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Charlotte - April 2003

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Charlotte, NC — Trolley Options

Rail Transit Online – April 2003

The local uproar that arose after Charlotte Area Transit System announced it would operate historic trolley service beginning this summer between Uptown and South End only on weekends and lunch hours instead of full time has apparently convinced local officials to look for some alternatives.  Mayor Pat McCrory says the city is exploring both obtaining new replica trolleys or leasing cars from other cities or operating museums.  Officials have already spoken with their counterparts in Little Rock, where Gomaco has begun delivering replica Birney cars for River Rail although construction has yet to begin.  “We have the trolleys and no tracks, and y'all have the tracks and no trolleys,” North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays told the Charlotte Observer.  RTOL Senior Editor Van Wilkins suggests New Orleans could be a prime candidate since it has a surplus of cars on the St. Charles line.  Charlotte officials say three cars will be needed to provide the planned 16-hr.-a-day service, with a fourth car for backup.  CATS Deputy Director Keith Parker told the Observer that a “ballpark figure” for leasing the Little Rock cars is $10,000 a month, plus $10,000 for delivery.  Parker said he’s spoken to every transit agency with available vintage or replica trolleys.  “If it sounds promising on the phone, we'll go out and see it,” he told the Observer. 

Meanwhile, operations of the Charlotte Trolley organization have been officially acquired by the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS).  At a Mar. 26 meeting, commissioners also voted finance leased and refurbished streetcars and renovate an existing building for a maintenance base.  A decision on the location of the facility was delayed, although a former streetcar barn on Bland Street appears to be favored if a fundraising effort by Charlotte Trolley volunteers can generate $500,000 or more to supplement available public money.  CATS CEO Ron Tober announced in early February that the three cars owned by nonprofit Charlotte Trolley Inc., all of which are over 70 years old and maintained by volunteers, are too delicate and lack sufficient safety gear to provide all-day service on the two-mile (3.2 km) line (see RTOL, Mar. 2003).  CATS inspected the cars last fall but, according to Tober, the agency did nothing because permission to take over the line had not been granted by the regional Metropolitan Transit Commission.  The volunteers currently operate streetcar No. 85, which served Charlotte until 1938 but needs significant restoration before it can run in daily service on a two-mile (3.2 km) line between Uptown and the South End.  Two other cars need even more work.  Mayor McCrory said even if a substitute fleet is brought in, No. 85 would still make occasional trips. 


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