Housing Complex

Park Service Seeks Temporary Replacement Tourmobile

You haven't seen the last of these yet. (Darrow Montgomery)

Welcome to November, and the post-Tourmobile era! Well, sort of.

Although the operations of Landmark Services Tourmobile Inc. officially go kaput today, you probably haven't seen the end of those little blue trams. Why? Because in its solicitation for a temporary operator—responses due this Friday!—the National Park Service says that it "may provide" the ten 85-seaters and five 110-seaters that Tourmobile has just abandoned. The solicitation also prevents the new concessionaire, who'll only operate for a term of three years, from making improvements to Park Service facilities.

Although the draft contract for "interpretive" transportation looks very similar to Tourmobile's in that and in other ways, the big difference comes in this phrase: "The Concessioner's authority to provide visitor services under the terms of this Contract is non-exclusive." Meaning: No squeezing out others that want to ferry people around the Mall, which was the biggest problem with Tourmobile anyway.

That three-year period will give the Park Service and potential new partners some time to think through what comes next for Mall transportation—which could potentially include the Circulator bus, as the Downtown Business Improvement District has long envisioned. At the end of September, the District Department of Transportation advised the Park Service that it didn't have the "contractual capacity" to compete for the service this year, but that it's interested in taking on the Mall upon renewal of its own contract in 2013.

Change is coming, slowly.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/ Mr T in DC

    Boo. I'd like to see those ugly kiosks and diesel-fume belching behemoths disappear immediately. The emissions standards for the Circulator buses and other more modern vehicles are much higher than for the old Tourmobiles, just try riding behind one on a bike. Wouldn't a Mall loop circulator be an ideal location for a hybrid electric bus service?

  • Dan Gamber

    Circulator does NOT need to compete as a replacement tourmobile. It DOES need to provide transportation along the mall for the millions that can't or don't want to walk from the Capitol to the Lincoln and back to
    Smithsonian station.

  • Typical DC BS

    @Mr T in DC: That's a great idea re: hybrid electric buses.

  • Critical Chris

    @Mr T. If you've ever ridden on a "tourmobile" with your knees cramped, consider also that, sitting in the back, your eyes might water up and burn. That's because the tourmobiles are actually not even as clean as some dirty diesels; they're actually GASOLINE-powered vehicles based on fifty year old technology! If you have the misfortune of having to spot one of these (still!) out on the mall, take a close look at the side-exit exhaust and no catalytic converters.