Trolley to Lawrenceville Square to take trial run

LAWRENCEVILLE - Businesses in Lawrenceville's Historic Square could soon try a new method of luring customers - busing them in.

After years of discussion, city leaders are poised to begin a trolley service from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center to the Square.

A trial run is scheduled for the city's New Year's Eve celebration, and if the details can be worked out, a free daily lunch service could begin in April, said Mike Reedy, the chairman of the city's Downtown Development Authority.

"We think it would be fun and it would be a good addition to our growing downtown," Reedy said.

Reedy said the authority would likely pick up the initial bill for the trolley, but he's trying to work out a plan so that businesses can buy advertising to pay the costs of $30,000 to $35,000 per year.

For riders, he said, it would be free, allowing county staffers, jurors or others at the courthouse for business to leave their cars and head to the Square for lunch.

Eventually, he hopes to extend the route to pick up people at Gwinnett Medical Center, another of the city's biggest job centers.

"The biggest goal was to capitalize on the quantity of people at the justice center," Reedy said. "I've not run into anybody that didn't think it was a good idea."

Jerry Moore, the trolley owner who had provided services in Helen but wanted to move them to the city he lives in, said there are still "a few hurdles" to the plan, mostly in terms of the funding.

"The idea is to be able to conveniently bring people downtown," he said. "We're hoping it'll be a novelty item for people to use and keep cars off the road."

State Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville, has talked about bringing a trolley to Lawrenceville for years.

He believes it won't only be a benefit to businesses, but the service will begin to change people's ideas about transit.

"When you get on a trolley to go to lunch, you've evacuated your mind from your car," Heard said. "It starts a paradigm shift and that's big. ... It'll help in our transportation crisis."

If people begin to enjoy a short trip to lunch, they could be more willing to support bus service or even rail, he said, helping both with air quality and traffic.

"It's all about changing the way people think," he said, adding that the business benefits are also important for reviving downtown. "The more pedestrian traffic we have in the city, the more businesses will thrive. The more businesses thrive, the more pedestrian traffic we'll have."