MATA President Ron Garrison.
Memphis Area Transit Authority President Ron Garrison has provided new details — but no start date — on the progress of the trolley system’s rehabilitation.
“It’s all about telling the truth,” Garrison said. “It’s not easy work. There’s no way to do it any faster while doing it safely. Everything we’re doing will make it so that we are the standard for the rest of the country. That’s the standard Federal Transit Administration is holding us to, and that’s a very good thing. When you get on the trolleys, you’ll be safe.”
Much of the trolley rehabilitation will happen in house, Garrison said. The trolleys will receive outward facing doors, new pantographs that will reduce the risk of fires as well as fireproof insulation, and a new, low voltage wiring system. Memphis will be the first in the country to move their entire system to low voltage wiring, Garrison said.
“Right now, we have two trolleys that have been rehabilitated,” Garrison said. “They are 95 to 97 percent complete. We’re taking every single aspect of these trolley’s and making them like new. From here on out, it would be nearly impossible for anything like what happened to happen in the future. What we’re putting in place will probably be the safest in the country.”
Sara Rikard, a 57-year-old Memphian living on Riverside Drive, said she thinks tourism to the South Main District has suffered since the trolleys shut down.
"My husband and I rode them every weekend just to meet tourists," Rikard said. "We try to catch the buses, but they go by so fast sometimes. I’ve ridden them some, but you don’t have the camaraderie on there like you did with the real trollies. Hoot & Louise closed down. I’m seeing other places close down. I’m afraid for some of these places it does affect."
MATA will begin posting progress reports to their website each month until the rehabilitation is complete.