The Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency ended its experiment with mass transportation this week with a decision not to continue its free weekend trolley service.
The numbers just weren't there, the CRA concluded after the five-month trial run showed just 7,289 passengers rode the conveyances, which cost the district about $123,000 in lease fees and operational costs.
The trolleys, which have proven popular for special events, will continue to be used on those occasions.
The idea of a mini-transit system was an interesting one and should not be considered a failure simply because it did not succeed this go-around. The CRA did its job by exploring a concept that has worked elsewhere, did its financial homework in carefully selecting a proven vendor, and fulfilled its fiscal responsibility by analyzing the numbers and acknowledging that at $16.87 per rider, the money could be better spent on other projects.
We applaud the CRA for its efforts, and we look with interest to the next small project already under way.
With occupancy rates down due to the economy, the CRA board has earmarked $60,000 toward a rental assistance program for select new businesses looking to locate in the redevelopment district.
The program will cover up to one-third of a qualifying businesses' monthly lease payment. The subsidy will be up to $500 per month for 12 months during the first 18 of a lease of at least two years duration. The maximum allocated would be $6,000 per business.
To qualify, the business would need to be on the downtown's target business list and would have to employ at least two people, including the owner.
Meanwhile, the CRA has not given up on its long-term goal of purchasing the closed Golf Club with the hope of re-opening the course in conjunction with a compatible development component. The agency lost round one in the negotiation process but has bounced back, remaining confident it can bring the sale to fruition, citing other areas where private-public partnerships have worked.
Again, we applaud the effort.
Ideas, especially ideas that have worked in other areas, are to be encouraged. Also to be encouraged is the continued development of a vision for an area of the city that has both history and the potential for strong business growth.
Vision is always to be commended. And vision tempered with an eye toward measurable success is always to be praised.
- Breeze editorial