StarTran's new Downtown Trolley will make its debut at the Winter Lights celebration from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, December 7, at Tower Square, 13th and "P" streets. Free rides will be offered after the program until 8:30 p.m. for those interested in viewing the Downtown Lincoln Association (DLA) holiday light displays.
Two trolleys are scheduled to begin service in mid-December, and rides will be free through February 2019. After February, the fare will be 25 cents. The 13-stop route has access to the State Capitol, downtown, UNL, the Lied Center, the Haymarket, the Railyard and Pinnacle Bank Arena. Service will be offered weekdays between 6:15 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. The trolleys will run every 15 minutes with special lunch-time service offered every seven minutes between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. More information, including the route, is available at trolley.lincoln.ne.gov or by calling StarTran at 402-476-1234.
The trolley features vintage-style, cushioned, oak benches, brass molding, leather handgrips and a bell, with all the handicap-accessible amenities and security features of a modern bus. The trolleys are fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG), which cuts tail pipe emissions by 20 percent compared to existing diesel buses.
The trolleys were purchased as part of the ongoing effort to replace 17-year-old buses that are losing fuel efficiency and have high maintenance costs. Each trolley costs about $437,000. The City received about $217,000 per trolley from the Federal Transit Administration Ladders of Opportunity Initiative that promotes job and economic growth through investments in public transit. Black Hills Energy Corp. provided $14,000 per vehicle to promote the use of domestic, efficient and clean CNG in public transit services in Lincoln. The DLA and the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau are assisting with promotional costs.
The third annual Winter Lights event will include music from the Northeast High School Chamber Singers and the La Iglesia De La Comunidad Church band, treats, refreshments and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
At 6:30 p.m. Mayor Chris Beutler will present the third annual Lincoln Luminary Award to Jim McKee and Linda Hillegass, longtime owners of Lee Booksellers. McKee also owns The Coinery and maintains a publishing business. As a well-known local historian, McKee writes a weekly column for the Lincoln Journal Star and gives many community presentations. Hillegass gives her time to many nonprofits, including the Lincoln Literacy Council, the Food Bank of Lincoln and Lincoln City Libraries.
Winter Lights event partners include the City Parks and Recreation Department, Leadership Lincoln, DLA, the Lincoln Parks Foundation and StarTran.