All play, No Work
Downtown Little Rock is centered around Capitol Ave. The streetcar is three blocks away at its closest and a mile at its furthest. Thus, the streetcar is virtually useless for commuting to work, even for residents of the new condos along the line. The operating hours – the first train of the day is at 8:30 – back that up.
Little Rock-North Little Rock, AR
population 893,610 (2012)
Little Rock’s Central Arkansas Transit carries some 9,500 trips a day on 25 bus routes and two streetcar routes. The streetcar carries 230 of those trips. It is, in other words, a minor part of the transit system; it does not even reach the Downtown bus transfer hub. But it does connect Little Rock’s major tourist attractions: the Bill Clinton Presidential Center, the convention center, the old state house, the Historic Arkansas Museum, the River Market, restaurants, hotels, and, across the river in North Little Rock, AlltelArena, the maritime museum, and the Arkansas Travelers Ballpark. These attractions are just outside walking distance from each other, and the streetcar links them and becomes an attraction of its own. The line, opened in 2004 and extended in 2006, was part of an overall push for the revitalization of downtown Little Rock, and the restaurants and streetlife along the line suggest it’s helping accomplish that purpose, even if the ridership is nothing to write home about.
Part of the City
The streetcar runs down a restaurant-lined street at River Market, with the conductor narrating what’s on the menus to the passengers. A few blocks away, the stop at the Historic Arkansas Museum matches the historic buildings on display. The key to River Rail is blending into the city.
The loop the streetcar takes through Downtown Little Rock takes it past more destinations than a straight line would, but it also makes a trip from North Little Rock to the Clinton Presidential Center a great deal less direct, turning a 15-minute trip into a 20-minute trip.