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Trolley System Coming to California's Westfield Village-Topanga

09/14/2015
Westfield-1

Trolley System Coming to Westfield's Village in California

Sept. 03--Turns out that The Village at Westfield Topanga has more going for it than hip dining joints and retailers. Something going to it.

The $350 million lifestyle destination, which opens Sept. 18, is getting its own mass transit system that will serve the Warner Center area, at least in a small way.

Westfield Corp. is putting the finishing touches on two bright red trolleys that will soon be motoring about the local streets.

"We couldn't be more excited to be offering this. These are really cool," said Brendan Kotler, assistant general manager in charge of Westfield's Topanga, Village and Promenade properties.

ROUTES

The final routes are still being determined and at first the shuttles will be primarily used to move people among the three malls.

"Getting (people) between Topanga and The Village is about cross shopping of the two properties," he said.

The free trolleys -- unique in the Valley for a mall -- will make it easier for visitors to the complex of more than 300 stores and restaurants to spend an entire day shopping, dining or hanging out at the two centers.

Westfield has a broader vision though and is working on a plan to initially have the trolleys pick up office workers at various Warner Center locations to shuttle them to The Village and back during lunch hours.

Eventually they could go to apartment and condominium complexes on weekends to take residents to and from the malls.

MOBILITY PLAN

This could actually be a trial run for the mobility component of the Warner Center 2035 Plan, the section of the over-arching development guidelines that focuses on reducing car traffic in this West Valley community.

"This is something we're interested in. We've been in contact with (building) managers around Warner Center and we've had a lot of interest in where they are going to stop," Kotler said. "It's really going to be useful, and I think that the opportunity it will provide to the office workers during the day is going to be huge. You won't have to get in your car and drive."

The real test comes if and when the trolleys move from the center's business district and into the neighborhoods around Pierce College and the Orange Line stop on Canoga Avenue between Victory Boulevard and Vanowen Street.

That means the trolley fleet may grow.

"It's really going to be done according to use. We certainly have the ability to scale this program up," Kotler said. "This is the first test of the Warner Center 2035 Plan and the people mover (concept). "We'll see who rides it, how many people use it and (whether) people are willing to huddle in the Warner Center area and not really have to leave, (making it) a place where they can live, work and play."

THE TROLLEYS

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the vehicles, including wraps with logos. Passenger loads will be determined after seating layouts are finalized.

The company is going to name each trolley. One, which is 26 feet long, can transport wheelchairs and is outfitted for those who need assistance. The other, at 30 feet long, has sides that can be popped out to give it an open-air look. They are built on a bus chassis.

Westfield is also in the process of hiring two full-time drivers.

In addition to having the proper driving credentials they will also get schooled on customer service and information about the vehicles, Kotler said.

"We want them to carry over the (Westfield) customer service attitude. Some people will be interested in the trolleys. And we want them to get comfortable with the regulars who use them every day. We want them to be a customer service ambassador for the property. We want them to be on a first-name basis with the regular riders," he said.

The trolleys were custom made for Westfield by Supreme Corp. in Goshen, Ind., said Nancy Munoz, the founder and CEO of Henderson, Nev.-based Specialty Vehicles, which sells new and used trolleys and other vehicles.

Prices range from $150,000 to $200,000, she said.

They are outfitted with a display system that has information drivers can pass on to riders.

And the ride will feel pretty much like a trolley.

"You can sit down and there are over-head brass rails you can hang onto if you want to stand up," Munoz said.

It all sounds cool. But don't trolleys also have a bell?

"I don't want to spoil the surprise, but it wouldn't be a trolley without a bell sound," Kotler said.

Copyright 2015 - Daily News, Los Angeles