“Clang, clang, clang went the trolley
Ding, ding, ding went the bell…”
The 22 passengers on the inaugural ride of Cape Girar-deau’s downtown trolley spontaneously broke into song, led by Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger.
Those were all the words they could remember, and Judy Garland’s “The Trolley Song” ended as unexpectedly as it began.
There was no bell on the trolley, Rediger told the passengers, but an electronic bell is on order and will be installed as soon as it comes in.
A ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon officially put the 12-seat brand-new air-conditioned minibus into service. (Wheelchairs can be loaded with a ramp in the back and passengers are allowed to stand in the aisle to increase its load; on this inaugural ride, 10 passengers stood.)
The free trolley service runs from 4 to 11 p.m. Thursdays, and from noon to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays this summer. It makes seven stops: the public parking lot at the corner of Broadway and Middle Street, the corner of Fountain Street by the Marquette Tower, the public parking lot at the corner of Broadway and Main Street, the Isle Casino, the public parking lot at the corner of Main and Independence, the public parking lot at 35 S. Spanish Street, and the corner of Spanish and Themis. The entire route will take about 30 minutes, depending upon traffic and how long it takes passengers to load and unload.
A downtown trolley has been a part of Rediger’s vision for Downtown Cape Girardeau for a long time. “Our downtown has undergone a transformation in recent years with the addition of the casino, Broadway streetscape, Marquette Tech District, and numerous new businesses,” Rediger said. “I am excited to see the free trolley come to fruition and help make it even more fun for residents and tourists to come downtown.”
Visitors can park in outlying lots (such as the casino) and ride the trolley to their destination, which will help alleviate crowded downtown parking.
“We believe the trolley will be a wonderful tool to make it easier to access all the unique businesses and events in Downtown Cape. This type of partnership is what makes great things possible” said Marla Mills, executive director for Old Town Cape, Inc. and Downtown Cape Girardeau Community Improvement District liaison.
The first six months of the downtown trolley will be a trial period to gauge ridership and hours.
The up-front costs of the Downtown Trolley have been funded through a federal grant and Visit Cape. Additional operating costs are being met by a community partnership which includes the Isle Casino Cape Girardeau and the Downtown Cape Girardeau Community Improvement District. Regular operation of the Downtown Trolley will be overseen by the Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority. CTA driver Linda Williams said she was excited to be chosen to drive the trolley every hour of its operation.