Residents of Greenville, North Carolina, can now take advantage of the opportunity to ride around Uptown, rather than walk, on the Emerald Express Uptown Circulator Trolley which runs from noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.
The trolley, which made its first trip on Nov. 4, makes 13 stops around Uptown Greenville and runs continuously during its hours of operation in 20 minute loops. The trolley route begins and ends at the G.K. Butterfield Transportation Center.
Spokesman for the City of Greenville Public Works Department Jordan Anders said the idea behind the trolley was to create a transportation option to get people around Uptown Greenville and encourage them to experience all that area of the city has to offer.
“To give people in the Uptown area kind of a non-driving option to try and make things more convenient and kind of take people through and expose them to all of the parts of the Uptown district,” Anders said.
Although all of the components of the Pitt County Arts Council’s (PCAC) Emerald Loop Project are not yet completed, the trolley was first conceptualized as a collaboration between PCAC and the City of Greenville, Anders said. The intention, in addition to providing transportation, was for the route to highlight the project’s different art destinations along the route.
Anders said the trolley is currently operating a pilot program, which explains its somewhat limited hours of operation. The trolley will run in this manner for six to seven months and will be reevaluated with consideration of regular ridership as well as public feedback. He said public feedback is important to the process and encourages anyone who rides the trolley to let the city know their thoughts via Facebook and Twitter.
“That’ll (public feedback) be helpful. We want to hear from people if this is something that they consider to be helpful. So we hope that’s the case, but we’re looking forward to hearing,” Anders said.
With 13 stops, Anders said the route was designed to balance convenience and attractions. There are stops at several parking lots, the Town Common, the Greenville Museum of Art, the G.K. Butterfield Transportation Center and more. He said the intention was to have stops at some of the highlights of the Uptown district and in places that would be convenient for riders.
Although it is still in the early stage of its pilot program, Anders said there has been a small but steady stream of riders on the trolley. As the weather gets colder he said the trolley may provide a way for residents to get around Uptown out of the elements. He said in the future, he hopes the trolley proves to be a convenient amenity to the Uptown district that will soon be able to help better highlight the arts throughout the area.
“The hope is that it will prove to be an added bit of convenience in terms of trying to get around Uptown. It will show you what the different sorts of options are up there as far as shopping, as far as eating, that sort of thing. Then again, down the line as more of the public art aspect of it starts to come in, it's going to show off a more scenic side,” Anders said.
Levi Mahaley, a senior marketing management major, said he saw the trolley while walking around Uptown Greenville and thinks it’s a good addition to any historical town.
Mahaley said for families of East Carolina University students, the trolley is a convenient way to explore the town where their child resides.
“For people coming outside that want to visit some sites, especially the older families of students here at ECU, they’d probably want to do something like that just so that they can get a better picture of the town that their son or daughters are going to,” Mahaley said.
When his family comes to visit Greenville, Mahaley said he would consider taking them on the trolley to explore the Uptown highlights. He said an attraction like the trolley is especially special for those who visit Greenville and want an experience that is quicker than the bus system.
Mahaley said while the trolley is a convenient way to visit Uptown attractions, it would make more sense if Uptown was bigger and walking was not convenient.
“You can really walk to everything in Uptown Greenville, you don’t really need transportation,” Mahaley said. “But I mean, Greenville’s growing so possibility it will get to the point where walking places really won’t be convenient so the trolley would be a great addition.”
Mahaley said a concept that the Emerald Express Uptown Circulator trolley could adapt would be to stop at more breweries in Uptown Greenville. He said in other North Carolina college towns, trolley’s will stop at a brewery for around 30 minutes allowing riders to grab a drink, then ride to the next brewery.
Senior environmental health major Trysten Culler said as the trolley makes a stop on Pitt Street, which is home to Pitt Street Brewing Company, the trolley can provide a safe means of transportation for those who want to enjoy some drinks Uptown. He said overall, he thinks the trolley is a great opportunity to market uptown attractions.
“I think it’s great, I think it’s a great resource that will connect the citizens with resources that sometimes get overlooked such as art centers and the community centers like the Town Commons,” Culler said. “Also it’s just a great and cool way of transportation, like, who would not want to ride on a trolley, I think that’s pretty dope.”
Culler said he would consider bringing his “nana” on the trolley to show her local art around Greenville. He said on a normal weekend, he would enjoy riding around on the trolley with friends. No matter the size of Uptown Greenville, Culler said, the trolley is a great addition to the city as it makes experiencing Uptown, especially to those in wheelchairs or elderly individuals.
An attraction like the trolley is a great way to support creative and local art in Greenville, as well as the respective individuals in the creative sector, Culler said. He said art stops made on the trolley could inspire creative change in Uptown.
“If they do a presentation of art made by marginalized communities in Greenville and, you know, someone who has never been exposed to that form of art and then the trolley takes them to that, it’s just increasing education just by the use of a trolley which is pretty awesome,” Culler said.
Culler said the trolley has the potential to support local Uptown businesses depending on its stops, which puts money back into Greenville’s community. He said he is excited to utilize the trolley in the future and think’s it’s a great addition to Greenville’s Uptown.