After years of dusty trips up and down a mountain, a vintage trolley in Helen Montana is being re-purposed. But the beloved old-time people mover will live a more comfortable life on the city streets ensuring more passengers on a trolley tour. This post looks at the changes the once free service is undergoing to become a revenue generator.
History of the Trolley To Trail
Believe it or not, trolley service originally began in Helen Montana in the year 1883. Back then it was a more efficient way to transport people and cargo from downtown Helen to the Northern Pacific Railroad depot just outside of the city.
And while those frontier day excursions are long over, the vehicle remains in active service to this day. Over the course of 130 years the trolleys went from being drawn by horses to being retrofitted onto modern automotive chassis. The City of Helen began restoring the trolley car #3 in 2006and it was put back into public service in 2009 as the connector between downtown Helen and the nearby hiking trails. The road connecting Helen and the hiking trails is unpaved dirt, and while safe, has taken a toll on the trolley.
Fast-forward to today and the news that the "Trolley to Trail" route will no longer be using the vintage vehicle.
The Helena Business Improvement District, which operates the free trolley is going to retire the trolley from its weekend climbs to the trailhead. With the dirt and dust that filters into the trolley, it’s difficult to keep it clean, McHugh said after a Business Improvement District meeting where he told the board that it needed to be withdrawn from this service if it was to be kept usable for what it was intended for.
The intended purpose is tourism. More specifically, cost effective tourism the city can maintain. Operating costs will be offset by making the trolley available for rent to private parties (wedding, school outings, etc.). The trolley's new role as a paid service augments its primary role as tour guide. By being re-purposed, city officials hope that there will be more passengers on the trolley tours than there were when it was going up and down the bumpy mountain side.
In 2012, during its last season on the dusty trails, the trolley was the subject of an article in the Helena Independent Record newspaper. 'Riding to Recreate' describes the city employee, Beaner Hern, tasked with driving the trolley and his close relationship with passengers. Hern jokingly said he sees many repeat offenders who "take the trolley to the top, ride back down and then take the trolley back up for another go in one morning."
Until this year, "repeat offenders" were not repeat paying customers because the service was free of charge. Now that the City of Helen has turned the trolley into a revenue generator, it faces many of the same challenges other trolley tours, namely how get to more paid bookings.
Currently, in order to book the Helen trolley for private use, one must download a form and either email or FAX it to the city's office. A modern online reservation system or tour management software would be beneficial to the city's goal of lower costs and increasing ridership.
Get More Passengers On A Trolley Tour
As encouraging as it is to see the City of Helen's vintage trolley graduate to a more modern way of life, the lack of an online reservation system is anything but modern. Tourism in the Age of the Internet requires a successful sightseeing tour to be "always available" for the convenience of its would-be customers. The ability to book a tour from the comfort of one's home, at anytime of the day, is a widely held expectation in 2013.
Whether or not your tour uses a trolley, our technology can help you book more tours as well as increase booking with features like support for coupons. Customcouponssave you time by letting groups choose the coupon offer date they want and reserve the appropriate amount of tickets – all without a lengthy telephone call. You can fine tune the coupons for tours available during only for certain tour times or dates. We give you control over control over coupon redemption, including how it is to be redeemed, by whom, and how much of a discount is to be applied on a per-offer bias.