The Uncertain Future of the St. Louis Loop Trolley

St. Louis faces losing federal funds if the Loop Trolley remains defunct. But is the 2.2-mile line worth it?

2 minute read

January 5, 2022, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Delmar Loop

Paul Sableman / Flickr

According to Tony Nipert, "the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) warned St. Louis that it needed to forge a plan to jumpstart the Loop Trolley by June 1st or pay back the federal grant money allocated to the project." The 2.2-mile trolley line, which opened in November 2018, garnered criticism during its tenure and was shut down in December 2019.

As Nipert writes, the city has three options. One is to remove the trolley line altogether, an option supported by many who see it as a sunk cost but that others argue would harm future potential funding. The second choice would be to expand the trolley's reach to serve more tourist locations in Forest Park. While the line may never become a robust part of the city's transit network, it could at least become a more useful and well-used tourism asset. 

The third option, according to Nipert, is to operate the trolley long enough to receive the federal grant funding, then reassess. This approach, supported by St. Louis mayor Tishaura Jones, could afford the trolley "a chance to build a reputation based on its service and utility to patrons" and buy time for the line to potentially become financially self-sustaining.

While the trolley could still fail to meet residents' needs, Nipert argues that reopening it for the duration of the grant could give it a chance to thrive.

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