SURRATT: Second city trolley could be boon for Vicksburg — or a bust

Published 4:00 am Friday, June 10, 2022

Vicksburg has a white elephant — literally.

It’s housed on the lower level of the city parking garage at the corner of Walnut and South streets, and while it has made some public appearances, it has mostly stayed in its den.

NRoute purchased the trolley in December 2014 with federal and city funds; 80 percent of its $192,979 cost was paid by a federal transportation grant and the city paid the 20 percent match of $38,595. It was presented to the public on Dec. 5, 2015, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included speeches and predictions about how the trolley, named the “Trolley Express,” would enhance Vicksburg’s tourist industry and further improve the city as a tourist destination.

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Plans for the trolley had it making daily trips through areas catering to tourists; its projected route included stops at the Old Depot Museum, Cedar Grove Mansion in the Garden District, the corner of Crawford and Washington streets in the Downtown Shopping District, The Old Courthouse Museum, Duff Green Mansion in Old Town Vicksburg, the Southern Cultural Heritage Center and the then-Outlets at Vicksburg.

But a combination of poor ridership coupled with the cost of running the trolley forced NRoute to park it in 2017.

NRoute records requested by The Vicksburg Post in 2017 indicated the trolley proved to be far more costly — and far less profitable — than expected.

From December 2015 through Jan. 10, 2017, the trolley generated $3,256.75 in total revenue, while expenses came to almost $10,000; the cost for a driver, maintenance and fuel came to $9,706.37.

At the time, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. announced the city was willing to help NRoute get the trolley back on the road, but federal regulations limited how the trolley could be used. Monday, Flaggs said attempts to work out a joint-use plan with NRoute were unsuccessful and city officials were considering buying a trolley for Vicksburg’s tourism-related agencies.

“The city and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureaus are in the process of buying its own trolley,” he said at the start of Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “If the city’s tourism agencies need a trolley, we ought to buy it just like our own coach.”

It will be interesting to see if the city buys a trolley and how it will be used. Having a trolley could be an advantage to the city, especially when the tour boats arrive to provide transportation to those tourists who want to visit downtown. It could also be rented for weddings and other private events.

Or, it could join its NRoute counterpart in the parking garage and we could have two white elephants and the mayor could have an albatross. That will depend on how astutely our city officials handle the ride.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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