Update from Tom Gibbs: Committee formed to Save Our Streetcar
From Tom Gibbs:
And, a belated Happy New Year!
Much to tell.
First, let me give you a 'Heads Up' regarding an article that will probably appear on-line in the Puget Sound Business Journal. Marc Stiles, staff writer for the PSBJ, attended a City Council meeting yesterday where the topic of the Benson Trolleys came up. Council member Sally Bagshaw asked City staff if planning for re-activating the Waterfront Streetcars was underway and was told that it is. Marc wanted more information so Sally referred him to me. I just finished a phone interview with him where I mentioned the large number of people who are interested in the vintage cars. He wanted to see some of the letters you sent me so I forwarded him a file of some of them. Thus, you might see your name in the article.
Next, late last year I was advised that the Loop Trolley organization in St. Louis wanted to lease the Benson cars. You will remember that last summer we were successful in stopping them from purchasing the cars so the lease idea was advanced. While the County does not want to see the trolleys leave the area, the lease was of some interest because of significant cost factors. The Federal Transit Administration had warned Metro Transit that a large grant ($250K) awarded to Metro for refurbishing the Benson cars might have to be repaid since the cars are no longer in service. Further, the County is incurring an annual cost of $70K for storing the cars. And, as a senior County official told me - 'With large service cuts imminent those costs are unacceptable'. Leasing the streetcars to St. Louis would void the FTA threat and, of course, eliminate the storage costs. I was asked to help find alternative storage facilities and to support an early decision on the use of the cars on the waterfront. Two organizations have been approached to see if they could accommodate the cars on a temporary basis. I expect responses soon but more options would be advisable. So, if any of you are aware of facilities that could be approached please let me know. Metro Transit has offered to pay one-half of the cost to move the cars.
To the County's great credit, the St. Louis organization was just advised that as long as Seattle is considering re-activating the Benson cars on the waterfront, no lease discussions were appropriate. The Loop Trolley staff will be waiting for a decision by the City and could re-assert their interest in a lease if re-starting the Waterfront Streetcar is not embraced by the City.
I mentioned in my October message that I had been asked to assemble a 'Blue Ribbon Committee' of well-known community leaders who would support the use of the Benson Trolleys on the waterfront. The current list of those who have agreed to participate is attached along with a 'purpose statement' that we adopted in mid-December.
Finally - my ongoing discussions with senior City staff continue to make me optimistic that our efforts will be successful. Of course, it will still be necessary to make our case to the Mayor and Council but I believe they will be attentive and responsive.
COMMITTEE TO RE-ACTIVATE
THE GEORGE BENSON WATERFRONT STREETCARS
It shall be the purpose of this Committee to support the re-activation of the George Benson Waterfront Streetcars by:
- Supporting the following goal for transportation along the new waterfront park; “Use vehicles that will be attractive to riders, have historical significance and be an integrating force for the many waterfront attractions.”
- Urging the City of Seattle to expand the First Hill Streetcar maintenance base to accommodate the Benson Trolleys.
- Helping to raise funds for the proper storage and refurbishing of the vintage streetcars.
- Promoting the use of volunteer labor to assist in the restoration of the vintage streetcars.
- Speaking out in support of these results at public forums and with the print and broadcast media.
Members as of December 14, 2012
- Dan Evans
- Frank Shrontz
- Jim Ellis
- Phyllis Lamphere
- Sally Jewell
- Tomio Moriguchi
- Aubrey Davis
- Hal Griffith
- Bob Gogerty
- Bill Chapman
- Tom Gibbs