The trolley and other Central Arkansas transit thoughts —- UPDATED | Arkansas Blog

Friday, July 3, 2015

The trolley and other Central Arkansas transit thoughts —- UPDATED

Posted By on Fri, Jul 3, 2015 at 7:38 AM

click to enlarge A NEW LOOK: The look of the River Rail trolley may change in a rebranding of the local transit agency. - LITTLE ROCK SOIREE
  • Little Rock Soiree
  • A NEW LOOK: The look of the River Rail trolley may change in a rebranding of the local transit agency.

It's a slow holiday and so I'll pass along a letter to Central Arkansas Transit concerning the agency's coming rebranding as Rock Region METRO, particularly how that branding might affect the River Rail trolley line that operates in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. Writes Matthew Richard:

I am most upset about the idea to paint the trolley cars to match the new clean gas buses. Are they serious? What could they be thinking?

I can see the buses and uniforms and signage, adopting a new theme and the whole CNG initiative is exciting.but the yellow trolley car is historic, and a classic.

It takes me back to the SanFancisco cable car in the 60s, the Shaker rapid of east Cleveland in the early 70s, thePhilly transit cars from the late 70s ...

as daily rider who lives on and works on the trolley route, I find the familiar yellow car comforting. considering the historic districts and properties on the route, the yellow trolley cars fit right in.

And, as an automobile driver in the service area, I find the "school bus" yellow car to be highly visible from a distant. this helps simplify route changes in the occasional heavy traffic.

In closing, my favorite chamber photos are of the trusty yellow trolley car crossing the river bridge. its yellow color provides spectacular contrast to the various dramatic blue sky and twilight colors.

Please leave my yellow trolley cars .... YELLOW.

I inquired about plans at CAT and got a note from senior transit planner Kathleen Lambert.

She said that the agency's board has not yet made a final decision on the trolley color scheme. She commented: "I have had many people say to me 'I didn’t know you ran the trolley too?'  Since the streetcar is an important feature of our transit system, our current thought is to show outwardly that it is indeed part of the family."

I can't currently access a document that outlines the various new-look colors and logos planned for the system, but Lambert says they are "in keeping with many traditional systems."

UPDATE: CAT's director Jarod Varner says this link is now working with the outline of logo changes and the rest of the agency's planning effort. It includes the following schematic for the trolley, along with depictions of how buses and other services would look.

click to enlarge screen_shot_2015-07-03_at_3.46.03_pm.png

The agency  is in the midst of an extensive study of not only branding, but also service improvements and a more reliable dedicated source of local funding. The ideas include all the sorts of things you find in great city transit systems — rapid service lines, WiFi equipped buses, apps that provide instant information on arrival times and stops and routes. I'm a big believer in the need for mass transit and am willing to consider just about any revenue idea to do it. (Telephone polling lately has focused on a fractional sales tax.)  You can go here to see the overview of what's underway and also contribute ideas.

I am also a trolley admirer. I like its looks and the rolling thunder as it passes our office throughout the day. It's popular to deride its ridership, but it does have riders and it could grow with continued development of the core city for residences and businesses and perhaps even some line extensions.

So what do you think? Not just about the trolley, but transit services generally. Ours is a car-centric culture, with transportation planning mostly centered on spending millions to get people to far-flung suburban cities faster on wider freeways. There's no great city without good mass transit. Anybody willing to second that notion?

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