No, El Paso Streetcar Has Not Resumed Service – Here’s Why It’s Running Routes
If you see the El Paso Streetcar silently winding its way up and down the street, don't get too excited, Mr. The One Person Who Used to Ride It Regularly. It’s only for testing purposes and has not resumed not making any money.
The city has to run them every once in a while, and conduct mandatory testing and car maintenance as required by federal regulations in order to ensure rail certifications and continue collecting the federal grants that partially subsidize it. Service is still officially suspended and it will not be picking up passengers -- which, let’s be honest, won’t be much different than when it was operational.
Testing is scheduled between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily from January 11-15, 2021, per the city press release. Streetcars will run both the downtown and the so-called uptown route multiple times each day. While it's in mandatory testing-mode, the city reminds motorists and pedestrians to obey all safety measures along the route to include:
- Never stop your vehicle on the tracks.
- Obey all crossing signals and signage.
- Never walk, run or ride your bicycle along the streetcar tracks.
- Keep a safe distance between yourself and the streetcars.
After this week, testing will be conducted once a month for the next five months on the following dates:
• February 8-12
• March 15-19
• April 12-16
• May 10-14
• June 7-11
Streetcar service was initially suspended on March 22, 2020, in response to the pandemic, which had just begun its assault on El Paso. Service will remain on pause until further notice, supposedly due to the economic impact COVID-19 continues to have on the city budget, but it’s no secret the trolley was bleeding money even before coronavirus.
To say it attracted much lower ridership than city council and Sun Metro officials envisioned is putting it mildly. After it was rolled out to much fanfare during Winterfest in 2018, ridership quickly declined. Often times it ran empty or with just a handful of people during the week, but people weren’t exactly clamoring for a slow ride on weekends, either.
According to Sun Metro data referenced in a 2019 El Paso Times article, the service was costing $2.82 million to operate, while collecting less than $50,000 in fares its first eight months of operation.