The Atlanta Streetcar is a 2.7-mile downtown loop, serving 12 stops between Centennial Olympic Park and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Running east-west, it provides access to MARTA heavy rail lines at Peachtree Center.
The idea of returning streetcars to Atlanta’s streets dates as far back as 2003, when the non-profit organization Atlanta Streetcar, Inc. (ASC) was founded with the mission to bring streetcars back downtown. In 2007, the ASC’s dreams were bolstered when the Peachtree Corridor Partnership was formed, in order to determine how to make Peachtree Street a pedestrian-friendly corridor.
Two years later, the City of Atlanta funded a streetcar feasibility study to iron out a plan in time to apply for federal economic-stimulus funds to pay for a streetcar line’s construction. In 2010, Atlanta’s progressive planning efforts were rewarded when it was announced that the project’s first phase would receive $47 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II funds.
Soon Siemens was selected to build streetcars for the system. Providing further economic benefits for the community, major components of the Siemens streetcars were assembled at their Alpharetta, GA plant. Groundbreaking took place in February 2012 and the first phase went into operation on December 30, 2014. Future plans include extending the streetcar north to Bankhead’s MARTA Station and east to Piedmont Park.
Like many fixed transit systems before it, the Atlanta Streetcar is already spurring Transit Oriented Development (TOD). In June, Sanctuary Residential announced plans for a $33 million mixed-use project along the streetcar route, called 200 Edgewood. According to Sanctuary’s CEO Bernard Felder, “200 Edgewood will offer high-end, boutique student housing and will be one of the first transit-oriented developments along the new Atlanta Streetcar line. We’re thrilled to be contributing to the revitalization of downtown Atlanta.”
One interesting observation about the streetcar system is that it uses Siemens S70 light rail vehicles (LRV), despite being operated as a downtown circulator. S70 LRVs are also utilized by light rail systems in Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Portland, San Diego, Norfolk, Minneapolis and Houston. With the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s (JTA) aging Skyway vehicles rapidly approaching their end, Atlanta’s new streetcar operation is something that JTA should familiarize itself with.
Here’s a look at urban Atlanta’s new toy.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at email@example.com