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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Augusta takes a look at trolleys

From today's ABH:
| | Story updated at 10:56 PM on Saturday, February 16, 2008

AUGUSTA - Clang, clang.

An enthusiastic Downtown Development Authority could almost hear trolleys coming down the road Thursday after a pitch by a recent college graduate to bring the vehicles back downtown.

"I was hoping, if nothing else, it would get some wheels turning, some thoughts out there," said Ben Skinner, who spent three months planning a 4-mile trolley system snaking through Broad Street, the canal area and the medical district.

He graduated from Clemson University in December with a degree in landscape architecture. The trolley plan was his fall project.

Trolley systems aren't cheap. Skinner's proposal would cost about $175 million, with federal taxpayers kicking in $140 million of it.

The development authority voted Thursday to have one of its committees look at the idea.

Board member Paul King held up the latest issue of the Urban Land Institute's magazine, which proclaims streetcars are back in vogue.

"Bang for the buck-wise, as far as capital investment in downtowns, nothing seems to have the return this has," King said. "I know it goes against some conventional wisdom out there."

Officials pointed to cities such as Portland, Ore.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Tampa, Fla., which have used light-rail systems to drum up urban revitalization efforts.

Tampa's trolley, whose route is based around historic sites, has been "huge" for that city, King said.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 021608
Athens once had a thriving trolley system- we should have one again. Downtown, Milledge, Lumpkin, and Boulevard all maintained trolley lines (thus the pleasant character of those areas).
I hope we think about re-instating trolleys here, perhaps as part of Athens Transit services. I can easily see trolleys full of students, tourists, and in-town commuters running a circuit around campus and downtown, using those old, trolley-designed neighborhoods. It's more environmentally responsible, it creates community cohesion, and it provides a cheap alternative to folks who can't-or won't- use a car for every 1-5 mile trip they need to make. As noted above in the story, they're also an economic stimulus (I excitedly rode the trolleys in San Francisco and Seattle as a tourist).
Plus, they're just kind of cool looking.

Here are a couple of historical Athens photographs featuring trolleys:

1.Broad St, circa 1900, with a trolley rolling past Jackson:

2. College Ave, 1923