Schaumburg trustees are keeping the village-subsidized Woodfield Trolley service that caters largely to visitors suspended through the upcoming holiday shopping season, due to COVID-19's continued impact on ridership.
The suspension of the trolley from March 28 through Dec. 31 is projected to save the village $253,218 this year. But officials aren't necessarily seeing that as reason to scrap the service altogether, given its popularity in normal times.
During recent years, the trolley has averaged an annual ridership of about 20,000. Those passengers include not only out-of-town shoppers at Woodfield Mall but also visitors to the Schaumburg Convention Center and other hotel guests making their way around the village's business district.
All of those locations have been affected by the pandemic this year.
"Right now, we're taking this action because the ridership is not there," Mayor Tom Dailly said.
A re-evaluation will occur early in 2021 that could include a fresh look at how the trolley is used, Dailly said. His idea is to make it more focused on the convention center, while a village trustee has suggested it be more restaurant-oriented.
Dave Parulo, president of the Meet Chicago Northwest visitors bureau, said the decision is understandable in the era of social distancing, but he hopes the trolley can be brought back in the long term.
"I think it's one of those hard decisions that we're all having to make because of COVID and the push on the economy," Parulo said.
The state's Phase 4 guidelines continue to control the ability of large numbers of people to gather, he said.
The Woodfield Trolley service is a partnership between the village and Pace. Six other Pace bus routes serving Schaumburg also have been suspended since early spring due to low ridership.
Only one -- Route 602 -- was permanently eliminated when the village and Pace agreed in July that its sharp decline in ridership significantly predated COVID-19.
Though talks have not yet begun, Jan. 1 would mark the start of a new agreement year between the village and Pace for the trolley. Schaumburg has $69,420 in its current budget that could pay for the resumption of services from then until the start of the next fiscal year on May 1.
The village realized actual savings of $144,120 for the suspension of the trolley from March 28 through Aug. 31, with an additional $91,098 expected by continuing that suspension through Dec. 31.
Schaumburg also has been able to reduce its advertising budget by $18,000 due to the suspension of the service.