Monday, February 27, 2012

Lowell Trolley Network On Fast Track To Expansion!

©2012 Boston to a T
Although it has been talked about for years, the concept of expanding the Lowell National Historical Park's (LNHP)  downtown historic trolley system into a true public transit network has never fully gotten off the ground.

The current trolley network, which was opened by the National Park Service in 1984, is only operational from March till November. The system uses existing freight tracks, which are used under contract from PanAm Railways, that were electrified with trolley wire. They use four streetcars; three replicas from Gomaco, which were the first true trolley replicas produced in the United States, and one restored antique from the Seashore Trolley MuseumThe turn-of-the-century design of the trolley cars preserve the look and feel of historic Lowell. The current system is primarily used for LNHP rangers on interpretive tours so it is not a major means of transportation for area residents or workers, and does not directly serve area businesses or attractions other than the LNHP.

Current system map
The proposed enlargement of the system would expand it from its current size of 1.2 miles to a whopping 6.9 miles. The new routes would include 20 new stops all around the city. Trolleys would run every 10 minuets Monday through Thursday 6am-10pm; Friday and Saturday from 6am till Midnight and Sundays from 10am-8pm.  The proposed fare for the system would be $1 for a one-way ride and would increase to $1.50 in the fifth year of operation. The system would see an estimated 800,000 people per year. 

According to a 2011 feasibility study on the project, the full cost of construction would be an estimated $66 million and it will take six years from design to implementation.

Once completed, you will be able to board a trolley at the Gallagher Terminal, where it would connect with MBTA commuter rail and Lowell Regional Transit Authority busses, ride it through the South Commons through the the revitalized Hamilton Canal District. Then you would pass down Dutton St. past Lowell High School turning onto Father Morissette Boulevard to UMass Lowell's East Campus then down Broadway to their South Campus. The whole ride would take less than thirty five minuets. 

According to Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch UMass Lowell's expansion into the downtown area has truly put the trolley expansion project on the fast track. "The Students are building in ridership thats what brings this system closer to something that makes sense" he said. 

Map of proposed extension
For about six years, a large sum of federal money has been available to fund the construction of the extension. The big issues with the project though, is how to pay for the annual operating costs. After the system is built its annual operating and maintenance costs would total around $3.3 Million. The feasibility study suggests that the costs be paid for by $307,826 in fares; $105,000 in sponsorships of trolleys or stations, $50,000 in advertising, $1.3 million in funds that were once used on UML and LRTA transportation services that would be made obsolete by the trolley; $1 million in government transportation programs, and $576,489 in assessments.

Similar trolley networks are already in operation around the country in cities like Little Rock, Arkansas and Tampa Florida. Unlike the other systems around the country the Lowell network would be built to be more than an amusement, it would be a full functioning transit system!
The study currently suggests that over a ten year period the existence of the trolley network will increase the values of existing residential, office, retail, hotel, and medical properties in the area by around 5%. An example of this is in Little Rock where there service, which is much smaller than what Lowell has planned, has generated around $260 Million in economic development since 2009!

The next step for the network is for it to be considered by a subcommittee of the Lowell city council.  It will then move to public meetings, which are scheduled for this summer.

Check out more photos of the Lowell trolley system and the Seashore Trolley Museum's
Lowell location on our Facebook Page!


  1. Neat! I look forward to hearing more about this - I wonder what the effects of the T's budgetary problems will be on this as far as public opinion is concerned.

    By the way, your proposed map isn't working.

  2. Any idea on what the LRTA downtown shuttle ( ridership is? I'm planning a trip to Lowell by MBTA next week and will be interested to see how a commuter rail-LRTA trip works.

    1. Tyler: I hope I fixed the proposed map...Thanks for pointing it out! Also, most Lowell residences are on board for the expansion. Since the project will have no affiliation with the MBTA and it will be operated by a non-profit I don't believe there will be a problem.

      Ari: All LRTA fixed route services converge at Gallagher Transit Terminal, which is also the terminal for the MBTA Lowell Commuter Rail Line. So it is very easy to hope right on the shuttle to get to downtown! (I hope that answered your question)

  3. Love the way you write and execute your posts!! They are interesting!

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