The Atlanta Streetcar is delayed—again. While it looked like the $100 million project might be up and rolling in late summer, the new target date is November. After ballooning budget issues and multiple delays setting the schedule back over a year, the on-road testing on the cars is scheduled to start within the next few weeks. If you do spot a car quietly zipping down the track, it will be empty. There will be about two months of testing before any passengers are aboard.
“The first time we go through, will be literally at walking speeds at midnight so we don’t interact with anybody,” said Sharon Gavin, Atlanta Streetcar’s communications director. “But then we’ll start those cars out there operating with traffic, to give traffic an opportunity to learn how to behave around streetcars and to get our operators used to Atlanta traffic.” The precautionary steps might be wise—after all, when Houston re-introduced streetcars a decade ago, collisions were so common that the trolley was dubbed the Wham Bam Tram. The streetcar operators here will try to prevent those issues by never going faster than the speed of traffic. “We have to remain grouped along with traffic patterns so it can be predictable,” Gavin said. “So that drivers know how streetcars are going to operate.”
Last Thursday, Atlanta Streetcar invited media to check out the cars, so we headed over for some early access (no, unfortunately, we didn’t get to ride it). The turnout was sparse–we spotted only a couple other outlets while there–but the mood in the Auburn Avenue trolley shed seemed upbeat. Check out the above photos to see what we can expect when we finally get to ride the 2.7 mile light-rail loop.
There’s even more on the Atlanta Streetcar—including a map of the route—in this piece from our August 2014 issue (which went to the printer just days before the latest delays were announced).