The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) operated downtown vintage trolleys have been suspended from service since April of this year due to a couple of fires on the trolleys (one in November of 2013 and the other in April of 2014). The MATA brought in experts to determine the causes of the fires and what repairs were needed before returning them to service.
Based on the experts’ report MATA decided to under go extensive maintenance of five of the trolleys. The first five trolleys are expected to be back in limited service in three to five months. It was either a full renovation of the trolleys or replace them. To date there is no plan or schedule for the other trolleys. Some of the trolleys have been in service since the Main Street line began 22 years ago.
The renovation involves making major and minor repairs that may include changing the colors of some of the cars. Many of the needed parts will be imported and availability could affect the schedule. Additionally, some parts will have to be manufactured from scratch because there simply aren’t parts stocked for 100 year old trolleys. The trolleys will not be returned to service until they are re-inspected and recertified. Hopefully, after the first five are restored, the rest of the fleet will go through the same process to continue service to the Riverfront and Madison lines.
As the Vintage Trolley Website explains, “Conceived as part of a plan to resuscitate a failing pedestrian mall in a fading downtown, the trolley has grown into an effective transit circulator system.” When operational the system transports more than 1.2 million passengers each year.
Why the Trolleys Are Important
An all day pass costs only $3.50 (a one-way ticket is $0.50 and discounted to $0.25 for the lunch hour). Tourists use the vintage trolleys to travel to and from all of the downtown tourist attractions. The Main Street line runs from the Pyramid to Central Station offering comfortable transportation to sights such as the Peabody Hotel, the Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, FedEx Forum and various upscale restaurants.
All of which are important tourist destinations from which Memphis is dependant on tax revenue, jobs and a high commercial real estate area. MATA would be well advised to do their best to complete the renovations on time to return this tourist convenience downtown area to service and keep the tourist dollars flowing.
During the shut down, MATA has put several bright green hybrid buses on the streets to run the trolley routes. But most visitors to Memphis say it’s just not the same experience. Some popular tourist attractions such as The Majestic Grill say it’s been quieter without the trolleys operating. Not only are the trolleys being missed but the conductors often pointed out attractions that tourists might have otherwise missed along the route.
Repairs are estimated to cost about $6 million. Replacing the entire trolley line would come to about $40 million. The experts also pointed out that MATA has experienced poor training and maintenance standards in the past. In September, Ron Garrison, the new president and general manager of the MATA, said, “We are going to have new standards as far as maintaining the vehicles, new standards in training, new standards in documentation, We’re taking it a step higher because these are vintage vehicles that have a lot of miles on them.”
Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 25 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest in the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.