Main Street Trolley set to return April 30
The Memphis Area Transit Authority announced Monday that the Main Street Trolley will return April 30, after a nearly four-year absence.
The return caps a more than $10 million push for new or refurbished equipment and infrastructure and creation of new operating and maintenance procedures designed to ensure safety and reliability. Trolley service on Main Street, Riverfront and Madison Avenue lines was shut down in June 2014 because of electrical problems that caused fires on two trolleys carrying passengers. No one was hurt, but the problems caused a top-to-bottom rebuild of the system.
Now that the Main Street Line is coming back, MATA officials turn their energies to bringing back the Riverfront Loop in 2019 and the Madison Line in late 2019 to early 2020.
From April 30 through May 14, trolley rides will be free. MATA officials say they want to show appreciation for the public’s patience in waiting for the trolleys’ return. After May 14, fares will be $1 per ride. MATA Chief Executive Officer Gary Rosenfeld said the public is invited to a ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. April 30 at the trolley barn at 545 N. Main.
The trolley’s return will meet MATA’s goal of restoring service in April, with a few hours to spare, Rosenfeld said. The service had previously been scheduled to resume by the end of 2017, but there were unexpected delays in refurbishing wood-framed cars.
It will come just in time for one of Downtown’s busiest times of the year, during the Memphis in May International Festival and Beale Street Music Festival.
Rosenfeld said the service will resume with three vintage trolley cars in
operation, and three more will be added during May. MATA’s cars include replica Birney Trolleys, built in the U.S. in the early 20th century, and Melbourne Trolleys, built in Australia up until the mid 20th century.
Cars will initially run every 30 minutes Sunday-Thursday and every 20 minutes Fridays and Saturdays. Waiting times will decrease as more cars are added.
Hours of operation will be 6:45 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
“Almost four years ago the rail trolleys stopped running, and now, we are proud to announce that the Main Street Trolley line will be back in service serving the Memphis community and visitors in just two weeks,” Rosenfeld said. “We are proud that we have diligently and meticulously restored the trolley cars to be the safest in the nation,” he added.
MATA has been testing the electric trolleys on Main Street and training drivers for a couple months, but the cars haven’t been carrying passengers.
Rosenfeld asked for people to be diligent in looking out for the trolleys because the cars are much quieter than the old system and people aren’t used to seeing them on Main Street.
The complete cost of getting trolleys back on track hadn’t been calculated yet, but $5.5 million to $6 million for cars and $3.5 million to $4 million for engineering and development puts the price tag in the neighborhood of $10 million, Rosenfeld said.
The service supports improved public transit, which typically delivers a high return on investment, and aids a revitalized Downtown, Rosenfeld said.
When service halted, the trolleys were carrying about 1.5 million passengers a year, including about 700,000 out-of-town tourists.
After the shutdown, an industry panel criticized MATA’s maintenance practices and poor condition of cars.
Rosenfeld said MATA has rewritten policies and procedures, stockpiled spare parts and generated 3,500 to 4,000 pages of information on how the system is run and maintained.
During the testing phase, “We’ve had very few issues to date with the trolleys mechanically speaking. Still doing some public outreach with the cars parked in the way and trying to educate our public to move out of the way quickly when the trolley’s approaching, but for all intents and purposes the maintenance, the quality of the rebuild, has been excellent,” Rosenfeld said.
Memphis Area Transit Authority has announced the Main Street Trolley will return April 30. MARK WEBER/THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL