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Galveston considering restarting trolleys

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by da1, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. da1

    da1 Member

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    Officials ponder return of Galveston trolleys
    By Harvey Rice
    March 2, 2014

    GALVESTON - The fate of the Galveston trolley system, wrecked by Hurricane Ike, is anything but certain as enthusiasm for its return meets skepticism about its cost.

    A decision on whether to revive the trolley system has been slow in coming since the storm immobilized it in 2008, even though about $4 million in federal money is available to do so. Another $6 million in federal funding tied to the trolley line would pay for bus stops, signs and permanent restrooms along the seawall, said John Carrara, senior vice president for the Goodman Corp., the city's transportation consultant.

    The problem is how to pay to keep the trolleys running once the tracks and cars are repaired. A Galveston Park Board committee has come up with a plan for financing that leaves the city responsible for making up any shortfalls.

    The long wait has exasperated officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Transit Administration, according to a report by the Goodman Corp.

    "Both FEMA and the FTA are beginning to question Galveston's resolve to spend the available capital funds and need reassurance if the funds will be used soon," the report said.

    The Galveston Park Board is scheduled to consider a plan at its next meeting to reopen the rail system that connects the Galveston Pleasure Pier and the Galvez Hotel on the seawall with the historic downtown Strand district and the University of Texas Medical Branch. The trolleys have strong backing from UTMB, which is offering to contribute to their maintenance, and the Galveston Hotel and Lodging Association.

    "Everyone is very excited about linking the seawall and the Strand, the Pleasure Pier and Moody Gardens," said association President Paul Schultz, who also is vice president of hospitality for the San Luis Resort and Spa on Seawall Boulevard. Schultz supports the plan because it includes adding rubber-tired trolleys that would serve his hotel and others outside the reach of the steel-rail line.

    Residents' backlash

    If the plan is approved, it will be forwarded to a skeptical City Council.
    "The calls I get from citizens say we need to have our heads examined for (considering) putting the trolleys back," Mayor Lewis Rosen said. Rosen said the trolley system had a record of costly operations before the storm, making him wary about proposals to bring it back.

    Councilwoman Elizabeth Beeton is often at odds with the mayor, but she agrees with him on trolleys. She worries about bleeding money from the existing bus service, funded through grants and general city revenues, to pay for trolleys that may be of little use to residents.

    "This has never worked as part of our public transportation system," Beeton said.

    Park Board Chairman Craig Brown said all transportation systems run at a deficit. The issue is whether the benefit justifies the cost, he said.

    The Goodman report says the trolley system can be maintained by combining fare revenues, annual federal and state subsidies, a percentage of the hotel occupancy tax, a $60,000 annual contribution offered by the University of Texas Medical Branch and the sale of advertising space on the sides of the trolleys, The annual cost would be between $535,000 and $669,000, depending on how many weeks per year the trolleys operate.

    Funding proposal

    A Park Board committee is recommending that the board endorse a plan to spend up to $300,000 annually from the hotel occupancy tax excess funds to operate the trolleys and that the city should make up any remaining deficit.

    The recommendation is contingent on rubber-tire trolleys being added to expand the routes to hotels all along the seawall and to Moody Gardens, which is on the bay side of the island and several miles from downtown.

    The trolley was built in 1987 with federal money and grew in popularity, according to the Goodman report. The line peaked at 112,000 riders annually in 1996, but the ridership declined thereafter as the aging equipment became plagued by mechanical problems.

    "As the vehicle problems worsened, it became increasingly difficult to provide reliable service, keep all vehicles in service, and provide accurate schedule information to the public," the report said. Ridership eventually dropped to less than half of its peak.

    'A big decision'

    The Goodman report says that refurbished trolleys will be easy to maintain and reliable. Increased tourism and the construction of the Pleasure Pier, built after the storm, should allow the system to far exceed the peak ridership reached in 1996, the report said.

    "It is a big decision because some form of transportation is sorely needed on the island, also for locals downtown to the seawall and for Moody Gardens," Brown said. He said the trolleys would alleviate traffic congestion. "We need a transportation system that can move you around the island so you can eat at a restaurant and go to the seawall and the beach without having to park your car everywhere you go," he said.

    Rosen said that if the trolley line is so important for tourism, perhaps the Park Board should take it over. Brown said the Park Board would consider the idea if it was directed to do so by the City Council, but that transportation was not one of the board's assigned duties.

    http://www.houstonchronicle.com/new...of-Galveston-trolleys-5283038.php?cmpid=btfpm
     
  2. Svpernaut

    Svpernaut Contributing Member

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    Best thing they can do for that island is implode the Walmart. That just may be the most disgusting place this side of the Mason-Dixon.
     
  3. Joshfast

    Joshfast "We're all gonna die" - Billy Sole
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    FIFY*
     
  4. Svpernaut

    Svpernaut Contributing Member

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    That doesn't make normal, clean and healthy people want to go there on a regular basis. Just look at Louisiana :p
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    Says the person who went to Galveston and decided to check out their Walmart of all places...
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. Svpernaut

    Svpernaut Contributing Member

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    Actually I've only driven by, thank God. I couldn't stop in because Tetanus shots weren't available.
     
  7. da1

    da1 Member

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    Give me a break. It's not West Point in Monrovia.
     
  8. BonziWellsGOAT

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    I was in a pinch and had to venture in once.

    Herpes is a hell of a disease.
     
  9. Houstunna

    Houstunna The Most Unbiased Fan
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    The Walmart is worse than the beach?
     
  10. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    All I can say is that I'm glad the false stereotypes persist for the Island... gives people who enjoy it, and know where the best spots are, less hassle/crowds to deal with year-round.
     
  11. htwnbandit

    htwnbandit Member

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    Can't be as bad as Dallas-Ft. Worth
     
  12. ima_drummer2k

    ima_drummer2k Contributing Member

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    Yes, all beaches in Galveston are disgusting. You should definitely stay away.

    Especially stay away from the West End. On weekends....
     

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