Friday, April 17, 2009

Why Frank McCourt Isn't Paying for the Dodger Trolley

Where is the Dodger Trolley? Steve Hymon, until recently the LA Times' traffic and transportation writer, reported that an average of 704 riders took the trolley between Union Station and Dodger Stadium last season. Hymon reports "city officials were saying it would cost $350,000 to run the trolley for a full season in 2009," while Eric Richardson of blogdowntown estimates the cost from $383,000 to $630,000.

The Dodgers averaged 46,056 people per game in 2008, meaning that roughly 1.5 percent of those in attendance took the trolley. So while the Dodger Trolley was considered a success, the cost of transporting those 704 fans would far exceed the revenue they would generate (not to mention lost parking costs). Even a partial subsidy would represent a substantial loss. And that's why Frank McCourt's wallet is staying shut.

All pre-season indications were that the chances of trolley service resuming were "slim" and "on the ropes," while the Dodgers' former trolley page simply redirects to the general Dodger Stadium information page. Advertising may be the only hope to revive the trolley this year, writes Richardson, but there are currently no signs of that happening.

Although there certainly must be a way to assign a dollar amount to the goodwill and positive publicity generated by funding public transportation, it's apparently not enough to make McCourt bite. So, enjoy the extra traffic congestion created by an average of 704 additional fans on the road, and the Dodgers will enjoy the parking fees they pay.

Thanks to my biz-savvy colleague Sax for his take:

You should add, though, a quantification on how much Frank would lose per game in parking fees. For the 704 fans, if they drove two to a car (a generously conservative assumption at best), that's 352 cars per game, or $5,280 in parking fee revenue per game, or $427,680 in incremental parking revenue per season. And that's money Frankie doesn't want to lose.

I would counterargue this, though, by saying that what if a fraction of that 704 people decide to f' it and not come if there's no trolley. If a quarter of them stay home instead, that's 176 people, who then aren't paying an average admission of $29.66, a loss of $5,220 in ticket revenue each game, or almost $423,000 a season. And that's not counting concessions (food and memorabilia), which would more than compensate for the cost of the shuttle.

In short, Frank is [er, unwise]—in the efforts to protect his parking revenue, he's probably sacrificing an overall revenue gain.

Elsewhere: Dodger Trolley Drops Into Money Pit (

Dodgers photo via Streetsblog


Brandon said...

How did the driver stay in the lanes with those eyeballs blocking his vision?

Wesley Vento said...

Has anyone actually taken this? 700 fans per game seems like not very many. Frank should build a gondola up to the stadium. That would be sweet!

cigarcow said...

Of course it's about Frank's money. Everything is. He's got two $45 million homes in Malibu to take care of.

Steve Sax said...

Maybe that's where he's using the shuttle.

Fernando said...

I took the shuttle once. It was great except for the looping video of Gibby's at bat only to have it cut off before the home run to show poorly cropped/resized images of Dodger greats.

I found one getting on the 170 the other day. Looks like they haven't removed all the decals.

I apologize for the blurriness. Also, ignore the oil light.

Rob said...

Was this not obvious, though? McCourt can't possibly make up in trolley revenue what he would lose in parking dollars. From a strictly business standpoint, I can't get too mad about this — and not least because, to be effective, they'd have to shut down a lane of traffic somewhere, leading to longer entrance and exit times from the park, already insufferable as it is.