Ridership Up on River Rails, But So Are Expenses

First the good news for the River Rail Streetcar system: More people are riding the rails.

In 2012, attendance was 104,998, an increase of 4.6 percent from the previous year.

Now the bad news: Expenses jumped 8.4 percent to $1.022 million in 2012. Since the operating revenue was only $83,491, that left Pulaski County and the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock to come up with the $938,809 to cover the shortfall. Each government agency is responsible for a third of the amount.

The source of the expense increase was tied to “some very expensive track maintenance work” that was done in 2012, according to the Central Arkansas Transit Authority. CATA operates the fleet of five replica vintage streetcars that chug around the 3.4-mile track connecting Little Rock to North Little Rock. Only three cars are on the track at a time, though.

Most of the other expenses are caused by the electricity it takes to operate the cars and salaries for the 11 employees.

In 2011, the River Rail generated $74,973 in revenue, mainly from ticket sales.

In 2011, the three government bodies had to cough up $867,960 to cover the costs of operating the trolley line.

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines said he thought the money was well spent.

“Our goal was to have an opportunity to get around downtown without having to drive around looking for a parking space,” he said in an email to Whispers.

He also said the second goal of the project was to create a transportation hub for future transportation needs, which are being planned.

Stay tuned.