Clang, Clang, Clang went the trolley — Mississippi city celebrates return of downtown trolley just in time for Christmas
Published 7:22 am Saturday, December 9, 2023
Just in time for Christmas, one historic Mississippi town is celebrating the return of trolleys for downtown shoppers and visitors.
On Friday, the familiar ring of the once-popular trolley could heard around the City of Natchez.
A Natchez trolley hasn’t been on the roads for the last 10 years because the cost of repairs was too much and fuel costs were too high, Natchez Transit Director Sabrena Bartley said.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided in 2009 during President Barack Obama’s administration allowed the city to purchase more than $1 million worth of vehicles, which included two trollies, “at zero cost” to the city, Bartley said.
While the stimulus got the trolley service running again for a time, it wouldn’t last forever.
“That’s what it took to get them, but it takes a lot to keep them operating,” she said. “Those vehicles had wood seats in them, wood on the outside of them, and the original ones had real brass on the inside and you can’t find anyone to repair them anymore.”
When the economy took a turn and gas prices skyrocketed, the city had to cut costs somewhere and the trollies stopped running, “but now we’re starting back some of the services that we had before and we want again,” Bartley said.
“What is really important for us is to have transportation in downtown Natchez that allows our residents and our visitors to come and access shops and other sites and do that with as minimal (transportation) cost as possible,” Bartley said. “In some research, we found that cities that offer free transportation in some areas — especially commercial areas like this — it’s a plus for economic development and a tool to attract industry.”
Currently, sponsors have allowed the trolley to run at no cost to its users for the holiday season and during certain events that bring tourists to the city.
Bartley said she hopes that continues to be the case.
Less than 30 percent of Natchez Transit’s budget comes from taxpayer dollars and the rest comes from state and federal grants, she said.
“Our city transit continues to bring so much money and that allows our community to use this service without much expense to the taxpayers,” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said.
Since Thanksgiving, Bartley said the trolley has run regular trips around State, Canal and Franklin streets and — after the holiday season — will be operating in all of the downtown area between Natchez Under the Hill and Forks of the Road.
To access the trolley, users need only look for a sign that says “Trolley Stops Here” and wait or flag the trolley down as it’s driving by and the driver will pull over to a safe location to let them on.
Gibson touted Bartley’s other services to the citizens of Natchez as well.
“She is our longest-serving department director in the City of Natchez,” Gibson said.
Through the Natchez Senior Center, approximately 1,200 meals are delivered to elderly and shut-in Natchez residents every single week.
“We are the department that reaches out and hugs the community,” Bartley said, adding, “Let the good times roll.”