Baltimore's 13-vehicle fleet of trolley buses, which cease running Friday, may soon be reborn as the nucleus of a new sightseeing operation that would showcase the city.
Mark L. Joseph, president of Yellow Transportation, said his company was in the final stages of negotiating with city officials to acquire the gasoline-powered buses, which resemble turn-of-the-century trolleys, and that he expected the sale to be
submitted to Baltimore's Board of Estimates for final approval in the near future.
About 60 employees of the city-run Baltimore Trolley Works Inc. were laid off when the trolleys stopped running. Mr. Joseph said he hoped to hire back at least some of them upon taking control of the line. He said he already had hired two.
Mr. Joseph's company was one of five that submitted a bid to purchase the trolley line after city officials put it up for sale last July. City officials said that they had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the money-losing trolleys in operation and could no longer afford to subsidize them.
Mr. Joseph, whose company runs the city's largest taxicab fleet as well as affiliated school bus and limousine services, said he hoped to use them to provide a "first-class tour of Baltimore," similar to tour bus lines in New York, Boston and other cities.
Mr. Joseph said the trolleys had a size and ambience ideal for guidedtours of Baltimore, for conventioneers and other visitors. They also could be chartered, he said, for use by special groups interested in taking a particular type of tour, such as seeing historical landmarks or city neighborhoods.
"For individuals who come to town and stay at the Hyatt and want to see the city, there is no real tour now," Mr. Joseph said. "Our goal is to get people to ride the trolleys and see more of the city. We may even be able to offer discounts to some of the
Mr. Joseph said he did not think it would be economically feasible for Yellow Transportation to offer the same kind of "line -- service" the city did when it ran the trolleys.
But he said he planned to experiment with ways to carry people along the Charles Street corridor -- particularly during the lunch hour, when the demand for guided tours might not be so high as in the morning or afternoon. As in the past, the trolleys could be rented out for weddings and other events, he added.
The trolley was one of Baltimore's best tourist bargains, shuttling passengers for 25 cents through the Charles Street shopping areas and along an east-west route that included the Inner Harbor and Little Italy.
When the city quit the trolley business, Finance Department spokeswoman Ella Pierce noted that it had been costing the city "somewhere between half a million and three-quarters of a million annually" and "we just don't have the money."