Keep the trolley free

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Weve been hearing that some members of our community are suggesting that riders of the King Street Trolley (the Trolley) should begin paying a fare – and perhaps that City funding for the Trolley should be reduced.  This letter is an appeal to retail, restaurant and hotel business owners throughout the City as well as anyone else who values the Trolley as a mobile visitor center.  

It is important to reinforce to our community and to our City Council members that the Trolley helps business in our city and that imposing a fee would jeopardize its effectiveness.  

The Trolley has been a success since it started service on April 1, 2008.  Ridership in the first year was approximately 640,000 and it stimulated ridership at the King Street Metro Station, which increased by about 3% – also in that first year!  And to those who call for a fare for use of the Trolley, we remind the City that the Trolley is funded by the Citys tax on the hospitality industry in the form of a 1% addition to the hotel tax (5.5% increased to 6.5%).  Last year the trolley budget was reduced as part of the across the board cuts so headways and service hours were reduced- even though the tax that was associated with it generated increasing revenues from $7,633,000 in 2008 to $9,690,000 in 2009.

Given the role in the Citys economy of tourism, which is currently focused on the Old Town Historic District, the Chamber fully supports the continued funding of the Trolley.  It has been an unqualified success based on ridership numbers, its ability to move visitors and residents along one of Alexandrias major retail corridors and the ambiance that it brings to the area.  Free ridership is a critical component to the continued use and operation of the Trolley.  At least for now, no one on the City Council is suggesting that funding of the King Street Trolley be reduced or eliminated.  

The free Trolley is important to the business community and should be used as a model for expansion into other business districts in the City.

Lets show our support for one of the most effective transportation innovations in our City!

Tina Leone is the president and CEO of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

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