By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin’s original trolley will be replaced with a heavy-duty one because of the wear and tear it receives.
The City Council on Tuesday authorized the purchase of a new green trolley at a cost of $390,115.
Robert Lolley, the city’s transit coordinator, told the Globe that the first trolley cost less, $129,000, because it is a lighter duty vehicle and “it was purchased on a state bid with some other trolleys that were bought for the state capital, so we got a really good deal.”
The existing trolley has a service life of seven years or 200,000 miles, and it had about 166,000 miles on it at the end of 2012. It was the sole trolley when Joplin started the service in 2007. Since then, two more have been added to cover the southeast and southwest sections of the city, though they are a van style and not the green and gold decorative trolley that is to be replaced.
Lolley told the council that the existing trolley has been costly to repair, averaging $6,000 a year most of the time but costing $11,000 to fix last year. Lolley said the expense of the repairs is an indicator that the vehicle is not adequately equipped for the workout it gets on its route looping downtown and Range Line Road.
Ridership has increased from 67,000 the first year to 155,000 last year. The trolley also has an inadequate heating and cooling system, and it does not always keep passengers comfortable, Lolley told the Globe.
The bid for the new one would provide a heavy-duty trolley rated at 12 years or 500,000 miles of service, with heavier springs and doors, heat and air conditioning, and other heavier construction, Lolley said.
“It will have a slightly different design” than the existing model. “The front end is protruded, which gives the driver a lot more visibility than the one now,” he said.
It will have a ramp system so that passengers with disabilities or in wheelchairs can get on and off through the main door without having to be loaded onto a lift like the existing trolley uses. The new one will hold three wheelchairs instead of two, and they will sit in the center of the bus, which is more stable and comfortable than the rear of the existing trolley, Lolley said. The new one also will hold 29 passengers instead of 26. At peak times, the current trolley is full, so there is a need for more space for passengers, Lolley told the council.
Councilman Mike Woolston asked why a lower bid of $357,000 that the city received was not being recommended. Lolley said that bid was for a different model of engine that would not handle the start-and-stop operation as well as the more expensive model.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce questioned whether the price of the vehicle and the higher cost of operating it is necessary. He asked if the city staff had considered that repair and maintenance costs would be higher with a heavier vehicle.
“This trolley is exactly what we need,” Lolley said.
The council voted 7-1, with Scearce voting “no” and Morris Glaze absent, to approve the purchase.
A federal transportation grant will pay 80 percent of the cost of the purchase.
The city’s trolleys and Metro Area Publictransit System vehicles have cost $700,000 to $1 million a year to operate. A federal grant pays half that cost.
Residents will not see the new trolley until early next year. Lolley said it will take the manufacturer, ElDorado National, a year or more to build the vehicle to Joplin’s specifications.
The council also approved equipment purchases for the Public Works Department. A small excavator at a cost of $161,900 and a large one for $185,426 were authorized. Maintenance work to replace the equipment that lifts and stops the elevators at City Hall was approved at $169,716.
A total of 20 easement and right-of-way purchases for future widening work on Schifferdecker Avenue and on 26th Street from Maiden Lane to Schifferdecker Avenue were approved. Construction on those projects will take place next year.
The council also authorized the city to manage a project being financed by Jasper County and the Joplin Special Road District to replace a bridge on North Schifferdecker Avenue at Turkey Creek.
Trip costs OK’d
MAYOR MELODEE COLBERT-KEAN asked the City Council to authorize the city to pay the costs of a trip she plans in March to a meeting of the National League of Cities. The council voted 6-2, with Mike Woolston and Mike Seibert dissenting, to allow the costs to be paid by the city.