San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 9th, 2009
Trolling could bring trolleys to Kyle

The interior of a used electric trolley bus Kyle might purchase from a transit authority in Mobile, AL. City of Kyle photos.


KYLE – Even if mass transit isn’t on the city’s priority list, Kyle officials might be motivated by a deal.

The city council gave the staff approval Tuesday night to pursue a purchase of four electrically powered buses that have been taken offline by The Wave Transit System in Mobile, AL. The staff will run inspections on the vehicles and try to iron out additional details before returning to the council for approval.

Assistant City Manager James Earp said he found a sweet deal for used electric buses while he happened to be browsing various municipal auction offerings to just to see what’s out there.

The electric buses caught his attention at $25,000 apiece, battery chargers included. Earp said the 2001 model buses sold for $305,000 new, plus $60,000 for a charger. Kyle could purchase four such buses, plus the chargers, and end up spending $128,000 after popping for the inspections and the vehicles’ transport into Kyle.

Once the buses are up and running, the operations costs for each would come to about $10,500 per year, Earp said.

The buses have trolley-style seating, featuring a wooden, backed bench that wraps around the inside of the cavity. Earp said the buses were taken offline in Mobile in the last couple years because Wave went to a new style of charger for its electric buses.

Earp said he put in a bid at the $25,000 reserve price for each bus. The reserve bid holds the price for a short period, but doesn’t obligate the city to pay it.

That will be a decision by the council, which will be charged with determining if the purchase is an impulsive boondoggle, or if it’s too good of a deal to pass up.

Councilmembers were intrigued by the idea, generally, but some said they would be happier if it hadn’t been sprung on them so quickly. The staff prepared information about the buses until shortly before Tuesday night’s meeting.

“We should stick with priorities that we’re sure will be used by regular citizens,” Councilmember Lucy Johnson said.

However, Councilmember David Wilson pointed out, even if the city were to purchase the buses and find no suitable transportation project for them, the city could put them back on the market and recoup at least part of its investment.

City staff showed a couple possible electric bus routes basically run north-south along Interstate-35 and east-west along Kyle Parkway and Seton Parkway. Administrators also pointed out that the buses could be used for economic development tours, be rented out for private use or be pressed into a number of other services.

“If we have the response, we can consider other routes,” City Manager Tom Mattis said.

The exterior of a used electric trolley bus Kyle might buy from a transit authority in Mobile, AL.

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0 thoughts on “Trolling could bring trolleys to Kyle

  1. For some reason I keep visualizing these four electric trolley buses silently racing each other at the H2R (Harris Hill Road) course track here in San Marcos!

  2. As I undertand it, the transit organization replaces them ever five years and they are still in good working order. The article states that the trolleys will be inspected before the Council takes additional action. I wonder what negative motives some people may have to talk down an innovative idea?

  3. These are 2001 model buses. When did Katrina happen? Regardless, the whole point of purchasing the trolleys is to bus the people from the old part of Kyle to the new library the city manager plans to build at Plum Creek. No wonder he insisted everyone in the audience for the library agenda item sit through this one as well. Geez. I thought busing was a thing of the past.

  4. Totally cool and cute. I can’t believe you all are being dismissive about a libary! San Marcos should jump on this! I uege you all too if Kyle passes it up. Obviously they don’t see the potential but I sure do. The Carts Systme isn’t reliable as I could be and there are many many improvments that could be made with that whole system. They sometimes only come around once an hour but they take 20 minute breaks everytime they go to the station. I think the person who came across these should be commended to at least put the idea forward for their council to consider. Maybe the four trollies could focus on certain areas and the Carts could go another direction adn maybe get people to work on time with more frequent stpos. I would also urge the council or some to take the carts busus to work for one week.

  5. Oh and I meant I can;t believe you all are being dismissive about a library. God forbid the thought! San Marcos should jump on the trolley idea!

  6. I like the idea of Kyle getting a version of public transit like this. However, I need to point out that the operating costs are inaccurate: no mention of paying a bus driver. Also, there was no discussion of a fee structure to accompany the buses. Finally, the ACM is NOT a transit engineer. Developing transit routes and stops is a science, and certain levels of density (around 10 residential units per acre) are needed to support a bus transit stop. Cities looking to initiate a transit system typically spend 6-9 months developing rate structures, route identification, purchasing buses, hiring drivers, and developing policies (hours of operation, senior discounting, etc.). They also need to carefully assess whether the people of Kyle will actually use the buses; Kyle is still essentially a bedroom community with most residents commuting to Austin.

    Some folks working or that have worked for San Marcos have argued for years for San Marcos to develop a joint mass transit system with the university since CARTS is unreliable, and it’s stupid to have two systems.

    These particular buses won’t work well in San Marcos (full-electric buses have difficulties with hills unless equiped with a secondary NG or diesel engine), unless service was restricted to the immediate downtown area. Perhaps buses like this could serve to connect the university with the proposed heavy commuter rail stop on the south edge of downtown?

  7. The Trolley System is a good idea. But Government Hack (do you work for government? I always try to figure out why people chose their monikers and what they mean. I should give it up – but they are so clever). is right. The City put in less than one week of planning on this one. At Council they presented a plan in which the bus driver salary would cost only $5,000 annually (that is not a typo – so you can start laughing). They would only run between 10 am and 2 pm and would run from the hotels to the hospital and shopping centers and downtown area. Hmmm. Check-out is at noon. Check-in is around 3. That ought to work. There was no insurance money in the budget. Ride at your own risk? After all, it’s free… LOL They are 8 years old. The only bidders for these buses are – Kyle. But the buses could be used for special events. We don’t have a mechanic who can work on this type of bus. The list goes on and on.

    The city manager’s idea of surveying residents is to send out a private email to his best buddies. I’m certain he will get the survey results he is looking for with this methodology. So much for the due diligence he promised the City Council. But then, they have already voted for the city staff to proceed (one city councilwoman voted against it – amazingly, our youngest city councilperson appears often to be the wisest).

    Implementing a real transit system, even a small trolley system, does take a lot of planning. Kyle is about to redo their Comprehensive Plan. Shouldn’t it wait until that plan is finished? And shouldn’t it be realistically funded? Kyle raised their tax rate last year. And they are expected to do so again this year. Hocus pocus is not the way to get this thing started… There’s a good reason behind that old saying – don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. (I bet all of you are way too old and too urban to know what that means – I shouldn’t have used it here. sorry).

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