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St. Louis Streetcar: Proposed Trolley to Connect CWE, Midtown, Downtown and North City

Image-StreetcarOliveRailway.jpg
Downtown STL
Streetcars on Olive Street? Maybe in a few years.
St. Louis took longer than most cities to abandon the streetcar, finally choosing buses and cars over trams in 1966.

But streetcars are making a comeback, and we don't just mean in the Loop. As more people move into cities and look for public-transit options, Kansas City, Seattle, San Antonio, Portland, Atlanta and Detroit have all recently launched streetcar projects.

Now, organizers are working to bring a modern streetcar line to the city of St. Louis, connecting the Central West End, midtown and downtown along the central corridor and extending up into old north city.

Image-StreetcarArchKiener.jpg
Downtown STL
Here's what the St. Louis Streetcar could look like downtown.
A new trolley line doesn't come cheap; the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis released a feasibility study estimating the capital cost of building a street car at between $218 million and $271 million, depending on streetscaping.

Craig Heller, president of the St. Louis Streetcar Company, says organizers are looking for federal dollars to finance most of the project, which means rounds of studies and impact statements before breaking ground.

"If you want to get this thing built and get it done with the help of the federal government's money, you have to follow this step first, have a study," Heller tells Daily RFT. "Then you can apply for the real dollars to actually build the thing. You can't just walk in and say, 'Hey, we're going to do this thing. We need $100 million of your money.'"

See also: Loop Trolley Project Slapped with Second Lawsuit

Heller says organizers are fundraising for a $1 million environmental-impact report to investigate the social, economic, environmental and engineering impacts of the streetcar on the city.

"We're waiting to hear when federal dollars might be becoming available and working locally to raise dollars for that match," Heller says.

The idea for the city streetcar came when Saint Louis University moved its law school from midtown to downtown, according to Railway Age Magazine. What started as a discussion about shuttle buses for SLU students evolved into an idea for a city-wide tram.

The five-mile, east-west track would run through the middle of downtown's Kiener Plaza, along Olive Street and Lindell Boulevard through Grand Center and to the Central West End MetroLink station. Another two miles of track will run north from downtown along 14th Street and North Florissant Avenue to St. Louis Avenue.

Image-StreetcarCWE.jpg
Downtown STL
A future view of the Central West End?
St. Louis' other big trolley project, the Loop Trolley, has been fraught with delays and lawsuits, but Heller says he's not too concerned his project will face the same hiccups.

"The Loop Trolley is a little different than our effort," he says. "We have a really good dialogue with the Federal Transit Authority. They know it is a very sound project from a financial standpoint and from the ridership numbers. The important thing at this point is to make sure our efforts are closely aligned or in sync with how they like to see things done."

Last year's feasibility study estimates the St. Louis Streetcar would serve 7,700 -- high for U.S. standards -- adding more than 2,000 new riders to the city's public-transit system. Streetcars would cost St. Louis $9.7 million each year in operating costs.

Heller says there's no clear timetable for this project, but the feasibility study names 2018 as a possible opening date.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.


My Voice Nation Help
60 comments
David544
David544

A part of me says that anything that adds mass transit options is good. And I believe a Trolley does indeed draw new users that wouldn't choose to ride buses. And I like trolleys and have fond memories of riding steetcars in New Orleans.

But, with the price tags for installing trolleys and light rail (Metrolink), so much could be done to improve the bus system for those that actually need and use mass transit regularly. Metro can't afford to increase the frequency of the Grand bus line even though it is constantly busy and often too packed during peak times to fit those that are at stops.

Daniel Knoll
Daniel Knoll

or ..they could just make buses that look cooler...

Lucy Montano Martini
Lucy Montano Martini

foolish b/c think of all the wildlife with all the hwy and byways and trains all up and down and all around also noise pollution, cost... not to mention the wild mustangs :-(

Christopher Schmidt
Christopher Schmidt

Waste of money, maybe expand metrolink to deep west county and st. Charles too

egolterman
egolterman

Yes Schoemehl's folly will deliver more people to the box offices of the the Fox

and Powell Hall at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars the way a $40 million trolley will  take people from Forest Park to Blueberry Hill. Too much concentration of power and money. Better deal for the region-transportation wise is to re-establish METRO express to MUNY, the greatest outdoor theater in America, at no cost, to serve the people of north and south city and county and to eliminate 3000 to 4000 vehicles a night from the Park. And a 13 weeks MUNY draws 900,000. Downtown, at no cost, maximize Kiel Opera House to 400 shows and concerts and a few special events a year, which maximizes the largest intermodal ground transportation hub in the region a block to the south. That helps Union Station.

Samuel Cody Krug
Samuel Cody Krug

Isn't that what the metro link for. For tax dollars gone.

Emily Peck
Emily Peck

How about they improve the crappy transportation we already got! Idk....

Krystol D. Trice
Krystol D. Trice

I think it's great to go to North City, CWE and Downtown. I wish it would go to South City and county too.

