Trolleys return to New Haven

Sidney Glucksman first fell in love with trolleys in New York City 50 years ago and he brought his passion with him when he came to New Haven. Now, Glucksman will be able to enjoy trolleys here.

The first trolleys to serve New Haven since 1948 began rolling through the streets of the city in June, transporting passengers throughout downtown free of charge.

Although the fleet of red and green trolleys have an antiquated appearance, they are nothing like their predecessors. Each of the four 22-passenger vehicles is completely electric-powered and produces no emissions, while running on rubber tires like a normal bus, rather than on rails. A six- to eight-hour charge of its nickel-cadmium batteries will allow each trolley to travel up to 100 miles, with a top speed of 45 miles per hour.

The trolleys were purchased with $1.2 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of its Clean Cities program. The city of New Haven provided an additional $300,000.

Currently there are two trolley routes, both of which are operated by the Greater New Haven Transit District.

One route has stops on Chapel Street, York Street and Broadway and runs down to the New Haven Green and State Street before looping back toward the Yale campus. Trolleys run every 15 minutes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The route will probably cost about $265,000 per year and will be funded through parking fees.

Another route, which runs only during rush hour on weekdays, will cost approximately $56,000 annually and will be funded by United Illuminating to help transport their employees from the Coliseum parking garage to the Green. This route is also open to the general public.

The new trolleys would probably not be in downtown without Glucksman, who, as owner of Sidney’s Tailoring and Cleaning, proposed bringing trolleys back to New Haven to two of his customers: Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

The inspiration for the idea, Glucksman said, came from his summer vacations in Ogunquit, a city in Maine that featured a trolley system.

“The town reminded me of New Haven,” Glucksman said. “I thought how beautiful it is to have the trolleys go by. The people wave to you and everybody is happy to see each other. I rode the trolley and thought about how wonderful it would be for New Haven.”

DeStefano and DeLauro welcomed Glucksman’s proposal and, with the help of Lee Grannis, the coordinator of the Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition, were able to secure the necessary funding to get the project off the ground.

“Mayor DeStefano came to us four years ago,” Grannis said. “Our goal was to, one, get as many of the larger diesel buses off the streets as possible; two, improve the image of the city; and, three, to get easier funding.”

Since the trolleys went into operation, they have received predominately favorable responses.

“Everybody tells me what a great idea it was,” Glucksman said of the reactions he has been getting from the patrons who come into this shop. “It’s cheap to operate and it doesn’t cost anything to ride on it. Some people go downtown just to look at the trolleys.”

Yale students may find them useful as well.

“I love them,” Tory Truscheit ’05 said. “Its great that they are making an effort to be environmentally friendly. I have not ridden one yet, but I am planning to ride one soon.”

New Haven's newest mode of transit recalls the trolleys that disappeared from the city's streets in the 1950s, but these vehicles have nickel-cadmium batteries and run on rubber wheels like buses.
Yale DailyNews
New Haven's newest mode of transit recalls the trolleys that disappeared from the city's streets in the 1950s, but these vehicles have nickel-cadmium batteries and run on rubber wheels like buses.

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