The fake, gas-guzzling tourist trolleys that have failed to attract visitors to Brooklyn’s cultural institutions have been quietly put out of their misery, and will be replaced later this summer with fuel-efficient models that will go all the way into Manhattan in search of tourist treasure.
The original trolleys will make their last loop on July 1 — a victim of a ridership that had dwindled to mostly locals enjoying a free lift between activities.
The new program will start in late summer or early fall, with Borough President Markowitz and the Heart of Brooklyn arts consortium unveiling buses to bring tourists to Prospect Park, the Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum from Manhattan tourist hotspots like Times Square, the South Street Seaport, and Museum Mile along upper Fifth Avenue.
“We’re going to promote [our] cultural institutions to specific populations who may not be visiting,” said Heart of Brooklyn’s Executive Director Ellen Salpeter. “We’re trying to focus on bringing in some of those dollars to Brooklyn.”
The new buses will shuttle tourists to the Brooklyn Museum for First Saturdays, a free event each month. On other Saturdays, the buses will remain in the borough, bringing to the park Brooklynites from neighborhoods like Bay Ridge and Williamsburg that have no easy mass transit connection.
And on Sundays, the buses will again bring tourists from Manhattan, Salpeter said. Ideally, the shuttles will be free, she added, but those details are still under discussion.
The project will be funded by a $475,000 city grant to purchase new “green” shuttle buses. An additional $150,000 grant from Deutsche Bank will help market the effort.
The fake trolley’s failure was apparent to Park Slopers, who enjoyed the free ride, but rarely saw the throngs of tourists for whom the freebie was designed. A 2006 report commissioned by Heart of Brooklyn sealed the fate of the bus service with a finding that 78 percent of the riders were indeed Brooklynites.
This time, Salpeter said the shuttles would have a more aggressive advertising push. So far, the trickiest point has been negotiating a feasible route.
“Our trolley moved around the park which has no traffic in it — so we knew how long that took,” Salpeter said. “We want to get the routes down. It’s New York. … There’s always something that you’re not expecting.”