More than a year behind schedule and millions over budget, Atlanta Streetcar service should kick off this month. Let’s stress the uncertainty; city representatives will commit to only a vague “by end of year” start. The $100 million project—funded by federal grants, the city, and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District—seems close to completion. Track is installed, the stops are in place, and the cars wait in their shed. What to expect when you finally board.
Made in America
Atlanta’s system uses the first all-U.S.-fabricated streetcars from the German firm Siemens.
The car doors slide open to allow lots of passengers to enter and exit the car quickly. Flush with the platforms, the doors allow those in wheelchairs (or pushing strollers) to board without navigating steps or lifts.
Overhead 750-volt electric cables power the system. Utility work—both over and under the tracks—was a key contributor to construction delays.
The streetcar can reach a speed of 35 miles per hour (which is about the limit for cars on all the roads along its route).
Each car holds up to 195 passengers and includes sixty seats and four dedicated wheelchair spots.
A Free Ride?
No fares will be levied during the streetcar’s first three months of operation. After that, the proposed rate is $1—or $3 for a day of unlimited rides. Ticketing eventually will connect to the MARTA Breeze system.
To spur ridership, promote development, and—let’s be honest—prettify vacant storefronts, Central Atlanta Progress launched a pop-up shop campaign. Fourteen retailers, ranging from a dog bakery to an indie record store, are signed up for the program, which runs through August. (Retailers have the option to extend their leases.)
Back to the Future
The last time streetcars ran in downtown Atlanta was 1949.
This article originally appeared in our August 2014 issue under the headline “Never mind the gap.”