St. Louis Trolley Is Ready to Go But Half a Million Short on Funds

Plus, rapid transit is on the way in Phnom Penh, and more in our weekly New Starts. 

Construction of the Loop Trolley route in March 2016 (Credit: Loop Trolley)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

St. Louis Trolley Ready to Roll — As Soon As the Money Shows Up
St. Louis’ Delmar Loop Trolley, a 2.2-mile route running between Forest Park and University City, has been plagued by delays since before work on the line began in 2015. Now, with its replica historic trolleys undergoing testing, the trolley’s operator has announced another delay, this one resulting from lack of money.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Loop Trolley Co. has informed St. Louis City, University City and St. Louis County officials that the company will be unable to open the line for revenue service unless it receives an infusion of $500,000. Loop Trolley President Les Sterman sent a letter to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, University City Mayor Shelley Welsch, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and the other two members of the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District (TDD) board in mid-October informing them that the company would be insolvent by January because of recurring delays in testing and getting approval from Federal and state regulators.

When the TDD informed the company that the line would be ready to carry its first fare-paying passengers this past April, the company hired managers months in advance of the opening date. When that date was moved to September, the company hired trolley operators and dispatchers. The company has been paying this staff without receiving the sales taxes and fares needed to support its operations.

The taxes flow to the TDD formed to build the line, which will send the revenue on to the trolley company once operations begin. In addition to the $500,000, Sterman has asked that the TDD immediately begin transferring sales tax revenues to the company.

Mayors Krewson and Welsch both said they doubted that their municipalities could come up with a share of the money requested, but Welsch said that she hoped that the St. Louis County Council could come up with the money out of a stash of millions of unspent dollars from a countywide sales tax for transit.

Rapid Transit on the Way in Phnom Penh
Cambodia is set to host the Southeast Asian Games in 2023. Its capital and largest city, Phnom Penh, will be able to whisk participants and visitors to games venues on a new automated guideway transit system when the games open, according to a news report in the Khmer Times.

The Times report says that the system will be built with the assistance of the Japan Intergovernmental Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is currently completing a feasibility study for the project, which will cost $800 million. The system uses rubber-tired trains capable of operating at speeds up to 60 km/h (37.3 mph). Cambodian Minister of Transport Sun Chanthol visited the Yokohama Seaside Line Company in mid-November to learn about the system’s operating characteristics.

“The number of residents in Phnom Penh increases every year,” he said. “In 2023, we will host the SEA Games, so the new transportation system will help us handle the increase in the number of tourists.”

In Denmark City, Light-Rail Still Not Ready for Prime Time
When last we looked in on the light-rail system in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, its planned grand opening had been abruptly canceled the day before because its operator, Keolis, had not implemented adequate safety procedures.

Now The Local reports that the line will also miss a rescheduled end-of-November opening.

“After meeting the Danish Transport Authority on Nov. 13, it has become clear that Aarhus Letbane will not open within the five to eight weeks after the [initial] postponement, as had been the intention of the board,” system owner Aarhus Letbane said in a statement.

The Danish Transport Authority has announced that it will re-inspect Keolis but has not yet set a date for the new inspection. According to Aarhus Letbane, the cause of the new delay is unresolved issues relating to technical rules. Meanwhile, Aarhus Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard and Regional Council leader Brett Hansen have asked for a meeting with the transport authority so they can learn just what is going on.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: light railtrolleys

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