We’ve gotten lots of interest and lots of comments about our trolley plan. Thanks to all of you for giving us your thoughts. Out of these, we’ve definitely got some themes and questions emerging, so we thought it might be good to provide some further explanation on why we made the choices we made. We’ll start with our most frequently asked questions or comments as below:
1. Why does the proposed routing not directly serve the 100-Block? Under this proposal, we adjusted service on the north end of town for two reasons: The first is, there were few pick-ups at the 100-Block of Gay Street (Gay at Jackson). From November 30 – December 12th, the two stops at Gay and Jackson comprised 1.6% of overall boardings on the Gay Street Trolley. This means an average of 10 pick-ups a day for two stops. The first week in January saw similar results, with an average of 11 pick-ups per day for two stops. Second, there was a strong request for service to The Old City. Issues of train frequencies and viaduct demolitions made it impossible to do both. But keep this in mind: the 100-Block will have a bus stop on Gay Street at Summit Hill Drive. From the far end of the block (at Jackson), that is about a 613 foot distance. From Sterchi Lofts, it’s 355 feet (.0672 mile). From Sweet Peas on Jackson, it’s 2/10 mile. Considering how challenging it is to serve all parts of downtown directly, we feel like that’s still pretty good service. Even better, it will be timed so you know when to expect it. So, the stop may be in a new place (the other end of the 100-Block area), but the service is still there, and we hope it will be more reliable.
2. Why not serve the waterfront? We need better connections to the waterfront. We absolutely agree that we need better connections to the waterfront. Neyland Drive was not designed to necessarily connect people to the waterfront, but to connect cars with I-40, and that creates some transit challenges. Service to the waterfront means either going all the way to Lake Loudoun Boulevard at UT so that we can reach the waterfront, or it means circling a 40’ trolley through a tight parking lot and back up a steep hill. The first option uses all of our time and resources, the second challenges our vehicles and everyone’s safety. While we would love to be the solution to our topographical waterfront connection challenges, we haven’t figured out a way to make transit the solution – unless you want to invest in a gondola, which might be pretty cool. Of course I am kidding here, but we will continue to look for ways to serve the City’s beautiful waterfront.
3. Why move away from Emory Place? They need service. While Emory Place does not currently, nor under the proposal have trolley service, the area does have great transit service along both Central Avenue and Broadway – until 11:15 pm at night and even on Sundays, connecting people into downtown. We’d love to start a community discussion on what it would take for people in this area (and other areas) to try our regular transit service to connect to downtown – what elements are missing to make that work? We have great transit service connecting Happy Holler, Three Rivers Market, Emory Place and more with downtown. What incentives can we offer you to give that a try, instead of overlapping trolley service with great service that already exists?
4. Why did you lose the direct connection from the east side (Civic Coliseum and apartments) to UT? Now we have to transfer. The reason for that proposed change is simple: the timing did not work, and we heard many times during our listening sessions about how the wait was so long, how the trolleys couldn’t sustain their correct time on a congested route with so much pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The other reason is that the east side also serves to connect the Civic Coliseum garage with downtown, getting workers to their offices and back to their cars quickly. The new proposed route also addresses their needs as well. The apartments east of downtown will have service every 7-8 minutes and be connected to the trolley to UT with either an immediate transfer or a short wait.
Downtown Knoxville is a fabulous place to be, whether you’re working, playing or living. One thing that makes it great is the majority of it is relatively easy to get around in as a pedestrian, with small businesses to catch your eye as you go from one point to another. Transit, as we see it, is designed to connect you with general places downtown – stop locations from whence you can head on to your favorite restaurant or shop, maybe discovering a new store or attraction along the way that you didn’t know about. We know we can’t be everywhere, nor would you want us everywhere, but we hope to get you to places where you can enjoy all of what our fabulous downtown has to offer. Also keep in mind that the beauty of trolleys is that they can continue to change and evolve as downtown does. We know about all of the exciting things going on along Depot, Jackson, and beyond, and we hope that the trolleys and all of our transit services continue to grow and evolve just as Knoxville does. We hope you’ll continue to come along with us for the ride.