Two Magnolia tourist magnets will anchor a temporary shuttle the city of Waco plans to roll out in the next few weeks between downtown Waco and the traffic circle.
The shuttle, which got the Waco City Council’s blessing Tuesday, will run from the downtown Silos to the restaurants on the circle, including the soon-to-open Magnolia Table.
City officials are hoping to duplicate the success of the “Silo trolley,” which has carried a quarter million visitors around downtown since it launched in July 2016.
In a 90-day trial, the new shuttle will circulate around downtown via Webster and Franklin avenues before heading down University Parks Drive, where tourists could stop at Baylor University, the Texas Ranger Museum, Texas Sports Hall of Fame or the Mayborn Museum.
From there it will turn right on La Salle Avenue, whose antique and décor shops are popular with out-of-towners, and wind to the circle along Circle Road before returning to downtown. A round trip would take 30 minutes on the shuttle, which would run from 4:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The 90-day trial period would cost $82,000, with some of the money possibly coming from businesses along the route. The service is expected to start in tandem with the opening of Magnolia Table in early March, city staff said.
In coming months, the city could also experiment with a different loop route that takes the Interstate 35 frontage road to the circle and returns along La Salle.
Assistant City Manager Deidra Emerson said the purpose of the experiment is to accommodate the Waco tourism boom and manage the traffic that comes from it.
“It’s staff desire to be as proactive as possible,” Emerson said.
City staffers expect Magnolia Table will be a big driver demand for the shuttle, given that the Silos drew 1.6 million visitors last year. Much of that traffic is expected to venture on to Chip and Joanna Gaines’ new brunch place for avocado toast, salads and tater tots. The Gaineses have turned the 1930s-era Elite Café into a showplace for their interior design.
In an interview, Police Chief Ryan Holt said his staff has been reviewing the traffic challenges the new restaurant’s popularity will pose and planning ahead for managing traffic.
City council members did not have to vote on the shuttle’s trial run but endorsed it.
“I’ve said all along we need a route along La Salle,” said District 2 Councilwoman Alice Rodriguez, who represents the area. “What I like is that it gives folks who need a ride to work to jump on board. … Hopefully the route is successful and becomes permanent.”
Councilman Dillon Meek, whose district includes downtown, commended city staff for seeing a need and responding to it rapidly.
“I think Waco is becoming an international tourist destination,” Meek said. “We’d be remiss if we were not being strategic in trying to build up that sector of our economy.”