Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Everybody Loves the Trolley

Headed to the local Earth Day festival at the park downtown this year. Wandering around the booths, I stopped at the public transit booth and got to ask some questions. I am so excited to learn that we now have a local bus that runs for free around downtown. There are two lines heading to different sites of interest, and one runs until 6 and the other until midnight 6 days a week.This is especially exciting because I saw a similar transportation solution in Seattle when I was there a few years ago. It really made the city friendlier and much more accessible to everyone, local citizens and tourists alike. 

I also got to ask the transit folks if we are going to get trolleys. We used to have them about 100 years ago, but they were all taken out. The city is laid out in a good design for trolleys (or light rail, as they are more modernly called), since we are in a spoke and wheel instead of a grid. I love the idea of running trolleys (trolley is more interesting than tram or light rail, come on, admit it...) down the major arteries out of downtown, and then smaller neighborhood buses could run exclusively to dump (ahem, transport) passengers out of the neighborhoods onto the trolley lines. Add a few circuit buses to connect trolley lines several miles out of town (the wheel part of the spoke and wheel) and I think we would have a highly functional and FUN transit system that I would want to ride. 

The transit advocates say that trolleys are being looked at as an option, and it looks pretty good. I also asked if they have any ad campaigns in the works to counter the public sentiment in town that the bus is only for the poor and those who cannot afford cars, and despite a lot of talk, the answer I got was really a no. I think that is a shame, because I think the public image of public transport is one of the first and most important steps to getting public transport in town up to something sustainable and functional. 

On the whimsical side, I picked up a little keychain in the shape of a bus, and when I push the button the headlights come on. They are LED and so pretty bright. I figure I'll keep it in my truck (oh the irony!) as an emergency flashlight.


anastasia said...

About 10 years ago, they totally had had trolleys (not on a line or anything, just basically electric-powered buses but made to resemble San Fransisco-style trolleys), but they were only used inside downtown. I don't remember for sure, but I think they were exclusively for TN state workers, but I definitely rode on them a few times a week with my mom (I went to school downtown, and she worked there, so we carpooled).

Alex said...

I'm also quite taken with the free shuttles downtown. MTA is *starting* to get it right. I'm excited to see what they do in the next few years.

On the other side of things, Atlanta's MARTA is going backwards. They are cutting a LOT of services down there.