A pilot project to encourage people to enjoy downtown Greenville and its businesses rolled out today.

Emerald Express is a trolley that will offer free transportation along a 13-stop route throughout the center city area.

The trolley will operate from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The continuous loop begins and ends at the G.K. Butterfield Transportation Center and travels the route approximately every 20 minutes. Stops include the Butterfield Center, Dickinson Avenue, Five Points Plaza, Evans Street, the Town Common, the Fourth Street parking garage, the Greenville Museum of Art and more, according to a city news release.

“It originated through conversations with the arts council related to the Emerald Loop,” said Brock Letchworth, Greenville communications manager.

The thought was the trolley would provide transportation services while serving as a form of art circulating through the center city, he said.

The city received a donation of three trolleys from the City of Charlotte. One vehicle a day will be used.

The Emerald Loop, a project of the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, is a circuit created to connect the city’s artistic and cultural sites while bringing together neighborhoods and the community.

“The vision is to have the trolleys or vehicles partnering with the city to take us along a route that will help spur, especially now, economic recovery,” said Holly Garriott, Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge’s executive director. “It’s an entertainment kind of transit that you can get on and see all our cultural amenities.”

Garriott said another exciting aspect of the project is that many of the stops along the newly launched African American Cultural Trail are along the trolley’s route.

“It’s really about connecting our center city, connecting our communities and businesses,” Garriott said. It also will bring lots of people to public transportation, she said.

Letchworth said the Emerald Express is a pilot project that is expected to run through the spring.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.