August 16, 2014

Greenville’s trolleys expand downtown’s reach

Downtown Greenville’s trolley has moved beyond a novel attraction. It has become an important means of transportation. And downtown’s growth means two more are on the way.

Downtown’s trolley, with its open sides and jingling bell, has become a familiar sight and sound in Greenville since its introduction in 2006. With its free rides and old-fashioned sensibility, it adds a charming appeal to Main Street.

But now, with a city center that stretches over a mile and a half of restaurants, bars, shops and other destinations, the trolley's purpose has moved beyond novel attraction. It's an important form of public transportation, too.

Greenville's city center was once condensed into a few blocks of Main Street between Coffee Street and the Hyatt, an easy hike.

Not so anymore, said Barry Nocks, professor emeritus of planning at Clemson University and chair of the Greenville Design Review Board. "The whole scale from the north end down to the West End is getting too large to walk easily."

The trolley, he said, "makes further development of the downtown possible. It's kind of the next step."

With increased growth has come increased demand for the trolley, leading to the announcement earlier this month of two new trolleys being added to Greenville's fledgling fleet. The first of those began providing parking transportation for Greenville Drive baseball games Monday and started regular downtown service Thursday night.

City councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle said she's heard calls from other neighborhoods near downtown seeking a trolley route similar to the one that loops through the North Main area.

"We realized the popularity of them was so critical," she said. "We've seen ridership grow and grow year after year."

The original partnership with the Drive, which helped introduce the trolleys to Greenville, called for the transport to be available for downtown shuttling only when it wasn't needed to get fans to and from the parking lot at County Square on game days.

With the addition of the two trolleys, the second of which is expected to arrive within the month, the city can now keep its regular downtown route running even while making sure the Drive stadium gets the service it needs. Fans will also be able to catch the trolley from the stadium to other areas of downtown if they're heading out for a night on the town after the game.

The new fixed-stop system — there will be about 20 stops along the route — will allow the trolleys to run more smoothly and predictably, Rickards said. Riders can expect to see the brightly colored trolleys at the stops about every 15 minutes, he said.

Signs marking the stops are expected to be up by Labor Day, Rickards said.

Meanwhile, riders can still catch trolleys the old-fashioned way – with a wave of an arm.

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