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Galveston officials lay out plans for trolley-like buses

By SAMANTHA KETTERER The Daily News ​ ​ ​

City buses designed to look like trolleys should be operational by mid-May, Galveston officials said.

The four new trolley-like buses will arrive in Galveston next week and will need to be outfitted with city of Galveston markings before they are used, city spokeswoman Jaree Hefner said.

The buses, which will seat 26 people each, will be red and green and resemble the cars used on the city’s rail trolleys.

“It’s an iconic figure of Galveston’s past,” said Trey Click, vice chair of the city’s trolley ad hoc committee. “I don’t look at this as public transportation at all. This is an attraction.”

The city plans to connect the bus routes to a restored rail system, creating a path between some of the island’s major tourist destinations, Hefner said.

The rail system is expected to be operational again by late this year or early next year, Hefner said. The city’s trolley line has not operated since the rail cars were severely damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008, when floodwaters inundated the city’s trolley barn.

Rubber tire trolleys will operate along Seawall Boulevard and 81st Street, starting at Stewart Beach and ending at Moody Gardens.

Until the city’s rail trolleys make their return to the island, the buses will also operate along their routes. The buses will travel on the trolley cars’ downtown route, as well as down 25th Street to connect downtown to the seawall, Hefner said.

“We want people to get used to the trolleys,” Hefner said.

Fares will be free for the summer, although a fee will exist after that point, Hefner said. The city is working with the hospitality industry on a long-term plan.

The city has not yet determined times of operation, Hefner said.

The city purchased the four buses for $641,848, funded by the city’s convention center surplus fund, which is generated through hotel occupancy taxes. The money is restricted to tourism-related expenses.

The city’s trolley system had previously been criticized for operating at a loss before the storm. Assistant City Manager Rick Beverlin said initial services for the buses will be paid for by money in the surplus fund. Bus fare and branding and advertising on the buses and trolleys should cover the rest of the operational cost, he said.

This summer’s free rides should lead to more consistent use by riders when the buses do charge for travel, Hefner said.

“I hope in the long term these provide a healthy revenue stream,” Hefner said.

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