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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Azalea Festival trolley route could become permanent service, expanding and connecting ‘downtown districts’

The free downtown trolley operated by WAVE operates on a limited route. During the Azalea Festival, an expanded route could pave the way for a permanent line that covers much more of the greater downtown Wilmington area.

WAVE's free downtown trolley currently runs on a relatively short route. That will change during the Azalea Festival -- changes that could become permanent. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY OF WAVE)
WAVE’s free downtown trolley currently runs on a relatively short route. That will change during the Azalea Festival — changes that could become permanent. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY OF WAVE)

WILMINGTON – The free downtown trolley operated by WAVE will operate a revised and expanded route during the Azalea Festival. That route will be a test drive for a proposed new service connecting several downtown districts.

The free trolley normally operates on a limited route, from Harnett Street on the northern end to Ann Street on the southern end. During the Azalea Festival, that route will be expanded.

The current route for WAVE's free downtown trolley. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY WAVE)
The current route for WAVE’s free downtown trolley. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY WAVE)

The route will start in the Brooklyn Arts District in the north and travel south, stopping at the Castle Arts district and traveling further south to the developing South Front development, home of Satellite Bar and Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria.

According to Terry Espy, president of Wilmington’s Downtown Business Alliance (DBA), the expanded route has been discussed by several downtown groups – including Residents of Old Wilmington, DBA, the Parking Committee, and downtown merchants – as well as at WAVE. This year, the groups agreed on a route, and WAVE approved.

“As the city has grown, we’ve become a downtown of districts, not just a single row of shops,” Espy said. “This is a chance to connect those downtown districts – and it’s a service that would serve a lot of people.”

Espy said that, as permanent service, the downtown trolley route would connect residents in the developing Castle Street and South Front area with business downtown. Likewise, it would allow visitors to the Central Business District to branch out and explore other districts without having to drive.

The city wants to address demand for parking, especially for the North Riverfront Park – and the Live Nation venue which could draw thousands of guests – and the expanded downtown route would allow visitors to park at the outer edges of downtown.

 Monday, April 9th thru Sunday, April 15th
During Azalea Festival, from Monday, April 9 through Sunday, April 15, WAVE’s free downtown trolley will run on an expanded route. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY WAVE)

According to WAVE Deputy Director Megan Matheny, the revised trolley route – which will run from Monday, April 9 to Sunday, April 15 – will allow residents and officials alike to evaluate the possibility of a full-time service.

“Wave Transit’s Short Range Transit Plan is slated to conclude with a final report at the end of April 2018. The final report will include recommendations, shaped by public and stakeholder input, for the Free Downtown Trolley as well as all other fixed-route services in which we offer,” Matheny said.

The final version of a full-time downtown route might look different, and it might not be free, although it’s unlikely to cost the same amount as WAVE’s regular route buses.

WAVE might also choose to swap out the trolley-car look for something more efficient. A lot of those aspects will be, at least in part, up to feedback from the community.

“Route modifications and service revisions will be prioritized and implemented in accordance to the recommendations and community feedback provided through the short range transit planning initiative. Recommendations do include revised route scenarios, a partial payment option and service marketing,” Matheny said. “All elements, including a revised vehicle, will be vetted by the community and our community partners prior to implementation of a more permenant service solution for the Free Downtown Trolley.”

Wilmington City Councilman Paul Lawler said the Azelea Festival trial run will give visitors and residents a chance to see how the route could benefit the greater downtown area, beyond the more traditional boundaries of the central business district.

“This is a great chance to demonstrate that a better trolley route will benefit riders and the Wilmington economy. And perhaps learn something that will help make WAVE even more useful for Wilmington,” Lawler said. “I hope this trial run will demonstrate the value of a permanent change for the trolley. Connecting Greenfield Street, Castle Street, the CBD and North 4th Street will strengthen all four areas.”

WAVE will run a single trolley on Monday through Wednesday of the Azelea Festival, running every 45 minutes. On Thursday through Sunday, WAVE will run two trolleys, running approximately every 22 minutes. The trolley has marked stops, but can by hailed at any point along the route.

Below: Check out the current, and the revised Azalea Festival routes for the free downtown trolley.


WAVE Free Trolley — Current Downtown Route by Ben Schachtman on Scribd

WAVE Azalea Festival Free Trolley Route by Ben Schachtman on Scribd

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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