RACINE — Sitting idly in a bus storage shed, the city’s two trolleys were headed to auction soon.
But now, instead of selling them, some local officials are looking into the possibility of saving the trolleys and keeping them local.
Last year, as part of budget cuts, city officials decided they couldn’t continue to run the aging trolleys, said City Administrator Tom Friedel. The trolleys were cut, along with other bus system cuts. “We were running them at a loss. We were losing money,” Friedel said.
But after a Marina Commission meeting last week where concerns were brought up about losing the trolleys, the auction is going to be temporarily postponed, Friedel said. The city will hold off at least until the Marina Commission’s next meeting on Monday, Friedel said, but can wait longer if needed.
Friedel and County Executive Jim Ladwig said it’s not in the plans for the county or city to continue operation. Instead, Ladwig and Friedel said possibly a private operator could take over trolley operations. If a private operator took it over, they would then have the flexibility to use them for parties, Ladwig said.
As long as the city ran the trolleys, they were not able to rent the trolleys for private parties such as weddings or bachelor parties because of federal regulations, according to Al Stanek, the city’s parking and transit systems manager.
They received a lot of requests for weddings, Stanek said. But the city had to turn them down.
A private company, however, could likely rent them for private events.
In addition, a private company could probably operate the trolleys for less per hour if the company hired someone other than a city bus driver, who receives pay plus health insurance and additional benefits, Stanek said.
But Stanek said there are problems with the trolleys. While they are operational, there are some flooring issues with one of the vehicles, Stanek said.
Stanek had found similar trolleys for sale for $49,900 and $69,900. He said they do not know how those units compare with the city’s trolleys.
County Supervisor Monte Osterman, who attended last week’s Marina Commission meeting, said he would love to see the trolley service continue in Downtown. But at the same time, he said he doesn’t know if a private company could make money operating the trolleys because at the peak weekend time a trolley should run is also when people would want to rent them for things such as weddings.
While the city has two trolleys, only one ran at a time so the other one was used as a backup, said Stanek.
The trolleys are scheduled to be discussed as a part of the Marina Commission’s next meeting, scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday at Reefpoint Marina, 2 Christopher Columbus Causeway, in the second floor conference room. That is in the same building as Spinnakers.