Rock Region METRO is offering free streetcar rides June 1-Aug. 31 to capitalize on recent system updates and encourage riders to skip the hunt for parking for lunch breaks, special events and other downtown happenings. The fare-free Rock the Rails promotion starts Thursday, just in time for the 40th anniversary of Riverfest.
Recent METRO Streetcar system updates have included a slight shift in the Saturday and Sunday schedules to better accommodate higher-demand hours, a change in fare payment methods [debit and credit cards and major tap and pay services (Apple Pay, Google Wallet) are now accepted on the streetcar], and the transition of real-time streetcar arrival information to the free METROtrack mobile app, available for download via Google Play or the Apple App Store. The card-processing and tap and pay options were put in place at minimal cost to the agency, after a test run to assess the effect on boarding times and schedules, which was found to be minimal as well.
”METRO staff members have been hard at work making updates to the streetcar during the last several months, taking the opportunity to make some tweaks while we had peak traffic hours service downtime during the Broadway Bridge construction, “ said Jarod Varner, METRO executive director. “We want to make sure more people, especially locals who live or work downtown, know how to use our METROtrack app to figure out exactly when the streetcar is coming so they can better incorporate its use into their weekly routines and share their knowledge with visitors. We hope locals and visitors alike will take us up on the Rock the Rails fare-free promotion this summer and explore downtown from a different perspective.”
Riders can learn more about the two streetcar routes (the Little Rock-North Little Rock Blue Line can easily be distinguished from the Little Rock-service-only Green Line as “blue” for “water,” meaning the Blue Line crosses the Arkansas River and serves both Little Rock and North Little Rock) and their schedules (streetcar service operates seven days a week, excluding six holidays per year, with later service Thursday-Saturday) and download the METROtrack app at rrmetro.org.
The Rock the Rails fare-free promotion is not expected to cost the METRO funding partners any additional revenue, as the METRO Streetcar service is expected to end the year under budget. METRO is reaching out to riders about the fare-free promotion with the help of the Argenta Downtown Council, Downtown Little Rock Partnership, the Little Rock Regional Chamber, and the Little Rock and North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureaus and via social media, streetcar banners and ads, streetcar stop pole and shelter signs, and posters at businesses along the routes. (Please note: Most signs will be posted Thursday, June 1.)
“We are certainly appreciative to the Argenta Downtown Council, the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, the Little Rock Regional Chamber, the Little Rock and North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureaus and our downtown businesses for their help with this promotion. The entire reason the streetcar system exists is to bring awareness to our downtown restaurants, hotels, shops and cultural amenities, and we’re happy to have the continued support of these businesses as we do our part to contribute to the economic viability and ambiance of central Arkansas’ downtown neighborhoods,” said Varner.