City poised to ax free trolleys

  • By Amy Lee
  • Transit reporter
  • November 06, 2008 @ 12:00 PM

 It’s the end-of the line for Chicago’s free downtown trolleys.

The red trolley cars will stop rolling to popular tourist destinations such as Navy Pier and the Field Museum on Jan. 4. The city opted to slash the service to save $1.7 million.

About 900,000 people have ridden the trolleys thus far this year. That’s up from about 700,000 who used them in 2007, officials say.

A recent city survey shows about 88 percent of the free-trolley users were visitors to Chicago. Mayor Richard J. Daley did not include funding for the trolleys in his proposed 2009 budget, and a Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman says the trolleys are a valuable but nonessential service.

A federal congestion-relief grant paid for Chicago’s free trolleys through 2004. Since then, the city had paid for the service, which is run by a private company.

The free trolleys have tooled around the Loop since 2000, shortly after Daley visited San Francisco and observed its ubiquitous cable-car lines.

Amy Lee is a Chicago-based journalist. She covers transit issues for the Daily News.