These words are usually spoken when an action, taken for very good reasons, is responsible for a debilitating harm done to a minor portion of those affected by the action. It is always nice to see it when those actions actually help that minor portion.
I don’t think that I have been shy in my outspoken criticism of the downtown circulator “trolley” and it does look like some of the suggestions that I made have been incorporated into the current routes, especially the Green Route. I am glad to see that many more of the local businesses have embraced the service and that Lextran has responded in such a positive manner. This service has had a much bigger impact than the initial downtown concept ever imagined
As I understand the original concept, the circulator was to enable those on the farthest edges of downtown to get to the center of activity and back to their offices with enough time to actually eat or shop during lunchtime. Evening activity was for downtown residents to traverse empty city blocks from housing to the nightlife and back safely. Though these are still of concern, they seem to be more minor today.
Today, we not only can get from one end of downtown to the other but also just a bit farther out and hit a little bit more shopping, dining and nightlife. I have seen and heard of many uses for the circulator since the routes expanded but I have not read any hard figures of ridership. Hopefully these will be forthcoming.
I have heard from my friends at West Sixth St Brewing, that quite a number of their patrons are arriving by ”trolley” since it eases the parking situation and the risk of driving while intoxicated. This will work to their advantage if those folks are coming from the Aylesford – Bell Court area and not just downtown.
But this is a two-way benefit. There are also folks from the Coolavin apartments just next door to West Sixth’s taproom who are making their way to the Kroger store on Euclid and coming home with the groceries for the week. In an area that has been identified as a “food desert” this access to fresh food without carfare is a win.
Coolavin is not the only example of this. The circulator travels past other assisted living facilities downtown so I doubt that this activity would not go on there also. Mrs. Sweeper and I watched as two ladies made their way from the Christian Church facility on Short St to the designated stop just to ride around town on a warm summer evening. The simple pleasures of life know no age limits.
So far, this phenomenon exists on the Green Route which cycles between the affluent neighborhoods near Chevy Chase and the resurgent commercial parts of Jefferson St. The Blue Route, running between the two University campuses, sees some mixing of the student bodies but mostly just due to their choices of dining and drinking locations. The other neighborhood residents do not tend to use the service much.
I believe that none of this was intended by those who arranged to fund the operation just a few years ago. Who could have thought that things would change this much? And does this mean that the local businessmen, who banded together to promote their downtown businesses, and now see as many or more folks leaving the downtown confines for other businesses, could give their support? I suppose so, but I hope not. If so, then the additional beneficiaries will need to stand up and continue this proven success.
I also believe that if it works in the downtown, then it can be successful in the subdivisions too, if done right.
If you have any thought on this, I would appreciate hearing them.