Claremont Insider: Trolley Unveiled

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trolley Unveiled

The City of Claremont's website informs us that the new downtown "trackless trolley" (bureaucratese for "mini-bus that has been dolled up to look like a cable car"). The city's note says:

There will be four bus stops on the route, which will be located at the Depot on First, the Metrolink parking lot, Bonita at Yale, and Oberlin Avenue across from the public plaza, completing a 1.5 mile loop.

Final preparations are being made such as training the drivers on the trolley, finishing the trolley stops, and the final touches to the trolley.

The Trolley will be on display at the following community events: Village Wine Walk on September 12 in front of City Hall, at the annual Village Venture on October 25th next to the City's booth on Second Street, and the trolley will also be featured in the parade at the Los Angeles County Fair on "Claremont Day," September 18.

The Inaugural Ride will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 30. There will be a short ceremony, light refreshments and residents will have a chance to be one of the first to ride the trolley before it officially begins service at 11a.m. that same day.

If you have any questions about the trolley program please contact the Community Services Department at (909)399-5431.

Yesterday's Claremont Courier also had an article about the trolley debut (the article isn't available online). The Courier reports Claremont has retained the Pomona Valley Transit Authority to operate the trolley, which will run through a three-year pilot program.

The Courier also reported that the trolley will cost a projected $1,290,596 for the three years. This is a substantial increase over the $887,000 the city had promised back in January. Where does the extra $400,000 go? Apparently, the original figure didn't include the costs of building bus stops and marketing. And gas is more expensive now.

In any case, using the original city estimate of 15 riders per hour, 12.5 hours per day, three day per week, we get 87,750 riders for the three year pilot program or about $14.71 per rider, a nearly 50% increase in the estimated cost for the three-year trial. At that price, the trolley out to be gold-plated.

Don't worry, though. As the city gleefully points out, its not OUR money! The project funded by state transportation fund money, so we can throw it away whatever way we want. Of course, if Sacramento pols pull transportation bond funds to balance the state budget, Claremonters may end up getting stuck a good chunk with the trolley bill. (But we don't want to talk about that.)

The Courier reported on some of the trolley's amenities:
The new vehicle has red paint, wooden seats and a manual bell ringer to replicate more authentic-looking track trolleys operating in cities like San Francisco and Portland. It will be ADA compliant and run on clean-burning gasoline.

We're not sure what differentiates "clean-burning" gasoline from other types, but we do suspect that Claremont's trolley, which covers and area of about six downtown blocks, probably won't help Claremont replicate San Francisco or Portland any more than the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas replicates the real French capital. But a person can dream.