New Lift on Trolley Gives Visitors Opportunity to See Parks and Gardens

Throughout the summer, trolley riders can take an interpretive tour as it meanders through the Sinnissippi Gardens and along the Rock River in Rockford, Illinois. The Rockford Park District, which operates Trolley Car 36 and the tour through the gardens, has been exploring options and has come up with a solution for making the trolley accessible.

The trolley excursion was first identified with an architectural barrier in the District's transition plan back in 1992. Many discussions amongst staff over the years have centered on creative solutions for making the trolley accessible. At one point, discussion focused on adding boarding ramps at the trolley station and at stops along the railway. However, railroad regulations restricted the placement of such boarding ramps in too close a proximity to the railroad tracks. So discussion turned to modifying the historic trolley itself.

In 1997, the Rockford Park District added a lift to the trolley to create access for people who use wheelchairs. The modification has made Trolley Car 36 one of the most popular excursions for people with disabilities and their family members and friends. The following is an interview with Barb Baptista, Senior Manager of Community and Therapeutic Recreation at the Rockford Park District.

How did you decide to go with a lift instead of the ramp?

When you look at the options offered to trolley riders, it includes getting out of the trolley at Sinnissippi Park for a brief tour around the gardens. By having the lift on the trolley, our patrons who use a wheelchair or those with mobility impairments are not restricted from the experience. It becomes a safety feature as well, in case passengers need to disembark from the trolley at places other than the station in an emergency.

What type of lift was installed?

We purchased the Mobile Tech Fully Automatic Model XM-UVL-600X (bought out by Braun, Inc.) which is a model commonly installed in vehicles.   It "houses" the lift under the vehicle when it is not in operation. The lift was purchased through Vehicle Ventures the local vendor. The owners, Jan and Larry Nalley would be available for more info at (815) 874-5925, fax (815) 874-5911.

Was it specially modified in any way?

The lift itself was not modified. We did make a small modification under the trolley, rerouting a tank so that the lift could fit under it.

How much did it cost?

$7,730 (which includes the lift, shipping, and labor) plus a few hours of labor by our own mechanics. They made modifications underneath the trolley to put a ringe on the running board around the trolley. One point that I would like to highlight was the fact that we preserved the integrity of the trolley and you don't even notice the lift when it isn't in use.

Did you have to get any special approval to have the lift installed on the trolley car?

No. None was needed

What are park visitors saying about the lift?

They appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the entire trolley ride experience. They also appreciate the security of the lift while loading and unloading passengers and how user friendly it is in terms of the time it takes for the complete operation.

Any other interesting information that people should know in the event they are looking at retrofitting a similar type ride in their park?
Incorporate training for staff riding/operating the trolley (especially if staff are seasonal or new to the job). Include discussion on how to operate the lift safely, appropriate loading and unloading of wheelchairs and position of the operator when lift is being used. Another topic for discussion in training is the etiquette of interacting with the patron receiving assistance. You know... the soft skills you can never buy. Consider quality promotion, make sure that all written materials allude to our "wheelchair accessible trolley" (or have the international symbol) so that potential park visitors will know that the excursion is accessible.

Also, we understand that you are marketing one tour a month with a sign language interpreter. What has been the feedback on the tour with the interpreter?

The set schedule allows for planning without the hassle of needing to call and request a sign language interpreter in advance. Currently we ask for 48 hours advanced notice for requesting a sign language interpreter on tours that are not already scheduled for an interpreter. We would like more people who are deaf or hard of hearing to come out to enjoy the ride and give the Park District reasons to expand on the number of rides interpreters are automatically scheduled.

For more information, contact: 

Laurie Anderson 
Rockford Park District
1401 North Second St
Rockford, IL 61107
(815) 987-1600 (voice or tty)

Larry Nally
Vehicle Ventures
(815) 874-5925
fax (815) 874-5911

National Center on Accessibility
Indiana University
2805 East 10th St, Suite 190
Bloomington, IN 47408
(812) 856-4422 voice
(812) 856-4421 tty


The citation for this article is:

National Center on Accessibility. (October 12, 2001). New Lift on Trolley Gives Visitors Opportunity to See Parks and Gardens. Indiana University-Bloomington: National Center on Accessibility.