Green machine: New trolley hits the streets
Anyone watching the free trolleys since last week might wonder if there's been any supervision in the Charlottesville Transit depot when the sun goes down and the buses go home to roost each night. Otherwise, how to explain the appearance on Thursday, September 18, of what certainly seems to be the love child of a city bus and an old fashioned trolley?
Simmer down, you gossip mongers! According to Charlottesville Transit Manager Bill Watterson, there's no scandal here, and the fancy new trolley wasn't left wailing in a giant basket on his doorstep. In fact the city "adopted" the new vehicle for $330,000 to add to its aging fleet of four trolleys, the oldest two of which date to 2000. Trolleys, says Watterson, have a 10-year life expectancy according to federal guidelines, so the transit department is preparing to purchase a new generation over the next several years. Watterson says state and federal funds paid about $280,000 of the new trolley's cost, leaving just $50,000 for the city to cough up.
A standard city bus costs about $270,000, as do the old fashioned trolleys, so why the new style?
"We wanted to retain the look, but wanted a low floor vehicle" for improved handicapped access, explains Watterson. The existing four trolleys all have stairwells, which makes getting on and off difficult for some passengers, particularly older ones or mothers with very young children.
The free trolley has successfully built ridership over the last several years, Watterson says, going from 486,000 passenger boardings in fiscal year 2004-2005 to 560,000 passenger boardings last year. This year, he says, the number will likely be even higher.
As for the new trolley, you can catch it proudly traveling along the same route as all the other trolleys– it's neither afraid, ashamed, nor misunderstood!