The trolley, planned for construction in 2012 and opening in 2013, will transport riders along a route running down Delmar Boulevard from Trinity Avenue by the University City Lion's Gate to DeBaliviere Boulevard in St. Louis before turning south and ending at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.
The hearing was held due to a federal requirement that community members be able to express their opinions and ask questions during a public commenting period.
"A lot of people want to know the basics," said Maggie Hales, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments Deputy Executive Director. "We're actually recording every comment verbatim. We'll write them down and analyze them. For those that are substantive, we will work with the federal government to address them."
At 6 p.m., CH2M HILL consultant Tim Page gave a presentation about the design and program management firm's environmental assessment of the trolley project.
"What started as an idea in 1995 grew into a concept paper in 1997 and then into a feasibility study in 2000," Page said.
The electricity-and-battery-powered trolleys would run 360 days a year, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. A 50 percent discount will apply for seniors and low-income users. According the Page, the assessment confirmed the trolleys would not create an excess amount of noise or vibrations, be unsafe in traffic or create an eyesore.
The Loop Trolley system would require a single wire to charge the trolleys' batteries, unlike the more complicated arrangement of electrical wires over MetroLink trains, Page said.
"This is much more simple and austere than that," he said.
Following the presentation, Hales moderated an approximately 45-minute commenting session transcribed by a court reporter.
After a few compliments, questions and concerns raised by community leaders and residents generally supporting the trolley concept, including St. Louis Ward 26 Alderman Frank Williamson, University City resident Andrew Wool deflated the room with a skeptical viewpoint.
Since the trolley will use a single track for two-way traffic in the Delmar Loop portion of the route, Wool anticipated that adding a trolley to the already congested street would make travel difficult.
"It will be a traffic nightmare from the lion at City Hall to Skinker," Wool said.
Wool protested the trolley project with signs before and after the hearing outside the museum with a group of three friends. He also criticized the effort as a "misappropriation of funds," pandering to Delmar Loop visitors.
"We should be more concerned about the citizens in the community than the tourists who are going to come once and spend a buck," Wool said. "The Loop is already saturated with businesses."
The City of University City's time and money would be better spent preventing schools from closing and police officers from being laid off, Wool said.
According to a chart referenced in the hearing, the total project would cost $43 million at maximum. This figure includes a $25 million federal grant -- the lion's share -- and smaller portions from new market tax credits, other federal sources, TIF monetizations and private donations.
Lifelong University City resident Jack Frohlichstein spoke after Wool and echoed his sentiments.
"I don't see why we need a trolley," Frohlichstein said. "We used to have trolleys, but why is this one not going to fail where the other one failed?"
Joe Edwards later countered that in conjunction with the MetroLink, the trolley would help University City and St. Louis residents cut down on transportation expenses by taking another step toward eliminating their need for a car.
In addition to saving on gas, repairs and insurance, relying less on cars means higher air quality, Edwards said.
Mass transit enthusiast and blogger Justin Chick spoke to University City Patch before the presentation began. Chick felt frustrated by the amount of resistance from residents against building more rail infrastructure in St. Louis.
"It's the way that our city has grown up," Chick said. "It doesn't lend itself to a pedestrian environment ... The way that the region has grown up with sprawl, in the short term it seems easier to develop for personal vehicles. In the long term, that's not sustainable."