MATA to Stop Trolleys, Evaluate Future of Fleet

By Bill Dries

The Memphis Area Transit Authority will stop running all trolleys starting Wednesday, June 11, as the transit authority decides how best to renovate or replace the fleet of 15 trolleys.

MATA Interim President Tom Fox said he made the decision after experts from the American Public Transportation Association recommended in a preliminary report that MATA overhaul the existing trolleys or replace them – either with newly restored “heritage” trolleys or more modern-looking streetcars.

The trolleys that went into service on the Main Street Mall in the early 1990s were vintage street cars from Portugal and Australia that had been restored. Some of them are 100 years old.

The experts reviewed the trolleys – some in use since the service began in 1991 – following an April fire on a trolley car, the second fire in six months on the Madison Avenue line.

Fox estimated it will take three to six months for the transit authority to make a decision that involves the cost of each option.

In the interim, MATA will run new hybrid electric shuttle buses along the trolley routes.

“This is not an easy decision,” Fox said. “The trolleys have become icons. But it is the right decision.”

He estimated restoring existing trolleys in service would be the least expensive option, while going to more modern-looking streetcars would be the most expensive.