Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.
St. Louis, MO
Forest Park, which opened in 1876, is a sprawling green space in the heart of St. Louis. At 1,371 acres, it is one of the largest urban parks in the country, and more than 13 million visitors per year come to the park to play sports, ride bikes, run, fish, practice archery, or to attend one of the many special events the park hosts, such as the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. With so many people using the park, traffic quickly became a big concern for the organizations tasked with maintaining and running the park. In order to improve safety, decrease the number of cars, and improve access to the park’s attractions, a traffic management plan was proposed. Forest Park Forever, Metro, and other stakeholders began discussions in early 2011 to improve upon the summer bus route that serviced the park between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This special service was subject to annual cuts based on transit funding, meaning the service isn’t guaranteed to operate each season. The idea to brand the service as the Forest Park Trolley and extend the service operations to target peak times came about during these initial discussions. Metro shared their success in branding the Downtown Circulator as the Downtown Trolley in 2010. By rebranding the bus and marketing the service to visitors and downtown workers, the Downtown Trolley increased ridership by 58% in the first year.
The Forest Park Trolley was introduced in 2011, and has been the largest contributor to the success of the overall plan. By linking key destinations within the park to the closest light rail system, the service offered a new and immediately popular transportation option for both locals and out-of-town visitors alike. To date, this initiative has carried 230,000 riders, surpassing any previous park circulator.
For more information on Forest Park and the Forest Park Trolley, please visit: