CASPER, Wyo. — Visit Casper is exploring the possibility of launching some kind of trolley tour service similar to the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley.
That service in Cheyenne offers historic tours of the community.
“All in all, having trolleys is a great benefit to Cheyenne,” Visit Cheyenne CEO Darren Rudloff told the Natrona County Travel & Tourism Council, which oversees Visit Casper, on Friday, Oct. 18. “We’re selling the mystique of our area.”
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Rudloff says the trolleys generate $25,000-$30,000 in net profit for Visit Cheyenne each year.
More importantly, they are a good promotional tool to draw visitors to the area.
Rudloff says that Cheyenne’s first trolley service began in 1990. Visit Cheyenne was launched in 1988 and he says the trolleys grew out of efforts to show Cheyenne voters something tangible.
The City of Cheyenne initially owned the trolleys, purchasing them with federal transportation dollars. But Rudloff said the rules for how such federal funding could be used later changed in order to protect private charter businesses.
Those rules don’t allow vehicles purchased to be used for tours.
Visit Cheyenne then purchased the trolleys from the City of Cheyenne so that the historic tours could continue.
Today, Rudloff says four trolleys operate in Cheyenne, providing tours seven days a week and over 300 charter trips per year.
Both Visit Cheyenne and Visit Casper are funded via lodging tax dollars which can only be used to put on events and promote tourism.
If they want to purchase things like trolleys, they have to raise funds separately from the lodging tax.
Rudloff says that proceeds from the trolley service are used to maintain the system.
Visit Casper CEO Brook Kaufman said that they have some money saved up from things like advertising which could go toward the purchase of a trolley, but that these funds were likely insufficient.
The council discussed possibly seeking partners or sponsors to purchase their first vehicle.
Rudloff says the tours charge $12 per adult and $6 per child. Charter tours cost $130 per hour.
He says that expenses include about $60,000 a year for drivers, roughly $15,000 a year for maintenance of their fleet and $5,000 a year for insurance.
He says the trolley system brings in about $120,000 a year.
Rudloff says that the trolleys can have a significant lifespan with one from 1995 still operating.
He said buying a new trolley would cost roughly $130,000.
Whether they would specifically purchase a trolley or some other type of tourism vehicle has not been set in stone by Visit Casper.
Council Chair Tiffany Gamble suggested something “wagon-style” might be a good fit for Casper.
The council also talked about the possibility that a trolley could act as a kind of mobile visitor center, providing tourists with information about the area.
They are thinking about what routes a trolley might take, likely stopping at hotels and attractions around the community.
As they get a more concrete plan in mind, Visit Casper may look into doing some sort of pilot project to test the viability of the concept.
Renee Penton-Jones said they could ask the City of Casper about the possibility of using Community Promotions funding to help purchase a vehicle.
While running a trolley service comes with significant challenges, Rudloff says it is possible and gives Visit Cheyenne something they have control over.
“It is a visual reminder of tourism in Laramie County,” he says. “It’s a powerful advocacy tool for us.”