The Loop Trolley, that big rolling box that can be seen on very rare occasions transporting small groups of human beings up and down the Delmar shopping district, is not selling tickets the way its backers had hoped.
And frankly, that's a huge understatement. According to a report by the St. Louis Business Journal
, in fact, the old-timey operation is only generating a quarter of the revenue from fares that its backers predicted in early estimates.
In its first four months of operation, the streetcars have sold only 4,259 tickets, bringing in $8,148 in revenue, the weekly publication reports
. That comes out to just $2,307 per month, down dramatically from the $8,333 per month that trolley officials predicted in 2016 when running down budget numbers.
Those estimates counted on $100,000 annually in revenue from fares. If current numbers hold, the trolley is on track to generate a paltry $24,444 instead.
There are reasons to think those number won't hold, though, and ridership may increase as the weather gets warmer and the trolley line moves to daily service. As the Business Journal reports
, the Trolley Co. sent a letter to University City resident Tom Sullivan on Tuesday, with executive director Kevin Barbeau writing, "We anticipate ridership will be robust as the weather improves, and especially after we launch full seven-day service after our third car is tested and certified later this spring."
But will it be enough? With sales tax numbers from the district coming in lower than anticipated as well
, the Loop Trolley looks to be in dire financial straits. And even though trolley officials did not respond to our request for comment for this story (or, indeed, any story we've ever written about the thing), we at the RFT
thought up a few ideas to help this wild experiment succeed.
So without further preamble, here are ten friendly ideas sure to help the Loop Trolley bring in some much-needed cash.
- Drinks! Cabin attendants in Hawaiian shirts will wheel a wee little drink cart around the trolley interior, hawking a line of signature cocktails (The Ol' Time Timewaster, the Foghorn, the Railsplitter).
- On-board Nerf blaster rentals, with targets hanging from the streetlights. Top scorer gets a free Nerf blaster rental on the next trip.
- Free Laudanum tablets for all married ladies who board. Do your old-fashioned cosplay correctly, milady.
- The Loop Trolley Rootin'-Tootin' Fantasmagorical Stunt Frolic Show. A team of steampunk hipsters riding Pennyfarthings chase after the trolley, shouting old-fashioned insults while attempting to forcefully board the train. Passengers armed with brooms and shepherds' crooks will push over the bikes or yank them onto the rails, setting off calamitous collisions and high-flying flips. Shows at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. only; tickets cost an extra $3.
- A rotating cast of area chefs sign on to do pop-up concepts inside the trolley cars. Combine a trolley with a food truck and what do you get? Twice the profit! A percentage of food sales will go toward the Trolley Company.
- Get on board the whole "escape room" trend and convert the whole of the Loop into a puzzle in which visitors are trapped until they decipher a series of clues. Spoiler: Buying a ticket and riding the trolley is the only way to exit.
- Bring in some bands. In Munich, for example, it's not entirely uncommon to find yourself aboard a rolling concert on the light rail — disco lights, a DJ, etc. Maybe an old-timey version of that? Is Pokey free?
- Offload labor costs by making it an Uber (or Lyft) trolley, where drivers enjoy the perks of working on their schedule. Surge pricing probably isn't going to be a thing, though.
- Missouri has gambling boats; why not gambling trolleys? A card game, a roulette wheel, slot machines front and back. The money will, quite literally, roll right in.
- Every Saturday night from 10 p.m. to midnight the Loop Trolley transforms into the Titty Train, the most exclusive topless joint in town. Tickets are $15, a pole is installed in the middle of the car and a percentage of the dancers' take goes to the house.
....OK, maybe that last one is unrealistic, but we'll stand by the rest of them. Especially the cocktail idea. If there's one sure thing that would make the overall trolley experience a better one, it'd be a nice stiff drink.
Hell, even its cash-strapped backers can probably get on board with that sentiment these days.
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