More Bells, Less Rumble: Memphis Trolleys Return

Apr 30, 2018

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Main Street trolley line. Rides are free through May 14.
Credit Savannah Smith, WKNO-FM

Memphis trolleys returned to operation on Main Street Monday, after a nearly four-year absence. About one hundred people attended the ribbon-cutting and relaunch, including Mayor Jim Strickland and Congressman Steve Cohen.  



The 2014 shutdown came after two trolleys caught fire, revealing a backlog of maintenance issues. The incidents prompted the transit authority to refurbish their entire trolley fleet and improve Memphis' antiquated means of Downtown transportation. 

MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld says the project cost about $10 million, with roughly $6 million going to fix the cars and the rest to repair the infrastructure and safety checks.

Two new cars were put into rotation on Monday; four more will be added later. Rosenfeld said the improved vehicles are quieter than the older models. As a result, MATA will rely heavily on the bells and whistles to keep pedestrians aware. The clamor has gotten a few complaints, but Rosenfeld assures that it's a matter of public safety.

"We have a ways to go before the public can see any kind of change in that," Rosenfeld said.

Congressman Steve Cohen called the trolley system a smart investment made by the city.

"This is transportation and tourism both," Cohen said. "And, tourism is one of Memphis' more important industries."

The rollout comes just in time for this weekend's Beale Street Music Festival. Trolleys are free to ride until May 14. After that, the fare raises to a dollar. The Riverfront loop and Madison Avenue line will be added later as more fixes are made.