New trolley to get debut on Main Street

Free service meant to relieve parking crunch

Ellicott City

December 05, 2003|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The Ellicott City Business Association will debut its new trolley tonight at the Midnight Madness Family Fun Celebration, the 26th annual kickoff of the holiday shopping season in the historic district.

Starting at 6 p.m. and running until midnight, the bright red, 32-passenger "trackless trolley" will provide free shuttle service up and down Main Street, and make stops at six satellite parking lots.

Association President Jared Spahn and Main Street merchants have hopes that the trolley will alleviate the historic district's parking crunch, a problem that frustrates shoppers and business owners. And they said it might attract tourists and shoppers who stayed away because of the parking hassles.

"It should be a wonderful boost to the historic district," said Spahn, the president of Old Town Construction.

"The trolley's a very good thing for Ellicott City. You've got to move those people around," said Nancy Gibson, who, with her mother, owns the Forget-Me-Not Factory near the bottom of Main Street.

"We have such a challenge here with the parking, and this time of year anything that will help people park more efficiently is good for business," Gibson said.

Dr. Bruce Taylor and Donald R. Reuwer Jr., both of whom own and develop large parcels in the town, paid for the trolley, which cost more than $50,000.

"We thought a trolley would make it convenient and comfortable for people to get back and forth to their vehicles," said Taylor, who, with Reuwer, was active in attempts to bring a trolley to the historic district.

The Ellicott City Business Association contracted with the private nonprofit Urban Rural Transportation Alliance - which provides transportation services, mainly to special-needs clients - to operate and maintain the trolley.

Under its normal schedule, which begins tomorrow, the trolley will operate from noon to 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

For the past few years, the association rented trolleys for holidays and special events, but Spahn said a permanent trolley was badly needed.

"Parking continues to be at a premium," he said.

Enalee Bounds, who owns Ellicott's Country Store on Main Street, said some of her customers have complained about Main Street's steep slope.

"They say I'd rather go to a mall than walk up and down," Bounds said. "But I tell them they walk just as much in a mall, and, of course, there's lots to see here and fresh air is good for you."

Rachelina Bonacci, executive director of Howard County Tourism, said the trolley might encourage visitors to use the courthouse parking lot, which includes almost 300 of the 1,000 public parking spots in the historic district. But its location at the top of a steep hill on Rogers Avenue keeps people away.

It was three years ago when Taylor and Reuwer approached the business association with the idea of buying a trolley. They offered to contribute $25,000 to the cost, and the association held fund-raisers to hire a driver and pay for insurance.

But the group's efforts hit a brick wall after six weeks of advertising failed to result in the hiring of a part-time driver and estimates for insurance came in much higher than expected.

The trolley plan lay dormant until Taylor and Reuwer increased their donations.

Taylor said he also asked builders working on Taylor Village - a community for seniors that Taylor's family is building on College Avenue - to contribute to the cost of the trolley.

The trolley's regular route will include stops at Taylor Village. It will also go to the Autumn View and Worthington Fields developments at College Avenue and New Cut Road - also Taylor projects - and service might be extended to the Long Gate Shopping Center at Route 103 and U.S. 29.

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