By Mike Steely
Sometimes you don’t have to go far to discover something new and interesting.
One cool summer morning, I parked at the Knoxville Coliseum garage and walked down to the trolley stop. Like most folks who don’t live downtown I had ridden the trolley line a couple of times for a few blocks but not often.
A few minutes later the trolley came down the hill and I got aboard. A few other people were there and I had not expected many because it was a mid-morning on a week day. The trolley pulled into the Transit Terminal and a few other people entered.
Unlike city busses that now load from atop the terminal the trolleys still load and unload at street level there. We rolled up Church Street and turned onto Gay for a block and then went west on Clinch past the World’s Fair grounds. The bus turned left on 11th and down the hill to Cumberland Avenue.
A few people got on and, on Cumberland at the University of Tennessee, a few students disembarked with books in hand and were off to class. While we sat at the stop light at Volunteer Boulevard I was amazed at the thousands, yes thousands, of students crossing back and forth on their way to class or to their cars or dorms.
All around campus were constructions sites, building going up and coming down. I realized, although I hadn’t thought about it until my sons attended UT, that the university is a community into itself. As we turned down Vol Boulevard I also realized the campus now has it’s own bus service. A large Volunteer Bus was coming the other way and making stops that Knoxville City busses were making last year.
The Knoxville Trolley rolled on down the boulevard past the library, past Circle Drive, and past the Athletics Student Center, taking the sharp right as we neared the railroad tracks and then across the new bridge. It slowed and turned right toward the new University Commons shopping complex, then took a left to go behind the complex and underneath the parking garage. The idea of parking in the building allows passengers to get on and off in a sheltered environment.
There it stopped and everyone left the trolley except me.
I’d been at University Commons when Walmart first opened and the complex reminded me of some of the larger shopping centers in major cities. Like the Commons most metro shopping malls are space deprived and the larger shops are often above the first floor. While some street parking is available at the Commons most parking is in the free parking garage.
The driver took a break for a few minutes and, when he returned a few other people came onboard and we headed back the same direction. After crossing over Chapman Highway we turned right at Locust and back down Church Street.
I got off in front of the parking garage and realized how quick, easy, and free the trip was from one end of downtown to the other. I realize now that most people, even those who live downtown, haven’t discovered the new route yet.
And I’ll bet that if tourist and convention visitors knew they can climb aboard the FREE trolleys and get around town the city service would be extremely popular.
The Knoxville Transit Authority is proposing, with much opposition, to also serve University Commons and downtown with Bus Route 10 that would run from the Transit Center to Volunteer Landing and on Neyland Drive to the Commons. From there it would travel Kingston Pike and then down through Sequoyah Hills to Sequoyah Hills Park.
Because it would eliminate a stop at Forest Hills and change times of Route 10 dozens of residents have objected to the change. The idea, according to route planners the altered route would serve parks and greenways and increase the number of riders.
A notice of the proposed route change has been posted on trolleys and buses.