Fayette County

Buses that look like trolley cars return to downtown Lexington

Lexington residents will have a new method of transportation beginning April 2 with the return of trolley buses to downtown. LexTran announced Friday the arrival of five trolley buses, which have already turned heads.

"Finally we have trolley cars," said Tonia Stinnett as she waited outside the courthouse Friday morning. "It's beautiful. It reminds me of the '80s; it adds a little class."

The new trolley-bus service, named COLT Trolley, will run two routes. Passengers will ride free.

The Blue Route will run along Main and Vine Street from Thoroughbred Park to Triangle Park. The Green Route will bring University of Kentucky and Transylvania students to the downtown area. Service along Upper and Limestone Streets will connect the two campuses.

"It is great to have them now through spring and summer, and to have them here when visitors arrive for the World Equestrian Games in the fall," said Mayor Jim Newberry.

Newberry said the service will make it easier for students, faculty and staff to come downtown.

The buses have a traditionally styled exterior that features depictions of horses on the green trim, and an interior with wooden seats and leather hand straps for standing riders.

Although the buses look historical, two of them are hybrid-electric. They are the first hybrids to be used for public transit in Lexington.

"Hybrid vehicles are expensive," said Edward Kasarskis, chair of LexTran's board of directors. "But this action, despite its expense, is the right thing to do for the community."

The hybrid trolley buses cost $550,000 each and have a life expectancy of 12 years, said Rocky Burke, LexTran's general manager. The other three trolleys are diesel vehicles and cost around $375,000 each.

Three of the buses are brand new, and were purchased with a federal grant through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The other two were purchased used from Capital Metro, a company in Austin, Texas.

Trolley buses have been absent from Lexington streets since the late '90s. Burke said that although he wasn't in Lexington at the time, he said he thinks people lost interest when the service was unreliable. But when Burke came to Lexington, he received many requests to bring the service back.

Service will begin April 2. Both routes will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Nighttime service will be available Thursday through Saturday, beginning at 6 on the Blue Route and 8 on the Green Route.

Burke said each bus holds about 25 people and can accommodate riders with disabilities.