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Everything you need to know about Albany’s new trolley

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ALBANY — Ding ding.

That’s the sound Cara Del Favero’s children, Olive, 6, and Elliot, 8, make when they ride the Capital City Trolley on Lark St.

“I never knew trolleys were so special until they saw one go by,” Del Favero said.

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The Capital District Transportation Authority launched the free service on Oct. 25. It’s expected to run year-round.

Here’s what you should know:

Where did the trolley come from?

CDTA launched a “Capital City Shuttle” pilot program in summer 2017, wrapping Albany’s downtown corridor. It ran from May 29 to Oct. 7. In that span, ridership totaled 4,000.

“Largely the feedback was that they really enjoyed the service and that they wanted to see it more than just the summer months,” said CDTA spokesperson Jaime Watson.

The new trolley covers more “hotspots” without extending service, Watson said. During service times, two trolleys circle downtown, each making a full orbit every 20 minutes.

Where does it go?

The trolley hits prominent attractions: the Times Union Center, the Palace Theater, SUNY Plaza, Empire State Plaza,  the Capital, the Albany Capital Center, and the Corning Riverfront Park.

What time does it run?

It runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On those days, the service makes rounds from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

How is it funded if there’s no fee?

CDTA has nine partners covering a chunk of trolley expenses. Watson said CDTA would be unable to fund the service independently.

Schenectady and Saratoga have seasonal trolley services. Why is Albany’s year round? 

Watson said CDTA’s partners in Saratoga and Schenectady favor the trolley during the summer. This is due to the service’s higher demand.

In Saratoga, especially, CDTA believes the trolley is used by visitors more than residents.

“The influx of people who go to Saratoga to go to the race course and go to those other seasonal attractions in Saratoga,” she said. “They’re using the trolley for that.”

Is this Albany’s first taste of trolleying?

No. For nearly 80 years, trolleys were a part of Albany life. By 1890, electric trolley lines through Pearl St., Hamilton Ave., Lark St., Manning Blvd., Broadway, Madison Ave., Delaware Ave., Clinton Ave., and Quail St.

There were five major union strikes between 1900 and 1921, the last of which crippled the system. Suffering heavy losses, the United Traction Company never made a profit again. Gradually, the company began running bus routes on preexisting trolley lines.

The last service ran on Aug. 31, 1946.

Tyler A. McNeil covers local news for The Upstate Courier. He can be reached at tmcneil.press@gmail.com or 518-527-7659.