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Archive for May, 2017

Lemonade

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Six years ago, I opined that the Atlanta Streetcar project was destined for failure.  At that time, I was criticized for “Not getting “IT””.  The notion of “IT” is a handy one when you don’t have a coherent argument.  Telling someone that they don’t get “IT” makes the speaker look wise and also makes the target of the matter look like a dolt.  In other words,  you are not only so stupid that you don’t get “IT”, but there’s not enough time to teach you just what “IT” is and why it is important.  “IT” sounds very good in faculty lounges across our great Republic.

This is not an “I told you so” piece.  Rather, it is a theoretical discussion about what can be done to salvage this misbegotten project.  And, let’s face it, the Atlanta Streetcar project is so poorly conceived that graffiti “artists” (pictured above) were able to successfully tag at least two of the Streetcar’s vehicles.  Their “work” took a fair bit of time and occurred at the operation’s maintenance facility.  Either the Streetcar’s employees did not know or did not care about what was going on, not a good omen.  That said, let’s talk about what to do.

Needless to say, there are those who feel that the whole project should be abandoned.  The three Siemens S70 cars have some sort of resale value since there are a good number of these cars operating on other system in the United States.  And, the City of Atlanta could take the same approach as the last time that Atlanta gave up on streetcars; take down the overhead wires and sell them for scrap, then pave over the rails and move on to buses.  Frankly, abandonment of the Streetcar is not an option.

So, what to do?  Ultimately, any solution calls for spending more money, a difficult task given the disastrous results so far.  Almost $100 million has been spent and by most measures, the outcome was unsuccessful.  There is one excessively cheerful individual who repeatedly insists that massive development has occurred as a result of the Streetcar.  Say what they will,  the real measure is at the farebox.  And by that measure, the Streetcar is a failure.  When asked to pay for their ride, the market for the Atlanta Streetcar evaporated.  Yes, I know that farebox receipts don’t fully cover the costs of operation, but if you look at any of the cars when they are in operation, you will know that the car does nothing but bleed money.  If only the Streetcar actually did something.

There are at least three things that the Streetcar could do.  The politicians hold out for a connection to the Atlanta Beltline which, in my mind, is more high-pie-in-the-sky stuff that brought us the first 2.7 miles.  In due time, this may be a viable option, but it will be years down the road.  Consider some other possibilities:

  • Student Transit 1.  Georgia State is now well involved with development around the former Braves stadium. Already, there are massive parking lots for the University’s students and faculty, with much more to come.  For the moment, buses take care of things, but why not extend the Streetcar line out to Turner Field?  And, while they’re at that, extend the line further into the local neighborhood?
  • Student Transit 2.  At the other end of the Streetcar route, extend the line up Luckie Street to North Avenue, serving Georgia Tech and Coca-Cola?
  • Football Transit.  Yes, the new stadium will be served by the MARTA Blue and Green lines, but a lot of people come to town and stay in nearby hotels.  A special branch could serve the World Congress Center and the stadium, being used only when sufficient passenger traffic is present.

And, since we’re talking about this, how about a real high-pie-in-the-sky project?  Close Peachtree Street to automobile traffic from 14th Street south through town to Garnett Street.  Maybe even on to West End?  Turn it into a transit / pedestrian / bicycle thoroughfare.  Most auto traffic already uses Juniper Street southbound and West Peachtree Street northbound.  A Peachtree Corridor project would serve a number of prominent locations such as the Fox Theater, Crawford Long Hospital, the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, and a host of others, making for a true public relations jewel.

Hey, it could happen.

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