This article appeared in the May 2019 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
The trolley service designed to increase tourism in Newnan may soon offer a more resident-focused route.
ransportation is a vital part of most communities, but it takes a diversity of forms. Providing visitors, seniors and residents with transit options can be challenging as well as rewarding for local leaders.
In Duluth, city officials found an innovative way of enticing diners and shoppers to travel to Downtown Duluth by partnering with Uber.
They ran two, eight-week programs inviting residents and others in nearby communities to travel downtown for dining and shopping with the city paying for Uber rides up to $25 each way. Restaurants and retailers got on board with the program, offering specials and discounts to those who took advantage of the promotion.
The promotions were held on Thursdays during the Christmas season as well as in February and March, according to Chris McGahee, director of economic development for Duluth.
The city budgeted approximately $10,000 for each promotion plus additional funds for marketing. McGahee said working with Uber “got to be quite complicated” at first but over time officials found ways to make it smoother and more efficient.
According to McGahee, an average of 81 travelers took advantage of the Uber promotion each Thursday.
McGahee describes Downtown Duluth as having a town green with a fountain, seating as well as diverse restaurants and shops. There’s plenty of parking but it’s spread out, he said.
Uber is just one of several approaches Duluth, a city of 30,000, has on its list of possibilities for the future including valet parking and autonomous vehicles.
“Any way we can get you here we’re trying to figure out how to accommodate that,” said McGahee. “We really are anticipating the future and ways people are going to travel.”
In some cities, transportation concerns focus on strengthening tourism. On Valentine’s Day 2019 Newnan launched a trolley system with visitors as well as residents in mind. This trolley, which operates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, runs a mile-and-a-half fixed route from the city’s historic downtown to a regional open-air shopping center called Ashley Park. The trolley is free for passengers, making two stops downtown and two stops at Ashley Park.
According to Newnan’s Assistant City Manager Hasco Craver, the city used $200,000 in SPLOST funds to purchase the trolley, which he described as an “very traditional old school Savannah or Charleston” type trolley. He said Newnan city leaders have been thinking of a way to connect the city’s downtown area with its popular shopping center for some time.
“It’s a way to promote tourism and the community,” said Craver.
As of early April, the trolley has achieved a ridership of 200 unique riders a weekend in the city that has 40,000 residents, according to Craver. While the trolley was started to boost tourism, it may lead to more of a resident-focused expansion.
“If it proves successful, we will probably expand the program,” said Craver.
“We envision this program expanding to special events such as Taste of Newnan and Oktoberfest, running from intown neighborhoods and downtown.”
Those attending Leroy Rogers Senior Center in Tifton now have another option for getting around town, a shuttle service.
The center was selected as the test site for Coordinated Transportation Services, which transports seniors to various venues around town including banks, pharmacies, Walmart and Dollar Tree. The shuttle runs in a continuous loop from the senior center to these locations on Wednesdays and Fridays beginning at 9 a.m.
“We needed this type of service for our seniors because many do not have transportation nor do they drive,” said Fran Kinchen, director of the center. “Since its service started in September of 2018 it has proven to be a success.”
Wanda Taft, with the Area Agency on Aging, said that transportation is a big problem for seniors. “Transportation means a difference in being able to age in place or being forced to consider a nursing facility,” Taft said. “Because we’re a rural area, transportation is pretty much an issue for everybody, but especially as you age.”