This summer, I was so excited to see the charming and colorful red and green trolley buses make their way throughout the island’s thoroughfares. A preview of the traditional rail trolleys that are expected to return next year, this summer’s service was a result of collaboration between the city of Galveston and the park board.
The city of Galveston took care of the heavy lifting, bringing the trolleys to the island just in time for the busy tourism season. The trolley fleet began service June 2.
Once in place, the Galveston park board and Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau helped with efforts to market the service. City and visitors bureau staff designed, produced and placed route maps throughout Galveston — at bus stops, hotel lobbies, restaurants and attractions. In addition, the visitors bureau helped give the trolleys their “15 minutes of fame” arranging for the trolleys to take center stage on Houston television segments early in the summer.
The combined efforts have paid off. Assistant City Manager Rick Beverlin said more than 53,000 people rode the trolleys from June 2 through Aug. 6. He said these ridership numbers means that nearly 15,000 vehicle trips were not taken — keeping some of Galveston's most traveled thoroughfares less crowded.
The trolley buses were funded through restricted hotel occupancy tax revenues that are allocated for tourism promotion. The trolley service was free this summer and sentiment among local business owners for the service has been largely positive.
Galveston Quality Inn & Suites Director of Operations James Marx said the trolleys were a big hit for his guests.
“Guest comments to us have been very positive,” Marx said. “I have heard from several guests, that they really like the fact that we have convenient stops nearby. I think this is the number one thing the guests want, convenience pure and simple.”
Keeping the service convenient is a top priority for the city and visitors bureau. Fares for the service will be levied beginning Sept. 5, and both organizations are looking for the most efficient ways to collect them. So far, options include creating a payment app, distributing wristbands to riders, using tokens and adding trolley travel to the Island Pass. Both organizations are also working together to look for ways to increase revenue streams for the service allowing for regular maintenance and the purchase of new buses.
Park board meetings are open to the public and the public may address the board of trustees during the meetings. Park board meetings are typically held at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 601 Tremont St. If you are interested in seeing a park board issue discussed in this column or if you have any questions, please send them my way. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.