Main Street Trol­ley set to re­turn April 30

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Wayne Risher Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

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

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