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Outside of LHA appointment manufactured controversies and a vote to violate the flag rules of the United States on behalf of former City Councilors, tonight’s Council packet included a very pretty, and very ambitious Trolley Study report.
It’s better and more extensive a proposal than even I expected! The report proposes (and mind you, it’s an initial proposal, so lots of changes could happen between here and build out, if it happens at all) to have a trolley line from the Gallahger, through Hamilton Canal District to downtown, and using the existing LNHP track (which they use mostly as historic ambiance than moving people from place to place), the trolley would split and a small branch heads to Middlesex College, and the other down Father Morressette Blvd past University Ave Bridge, then down Fletcher to Broadway to UML’s South Campus. Other stops include the Inn & Conference Center, the Tsongas Arena, and LeLacheur Park, as well as existing locations such as Boott Cotton Mills and the Mogan Center. Follow me after the flip:
The report is ambitious in that it proposes up to 20 stops and no more than 10 minutes wait time for any waiting passenger. If that can be accomplished (and this would likely be doable with a few active trolleys on the track at once), imagine the shift this would make in several arenas of Lowell.
First, imagine the value to the the Lowell Historic National Park. Currently, the trolley only runs some of the time. It doesn’t operate as a regular go-between of the LHNP’s various venues. If the trolley had real hours of continuous operation, not only does this provide a logistical way to move visitors between buildings and historic spots, but it really ups the ambiance of Lowell as a historic treasure. So massive win for the Park Service.
Also, the proposal takes into account all of the major venues in the area, which I appreciate. I don’t do local baseball (LeLacheur) or college hockey (Tsongas) and don’t really go to Memorial Auditorium much or anything. However, this would give visitors an opportunity to eat downtown and the hop a trolley to watch some baseball, or go from Hamilton dinner spots to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium without having to move their car and try to find more parking, or walking a significant distance (it’s definitely walkable, but not in winter, or for older folks, etc).
I don’t think I have to bother mentioning the benefits to anyone who lives in downtown, JAM, Hamilton, near South campus, etc. Suddenly, going carless and becoming an urban hiker becomes appealing in a way that you don’t normally see in a city like Lowell. It’s more the purview of Cambridge or Boston. The report mentions that a 1,000 new units of residential space is planned in the coming years in close proximity to the proposed route. As a downtown resident, you’d have access to many places in Lowell without using the convoluted bus system (which I bet can be improved once the complex downtown routes can be assigned to the trolley), to Boston via the commuter rail, and if need be, outside of Lowell via the LRTA’s regional routes.
And check out the proposed hours in the report:
Mon-Thurs 6am - 10pm
Fri-Sat 6am - midnight
Sun 10am - 8pm
People have been clamoring for bus service past 6pm for ages.
Now, all of this - the route, the number of stops, the hours of operation, the frequency of service - are pie in the sky dreams. Will all of these come to pass? Maybe not. I won’t handicap its chances by being cynical, but a lot can happen on the way to the funding.
However, this study is not short on vision, and even some realistic clarity on what would be necessary. It outlines what it thinks is are the costs and possible ways to achieve it. Because it partners with UML and the LRTA and the LNHP, and would serve both an environmental and also a public transit goal, I think it has a shot. Maybe better than one.
After all, aren’t public-private federal-state-local partnerships what Lowell is best at?
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