This 2019 photo shows the free trolley in Edmonds taking visitors through downtown and to the waterfront. (Edmonds Downtown Alliance)

This 2019 photo shows the free trolley in Edmonds taking visitors through downtown and to the waterfront. (Edmonds Downtown Alliance)

Edmonds tries to find vintage trolley for free summer rides

The 2020 budget has $50,000 to buy a trolley, but finding the right one hasn’t been easy.

EDMONDS — Buying a vintage trolley is proving difficult for the city of Edmonds.

The 2020 budget includes up to $50,000 to pay for a trolley so the city can continue to offer free rides during the summer and winter to downtown. The problem — hardly anyone’s selling them.

“There’s a limited number, even nationally, of the kind of trolley we think makes sense to invest in,” said Patrick Doherty, the city’s economic development director. “There are a lot of trolleys that are essentially busses that are decorated, but that’s not really the sort of experience that we’re looking for. People really love the sort-of semi-open nature, something where they can wave to people going by and has the bell.”

Some available trolleys are old and costly to maintain, he said. Others don’t have the “vintage feel.”

The tentative plan is to run the trolley from Mother’s Day through October and during the winter holidays. It’s unclear how many days per week it’ll operate and what the route will be.

Across the state, trolley companies operate on similar schedules in San Juan Island, Gig Harbor and Yakima.

Opening by May is possible, but “we’re not going to do anything hasty,” Doherty said.

“The point of the matter is we want it to be a fun and novel experience that brings people out and makes it another reason to go to downtown Edmonds,” he said. “It’s like a candy bar, you don’t want one every hour of every day.”

City leaders are “pretty committed” to keeping the tab below the allotted $50,000, Doherty said. If needed, a budget amendment could give more dollars to the project.

As the city searches for a trolley to buy, local businesses are feeling the impact of the coronavirus.

While some may view it as an unneeded expense, Doherty says the trolley will “jump start” the business community once the outbreak is over.

The Edmonds Downtown Alliance is contributing $2,000 toward the purchase and pledged up to $11,000 in sponsorships from local businesses.

In recent years, the downtown business organization has coordinated the winter trolley rides.

The group contracted with the Friday Harbor Jolly Trolley in December after the private company in Seattle that previously supplied the holiday service closed.

That isn’t an option during the summer, when the fleet on San Juan Island is in full swing, Doherty said.

Currently, the city is looking at a few options, but there’s no deal in sight, he said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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