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NRoute leadership needs to reimagine how best to use downtown trolley

Vicksburg has a white elephant — literally.

It has four wheels, the body of a trolley and sits idle on the bottom level of the South Street parking garage.

When Vicksburg’s Trolley Express had its maiden tour in December 2015 after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Old Depot Museum, it was hailed as a major piece in the drive to boost Vicksburg’s status as a tourist destination.

Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau director Bill Seratt said the bus would be an asset to the city, especially when Vicksburg’s walking trails program began that spring.

“It brings back the charm of the historic districts,” he said. “It takes us back to a time when life was slower and transportation was a bit easier. People will be able to walk part of the trail and catch the bus at another location. The stops are in key areas to get to key attractions.”

But the grand ceremony and platitudes never translated into ridership or revenue. From December 2015 through Jan. 10, 2017, when it was parked, according to NRoute, the trolley generated $3,256.75 in total revenue, while expenses came to nearly $10,000 — most of that, $9,706.37, was for the driver, maintenance and fuel.

So what should be done with the trolley? That’s a question NRoute director Evelyn Bumpers and the five-member NRoute board needs to decide, and apparently no one’s in a big hurry to reach a decision, even with an offer from the city to possible help subsidize the program further.

That inaction sounds like someone’s more interested in protecting their turf than helping the city.

It doesn’t take much effort to look around the city and see potential uses for the trolley: serving as a shuttle to downtown for visitors coming off the riverboats, shuttling people to the Vicksburg Convention Center for conventions, or around downtown during Main Street’s Hit the Bricks programs, or even being rented out for weddings and other events.

But NRoute’s appears to be satisfied with letting the $192,979 vehicle waste away in storage, and if that’s all they’re willing do, then new leadership is needed at NRoute.

This is not a matter of protecting one’s turf. Taxpayers’ money is being wasted.

Used creatively, the trolley can be an asset to the city.

All it takes is one person or organization to be a leader and put the good of the city first.