“Clang, clang, clang went the trolley, Ding, ding, ding went the bell …” “The Trolley Song” by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
When the electric streetcar was first introduced in Concord in 1901, it transformed the town. It meant that the borough was no longer defined by walking distance. The trolley, which resembled a railroad car, revolutionized country travel. One resident was recorded in 1901 saying, “The trolley cars brought people to Concord and took people out of Concord. It was a very happy day when electric cars came.”
Flash forward to Concord 2022, when the Concord Trolley is again reshaping transportation. This trolley is no longer an old-fashioned streetcar but a free, handicapaccessible shuttle bus that focuses on solving the ‘last mile’ problem – making it easier for riders to get to their final destination from public transportation. Traveling on a loop, the trolley is a convenient way to travel from the MBTA Commuter Rail train station to historic sites, shopping, and restaurants without needing a car. This hop-on, hop-off trolley serves the Concord Visitor Center, the Old Manse, North Bridge Visitor Center, Concord Museum, Meriam’s Corner, and Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House on a seven-mile route that is timed with the arrival and departure of the commuter rail service. Twice a day on weekdays and three times on weekends, the route extends to West Concord for more shopping and dining options.
“The Concord Trolley coalesces the neighborhood,” said Beth Williams, Concord’s Economic Vitality and Tourism Manager, who was one of the many vocal proponents of the trolley project.
The Concord Trolley is a pilot program aligned with the town’s long-range plan and climate and transportation goals. It is estimated that a quarter of the people who go to the Visitor Center, or roughly 4,000 people, will ride the trolley in its first year. With an additional 100,000 - 200,000 visitors projected to come to Concord in 2025 for the 250th anniversary of the battle at the North Bridge, the trolley will be much needed in the coming years.
Marcia Rasmussen, Concord’s Director of Planning and Land Management, said that possible future expansion of the shuttle includes longer hours to serve more commuters and a wider route to include the towns of Lincoln and Lexington as well as more areas in Concord.
But if public transportation like the Concord Trolley is to be the lifeblood of our community and our tourism efforts, we need visitors and residents alike to ride the shuttle and show their support for this new program. June Mullberg of Lexington, who hopped the shuttle from the Visitor Center to the North Bridge, loved the eco-friendly aspect of the Concord Trolley. Standing in the heat, she said, “Anything we can do to reduce cars on the road and CO2 emissions is important. We should all start using the Concord Trolley.”
Have you ridden the trolley? Trolleys helped build towns like Concord, and a trolley can help boost them again. Everything old is new again, and the Concord Trolley is an idea whose time has come back around.
Go to visitconcord.org/visit/trolley/ for the route and schedule.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a former editor and copy editor at the Boston Herald. She is also a longtime contributor to the Boston Globe and has acted as creative director at Science and Theology News.