I think we all agree the zoo train is a cherished community asset that holds a special place in many peoples’ hearts and memories. Even the current train ride, while limited, is an important part of the zoo experience and continues to delight zoo visitors, young and old, to this day.
Because of my passion for the zoo train, I am compelled to follow up with those who have jumped to conclusions about where and how the zoo train and government intersect. Here’s the truth about the zoo train.
Metro understands that a lot of people are as excited and enthusiastic as I am about restoring zoo train service to Washington Park. Like me, they know restoring service could enhance zoo visitors’ experiences and support the zoo’s important conservation work.
I would love to see train service restored to Washington Park. I am committed to leading community efforts to restore service to Washington Park -- when the time is right.
And, I understand that the safety concerns that have temporarily closed the spur that serves Washington Park in 2013 need to be studied and addressed in a serious and thorough manner.
Meanwhile, there is no doubt the zoo must maintain its current focus on fulfilling its promise to voters by finishing a host of projects to improve animal welfare. That is the top priority no matter how passionate I am about the zoo train.
And few would argue about the Metro Council’s current focus on implementing the affordable housing bond approved by voters in November 2018, advancing a parks bond renewal to voters in 2019, and building consensus on the investments voters must be asked to make in our roads, bridges and transit system in 2020.
Until then, those of us who are passionate about the train should follow the example of our parents and grandparents who created partnerships with the private sector, fellow rail enthusiasts, and other advocates to harness the public’s enthusiasm for the original train project. It will take all of us and it will be challenging, but it’s the only way to do it right.
For now, the background work is being done. The tracks, while not operational, are in place and they will remain there. Metro is working with some private engineering firms to gain a better technical understanding of what will be required to make restored service safe and possible. That work will help inform next steps and get us a little closer to figuring out what will be involved and how much it might cost to restore the train.
When we complete these other projects that currently require Metro’s full attention, we will be able to devote more energy to the zoo train. I stand ready to help my fellow enthusiasts get organized in the meantime. And, my door is always open to those who have ideas or concerns to share.