Trolley Service Idea Proposed
A Southern Pines newcomer is championing the creation of a new trolley service to run between the downtowns of Southern Pines and Pinehurst.
Greg Law, a specialist in the 82nd Airborne, wants to create a hybrid, fuel-efficient trolley service, funded through federal stimulus money, to shuttle residents and visitors back and forth between the towns.
He thinks such a service would not only be convenient for residents and visitors, but also would benefit businesses.
"I think the timing is perfect," Law said.
The Obama administration is committing billions of dollars to transportation in the stimulus package, with $8 billion designated for high-speed rail improvements.
The government could be looking to upgrade some of Amtrak's corridors to high-speed service along the East Coast, and the rail that runs through Southern Pines might be one of those, Law said. He believes trolley service could be a convenient connection point to that.
"They're going to be throwing big money at a high-speed Amtrak thing," he said, adding there are two corridors that come through this area -- one in Southern Pines, another in Fayetteville. "I think that all the powers-that-be need to get in alignment and make sure that high-speed corridor comes on this side, not the Fayetteville side. A trolley would support that."
Getting to Pine-hurst from Southern Pines or vice versa for a night out becomes a challenge, Law pointed out. One is not going to drive home after having a few drinks -- hopefully -- and getting a cab home can be pricey. But an affordable trolley service could make traveling to the other downtown area more convenient and appealing.
"If there's a trolley, I'm going to go down to The Pine Crest Inn once a month just to break up the routine," he said. "It's fun. You get a group and you hop on the trolley. It actually gets people out."
Midland Road Shuttle
Law envisages the automotive trolley as being a "Midland shuttle," that would utilize the historic highway running between the two towns.
For it to be successful, he said, service should be restricted to Southern Pines and Pinehurst, with possibly some additional stops along the route during peak season.
"If I were them, I'd probably have more of it during the busy season and maybe ramp it down in the off-season," he said. "The economics would dictate."
If stimulus money were used for the project, it would have to be publicly owned and operated. Law isn't sure which entity would run the operation, possibly the county. But he stressed the importance of finding commonality on the issue locally before moving forward.
"One thing I would do first is get a lot of the local muscle," he said, "whether it be retail, real estate, the town councils, and the convention bureau, and kind of get all of your ducks in a row there, and then reach a consensus on the general outline as to what it would be."
Utilizing a hybrid trolley is icing on the cake for the project.
"I think that really covers all the bases," Law said. "There's a push for mass transit. There's a push for lessening traffic congestion. Then, you want to go green where you can. Well, this does that and it kind of gives money to companies that are making that happen. The current generation gets support so it can take it to the next level, where it's even more fuel efficient and even more environmentally friendly."
Wanted to Serve
A member of the 2nd Combat Brigade of the 82nd, Law fell in love with Southern Pines after arriving at Fort Bragg. After 9/11, he said he always felt compelled to serve, but couldn't because the age limit was 35.
He finally got his chance a few years later. He held the distinction of being one of the oldest privates in the Army when he enlisted in 2006, walking away from a media packaging job in Chicago shortly after then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld raised the enlistment age to 42.
But if he was going to join the Army, Law wanted to see some action. Instead of going through Officer Candidate School, he volunteered to be a truck driver, which put him on the fast track to Iraq. He served a year there, and his unit is constantly on call to be shipped off to the next conflict.
"Me joining the 82nd Airborne is like getting a Ph.D. in manhood," he said. "It's been a great thing. I'm very, very proud to have been associated with the 82nd Airborne."
Because he's nearly twice the age of his fellow soldiers, Law decided he needed to get away from the barracks. He settled on Southern Pines, and plans to split time between here and Chicago when his commitment runs out in late 2010.
Help Local Economy
Someone who makes a point to do business with local merchants and dines in local restaurants instead of the national chains, Law thinks the trolley service would be a great asset in today's tough economy.
"The economy is making all of these businesses struggle," he said. "I'd hate for all of these nice shops that give the downtown its vibrancy and appeal to not be able to at least tread water during this downturn.
"I'm going to support the people who give this town its charm. I think a lot of constituencies could be pleased by something like this happening."
The business owners in Southern Pines that he has spoken to have been receptive to the idea, Law said.
Greg Zywocinski, president of the Southern Pines Business Association, said by phone Friday that he thinks the local leaders in Pinehurst and Southern Pines have the ability to make something like this happen.
"We at the Southern Pines Business Association, and myself in particular, are enthusiastic about this," he said, adding he has introduced Law to local leaders. "It's always a question of money, but we think the money is out there.
"We're optimistic. I'm going to continue to try to help him in any way I can."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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