Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Tale of Two Trolleys

Had the opportunity to walk the streets of downtown Memphis and New Orleans this past weekend and one of the observations I had was about the trolley's in each city.

In Memphis, on our walk back from the Civil Rights Museum to our car I notice that the trolley rails were being "redone" to make them unusable. The construction consisted of re-tarring the streets and filling in the ridges on the sides of the rails to make them useless.

A short time later a smaller bus type vehicle passed us up that claimed to be a hybrid trolley. After doing some research is seems that the regular trolley system was rendered obsolete after "An investigation and a peer review of MATA’s operation found that the cars had not been adequately maintained and that there was little or no training or regulation of system personnel. MATA officials weighed the option of ordering new replica trolleys before deciding to overhaul the existing fleet. A WBHQ Fox 13 Memphis report noted that a $6 million federal grant for the repairs brought with it a host of regulatory hurdles the agency has had to clear before service can be restored. The cars’ age — according to the review, the historic trolleys are at the end of their useful life even after taking into account their restoration upon arrival in Memphis — isn’t helping matters any."

The trolley is being replaced by a hybrid bus that uses four wheels.

The New Orleans trolley system is a whole new (old) ballgame. In a city where the streets are extremely narrow, there is no room for trolleys on them. So instead the trolley runs on the meridian between the streets with a rail line going both ways.

They always seemed to be busy enough and were out of the way of traffic unless one was making a left turn or u-turn. I was told that the area between the rail lanes was used for jogging and dog walking. A fact that was soon born out by observation.  All in all it seemed to be a very efficient and used system of transportation.

The Memphis system on the other hand seems to have taken a mid course correction.  One that Milwaukee officials should look very closely at as Milwaukee resembles Memphis more than it does New Orleans.

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