Rock Region METRO Resumes Streetcar Service in North Little Rock June 1
As community COVID-19 caseloads decrease and vaccinations increase, and as President Biden’s federal mask mandate for public transportation properties continues through Sept. 13, 2021, Rock Region METRO will resume METRO Streetcar service Tuesday, June 1. Streetcar service was suspended March 17, 2020 as part of METRO’s COVID-19 transit service modifications.
“We are pleased to be able to resume streetcar service just as the tourism high season is starting and our local hospitality organizations are easing out of their pandemic restrictions and preparing for summer visitors,” said Charles Frazier, METRO chief executive officer. “We suspended streetcar service last year to protect public health while also trying to keep as much transit service on the roads as possible, and I’m thankful to our streetcar team for graciously serving riders in other areas, such as aiding fleet sanitation maintenance and driving within our METRO Connect on-demand service department to help connect riders to jobs, health care, education and grocery stores during this challenging year. We couldn’t have done it without them, and we’re excited to return them to their roles as ambassadors for Little Rock and Arkansas aboard the streetcars as we begin our post-pandemic recovery.”
During the year without streetcar service, changes were made to streetcar operations to better match service with demand and offer more convenience to riders. As a result, Monday-Thursday operating hours will start at 10:45 a.m., with Friday and Saturday operating hours remaining in place until midnight. The Sunday service span is largely unchanged. The Green Line, which had served the Little Rock stops only, was suspended so the Blue Line, which serves both Little Rock and North Little Rock, could receive a schedule overhaul that speeds up streetcar stop arrivals to every 20 minutes.
Although streetcar service was initially suspended in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, construction for I-30 has also affected the timing of resuming service, as the streetcar is powered by an electric overhead catenary, and construction has at times required the relocation of some of the catenary poles and wiring. As a result, the North Little Rock stops will be in operation Tuesday, June 1 for a “soft opening,” and the Little Rock stops are expected to be able to resume service in July, perhaps July 1. Three Little Rock stops that follow the streetcar system’s 2007 expansion to serve the Clinton Presidential Center will remain closed through approximately December 2024 to accommodate the highway construction. Those are Stops 20008 at River Market Avenue & 3rd Street (in front of Dizzy’s Grill), Stop 12519 at World Avenue & 3rd Street (between the Clinton Presidential Center and the Heifer International world headquarters) and Stop 20010 at 3rd Street & River Market Avenue (along the side of the Marriott Residence Inn).
As the streetcar service is most popular during the summer holiday months, METRO made the decision to launch the service to serve the downtown businesses depending on needed tourism revenue this summer. The agency plans to launch an expansion of its fixed route bus service and on-demand service, which comprises a collective 91 percent, roughly, of all METRO transit ridership, this summer or fall.
“We have been fortunate that we were able to quickly put pandemic service modifications in place last year and simultaneously continue working on our pre-pandemic service expansion plans. The fixed route bus and on-demand service expansion coming later this year is a massive project, and we’re busy hiring employees and putting the finished touches on that transit network so we can have a successful launch and greatly improve the customer experience. Look for more updates this summer,” said Frazier.
An update for the launch of the Little Rock streetcar service will be issued in the next few weeks. Find streetcar maps and schedules at https://rrmetro.org/services/streetcar/maps-schedules/ or under the Services main navigation link at rrmetro.org. Riders are reminded to check for active service alerts at the top of rrmetro.org and under the Service Alerts menu of the free METROtrack mobile app.
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