(WMC) - Memphis Area Transit Authority temporarily suspended a Bluff City icon as it takes the first step toward a complete trolley replacement or overhaul.
New energy efficient hybrid electric buses will serve trolley customers during the halt of trolley operations, the organization announced Tuesday.
American Public Transportation Association commissioned the MATA-requested independent system review, which recommended the existing "heritage-style antique trolley systems" undergo a complete re-renovation or be replaced at this stage in their use. A feasibility study will determine if there will be a complete overhaul or replacements.
The independent panel review followed a trolley fire in April on the Madison Avenue line, closed since then. Six months before that, another trolley became a total loss when it burst into flames.
In both incidents, passengers had to escape a smoke-filled trolley after hearing a loud pop. No one has been injured from the fires.
"The review of the trolley system makes it clear that an overhaul or replacement of current vehicles is inevitable, and there is no reason to delay," said MATA Interim President and General Manager Tom Fox. "The report indicated that the system and basic physical infrastructure is strong, but the vehicles themselves have merely reached the natural end of their safe and efficient use without renovation."
MATA officials say their decision is in the best interest of customers who use the trolleys—many have been in operation since the Main Street line opened 21 years ago.
Regular maintenance on all of the trolleys has been performed, according to MATA, but because of increasing ridership they have not been able to perform major overhauls.
Officials did not release how long the system will be completely down; their goal is to have enough re-certified trolleys to begin, at least, partial service, resumption between three and six months from now.
The suspension begins Wednesday, and hybrid buses will run on the Main Street and Riverfront loops. Modifications including bike lanes and a bus lane have recently been made to Riverside Drive.