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Heritage Trolley Site
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Charlotte - March 2003

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Charlotte, NC — Streetcar Delay

Rail Transit Online – March 2003

Elected officials and business owners along the planned heritage trolley line between Uptown and South End are fuming after learning that the service will initially be operated only during weekday lunch hours and on weekends because the old cars are too fragile to run up to 16 hours a day as planned.  Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) CEO Ron Tober estimates full-time service won’t start until mid-2004, about a year after the trolleys start carrying passengers.  Nonprofit Charlotte Trolley Inc. now owns three cars, all of which are over 70 years old.  They were restored and are maintained by volunteers who operate only one vehicle, built for Charlotte in 1928, each weekend on about two miles (3.2 km) of track with power from a generator mounted on a push-pull trailer.  “The cars need a lot of work so they will be reliable and safe in a seven-day-a-week operation,” Tober told The Charlotte Observer.  “In their current condition, they're not.”  Business people who opened new stores and restaurants and were counting on the trolley to bring in more customers want to know why they had not been told of the delay.  “How do you justify spending millions to have them run a couple hours a day?” asked developer Tony Pressley.  “This doesn't make sense.” 

The 1.96-mi. (3.15 km) extension follows an abandoned, grade separated Southern Railway right-of-way through Uptown and includes a new glass tunnel through the Charlotte Convention Center and electrification of the entire line, all reportedly costing about $40 million.  The same tracks will be used by a proposed light rail route from Uptown to near Pineville set to open in 2006.  CATS, which is scheduled to assume control of operations on July 1, examined the cars last fall, according to Charlotte Trolley Inc. president Miller Jordan.  Tober told the Observer he remained silent on their condition because permission to take over the line had not been granted by the Metropolitan Transit Commission.  So far details are still murky on how much work is needed to make the cars fit for daily service, what it will cost and where the money will come from.   “All of this is still under discussion — how much they will be able to afford and what we can do to help,” Tober told the Observer.  Meanwhile, CATS has penciled in $200,000 to add a fourth car in 2005 and $7 million to refurbish an existing building for a trolley barn.


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