649 is proving to be a lucky number for the Aldergrove Trolley Company.
The community is taking a gamble on a trolley numbered 649 that started out live in West Virginia in 1988.
“We had seen the trolley for sale in Florida,” noted Annette McArthur, a member of the community group behind the trolley company.
The trolley was sold to someone wanting to operate it in Stanley Park but it remained parked for two years.
The 31-seat trolley was found for sale online again, only this time it was already in Canada.
“This became available and we wanted to make a move on it,” said committee chair Dave Miller.
He approached TransLink last December to make all necessary arrangements. TransLink has jurisdiction over public transportation in the Lower Mainland.
In March, the committee sent its business plan to TransLink, which has said the project will be approved, so the committee bought the trolley.
“We’re not intruding on their service, we’re enhancing their service,” McArthur said.
The Aldergrove Trolley Company has been registered. The volunteer committee that has done the work so far will set up by the Aldergrove MDN Transportation Initiative (AMTI) which will own the trolley company so it stays a community-based effort.
The trolley project grew out of the reality TV show Million Dollar Neighbourhood which did a segment on transportation needs in the community.
The Aldergrove Trolley Company proposal goes before the TransLink board for approval on July 18. The trolley sits in an Aldergrove yard as the volunteers work on it and hunt up supplies but the group is looking for interior storage.
Despite having been involved since the idea was first suggested, Miller still found it very emotional to have the trolley arrive in the community.
“It was a real rush,” he said. “We’ve got something we can show the people. It was just a euphoric feeling.”
The trolley was for sale in the southern U.S. and driven up to Canada with the intention of a service in Stanley Park. Instead the owner found two others and put 649 up for sale.
Aldergrove picked it up for much less than its value but the committee isn’t making the price tag public.
“The insured value of it is four times what we paid for it,” McArthur said.
The trolley is marked with decals for the Stanley Park Trolley Co. which will be removed. It will be repainted red and green, and the mostly wood vintage-style wood, brass and cast iron interior cleaned up. Some water leaked in after it was brought up to the Lower Mainland. There is a working audio/video system.
Advertising inside and out will be sold to bring in revenue to fund operations. Langley Township helped out with a $2,500 grant used to create the business plan and the committee is looking at fundraising ideas to raise the $20,000-$25,000 to get the public transit aspect rolling.
That includes $15,000 to convert the trolley to a propane engine. The change makes the operation much greener and much less expensive to operate. The committee had to spend $1,000 in fuel and costs just to move the vehicle from storage in Surrey to Aldergrove.
“Going green really opens us up to [federal] grants,” Miller noted.
Another requirement to get the service going is finding qualified drivers, and again the committee is finding support in the community.
“I’ve had two people phone me, volunteering to drive the trolley,” Miller said. “They want part time.”
The committee would like to get a year-round service going sometime this year.
It will depend on being able to raise funds and the committee is looking at ways to promote it, including having it at the Christmas parade and other community events.
“We intend to show it off as much as possible,” he said.
Plans include two specific runs each day, between Aldergrove and the zoo, and specific runs between Aldergrove and Gloucester Industrial Estates to get workers to and from there. The routes will also include runs as far south as Zero Avenue so the seniors living at Pioneer Park will finally have public transit.
“I’m very excited for the community,” said Jody Henderson, with the Greater Vancouver Zoo. “I think it will have an effect on the whole community. It will make it a lot more convenient for people to get to the zoo.”
When the vehicle isn’t being used for public transit runs, it can be chartered for events and activities. Miller said he could see it being used for dry grad so students would have a fun and safe way to travel, for instance.
Anyone wanting more information or to offer support can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Aldergrove Trolley Company can accept donations into its account at any Aldergrove Credit Union branch.