Park and Ride lot, thus making their evening
more pleasant and reducing both traffic and parking congestion.
Likewise, MetroLink's thousands of
parking spaces become Loop District parking spaces when people leave their
cars and enjoy the area’s restaurants, theaters and more. St. Louisans have
already demonstrated their willingness to do this provided MetroLink is
going their way. The trolley will simply be a new “arm” for MetroLink,
extending its reach. Not just those using it will benefit. Every car left
behind reduces both street congestion and parking.
One more reason this line is important
is its ability to attract economic development money to those areas along
the route which need it. Developers love real streetcar lines as the
infrastructure is proof to them that the community has committed itself to
long range development. Real streetcars are money magnets which other cities
have discovered bring serious recovery to blighted neighborhoods, attract
new businesses and create new jobs and tax revenue. Everyone benefits as
schools, zoos, streets, etc., all have more.
Streetcars are not just transportation,
they are tourist attractions. Money flows into areas with real streetcars as
tourists flock to the areas they serve. Trolleys are currently attracting
hundreds of millions of tourism dollars across the nation. The new line here
will help St. Louis receive its share.
No track will be laid in the streets
until the new Cross County MetroLink line opens in 2005. Construction of the
light-rail has several major streets closed and the Loop Trolley Company
does not wish to interfere with the detoured traffic and make the problem
worse. Additionally, not all of the necessary money is in place, so the
project may start even later than 2005 while the finances are accumulated.
WILL IT WORK
All signs are that the new streetcar
line will accomplish all that its planners claim, and then some. In other
cities trolleys are making a real come back and doing just the things that
are hoped for this line. For instance in Memphis, after their first new
streetcar line was built several years ago, the community was so happy, they
built a second new line. Today their third streetcar line is ready to open.
In the areas the first two lines run, the trolley cars have been a money
magnet, drawing investment along their routes and causing the neighborhood
to go from “tentative” to “trendy.” Tourist dollars are way up. So are
restoration and new construction projects, jobs, and tax revenue.
Tampa opened a new line in 2003, but
found that long before the line was ready to run, anticipated economic
development of the area was advancing at a pace much greater than expected.
Ridership is also much greater than predicted and the line is making a
profit. There are similar success stories all over the U.S.
THE STREETCAR MYTH
Many people today believe that
streetcars disappeared from America because they were slow, noisy and did
not do a good job. Nothing could be further than the truth. There is a
demonstration streetcar line at the Museum of Transportation in Kirkwood
which anyone may ride on weekends from April through October. One ride on
the modern (1947) “streamliner” streetcar will prove the cars had plenty of
power and speed. For safety reasons, the car is never run very fast, but
amongst passengers the most common exclamation heard as the car starts up is
"Wow—feel that power."
Streetcars died in most cities for a
combination of reasons, mostly stupidity! For instance, streetcars were
asked to do much more than just pay for themselves. In St. Louis, the city
taxed the tracks, the cars, the overhead, the power plants, each passenger,
and overall income. The trolley company was also required to pave the
streets in which they ran as well as clear those streets of snow, keep them
clean and water them in the summer to keep dust down. All those costs killed
streetcars, because buses had no such requirements, the companies switched.
Europe did not abandon trolleys (what
they usually call trams) but kept up research and improvements. America
threw away the technology, but in Europe development continued. Today
state-of-the-art cars wisk crowds around big cities with ease and in
comfort. We are just now starting to realize the folly of the 1950s and
rebuild what we once had—great, modern, fast, nonpolluting, comfortable,
ABOUT TROLLEYS TO GO
Trolleys To Go is a nonprofit Missouri
membership organization providing grass roots support for the Loop trolley
project. The Loop Trolley Company, also nonprofit, will be the actual
builder and operator of the project. The Loop Trolley Company is a
subsidiary of Citizens for Modem Transit (CMT) another nonprofit
corporation. The details appearing in this brochure are from various sources
and there are likely to be differences as the project is engineered and
constructed. Remember, nothing is definite until the “final engineering” is
complete and the contractor has built it. Some of the features on this map
are proposed but not found in the feasibility study completed for the
Bi-State Development Agency (Metro) in 2002. As the plan matures, you will
be able to stay updated on the Trolleys To Go web site: www.TrolleysToGo.org. Trolleys To
Go does not represent or speak for either The Loop Trolley Company nor
Citizens for Modem Transit but we do support both organizations efforts to
bring streetcars back to this area. We sincerely hope that you will join
Trolleys To Go in our effort to help bring streetcars back to St. Louis.