|Opened||November 16, 2018|
|Owner||Loop Trolley Transportation Development District|
|Operator(s)||Loop Trolley Company|
|Line length||2.2 mi (3.5 km)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||600 V DC|
The Loop Trolley is a 2.2-mile (3.5 km), 10-station heritage streetcar line in St. Louis, Missouri. Opened in November 2018, it connects the Delmar Loop district and the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, serving parts of University City and the St. Louis neighborhoods of DeBaliviere Place, Skinker/DeBaliviere, and the West End. It also serves two MetroLink light-rail stations: Delmar Loop and Forest Park–DeBaliviere.
The Loop Trolley Transportation Development District owns the line and trolley cars, which are operated by the non-profit Loop Trolley Company. Operating funds come from a one-cent sales tax collected by businesses along and near the line, and from fares and advertising.
The Delmar Loop was named for the streetcar turnaround that occupied two oblong blocks on the north side of Delmar east from Kingsland Avenue. This loop was used by two lines of the St. Louis Public Service Company — the Olive-Delmar and Creve Coeur lines — and a private line west to what is now University City's City Hall. Streetcar service ended in St. Louis in 1966, but the Loop retained its name.
Years later, the idea of bringing back streetcars found a champion in Joe Edwards, the owner of Blueberry Hill, The Pageant, and other Loop businesses. Edwards secured the purchase of two Peter Witt-type streetcars that once operated in Milan, Italy. The two Peter Witt cars were cosmetically refurbished by the Gomaco Trolley Company in 2005 and placed on long-term display along the route – one on Delmar by Commerce Bank, and the other at the Missouri History Museum – to publicize the proposed Loop Trolley line. Originally, the two were slated to carry passengers if the project came to fruition, but plans to restore them to operating condition were deemed too expensive in 2015, in part because they had deteriorated during their years on outdoor display.
In July 2010, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Urban Circulator Grant Program approved a grant of $25 million for the project. Other money came from the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District and elsewhere. The overall construction budget was $51 million as of 2015.
Construction began in March 2015 and was completed in November 2016. During construction, some shops and restaurants saw decreased foot traffic and sales. Some businesses moved; others closed permanently. One business owner called the Loop Trolley "a solution in need of a problem". 
The first of three streetcars being refurbished and modified for the line was delivered on February 16, 2017, and the second on March 30, 2017. On March 26, 2017, car No. 001 was towed along the line to check the tracks and clearances at station platforms, becoming the first streetcar to be moved along the Loop Trolley line, though not under its own power.
The line's opening was delayed several times as completion of a third trolley fell behind schedule. Eventually it was decided to operate a temporarily reduced schedule with two trolleys until the third is delivered.
In November 2018, the Loop Trolley Company announced that the line would open on November 15, 2018. Snow delayed the opening one more day, and service began on November 16, 2018. But service was initially limited to the portion between the Missouri History Museum terminus and the Delmar Loop MetroLink station due to a failure to obtain an operating permit from University City. The permit was obtained and service was implemented along the entire line one week later, on November 23, 2018.
Operation and funding
The Loop Trolley Transportation Development District, which managed the project, is the owner of the line and trolley cars, but the service is operated by a separate, non-profit entity called the Loop Trolley Company. A one-cent sales tax collected by businesses along and near the line provide the largest source of revenue to fund the service. Other revenue sources include fares and advertising.
After more than six months in operation, the Loop Trolley, which had cost $51,000,000 and has an annual operational budget of $1,300,000, had raised a mere $22,283 in fares. Its projection for the first year was $394,433, though trolley officials said that was based on seven-day-a-week operation.
Route and schedule
The line starts at the Missouri History Museum and runs north on DeBaliviere Avenue in St. Louis, past the Forest Park–DeBaliviere MetroLink station. It then turns west on Delmar Boulevard to the Delmar Loop MetroLink station and crosses the St. Louis city/county boundary to University City to serve the Delmar Loop district, terminating at the University City Library on Delmar Blvd., west of Kingsland Avenue.
Service is currently provided four days a week, from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, and noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. After the third trolley car becomes available, service is expected to expand to seven days a week; hours of operation are also anticipated to expand.
Loop Trolley service is currently provided by two faux-vintage streetcars acquired used from Portland, Oregon, with an additional vintage streetcar from Seattle anticipated to join the fleet in 2019.
In December 2013, the Loop Trolley district acquired from Portland transit agency TriMet two Gomaco-built Brill-replica streetcars which were then in operation on the Portland Vintage Trolley service, which use continued until mid-2014. Those two cars were designed to look like 1903 streetcars but were actually built in 1991 (car 511) and 1992 (car 512), and feature steel frames under their wooden bodies and more-modern propulsion equipment (including rebuilt 1940s trucks). For St. Louis, they were modified for wheelchair accessibility, to meet ADA regulations, with the installation of wheelchair lifts (one per side). Gomaco was hired to carry out those and other modifications, and the work began at Gomaco's Ida Grove, Iowa, plant in August 2015.
In January 2016, it was announced that the Loop Trolley district had purchased three ex-Melbourne, Australia, W2-type streetcars from Seattle, which had operated on Seattle's Waterfront Streetcar line until it shut down in 2005. Only one of the three was planned for immediate refurbishment, modification and use due to funding limitations. The necessary modifications included restoring doors on one side of the car, restoring steps to the doors (Seattle's line used high-platform stations which didn't necessitate steps), installing two wheelchair lifts, one on each side, and replacement of the car's trolley poles with a pantograph. The three cars were moved from Seattle in early June 2016. Cars 482 and 518 were taken to St. Louis and put in indefinite storage for potential future restoration and use. Car 512 was taken to Gomaco in Iowa, which had been awarded a $676,750 contract to restore and modify the car.
The operational fleet is due to comprise three cars by sometime in 2019: two ex-Portland Brill replica cars (Portland Nos. 511–512) and one ex-Seattle, ex-Melbourne car (Seattle No. 512). With two cars numbered 512, a renumbering of the cars was necessary. Ex-Portland cars 511–512 were renumbered 002 and 001, respectively, and ex-Seattle, ex-Melbourne car 512 was renumbered 003. Car 001 is painted red and cream, car 002 blue and cream and car 003 orange and cream.
At the time of the line's opening, car 003 was still at Gomaco's Iowa plant, with its renovation and modification more than a year behind schedule, partly due to delays in getting parts from Germany. Car 003 was delivered to the Loop Trolley's maintenance facility on January 29, 2019.
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