Some students, city officials against streetcar expansion

Is the city's multi-million dollar investment paying off for students? Photo by Priscilla Medeiros | The Signal
Is the city's multi-million dollar investment paying off for students? Photo by Priscilla Medeiros | The Signal
Is the city’s multi-million dollar investment paying off for students?
Photo by Priscilla Medeiros | The Signal

Visions for the Atlanta Streetcar’s future are all but slowing down, with a new proposal slated to expand towards Midtown, in Downtown and around the Beltline. The city’s transit mammoth is set to expand within the next couple of years, after the City Council approved its expansion plan in December 2015 which has no set cost or deadline.

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Streetcar funding has come in large portions from federal TIGER grants, which have contributed over $47.6 million. Though last year Atlanta’s Streetcar didn’t receive any funding from the program, 2016 TIGER grants are up for grabs, and the decision of entering for a chance to get the money has city officials scratching their heads.

In February the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the 2016 round of TIGER grants has an available amount of $500 million. According to Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta officials are hesitant to seek again $29.3 million for the Streetcar extension.

Streetcar ridership has been decreasing in the past year, which some say is due to the new ticket prices, ridding the transit system of its no-cost allure.

Jenna Garland, press secretary for the city of Atlanta, says ridership should bounce back once the public has adjusted to the price tag.

“Ridership in January 2016 was lower compared to January 2015, which is expected due to the implementation of the faire, poor weather, and low gas prices,” she said. “Just as the public needed to adjust to the Streetcar initially, the public is adjusting to the new $1 one-way fare and $3 day pass.”

The Signal conducted a Twitter poll asking students if they ride the Streetcar, in hopes of shedding light on current ridership. 96 percent of responders chose, “No.”

Georgia State sophomore Nicholas Jarboe said there’s no need for a big train downtown, and following a bus system like Georgia Tech would be much more convenient.

“There’s a terrible wait time [for the Streetcar], and it’s just unnecessary and expensive,” he said.

Another Georgia State student, Francesca Jean-Baptiste, said taking the streetcar hasn’t even crossed her mind.

“It’s pointless. I can walk down a couple of stations and get there faster than the Streetcar,” she said. “And I don’t have to pay a dollar for it.”

But Garland said those stations offer a connecting point for people to the action of downtown Atlanta.

“We believe the ability to move conveniently and safely around Downtown and to the Historic Old Fourth Ward is very appealing to students, residents, and visitors alike,” she said.

But Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook, representing Buckhead, said he doesn’t want the transit system anywhere near the area, in fears of traffic congestion and inefficiency.

“Buckhead’s traffic congestion is epic, in part because we don’t have any sort of grid as does Downtown and Midtown. If [ the Streetcar made stops] every couple of blocks, traffic flow would become glacial,” he said.

But traffic isn’t the only thing on Shook’s mind. He said the Streetcar experience has gained negative press for being “more costly, mismanaged, and attracted far fewer riders than promised”.

In early October, the Georgia Department of Transportation ran a report on the function of the transit system, and their review included a handful of points for improvement. The report found it lacked staff and proper reporting, as well as overlooked safety critical positions, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The solution, according to Senator Fort, lies in passing over the reins of Streetcar control to MARTA officials, and out of the city’s control.

The senator told Creative Loafing, “Shouldn’t we have a transit agency running transit, opposed to a politicized mayor’s officer making mistakes?”

3 Comments

  1. “Ridership in January 2016 was lower compared to January 2015, which is expected due to the implementation of the faire, poor weather, and low gas prices,” she said.

    Perhaps you meant: fare?

  2. The streetcar is massively expensive compared to the service it delivers. The City is setting up a duplicative bureaucracy that will be expensive. The overhead contact poles are unsightly. Really a trolley system like Tech has would be better use of funds and the route could be flexible for different days and events. The rail fetish just got ahold of folks. Having the Streetcar around will just make traffic worse. Having it in the Beltline will make that venture exponentially more expensive, more dangerous and unsightly. There is already cramped quarters for walking and biking!

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