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U.S. Streetcar Systems- Georgia – Savannah


River St. Streetcar

Began Operation: 2008

Route Miles: 1 mi.

Stops: 7

Org: Transit Agency

Schedule: Wed-Sun Noon-7

John Smatlak photo

Streetcars last plied the streets of this famous Southern port city in 1946. In 2008, the streetcar has returned as an urban circulator and tourist attraction. An initial one mile demonstrator line began operation along a section of city-owned track in 2008. The operation uses a rebuilt Australian streetcar that has been transformed into a high-tech self-propelled vehicle. The line runs in-street on River Street along the Savannah River, including a section of trackage in cobblestone pavement passing directly through a bustling entertainment district.

The Savannah streetcar concept has been brewing for some time. In 2003, the local public transportation provider, Chatham Area Transit (CAT), proposed restoration of streetcar service on a four-mile line along River Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Goals for the proposed system included aiding visitor mobility within the downtown and riverfront areas, reducing congestion in the city’s historic district, and helping foster local economic development.

The line itself is an existing freight track that the City purchased following a lengthy negotiation with the owning railroad. The lightly used 4.3 mile railroad branch line parallels the Savannah River near Downtown. A feasibility study was conducted by Team Inc. and Stone Consulting & Design, including an examination of several different route options. All of the proposed routes incorporated the trackage along River St. With the sale of the trackage to the City, plans once again began moving ahead, leading to the demonstration service on River St. in 2008.

The car itself is a high-tech rebuild of a 1920s era Australian streetcar, equipped with an on-board generator and energy storage system and an entirely new propulsion and braking package.

streetcar map 1.jpg (51909 bytes) streetcar map 2.jpg (53386 bytes)
and ferry service map from Savannah
DOT website
. Click to enlarge


Savannah River St 2sm.JPG (117916 bytes) Savannah River St 5sm.JPG (129022 bytes) Savannah trolley in roundhouse sm.JPG (90814 bytes) 756 Savannah sm.jpg (159723 bytes)
the streetcar: the existing trackage
along River Street, 2006. The area is a bustling entertainment
district and includes a major hotel. 
trolley at the Roundhouse Museum 2006 
756 prior to restoration 
Savannah 756 a sm.jpg (183239 bytes) Savannah 756 b sm.jpg (184590 bytes) Savannah 756 d sm.jpg (190781 bytes) Savannah 756 c sm.jpg (155680 bytes)
on River Street, December 2008, Transystems photos
Savannah 053009 interior sm.jpg (154605 bytes) Savannah 053009 interior 2 sm.jpg (130807 bytes) Savannah 053009 tent sm.jpg (113420 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 15 sm.jpg (160412 bytes)

interior, note wheelchair lift in doorways


shelter for the car at the west end of the line.

western-most stop on the line near MLK Blvd.
Savannah 053009 River St 13 sm.jpg (198457 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 10 sm.jpg (130752 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 11 sm.jpg (145390 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 16 sm.jpg (159420 bytes)
the power plant

from underneath the Hyatt at Bull St.

trolleys also run throughout Savannah’s historic district

At Bull
St., City Hall in the background

Savannah 053009 River St 14 sm.jpg (196898 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 9 sm.jpg (140047 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 8 sm.jpg (145172 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 6 sm.jpg (174218 bytes)

Savannah River Queen, one of the ferries to Hutchinson Island.

Savannah Convention Center is located across the river

streets and historic buildings line the waterfront

graceful Talmadge Bridge links Hutchinson Island to Savannah.

Savannah 053009 River St 4a sm.jpg (185258 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 17 sm.jpg (131522 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 3 sm.jpg (125120 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 2 sm.jpg (170716 bytes)

Lincoln Street. The Westin resort is seen across the river.
River Street is paralleled by Bay St. just above it. The two are
connected by a series of cobblestone “ramps” and
staircases. Shops line both sides of the historic buildings
along River St. 

along River Street towards the line’s eastern terminus. River
Street is one-way eastbound, which makes the streetcar’s
westbound trip somewhat challenging when traffic is heavy.
Savannah 053009 ship passing streetcar 1 sm.jpg (126665 bytes) Savannah 053009 River St 18 sm.jpg (136135 bytes) Savannah 053009 River and Bay sm.jpg (119698 bytes) Savannah 053009 fire station sm.JPG (180890 bytes)

container ship passes by on the Savannah River.

the line’s eastern terminus near Broad Street, where another
ferry stop is located.

Bay Street on a test run. An additional mile of track lies
beyond, although it is not presently used by the streetcar.

former city fire station on MLK may become a maintenance
facility for the streetcar.

John Smatlak photos
June 2009, except as noted

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