Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Downtown circulator madness

Things are starting to bounce with the Downtown Circulator, don't call them "trolleys". The Mayor wants them called the Circulator. Their latest steering committee meeting showed some interesting direction to their thought.

First concern out of the box is -how to fund the Circulator system- not do the people want this thing as proposed. The facts are that they have already decided to move on the project, have $1,212,000.00 in cash to buy the 'I can't call them trolleys' and can't come up with any operating funds.

So, how are they funding it?

Fares? No, we want it to be free, at least initially.

Advertising? Sure, let's trash the outside with garish posters or maybe the vinyl billboards like the buses. And let's place a big TV monitor on the inside and blare ad at the riders all day.

Corporate branding? Yes, let's sell the "sponsorship" of a (cough trolley cough) to a corporation for some simple tasteful brand design.

Private sector? Well, wait a minute, all options should be explored before asking for funds from private sector. Before approaching the business community for sponsorship, every federal, state and local revenues must be explored. Companies will need to be shown the benefit of permanently exposing their name on the "trolley" and the benefit the "trolley" will bring to the downtown businesses. Is there any business that doesn't know the purpose of advertising?

Furthermore, Lextran should put out a simple budget to show the taxpayers how the money could be spent. Is that because we aren't anything more than simple.

Then hit the Bluegrass Community Foundation and other "charities" before asking the business community (who will benefit from this effort).

Now let's talk about the design. Of the routes? No, the "trolleys", what are they going to look like?

Well, from the public input meetings, the people clearly said that they liked the old fashioned trolleys. Mrs. Sweeper and I gave our input, and I believe we asked for a more "traditional style" vehicle. Not a "Disney-esque" imitation built on a school bus/truck frame. If you are going to imitate something go for the real deal. Try looking at "Traction in the Blue Grass" by local author William M.. Ambrose, especially from pages 100-127.

Hybrid or electric? Ahhh... Those are very expensive, but it could be a novelty.

Maintenance? Yes we maintain them, that's got be a priority when purchasing the trolley.

Attractive? But, also a good value that meets ADA requirements.

Color? Keeneland Green, definitely, Let's overuse that color, Lets put it on everything in sight.

A "name"? By all means, we will need that when we have to sell this to the public.

Finally, let's talk about routing, where will it go? And when?

Starting off, we will just do the downtown loop: Main, Vine and back again. Every five minutes. Round and round and round. And, let's go small, just the lunchtime folks, just give them a 2 hour window, see if the like it. Maybe we'll put the door on the left side of the vehicle, let the people out on the inside of the loop, where the businesses aren't. We will also need a North/South route, with a larger night-time window for the "creative class" at Transylvania and UK.

After an initial success, if there is any, the service can be expanded. The demand from ridership will guide the system. How can you rate demand if the service is free, people will ride anything if its free.

We should have seasoned drivers that can give a history of the city and act as a tour guide. What about the old adage about "Don't talk to the driver while the bus is in motion?"

Seriously folks, we have been down this road before. It failed the first time from lack of demand and excessive maintenance costs. A sign of insanity is trying the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

Rumor has it that KU, the power company, is willing to buy two fully electric trams(I did not say the "t" word), now that would be a novelty and a tourism attraction. Dress one out in UK blue and the other in Transy crimson.

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