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Park Board, City Council should work together - The Galveston County Daily News : Editorials

November 27, 2014

Park Board, City Council should work together

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Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 7:08 am, Wed Sep 24, 2014.

Officials with the Galveston Park Board of Trustees and the City Council should talk about the trolley system.

There’s obviously some confusion.

The park board adopted a resolution that irritated some council members. To some council members, it looked as if the park board was trying to limit the amount of revenue from the hotel occupancy that would go into a trolley system. The resolution looked like a $300,000 spending cap.

At least some park board officials were surprised by that interpretation. The park board resolution did not exclude the possibility of providing more funding. That’s only fair. The proposed trolley system is transportation for tourists. Taxes on tourism are an appropriate way to fund that system.

The park board also said it would support the revival of the rail trolleys, but only after a rubber-tired trolley system was in place.

That’s just being realistic. The rail trolleys make sense only if they operate within a larger system of getting visitors where they want to go.

So, where does a more productive conversation start?

The park board is working on a $20,000 comprehensive tourism transportation plan. Why not start there?

Galveston has a thriving tourism business — but the community is going to have to invest to keep it healthy. On any sunny weekend, Seawall Boulevard looks like a parking lot. Traffic crawls when it moves. And nothing kills the experience of a relaxing getaway like a couple of hours in heavy traffic.

That’s a problem for the tourism industry. But it’s also a problem for the city itself, which has jobs, economic activity and tax revenue riding on the health of that industry.

The discussion of managing tourist traffic around ought to be a joint priority for the council and the park board.

The park board doesn’t have the financial resources to operate a trolley system by itself. And operating a bus system is not exactly the agency’s area of expertise.

On the other hand, the council can make decisions in a vacuum that could make the traffic problems worse, not better. For example, consider the proposal to build an amphitheater over the Gulf. Consider the implications of permitting that business, which would provide seating for 3,000 with no provisions for parking. Without a plan, traffic on the seawall will just get worse.

Eventually, of course, traffic will get so bad that individual companies that manage hotels and attractions will try to do something about it. But a single, coordinated system would achieve more with less expense.

Traffic is a serious challenge. Both the council and the park board — and perhaps some of the major players in the tourism business — should be working together on it.