Tulsa Steps Up to T-Town Trolley

Contributing Writer

READY TO RIDE: Rex Public Relations Vice President and Tulsa Young Professional member Marnie Ducato enjoys riding the T-Town Trolley. The free service links the downtown Blue Dome district with Cherry Street, Brookside and the Boston Avenue and 18th Street area, and will soon add the Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino. The trolley operates from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and also operates special events.

GTR Newspapers photo

On New Years Day, the Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino, located at 951 W. 36th St. N. at the northern end of the Tisdale Parkway in Tulsa, will join the loop, and the gaming emporium will proudly join the 19th century. It will be able to provide its patrons trolley service.

In doing so it will join a lot of other Tulsa entertainment venues benefiting from a bygone business. Trolleys, once “out” are again very much in and Blake Lund is trying to increase their visibility.

Lund, a Tulsa promoter, is a self-confessed trolley nut and is the proud president of T-Town Trolleys, which, since March, has been providing free transportation for people wanting to sample Tulsa’s nightlife unencumbered by automobiles.

Trolleys have fascinated Lund since he was a student at the University of Oklahoma. He was interested that transportation by trolleys had an ambiance of yesterday, if not the ancient sound of “clang, clang, clang goes the trolley” lore. Today’s trolleys may look delightfully old-fashioned inside but instead of being pulled by old dobbin or getting their power from electric lines overhead, they are powered by diesel engines and run on very modern wheels rather than tracks.

They are also making appearances in a number of cities. In Lund’s case, there is no attempt to compete with Tulsa’s bus service.

“Ours is a service paid for by sponsors who see value in what we’re doing. Budweiser was our first sponsor and is still our major sponsor, but a number of others have joined including the BOK Center, the Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino, the Crown Plaza Hotel, the Downtown Doubletree Hotel, Tulsa Young Professionals, Greater Tulsa Reporter Newspapers and Urban Tulsa Weekly.”

The T-Town Trolley loop includes from Brookside to Cherry Street to the 18th and Boston Ave. area and then to the Brady and Blue Dome districts downtown. On January 1 it will extend to the casino. Lund’s trolleys run from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

T-Town Trolley now has two trolleys, both of which have a traumatic past. “One survived Hurricane Katrina, the other a hurricane in Florida, but I got them at a price I could afford. A new trolley costs around $300,000 but I gave these a little tender loving care and now they look terrific.

“We don’t have a rigid schedule but it takes about 40 minutes to complete a loop, and when we add the casino that will add another 10 minutes or so.”

The trolleys can stay busy on days other than the Sundays through Thursdays. When events are going on at the BOK Center the trolleys make a round of some downtown hotels taking patrons from the front of the hotel to the Center. He says he is in negotiations with the Tulsa Drillers to provide service when the ballpark moves to its downtown location in the 2010 season. In the meantime the trolleys are available for rental for private functions, parties, or whatever. Has anyone rented one to go to an OU home game? “We would discourage that,” Lund laughs. “To keep the authentic look we have kept the oak benches and the trolleys, which are built on a truck chassis and aren’t really made with road comfort in mind.”

How well has the trolley service been received? While no accurate count has been kept, the various establishments on the route are encouraged to give passengers chips for free passage. Thus far over 13,000 chips have been handed to passengers. This does not, of course, include those going to BOK Center events, and no one is refused admission for lack of a chip, but it is obvious Tulsans have taken to the trolley.

There is one advantage to such a carrier; people traveling from bar to bar won’t be driving.

The trolleys have had a happy family effect for the Lunds. His three children all think the trolleys are utterly cool. Lund himself has found himself amassing a huge collection of model trolleys
There is one other thing Lund, a seasoned promoter, is anticipating: on New Year’s Day, he is moving his offices into the old service station that gave the Blue Dome district its name. Downtown Tulsa, he says, is roaring back and he is anxious to be a part. The Blue Dome and Brady Districts are parts of Old Tulsa.
So were the trolleys.

It’s a match well made.

For more information, see www.ttowntrolley.com or call (918) 794-2485.

Updated 12-15-2008

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