Lynn city council president makes push for trolley

November 3, 2012
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

Like San Francisco, Boston and neighboring Salem, Lynn might soon have a trolley, that is if City Council President Timothy Phelan can sell his colleagues and the Economic Development Industrial Corporation on the plan.

"They're an attraction, and they have a level of nostalgia," Phelan said. "Lynn has so much to offer and it's our responsibility to get that out there."

In his nine-page proposal, Phelan said the cost of a trolley could range anywhere between $30,000 and $245,000 depending on whether it's new or used and its qualities and features. And he proposes that it be paid for through a loan from EDIC to Community Development.

Technically the city cannot order EDIC to do anything because it is not a city entity, but EDIC Executive Director James Cowdell said the council could request.

Phelan calls the purchase of a single car, gas powdered trolley a "small but bold move for an expanded vision for our collective future."

He argues that the trolley could play a lead role in the city's continuing resurgence and that it would give visitors an inexpensive, car-free way to take in the city's historic sites and cultural attractions.

Ward 5 Councilor Brendan Crighton is one who Phelan will have to win over.

"I think before we begin to look at purchasing a trolley we should invest in the infrastructure that we have downtown," he said.

Crighton, along with Councilor at large Daniel Cahill recently put forth a $4 million proposal that included a number of city projects. He believes the city should make repairs with the bond, arguing that will attract investors to the downtown and waterfront area. Then the city could think about a trolley, he said.

Cowdell admitted the idea ties in with the progress the city is making trying to grow its downtown Arts and Cultural District. However, before EDIC agrees to any loan Community Development will have to produce a feasibility study or a business plan showing why this would be a good investment, he said.

"The question is, is it going to be sustainable, who will operate it, how much will it cost to operate and what are the sustainable revenues?" Cowdell said.

Phelan's plan has Community Development operating the trolley with specific tours aimed at showing off the city's assets, including the Lydia Pinkham Building, the Grand Army of the Republic Museum, the Lynn Museum, High Rock Tower, Red Rock, Lynn Woods, churches, historic homes and cemetery sites, City Hall auditorium, the Diamond District and the Capitol Diner, to name a few. Phelan suggested the city could partner with the Lynn Museum to work out specific tours.

He also said the trolley could also be put to use ferrying visiting dignitaries and in the Christmas Parade.

Ticket prices and advertising inside and outside the trolley would offset operation costs, Phelan said

"We have already started talking to other communities that operate them and will complete an in depth analysis that includes among other things, estimates on potential revenue, expenses, and projected ridership," said Community Development Director James Marsh.

Cahill said he remains open to any and all ideas for economic development. He also said he looks forward to hearing what potential economic value a trolley might bring based on similar services in other cities and towns and what revenues, if any, were generated.

Councilors have each received a copy of Phelan's proposal and will take up the issue at their next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. in City Hall.

Chris Stevens can be reached at



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