Jeremy Schierhoff
Jeremy Schierhoff

Many peeps who have posted here should learn the history of their city. Trollys used to run everywhere. You drive over many of the old tracks everyday as they were just paved over. Grow up. Many cities are paying millions replacing what they once had.

Rebecca Bolte
Rebecca Bolte

Can we name our trolly something as equally awesome as Seattle's South Lake Union Trolly, or the SLUT? Because I don't know about you, but I love to ride the SLUT.

Frankie Z Cammarata
Frankie Z Cammarata

All the comments about the North Side are ridiculous. I seriously doubt any of you idiots that commented have 1/10 of a clue about what the North side is truly like. I grew up in Clayton/Ladue, & have lived on the Old North Side for 12 years of my life.... since '07 recently, & I can honestly say that 1/2 the illegal shit I see happen is white ppl from the County acting like idiots, because they think its ok down here..., all while the city spends a majority of its resources in, lets say, the lighter areas of town. When you get on here, & regurgitate that sterotype, it just shows how clueless you are

Andy Crossett
Andy Crossett

We have to start somewhere. There is clearly a need to connect downtown and west end. Its a no brainer. And it should run on the streets. This will solidify the urban core. Then next steps can be taken.

Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson

Good thing. When I was a kid in the '50's, my mom and I would go around on the trolley all day. Shopping at Famous, chicken salad at Stix, Sax, Montaldo's, it was a wonderful thing, no parking necessary.

Bryan Young
Bryan Young

Yeah. Maybe they should start by improving and expanding the mostly worthless Metro system we already have.

Stephen Freuler
Stephen Freuler

Cool, i guess people don't like their car side-mirrors

Zach Denney
Zach Denney

perhaps they should expand that metrolink.

Angelo Olegna
Angelo Olegna

I love how they keep expanding a trolley line that doesn't exist yet. Maybe they should, like, start building at some point.

Tom Sincox Jr
Tom Sincox Jr

They'll be a huge gang war over who has control over it

Todd Walk
Todd Walk

I'd rather join just KC, Seattle, and Portland, and get a well-supported MLS team with a downtown stadium

Tim Brown
Tim Brown

Haha, not a chance in Hell I'm taking that Trolley ride North.

Roxie Gioia
Roxie Gioia

Well they just gave7 million to Laclede Gas to move 2 blocks...

Kenny Bollwerk
Kenny Bollwerk

Kacey Wayne Richmond Hampton reliable transportation in St. Louis that actually takes you somewhere? NO WAY!?

Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson

"Streetcars would cost St. Louis $9.7 million each year in operating costs." - Whatever, just don't ask people outside of the city to pay extra taxes for it. Good luck.

Ashley Hughes
Ashley Hughes

Absolutely NOTHING could go wrong. I guess I won't be so upset about them skipping the south side.

Tim Brown
Tim Brown

Oh come on, it's good times on the North side, what could possibly happen?

Couch Pig
Couch Pig

yeah some community pillar will get to embezzle more money for their company.....

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

of course not. think of how many hubcaps they'd lose.

Tictic Bump
Tictic Bump

Great. My only complaint with the MetroLink was that it never went to North City...

Shakey
Shakey

Is this called Metrolink?

wump
wump

this story is like a year old, good work RFT!

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Shut the fuck up

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

A person with a fucking brain would see that this does just that.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Maybe you could get a life and shut the fuck up?? Jesus you fucking assholes are predictable.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

what the fuck are you talking about you gluttonous fat fuck?

optinstl
optinstl

People who have never been to North St Louis make me laugh. 

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Do cunts like yourself ever get fucking sick of hearing yourselves bitching and moaning over your 'precious tax dollars'? Jesus you fuckers are predictable and boring. Stay the fuck in your boring suburbs fuckstick, and we WILL get some of your tax $ and you WILL fucking like it.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

What's the problem ashley? You afraid it might be too easy to access some of that big black cock that resides up there? Riddle me that you ignorant slut.

optinstl
optinstl

It still won't.  This is not a Metrolink. This street car will take 271. million of federal funds, basically what Metro's operating budget is for a year, minus rider revenues.  It only goes two miles to Old North, which, despite the stupid comments about North St Louis, is one of the most integrated (and actually probably most white) of northside communties.  One of my favorite things to do in Old North is watch the parade of white county people going to Crown Candy, looking terrified as they run to and from their cars to get those $9 BLT's.  There is crime there, but it is a really safe neighborhood, especially for pedestrians and transit riders.  Car break ins do happen at night, but if you don't have a car...

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Good luck keeping your stupid thoughts to yourself fuckwad

optinstl
optinstl

@jaco1175 You are HILARIOUS.  Do you actually have anything real to say? You must work for Bi State of East West Gateway Council.

optinstl
optinstl

@jaco1175 You must love getting up the ass from the government.  Or maybe you don't pay taxes so you don't know.  You are hilarious though.  You must have NO LIFE at all. 

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