Little Rock

Little Rock

River Rail Streetcar Began Operation: 2004

Miles of Line: 3

Stations: 13

Org: Transit Agency

Schedule: Daily

Photo: John Smatlak

The River Rail Streetcar is a project of the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CAT). The 3 mile line connects together the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock, providing direct access to the convention center and historic River Market area in downtown Little Rock, the new sports arena across the Arkansas River in downtown North Little Rock, and the Clinton Library. The line utilizes city streets, operating in mixed traffic, except on the bridge over the Arkansas River, which features an exclusive lane for the trolleys. The round-trip fare is .50 cents, with seniors .25 cents and children under five free. An all-day pass is available for $2.00.
The River Rail streetcar is a component of a larger redevelopment effort in both the Little Rock and North Little Rock downtowns. The two cities are situated on opposite sides of the Arkansas River, and both have relatively small populations. Little Rock has a population of 183,000 and North Little Rock just 60,000, with the population of the greater Little Rock area being 569,000. Other major projects in the area include the newly expanded convention center, the redeveloped River Market area, a new central library, the Clinton Presidential Library, and on the North Little Rock side of the river, the new Alltel Arena and the new ballpark. The arena is an 18,000 seat sports and entertainment facility and hosts both an arena football league team and the U of A basketball team.
The new line provides an important circulator function between the two downtowns, linking together the area's major attractions while encouraging tourism and enhancing economic development efforts. Phase 1 cost $19.6 million, including design, construction management, three vehicles and the maintenance building. Eighty percent of the funding came from Federal sources ranging from New Starts Rail funds, flex STP funds, and High Priority funds from TEA 21. Local funds were provided by Pulaski County, Little Rock and North Little Rock. CAT is also offering to selling naming rights for the system, cars and stations. Annual operating costs are estimated at $500,000.
Phase 1 opened in November 2004, connecting the two Downtowns. Phase 2 opened in February 2007 and added the half-mile extension to the Clinton Presidential Library site and two more trolleys. Phase 2 cost $7.6 million dollars. Longer range plans include a possible 3 mile extension to Little Rock National Airport.
Equipment: The line is served by Gomaco replica trolleys, similar in appearance to the cars built for Tampa, Florida. The Little Rock cars are shorter by the length of two windows, and because of the geography of the Main St. Bridge over the Arkansas River, are also equipped with a magnetic track brake as an additional safety feature. Three cars were purchased for operation of the initial phase, and two additional cars provided as part of the phase 2 line extension

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The River Rail line's extreme simplicity of design is highlighted in this view of a streetcar in North Little Rock, running southbound past homes on Maple St. Despite its simple design, the streetcar has stimulated development throughout its route; much of the development seen in photo consists of new or rehabilitated structures. (Charter trip for APTA Streetcar Task Force, December 2004.) [Photo: L. Henry]



Minmimalizing station/stop design is key to keeping costs low. Here's a view of a typical streetcar stop – just a "bulge-out" from the sidewalk – on Markham at Spring Street. Amenities? How about a River Rail marker, plus a map? Wheelchair passenger access? See below.
[Photo: L. Henry]