Nashua launches downtown service

The city will launch a free downtown trolley service this weekend intended to make it easier for patrons to get to shops, restaurants, concerts and plays without worrying about where to park.

The Gate City Trolley will make its maiden trip Friday night from the Elm Street parking garage and will travel a fixed loop through downtown every 15 minutes. The trolley will run Friday and Saturday nights.

It’s an attempt to address the view held by some that insufficient parking exists downtown and to encourage use of the Elm and High Street parking garages, where it is free to park nights and weekends.

"I think it will be a great boon to downtown," Alderman-at-Large and board president Brian McCarthy said Tuesday.

"I hope it will make it possible for people to use the parking that we have in the garages and to go to the rest of the places that may be a little farther (away)," he added. The trolley evolved from an idea McCarthy introduced last year to have valet parking downtown. He withdrew the concept when it proved impractical.

The Gate City Trolley is being launched on a pilot basis for six months, McCarthy said. City leaders will assess ridership and interest and decide whether to continue it or expand it, he said.

"Our hope for it is that it will be good for people who feel maybe they want to walk around downtown but they don’t want to move their car. They can jump on the trolley and go from one establishment to another," said Marylou Blaisdell, who chairs the city’s Downtown Improvement Committee.

"It allows people to have free parking in the garages, but go a few blocks away to eat. It will just bring people downtown in the city and take advantage of what’s there in the evening," added Blaisdell, who co-owns DesignWares at 206 Main St.

The Nashua Transit System trolley will run fixed routes from 6:15-10:30 p.m. Fridays and 5:15-10:30 p.m. Saturdays, said Amanda Schneck, who owns Pearl Marketing & Design LLC. The company designed the logo, signs and is handling the marketing for the pilot project.

The route begins at the Elm Street Garage near City Hall, goes to the High Street Garage, then continues to Main Street and heads north to Library Hill, loops around Railroad Square, turns onto Canal Street, then heads south on Main Street to City Hall before returning to the Elm Street garage.

The trolley service is free and passengers can get on and off at a series of designated stops between City Hall and Library Hill, Schneck said.

Those who board at the parking garage will be given tickets featuring special discounts offered by six local businesses: Fratello’s, San Francisco Kitchen, Portland Pie Co., Riverside Barbeque, Nancy’s Diner and Millyard Brewery.

This is an added incentive to get people to park in the garages, each of which have several hundred spaces located just a block from Main Street.

"We actually have ample parking downtown," Blaisdell said. "This will help that view (held) by some people that they can’t find a good place to park. Hopefully, they will take advantage of this. It’s something that the city is doing to help them out."

The two city garages have had new lighting installed and parking is free after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on the weekend. In addition, she said leased surface lots offer free parking on nights and weekends.

McCarthy, who is the aldermen’s liaison to the Downtown Improvement Committee, said the trolley project will be paid for with Downtown Improvement Committee money.

Kathryn Marchocki can be reached at 594-6589, kmarchocki@ nashuatelegraph.com, or @Tele-graph_KMar.