Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Charlotte Trolley to roll through new neighborhood?

The nonprofit Charlotte Trolley has won a $15,000 grant from Wells Fargo to work toward putting historic Car 85 back on track, this time through the Wesley Heights neighborhood just northwest of uptown.

The organization hopes to start another demonstration project, like the one along South Boulevard that in the 1990s ignited enthusiasm for light rail. This time, the route would be the rail line adjacent to the Stewart Creek Greenway, said Charlotte Trolley board president Greg Pappanastos. It was the site of an original line of the former Piedmont & Northern electrified passenger railroad. Charlotte Trolley is exploring how it could use that still-existing pathway.

Here's why Charlotte Trolley's role is more than just that of a bunch of history and rail buffs.

As I wrote in a piece for Grist.org last year:

Back in the 1980s, many of top leaders of both political parties in Charlotte knew regional transit was needed. But any suggestions for taxes to fund it were DOA at the rural-dominated state legislature, whose permission was needed. Two barriers had to fall: Convincing a conservative electorate that transit wasn't a frill, and finding millions to build it.

Enter Charlotte Trolley, a volunteer group of rail buffs and enlightened developers who decided to restore an antique trolley car (found being used as a rental home outside Charlotte) and run it on an unused railbed near downtown. In 1996, after eight years of fundraisers, Charlotte Trolley launched a 1.8-mile ride, drawing throngs who loved the taste of old-fashioned streetcar travel. Keen-eyed developers built rail-oriented mixed-use projects, betting light rail service would follow.

Car 85, the last Charlotte streetcar to be put out to pasture in 1938, wasn't allowed to run on the Lynx Blue Line tracks for safety reasons and was put out to pasture again. The Charlotte Area Transit System, in a budget-cutting move, scrapped the trolley service that was using replica cars.

"Their [Wells Fargo's] support helps us pursue our mission to engage the community and put a vintage trolley back on tracks," Pappanastos said. "We're excited about the possibility of running historic Car 85 again, and believe we have a viable prospect for doing that on the city’s west side."

The group will hold a “Vision Launch” on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Trolley Museum to celebrate the Wells Fargo grant and kick off planning and neighborhood outreach for the new line.

A reminder for rail purists: A streetcar runs in the street. A trolley runs from an overhead electric wire. Sometimes a trolley is also a streetcar. But if it doesn't run in a street, it isn't.

(Disclosure: Until a few months ago my husband, Frank Barrows, was on the Charlotte Trolley board, an unpaid volunteer position.)


Anonymous said...

This is big news, did the "O" even pick it up? I would love to see Ol' 85 back on the tracks.

Mary Newsom said...

I didn't see this in the Observer but I might have missed it. Does anyone have a link or an answer for this question?

Anonymous said...

If anyone hasn't noticed, the Observer has a hard time picking up actual news that effects people . . .

Anonymous said...

I live next to the rail line in Historic Wesley Heights. The rail is in a quiet park where small children play. I hope this isn't another project that happens and then suddenly changes to a light rail system with large rail crossings and fast trains. Is there a guarantee that it is only car 85????

Anonymous said...

no there is no guarantee that that will not happen in wesley hts see what happened in gastonia it is easier to get somethin done than to get it undone

Anonymous said...

Would love to have 35 serving uptown from my Wesley Heights home.

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