MATA to begin testing for reopening Madison Avenue trolley line

Corinne S Kennedy
Memphis Commercial Appeal
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A vacant MATA trolley stop on Madison Avenue along tracks that no longer service the vehicles and have been replaced by buses that end service at 6pm.

The Memphis Area Transit Authority will start testing the Madison Avenue trolley line in the next 90 to 120 days to examine the possibility of reopening the line, said Paul Young, Downtown Memphis Commission president and CEO.

Young said during Wednesday's State of Downtown presentation he had spoken with MATA President and CEO Gary Rosenfeld about the possibility of reopening the defunct line. The transit authority has purchased a modern streetcar for the test.

"That testing is going to determine the future of that line," Young said. "They'll take that modern streetcar and they'll go very, very slow and just test how it works on that line."

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The Main Street Trolley makes its way past the MATA William Hudson Transit Center in Uptown on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021

MATA spokesperson Mia Harvey said the testing would make sure the newer streetcar was compatible with the existing infrastructure. 

"MATA's comprehensive plan to restore and expand trolley routes such as the Riverfront and Madison lines require the integration of modern streetcars," she said. "The integration of modern streetcars is a cost-efficient method to provide high-frequency service on intensely developed corridors, increase ridership, inspire economic development, and expand energy-efficient transportation options."

The modern streetcars have a more modern interior, heating and air conditioning, can carry more passengers and have an electronic low voltage controlling system, she said.

The Madison Avenue trolley line was closed in 2014 after two trolleys caught fire in a six-month span. Buses now service the route. 

"We're really optimistic about that and I believe that'll be a great asset to have a modern streetcar on that, on the Madison line," Young said. 

He also said MATA had purchased three trolleys for the Riverside line and is looking for a company to rehabilitate those trolleys. 

Corinne S Kennedy covers economic development, soccer and COVID-19's impact on hospitals for The Commercial Appeal. 

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