The free trolley in Edmonds taking visitors through downtown and to the waterfront this summer. (Edmonds Downtown Alliance)

The free trolley in Edmonds taking visitors through downtown and to the waterfront this summer. (Edmonds Downtown Alliance)

The trolley problem: Should city of Edmonds front the bill?

As Emerald City Trolley stops service, city leaders will weigh paying for the popular attraction.

EDMONDS — Since 2014, the Edmonds holiday trolley has become a staple of the winter season, along with a tree lighting ceremony and festive storefronts.

But the company supplying the rides, Emerald City Trolley, no longer offers the service, forcing the Edmonds Downtown Alliance to contract with a new trolley provider for this winter. After that, it’s up to city leaders to decide the fate of the popular attraction.

“It’s obvious that the merchants in downtown Edmonds have found it a real asset and we’ve gotten some inquiries from folks and I understand the interest in it and think it’s a good idea to explore,” Mayor Dave Earling said.

Earling, who won’t be seeking a third term in November, will present his 2020 city budget to the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting, which will include money for purchasing a trolley to run during holidays, special events and weekends.

The mayor declined to comment on the specific amount, citing negotiations over pricing with trolley sellers. But he promised the figure would be made public at Tuesday’s meeting.

With other projects also vying for city money, the mayor and Patrick Doherty, the economic development and community services director, expect the trolley to spark a debate among council members.

“I would assume if we have the financial capabilities, which I think we do, they’d be willing to purchase it,” Earling said. “Edmonds is a daytime destination. A tool like a trolley would certainly add to that character.”

If the city decided to set money aside for a trolley of its own, the Edmonds Downtown Alliance pledged to contribute up to $11,000. The Lodging Tax Committee also has offered to pitch in.

Doherty said a rough estimate of the yearly cost of the program would be about $25,000.

The city has been considering a shuttle from downtown to the waterfront for a long time. The trolley discussion also comes after the council voted in August to put off a downtown parking study. During public comment and an online survey, several people said a shuttle around town would alleviate parking problems.

This summer, Emerald City Trolley deployed free trolley rides around town for five Saturdays, which served as a kind of pilot program for the city.

“People actually came downtown, expressly motivated by that activity,” Doherty said.

Many visitors used the trolley to get from downtown to the waterfront, he said.

“While it certainly doesn’t substantially address our parking issues, it does to a smaller degree when people do that,” Doherty said.

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

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