Trolley pilot approved for West Hollywood

April 8, 2013

West Hollywood has approved a pilot program for an "Entertainment Shuttle" to offer a similar service along the city's main thoroughfare, Santa Monica Boulevard. And to salve the concerns of one council member, the trolleys will not be limos with stripper poles in them.

The brainchild first floated during the 2011 election campaign of Lucas John, an entrepreneur who publishes WeHo Confidential, a gossip site and, a gay hook up site, the trolley aims to alleviate traffic, increase safety, and provide an alternative to driving drunk.

West Hollywood will put entertainment trolleys on the street beginning in July, despite John Heilman's concerns that the emphasis might be misplaced, He stands firmly against limos with stripper poles.

After nearly 18 months, staff presented the results of their research and recommendations for program implementation to the city council at last Monday’s meeting, which voted unanimously to approve a six-month pilot program beginning July 1.

While there were a couple of options for routes presented to the council, a linear route along Santa Monica Boulevard was approved for the trial period, which will make 15-minute runs from Doheny Drive to Fairfax Avenue, also stopping at the West Hollywood Public Library's parking deck on San Vicente Boulevard.

The free shuttle service will operate on Friday and Saturday evenings from 8 pm to 3 am, and cost the city $62,000 to rent two buses. An additional $25,000 has been allocated to market the program.

If the pilot program is successful, city staff members recommended looking at ways to turn the shuttles into a complete "WeHo-themed experience."

Despite unanimous approval of the idea, some council members expressed concern about a issues including the necessity of the program, safety and the route.

John Heilman expressed concern over the desire to sell the use of the trolleys to a younger audience from outside the city as "sexy," saying he thought they were for responsible people.

After listening to assertions that the shuttle program needs to be marketed effectively to its target audience – young people who patronize the city's many nightlife establishments – council member John Heilman said, "I worry about the discussion about this being a vehicle that is 'sexy' or 'hot.' What, are we going to have limos with stripper poles in them? Is that what we're really trying to target? I thought it was for responsible people looking for a transportation option."

He noted that the city previously offered a free service using the city's CityLine buses, but other council members noted that the demographic targeted for the service is not likely to get onto traditional modes of public transportation.

Council member John D'Amico suggested that city staff work hard to get the shuttle service running in time for WeHo’s LA Gay Pride celebration, taking place in West Hollywood June 7-9.

While the program isn't scheduled to begin until July 1, D'Amico said it would be nice to showcase the service to the nearly 400,000 people who descend upon the area during Pride, which might encourage them to come back and visit again.

City leaders will appoint a task force of residents and business owners to provide recommendations on the shuttle service and report back to the city council after the pilot period expires.

The city's next step will be to issue a RFP to transportation companies who are interested in bidding on providing the shuttle service to the city.