The inaugural ride for Waco’s newest public transportation, the Silo District Trolley, rolled off with standing room only at the beginning of its first day, with city staff and visitors on board.
The free shuttle, which launched at 9:30 a.m. Friday on University Parks Drive, holds at least 20 people and serves the Austin Avenue and Franklin Avenue corridors, Magnolia Market at the Silos, the Waco Downtown Farmers Market and shops throughout the downtown area as a way to address parking issues and encourage tourism.
City staff announced the experimental service Tuesday, and buses are expected to run the 10-minute route from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday for the next three months.
“This turnout is really great,” Waco tourism manager Susan Morton said. “Some of the city management, shop owners and business owners got together and said parking is becoming a
problem, and this has not traditionally been an issue for Waco. I hope a lot of people will take advantage of it.”
The bus doesn’t have designated dropoff and pickup points along the route, Morton said. It operates on a flag stop system, where a rider can wave the bus driver down at any point along the route to get on or off. There will be about six marked spots on the route where there is enough space for the bus to park.
City staff was working to place signs at the safe-stop locations Friday afternoon, Morton said. The entire route takes about 10 minutes, she said.
“We’re just very excited about the trolley. This is something that is going to make our shopping experience so much better for our customers,” said Morgan Morgan, merchandising assistant manager for Magnolia Market. “They’re traveling in from all over the country, and they don’t know Waco. So this is making it easier for them to get to us and just have a fun experience. I wanted to see how it worked first, so whenever they come, I can tell them exactly how to get on and make sure they’re well informed. Really, they’re the only reason we’re able to have as much fun as we do.”
From the road or sidewalk, riders can identify the bus on the downtown route by a banner hanging on the side that reads “Silo District.”
The new route’s trial run will cost the city $70,000, with signs, marketing and the Waco Transit bus service. Magnolia will help market the service.
Barb, Beth and Missy Paulson were among the first riders on the new route. The women traveled from Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a girls’ weekend, they said, not expecting to be breaking in the new route.
The group, staying at a nearby hotel, hopped on at University Parks Drive during the bus’s third trip around to visit Magnolia Market.
“We saw an Instagram post about the trolley and we realized our hotel was right there, so it worked out,” Missy Paulson said.
The women only knew about Waco through the HGTV program “Fixer Upper,” they said. They have watched the show for a few seasons and love the do-it-yourself concepts, they said. But this was the first time for them to see something with ties to the show in person, they said.
“Unfortunately, because of some of the things that have happened in Waco before, I hadn’t really thought about the city until the show,” Barb Paulson said.
“But this was very convenient, and very nice,” Beth Paulson said.
As they left the bus, they asked for directions to the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, wanting to know what else the city has to offer.