Clang, clang, clang went the trolley,
Ding, ding, ding went the bell,
Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings.
Though I’ve never seen Meet Me in St. Louis, (which shouldn’t come as a surprise – I’ve never seen Star Wars either) “The Trolley Song” was stuck in my head all weekend thanks to the Riverside Avondale Night Trolley.
Our friends at Riverside Avondale Preservation have teamed up with Jacksonville Transportation Authority for the Riverside Avondale Night Trolley demonstration to enhance public transportation throughout the neighborhoods. On the first weekend of every month for six months, three trolleys run from 6 p.m.- 12 a.m. with one running until 2 a.m. It costs $1.50 for a single ride (exact change is needed), or you can purchase a $4-day pass at a number of local merchants.
A few days before the trolley demo was set to begin, I spoke with RAP’s executive director, Carmen Godwin. Godwin spoke of several attempts at creating a permanent trolley route within Downtown and the Riverside-Avondale area, including Art Walk, a day-time trolley in Avondale, and most recently, a partnership with European Street, the breweries and businesses along King St. this past fall.
What’s different this time? JTA’s new executive director, Nathanial Ford. The new administration is more willing to look into choice ridership versus forced ridership, according to Godwin. The trend of “new urbanism” throughout the nation’s core cities is also a factor. Many young people are moving to areas where they can utilize public transportation, walk or ride a bike to get to their destinations. Studies show that more than 53 percent of 16 to 21-year-olds don’t have driver’s licenses.
The first weekend 960 people rode the trolley. Godwin and JTA both would like to see those numbers continue throughout the program. If this demonstration is successful, the goal would be to have trolleys running every weekend throughout the Riverside-Avondale area and extending into Downtown, Godwin says. Real success to Godwin, though, is improved social consciousness. “It’s more than fixing parking issues,” Godwin said, “it’s about being more sustainable, green and social.” Of course, it is also about being safe and not drinking and driving during the evenings, but she would like to see a daytime ridership succeed as well.
Stay tuned for my next blog post covering my first weekend experience along the Riverside-Avondale Night Trolley!