The initial line began service in 1993. It was 2.5 miles long, mostly double-tracked. The streetcars served the Downtown pedestrian shopping mall, on Main Street, but also ran beyond it on both ends to serve areas that needed economic development. Outside the mall, the streetcars ran on the street, sharing a lane with automobile traffic. In 1997, the initial line was converted into a loop by adding a parallel line two blocks west of Main Street; the extension runs along the river and uses the right-of-way of an old railroad track. The addition brought the total system up to a length of five miles.
In 2004, service was further extended with the opening of a line on Madison Street running from Main Street east to the Medical District area. This extension adds two miles, double-tracked, to the Memphis system. For a map of the route, go to http://www.matatransit.com/trolleyService.aspx
The Memphis lines employ three types of streetcars. Two of the types are antiques, of two basic designs. Seven cars are four-wheel Brill streetcars, two built in the U.S. in 1912, the rest built later in Portugal to the same Brill design. The Brill cars have wooden bodies and 19 seats. The other seven antique cars (more are being restored) are larger (52 seats), slightly newer, have metal bodies and came from Melbourne, Australia. As elsewhere, the antique cars in Memphis have proven reliable in regular service. The third type consists of five replicars built in the past two years by Gomaco, using its double-trucked Birney design.
On Main Street, there are about ten stops in each direction, located every one to two blocks. On the Riverfront Line, there are five stops, located every two to three blocks. On the Madison avenue extension, there are five stops in each direction plus a terminal at Medical Center.
Service is provided seven days a week. Service begins early on weekdays, at 6 AM, to accommodate people going to work. It runs late on weekends, to 1 AM and sometimes later, to serve people who have come downtown for entertainment.
Eleven streetcars are operated in peak travel hours. Cars run every ten minutes.
The fare is $1.00 ($.50 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on weekdays). Multiride passes are available, with discounts for senior citizens.