Clang! Clang! Clang! Goes The Trolley

The Mississippi Mile…The Riverfront Trolley…

Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? In my three part series [Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3] about ways to increase foot traffic and connections all along the downtown riverfront — not just in front of the Arch — I touched on the idea of a single-track trolley running from the Laclede Power Station and Trailhead Park, Laclede’s Landing, the Archgrounds and a brand-spanking-new Chouteau’s Landing district behind the southern flood wall.

Though none of the finalists in the City+Arch+River recommended this, it would be a fairly easy addition to implement into the final design. The winners, MVVA, initially planned to close off Leonor K. Sullivan to regular traffic and now seem open to the idea of “limited” auto-use. Either way, it’s likely we’ll see a river’s edge road that sees less traffic and, hopefully, less width.

A rendering of MVVA’s north end redesign. It’s unlikely
the tree-lined
pedestrian-only boardwalk will make the cut.

If I’m looking at MVVA’s design plan properly, their idea is to replace the removed LKS lanes with an extended Archgrounds landscape. While this is a definite upgrade over the current characterless LKS, it does nothing to encourage exploration of the riverfront and its surrounding areas. A trolley line, however, nestled against the flood wall to the north and opening up to an Arch view as you move south, tells visitors that there is something to see and do beyond the Eads and the PSB.

I envision the Laclede Power Center as the trolley’s roundhouse, entering — on rail — through a southern doorway and onto its main floor. Visitors can take the trolley down to the Center, view the river from Trailhead Park, and even see workers performing quick maintenance and cleaning before the trolley is pulled around and set south again. The building itself would be perfect as a combination roundhouse, rest stop and museum of St. Louis power industry and/or streetcar and trolley history.

The interior of the Laclede Power Center. Image screen-capped
KETC’s Living St. Louis “Warehouse Photographer” segment.

Neat, right? Now imagine a trolley pulling in – filled with passengers eager to explore past the Eads Bridge – and coming to rest on its turnabout. Passengers hop off, view artwork and photography on the wall that illustrates the beauty and history of St. Louis streetcars and the Laclede Power Center. While this goes on, the trolley is shined up and cleaned off. Workers grab hold of a couple of sturdy ropes tied into the turnabout and easily maneuver the trolley around for its departure. The bell clangs three times as it exits for its next run. Meanwhile, the passengers head outside, entering Trailhead Park through one of the large western-facing entrances, taking in new views of the river and the city and relaxing on Cassilly’s sculptures as bicyclists make their way to and through the Riverfront Trail. When the trolley arrives again, they either hop back on and head south or linger for another fifteen minutes.

And don’t forget the William A. Kerr Foundation building (a LEED Platinum
honoree) just a half block away – it’s a great visual draw and an amazing
learning tool for alternate energy, green living and adaptive reuse

If you’ve read this far, you’re starting to recognize that the Riverfront Trolley may very well draw more people because of where it ends up rather than as another way to view the Arch and immediate riverfront. Well, that’s the plan. Only by stretching out the notion of the “St. Louis Riverfront” can we begin to see creative revitalization of our dilapidating (and unappreciated) industrial riverfront to the north and south.

To the south, Chouteau’s Landing will only be a draw if and when new development begins behind the flood wall. It’s website offers some really neat concepts – if some of those ever happen and they go a step further to build right up to the flood wall, you suddenly have points at both ends of the Trolley line that, for many, will be a bigger draw than the Arch itself.

The proposed trolley line enters Chouteau’s Landing’s “Flood Wall”
district near Poplar Street and ends in a roundabout.
And yes, those are Monopoly houses and hotels I’m using in this example.

Here you see how this Riverfront Trolley could bring Arch visitors and downtown workers to a new single-street, tree-lined district with restaurants, galleries, antique shops, music clubs, residences and more. At its southern terminus, the trolley circles slowly (maybe around a fountain with a large, stylized fleur-de-lis statue as its centerpiece!), stops briefly and heads north again, taking visitors to and from the Archgrounds and north riverfront. In the future, maybe point serves as a junction for another line that heads further south onto Broadway, connecting visitors to the Farmer’s Market, the Brewery and more!

With the Delmar Trolley moving closer to reality and a city-wide interest improving connections and activating the downtown riverfront, a trolley line like this on the new Mississippi Mile makes a lot of sense. As I said in a previous article, it need not be a big project and it need not be expensive — but it is positioned, if done right, to be a great, new draw to the fairly-desolate riverfront, and one that could prove transformative for areas which have heretofore been underutlized and underappreciated.

Oh, and as far as what kind of trolley it should be? Well, that’s open to debate, but I’m leaning toward one of these…

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…
…a beautiful day for a neighbor…


  1. awsome dude.. i like this story

  2. St. Louis suffers from no connectivity between emerging neighborhoods and entertainment areas on the near southside. Metro should recognize the need to have a circular tourist route for Lafayette Square,Soulard,the Brewery(Benton Park), Cherokee street, south Grand, Tower Grove Park, Mobot, the Hill, the Grove) connecting with metrolink. A traffic free trip without worries about navigation, car breakins, or using sinle destination bus lines.

  3. Yet Another St. Louis Blog by Kevin B. · · Reply

    That's definitely another good idea when considering connective trolleys. While something like that would supplement existing infrastructure, I envisioned the riverfront trolley mainly as an attraction — getting people to, through the guise of visiting the Arch, extend their comfort zones slightly both northward and southward. After breaking that invisible psychological barrier, it opens all kinds of possibilities for connective or continued lines north and south (Old North, Trestle Project, Soulard, Farmers' Market, Brewery, etc.).Then when I-70 is removed (hopefully) the connections are laid for some serious work on reconnecting to the river.

  4. id rather see a similar trolly run from the Near North area to the anheuser-busch complex along broadway and 7th. it would be just as beneficial to the riverfront over the long haul and do way more for downtown as well as connect the North and South side

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