Bi-State committees turn down Loop Trolley

Bi-State committees turn down Loop Trolley

DOWNTOWN – A vote taken Friday leaves greater doubt whether the Loop Trolley will ever ride again.

A motion in a combined meeting of two subcommittees of the Bi-State Development Agency’s Board of Commissioners to send a plan for the agency to operate the troubled trolley system to the full board died for lack of a second.

After the vote, Bi-State President and CEO Taulby Roach said he planned to move on after the committees’ members made their views clear.

He said he had been asked to look at how Bi-State could work with a troubled transit system. The Combined Operations and Audit, Finance & Administration Committees have made a decision, Roach said.  

“That decision is for me to no longer move forward on it,” Roach said.

As for whether the Loop Trolley now is dead, Roach said, “I am not the coroner.” But, he said, “As far as Taulby Roach is concerned, I’m not working on it.”

Built with about $36 million in Federal Transit Administration grant money, the 2.2-mile Loop Trolley from the Delmar Loop to the Missouri History Museum sputtered to a stop at the end of 2019 because actual ridership was far short of what was anticipated.

Should the project completely go into default, it might be harder for Bi-State to get federal transportation grants, Roach said. 

Roach said Bi-State could run the trolley for four more years by using leftover FTA grant money that had been used for different purposes. That would be $1.1 million for operations and $800,000 for capital purposes to improve the existing equipment. 

Members of the joint committee asked whether things would be better after four years and whether the grant money could be used for other purposes. 

Asked whether some capital money could be used for other purposes, Roach said, “It would be accurate to say there would be some opportunities lost.” He said it would be highly unusual to move it to a different purpose, such as security.

Roach said that County Executive Sam Page had reservations about the project but that Mayor Lyda Krewson was willing to write a letter of support.

Roach also said a main goal would be to increase ridership through methods that included increasing service hours.

Mokhtee Ahmad, administrator for the FTA region that includes Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, said it made sense for Bi-State to take over as the transit operator.

Commissioner Rose Wildmiller said she’d rather look at how the project was doing sooner than after four years.

“I would rather know about it after one year and not four,” she said. She made the motion to pass the measure on to the full board. But there was not a second. 

During a comment period, Tom Sullivan, a community activist from St. Louis County, urged the Bi-State commissioners not to go through with the project. 

Sullivan mentioned one weekend when the trolley ran almost empty.

“If it can’t get many riders on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon, when will it ever?” he asked. “The Loop Trolley has never made any sense. It would make even less sense for Bi-State to revive it.”

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