Galveston, TX — Service Resumption Approved
Galveston on the Gulf Coast stood at a crossroads in deciding whether to revive its hurricane-suspended heritage streetcar system using replica deck-roof cars powered by diesel engines to be wire firee, the Galveston Daily News reported on February 1. The car line has not operated since Hurricane Ike in 2008. Trey Click, the executive director of the Historic Downtown Strand/Seaport Partnership said "the partnership had surveyed its member businesses downtown, and found overwhelming support of bringing the trolleys back."
The City Council discussed the issue February 12 and approved bringing back the streetcars at its February 26 meeting by a 6 to 1 vote. If the streetcars were not revived, the city would have had to pay back $7 million in federal and state grants and it would cost an additional $2 million to remove the tracks and repave streets.
Galveston was somewhat ahead of its time in embracing streetcar operation in 1988, although it chose internal combusion propulsion instead of electric power used by all other of today's streetcar systems and by virtually all traditional streetcar systems.
“I think the thing that is driving [new streetcar systems], more than anything else, is that the streetcar is a tool that not only serves transportation purposes but also becomes a spine for economic development and urban development, but also as a tool for making their communities walkable,” said Jeff Boothe, the executive director of the Community Streetcar Coalition, a group that promotes and advocates the expansion of streetcar systems.
To bring back operation of the streetcars, agreements to support funding for the system’s estimated annual operating costs, which could top $670,000 will need to be struck.
Two of the major players in the trolley debate — University of Texas Medical Branch and downtown businesses — have said they support the system’s return.
The medical branch in the past committed up to $240,000 to the system for annual costs. There is some indication UTMB would be willing to start making those payments again.
Likewise, Click said the Downtown Partnership was interested in ways that businesses could advertise on the trolleys and other parts of the system.
Some may back programs that would allow businesses to subsidize fares for their employees.
Before the city council vote, the Park Board of Trustees unanimously voted to pay up to $200,000 to fund trolley operating deficits.
Repairs to the tracks are expected to be completed by 2016, but full service is not planned to be restored until summer 2017.