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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. 

 
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Streetcar and ferry service map from Savannah DOT website. Click to enlarge

 

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Before the streetcar: the existing trackage along River Street, 2006. The area is a bustling entertainment district and includes a major hotel.  W-5 trolley at the Roundhouse Museum 2006  Car 756 prior to restoration 
       
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Testing on River Street, December 2008, Transystems photos
       
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Streetcar interior, note wheelchair lift in doorways

Operator's compartment

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

The western-most stop on the line near MLK Blvd.
       
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Passing the power plant

Emerging from underneath the Hyatt at Bull St.

Rubber-tired trolleys also run throughout Savannah's historic district

At Bull St., City Hall in the background

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

The Savannah Convention Center is located across the river.

Cobblestone streets and historic buildings line the waterfront

The graceful Talmadge Bridge links Hutchinson Island to Savannah.

       
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At 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. 

Heading 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.
       
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A container ship passes by on the Savannah River.

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

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

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

John Smatlak photos June 2009, except as noted

 


News and Updates

 

Riverfront Streetcar coverage on Jon Bell's website

 

Riverfront Streetcar Begins Regular Service 2/11/09

 

Riverfront Streetcar Ready to Debut, Savannah Morning News 2/4/09

 

Coverage of streetcar debut on Sustainable Savannah

 

Hybrid Streetcar to Lead Savannah Climate Action Parade

 

Streetcar Arrival Coverage in Savannah Tribune

 

Streetcar Testing Coverage on Connect Savannah

 

12/16/08 Article on Connect Savannah On Line

 

Coverage of Savannah on APTA Heritage Trolley Site

 


 

Links 

 

Savannah DOT Site (with map)

 

Roundhouse Museum

 

Costal Heritage Society

Last updated on 6/4/09


 

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