Hopping on the deep green and fiery burnt-orange rubber-tire trolleys, riders are transported to a different time, in addition to their destinations. Cheerful drivers wearing emerald vests welcome riders aboard the trolleys, the interior of which are decorated with old maps and pictures of the city’s downtown courtesy of the Greensboro History Museum. They’re equipped with handrails for balance and emerald plastic seats. Old-timey renderings instruct riders to be courteous to others by not smoking, not playing loud music, and not eating or drinking. It’s even got a vintage metallic smell.

Trolleys are now roaming the streets of downtown Greensboro, Thursdays through Saturdays  from noon to midnight and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m.

During the kickoff celebration on July 20 outside the Tanger Center, city leaders applauded the newest addition to the Greensboro Transit Agency’s roster.

The free trolley service, named the “Hopper,” serves areas along Elm Street, from Union Square all the way up to Fisher Avenue and LoFi park area. Riders can hop on or hop off at 14 unique locations along the route, which winds past Broach Theater, the Civil Rights Museum, the Tanger Center, Center City Park and more. Trolleys arrive at stops every seven minutes.

Service animals are welcome aboard according to an event flyer. 

City leaders and GTA staff posed in front of the trolleys and dedicated them by exploding confetti from fondly labeled “Hopper poppers.”

Mayor Nancy Vaughan told the crowd that she’s looking forward to seeing how the trolleys will be used and how many people will “learn things about downtown that they didn’t know before.”

“I think it’ll be a good opportunity for us to market downtown and surrounding neighborhoods,” Vaughan said.

Council member Sharon Hightower shared some history on the streetcars that once roved city streets during the 19th and 20th centuries. 

“The streetcars fueled the growth of the city beyond these original 90 blocks of what is now downtown,” she said. “Wherever the streetcar went, new development sprouted up.”

Now people can explore downtown in a similar fashion.

The interior of the trolleys have been decorated with old maps and vintage photos of downtown Greensboro. (photo by Gale Melcher)

At-large council member Marikay Abuzuaiter is also looking forward to the potential that the trolley suggests.

“This is something that is going to bring attention to Greensboro, to downtown. It is going to make us special,” Abuzuaiter said, adding, “You can park down on one end of Greensboro, and if you want to go to dinner or you’re going to a show or something, then you can hop on the trolley and get there in just a few minutes and not have to worry about looking for parking places.”

The pilot program is being funded by $1 million in American Rescue Plan dollars allocated by city council as well as $90,000 from the 2019 participatory budgeting process — receiving $18,000 from each of the five districts. Members of the community voted on how a portion of the city’s budget would be spent and the trolley project received the highest number of votes during the process.

In previous council meetings Vaughan expressed concern about the cost of the trolleys and where the city will get the money to fund the service’s future.

“I am concerned about the cost, I’m pleased that they’re willing to adjust the schedules to bring the cost down. I think a lot of that will depend on what the ridership looks like,” adding that while the project is a pilot program, she believes they’ll continue it beyond the end of the year. 

“I think we’ll have to decide the future of this program based on the ridership because we don’t want a bunch of empty trolleys going around downtown.”

Things may change as time goes on, the city’s Senior Communications Specialist Amanda Lehmert said. Lehmert added that as they start tallying what stops people are going to and where they’re getting on and off, then they’ll be able to “adapt the route to add in things that are more useful” as they move forward.

The Hopper can help people who work downtown like Kenneth Crawford get to their workplace with ease.

“Instead of me having to walk to work, I actually can be put off in front of it,” Crawford noted delightedly.

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