MATA to stop all trolley service for review

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Trolleys in downtown Memphis have been stopped in their tracks.

The Memphis Area Transit Authority is pulling all of them out of service until further notice.

After two fires on trolley cars in recent months, MATA will be stopping service until they can be certain they are all operating safely.

However, officials say the cars will not be off track permanently.

MATA interim General Manager Tom Fox said, “If feasible, the hope is to have enough re-certified trolleys ready to begin at least partial service between three to six months from now.”

After the recent trolley fires, MATA requested a system review by a panel of experts and made their decision based on the findings.

“We’re going to pull them all out of service and begin a detailed inspection,” Fox said. “At the same time, we’ll be considering our longer term options, because this panel also told us these trolleys don’t have a lot of life left in them.”

Until something can be done, Fox said the wheels will not start turning again.

“There needs to be a major overhaul or a total replacement. So, we’ll be considering those as our longer term options as well.”

In the meantime, MATA will use hybrid electric buses to cover the routes previously run by trolleys.

An overhaul of the trolley system would cost around $6 million. Completely replacing it would come in at a whopping $40 million.

It’s a hefty cost, but MATA officials insist they cannot put a price on riders’ safety.

“It is the right decision, given the information that we have,” Fox said. “Our focus is on the long term trolley program and operating a safe and dependable system.”

The hybrid buses will take over the trolley routes starting Wednesday. Trolley passes will still be accepted.

The buses will follow a route along Main Street, between Central Station and the beginning of the Main Street Mall. It will make a loop, using Front Street and Second Street.

A Riverfront loop will operate on Front Street, going down Riverside Drive to the south end of Main.

The shutdown comes at what is a typically busy time on the trolleys, mainly due to tourists.

Most of the trolley cars used by MATA date back to the early 1900s.

The Madison Avenue line was recently closed after trolley #553, built in 1923, caught fire.

No injuries were reported.

This is the second fire on the Madison Avenue line since November of 2013.

On November 4, 2013 seven people were treated when trolley #452 caught fire near Madison and I-240.

Seven people were treated for minor injuries in that accident.

8 comments

  • Hard Truths

    Just hire a REAL mechanic to fix those low-tech antiques, and they’ll run as if they were new.

    No bureaucratic boondoggle necessary.

    It often seems to me that NOTHING in Memphis gets done, good OR bad, without a big dog and pony show, astonishingly inflated costs, and no doubt some rakeoff by somebody — probably a Herenton appointee.

  • Charly Cubine

    I like the trolleys. They give the downtown area a certain charm. Leave them downtown. Even extend the routes to areas heavy on people who tend to need transport. You could get a lot of revenue from my neighborhood. There are a lot ofpeople in Memphis who are without a vehicle or are disabled who have to go a long way to get to a bus stop..

  • chanceencounterstlm

    I may have to stop using Memphis as a setting for my stories. In my eBook, A New Season, the main characters have a romantic ride on the Memphis trolley. The publisher even had a trolley on the book cover. It’d be a shame if they got rid of the trolleys for good.

  • Audrey Usery Pearson

    I am heartbroken! I was scheduled to get married June 28th! We were gonna hop on the train just us and a few family members and say our vows as it made its way around by the river! Now I’m not sure what we are going to do as I just discovered this yesterday and the wedding is only weeks away! We live downtown on the trolley line and love Memphis, I hope MATA will work fervently to get them up and running even if its not by June 28th! :(

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