Mayor's office blasts AJC coverage of Atlanta Streetcar problems

Mayor Kasim Reed apparently was not happy with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s two-part look at the lingering problems of the Atlanta Streetcar.

On Sunday the newspaper reported that Atlanta has resolved just 20 of 66 issues raised in a Georgia Department of Transportation audit in February 2016. The issues were serious enough that GDOT threatened to shut down the streetcar last May when it found Atlanta’s responses lacking.

On Sunday the AJC reported that GDOT has accepted the city’s plans to address the remaining issues. GDOT says Atlanta is on track to finish its to-do list in June; the city said it hopes to finish by then, but it could take longer.

On Monday the AJC reported that streetcar ridership fell 58 percent last year after Atlanta began charging $1 to ride. What’s more, the city estimates a third to a half of riders don’t pay, and Atlanta recovers a far lower share of its expenses from riders than some other streetcar systems across the country.

On Monday afternoon Reed's office issued a lengthy response, saying the stories took “an inherently anti-transit position designed for the paper’s North Metro readership, not for readers in Atlanta.”

The response criticized the tone and emphasis of the articles, suggesting Sunday’s headline “should have read `State officials pleased with Streetcar progress.’” It said the newspaper quoted critics with axes to grind. And it said the newspaper’s comparison of the Atlanta Streetcar to other streetcars across the country lacked important context. The mayor’s office also was critical of past AJC coverage of the streetcar. You can read the administration’s full response here.

Decide for yourself whether the newspaper’s articles were fair and accurate. Below are some key documents (PDF files) on which the articles were largely based:

*Here’s a copy of the recent GDOT report that was the basis for Sunday's article.

*Here's a copy of the original GDOT audit.

*Here’s a copy of an Atlanta Public Works Department report to the City Council that includes the streetcar comparisons the AJC cited on Monday.

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About the Author

David Wickert
David Wickert
David Wickert writes about transportation issues for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He previously worked for newspapers in Washington state, Illinois...