Here is hoping the opportunity for much-needed trolley service on Galveston Island gets moving before it comes off the proverbial tracks.

As we’ve said before, the summer rush of congestion is a very real threat to the economics of the island community. If there is a clear and present danger to our future growth on the island it is that our success may strangle our “golden goose” of a beach-front community.

As more and more people come to visit, more and more sit in traffic and bring the island to a standstill. And then they go home and tell people: “Don’t bother. I spent my weekend in staring at taillights.”

That is, for us, bad for business.

The Galveston Park Board of Trustees unanimously gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the trolley project Tuesday night ... that is unless you need money to fund the effort. The park board, instead, would like the city to dip into its own funds to develop and operate this project. And it is just this that gives us pause.

The opportunity before us is both real and pragmatic. A service to alleviate traffic while allowing for flexibility of routes is sure to be a winner for our community.

So, what is the big deal here?

Well, there are many steps that will need to happen for us to see trolley transportation returning to the island.

The list of agencies and authorities is rather daunting and filled with pot holes (sorry, we couldn’t resist that one) with the potential to slow down or stop the project. We should all be onboard and offering to help as needed. Sometimes it is manpower; other times it is funding. Whatever it is, we need this project to demonstrate a collective and growing effort of agencies buying in. The park board is no different.

To be fair, funding should come from those who will benefit the most from use or development. If research demonstrates three out of four riders will be tourists, then maybe the park board should be willing to step up and contribute a portion tied to such a percentage to this project.

Let’s not kid ourselves and say this is will be public transportation — or a service to the everyday citizen. That is simply not being honest with the community.

We need this to happen if we are to continue to grow and prosper as a tourist destination.

Let’s all put forth a good-faith effort to secure this project move forward — even if it means chipping in a few dollars.

• Leonard Woolsey

(7) comments

Steve Lamb

Apparently the parks board and others have short memories, but I remember the pre-Ike trolleys running around, even at the peak of summer, empty, or with two or three people on them. Can anyone recall them ever being full? This is a gigantic waste of money. While the idea of having remote parking served by mass transit sounds good on paper, it isn't feasible. The problem is that people want to go to the beach, and when they do, they want to bring 1/2 their worldly possessions with them for some reason. So unless you are going to have trolleys puling cargo trailers to handle all the coolers, chairs, beach toys, umbrellas, surf boards, and other necessities, this just won't work.

Norman Pappous

You need to run for City Council! Unless you live in district 4 of course... [whistling]

Steve Fouga

This newspaper seems to be in the habit of supporting screwy causes. I wonder if they have research to back their claim of a need for trolleys. Surveys saying there are thousands of frustrated Houstonians who would come to Galveston if only traffic on the Island weren't so bad? If people have the fortitude to brave I-45 to get here, I doubt our traffic would give them pause.

Lars Faltskog

Well, at first I briefly gleaned at the title of yet another trolley article. Then, went to the comment section. I almost didn't read this story in itself, then I saw Jake's comment. I Don't know about y'all, but sometimes I look at the comments before the story.

Anyhow, I couldn't believe what I read in Jake's comment. So, in this story, someone actually says that traffic in Galveston is BAD?? Hardly. Exceptions: Perhaps some heaviness on Seawall, esp. near 61st. Then, leaving the island on a handful of prime times (like beautiful spring Easter weather or after a major event) - maybe Broadway just past the Causeway. Maybe peaks of folks waiting to get on the ferry. That's IT.

We don't have that bad of traffic here even on touristy days. So, using traffic as a rationale for trolleys is a weak argument. Not only that, do we really think that having tire trolleys is going to alleviate many of the cars that will still be going to and fro? Talk about a drop in the bucket!

Miceal O'Laochdha

Mr. Woolsey: I held out a little hope that your joining our little band of GDN writers and readers, and in such a lofty position to boot, might be a useful development.

Clearly, I was wrong. You have made pronouncements in your article, as if they were simply facts. Unfortunately, they are completely baseless and everyone who lived on the Island in the years leading up to Ike knows that. Not sure where you were every time a "trolley" bus went by with no one it but, most of us were standing there looking at the worthless, unused, cash sinkhole, waiting for it to get out of our way. All the Houston tourists in their cars were doing exactly the same thing. Of course it is not true that there were no riders on these "trolleys", there was usually a driver that we all paid to steer it up and down the avenue.

If you intend to make a flat statement about life in Galveston, please be sure it is reasonably accurate. And, I urge you not to do your fact-checking on that point with Heber; he wears his own special rose-colored glasses.

Jim Casey

Two solid justifications exist for the trolley system:

- To transport people between UTMB and downtown. The Market Street track was built for that, and avoids the problems with parking on the tracks that interfered with the trolleys in other places.

- To get cruise ship passengers to visit other parts of town. Many of these passengers never make it across Harborside now (and I don't blame them).

One could argue that the trolley could lead some visitors to the Pleasure Pier to go to other parts of town, instead of just getting back in their vehicles and returning to wherever they came from. This idea has never been subject to a test, because the trolleys have been out of service since before the Pleasure Pier was rebuilt.

I could and might argue that the steel-rail trolleys are too expensive to operate, and could be replaced by small vans or buses.

I'm not pulling these observations out of my back pocket. I was a member of the Intermodal Transportation Committee for years, and its chairman for some time.

- Jim Casey

Steve Fouga

Jim -- Sounds reasonable. But in other locales, the businesses most likely to benefit from transportation purchase the transportation. A common example of this is the hotel shuttle, familiar to travelers worldwide. Often several hotels band together when a shuttle service would be unaffordable for any one of several.

Employers do the same. The company I worked for had several campuses around Fort Worth, and provided shuttle service for employees needing it.

In neither case are taxpayers burdened, nor are City funds used that could be used better elsewhere.

I do agree that the City and its businesses could benefit from cruise passengers being able to easily visit other parts of Galveston. Trolleys could provide that service, as could buses or vans. Good idea.

As for the need for a trolley between UTMB and downtown, is that really true? People at UTMB need a trolley to go downtown, and vice versa?

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