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Loop Trolley still hasn't seen a ridership bump despite national attention

The Loop Trolley Co. says it sold just 1,000 tickets last month, with fare revenue totaling $1,964
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL — The Loop Trolley streetcar system first warned Oct. 12 that it could shut down in November without an extra $200,000, leading to a wave of press attention.

The Wall Street Journal even got involved.

But ridership barely budged in October, with 1,481 fares purchased for $3,173, up from 1,422 fares in September.

To put that into perspective, one government prediction from 2011 estimated annual ridership of 400,000 to start, and the trolley had sold 15,776 tickets from November 2018 through September, one contributor to its financial problems.

Things got worse in November.

Early in the month, the taxing district that constructed the trolley voted to give the nonprofit that runs it a $90,000 loan, prolonging its operation through December. Bi-State Development is now weighing whether to take over operations of the trolley. A Bi-State spokeswoman, Patti Beck, said Tuesday, "We are still evaluating viable operating options aimed at avoiding default on the federal grant money" used to build the trolley. 

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The Loop Trolley Co. says it sold just 1,000 tickets last month, with fare revenue totaling $1,964.

A spokeswoman, Brittany Robbins, noted that the trolley was closed on Thanksgiving, and it provided free rides on Nov. 30 in support of Small Business Saturday. "We don't have an exact number for boardings, but we estimate 400 passengers during Saturday's free rides," Robbins said.

The trolley, though, wasn't designed to be free. Official estimates from 2017 said the trolley this year would have a budget of $1.4 million, with 30% of revenue coming from fares, 43% from a district in the neighborhood that charges a 1% tax, and 27% from advertising, sponsorships and grants.

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