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.