Trolley History

Trolley with riders

The Woodlands Township provides two transit operations: The Town Center Trolley, a fixed-route urban circulator service and The Woodlands Express Park & Ride, a commuter bus service.

Based on the results of the 2010 decennial Census, the Conroe-Woodlands Large Urbanized Area (UZA) was created by the U. S. Census Bureau. An Interlocal Agreement (ILA) by and between the City of Conroe and The Woodlands Township delineates the responsibilities of each for the provision of public transportation services. Both entities administer federal and state grant funds for the provision of public transit services in the UZA. Responsibility for service areas within the UZA was divided by the agreement with the Township’s area of responsibility generally south of FM 1488 to the Montgomery/Harris County line. Conroe’s area of responsibility is the area generally north of FM 1488 to just north of the City of Willis.

The Trolley Service operates in The Woodlands Town Center Pedestrian/Transit Corridor, which was developed primarily through the federally funded Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program. Federal funds were provided through several congressional earmarks pursuant to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Section 5309 discretionary program. The justification for the significant commitment of CMAQ funding for this corridor is based on the corridor’s ability to reduce short automobile trips, resulting in a reduction of Vehicle-Miles Traveled (VMT), as well as reduced congestion and pollution which, absent the corridor, would be substantially greater due to the mixed-use development and significant growth of the surrounding Town Center area. The Town Center Pedestrian/Transit Corridor was developed jointly by The Woodlands development Company and The Brazos Transit District (BTD).

This fixed-route urban circulator service connects The Woodlands Mall, Market Square, and businesses and residents along The Woodlands Waterway. The Woodlands Township funds half of the operating cost for the Trolleys with FTA reimbursement for the other half.

History of Trolley Operations
The Woodlands Town Center Trolley is a rubber-tired replica trolley service that started in July 2007. The first three years of the program were funded through the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) CMAQ Pilot Program. The Woodlands Township funded half of the operating cost for the Trolleys and H-GAC funded the other half through the Brazos Transit District, the owner and operator of the trolleys at the time. Upon completion of the three-year CMAQ pilot program, The Woodlands Township and BTD entered an Interlocal Agreement for operation and maintenance of the service. This ILA , executed in May 2010, was renewed until September 2020 when The Woodlands Township assumed direct-operational responsibility for the service.

History of the Trolley Route
In order to create efficiencies in the trolley service and provide a more dependable and visible service, the trolley route was modified to be a more traditional on-street style transit service that avoided parking lots and valet areas while still providing service to the densest and most popular activity centers in Town Center. This realignment of the trolley route was known as “Phase I” and was approved by the Board of Directors to approach improvements to the service in a low/no-cost basis and to test the locations of new stops. Temporary stops were installed to provide high visibility of the transit stops and test their location. The redesign of the route reduced the total length from approximately 4.5 miles to approximately 3.1 miles, making the time vehicles needed to make the entire route shorter. 

“Phase II”, approved by The Board of Directors to begin in mid-November 2017 added an additional vehicle (a fourth trolley) to the service during peak operating hours and redesigned the schedule to provide more effective and later service for passengers. The improvements reduced headways (frequency between vehicles) to an average of just over twelve (12) minutes.

Based on the success of Phase II, the Board of Directors approved Phase III of the Town Center Trolley service which extended the route to Hughes Landing. The service began April 16, 2018 and coincided with the launch of a smartphone app providing passengers with real-time location of trolleys and arrival times.