MARTA to take over operations of Atlanta Streetcar

MARTA will take over operations of Atlanta Streetcar, says Mayor Kasim Reed. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
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MARTA will take over operations of Atlanta Streetcar, says Mayor Kasim Reed. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

MARTA will take over operations of the Atlanta Streetcar and riding the system could one day be free again.

MARTA will take on responsibility of the city’s nascent light rail system as part of last year’s more than $2 billion referendum to improve transit in the city, according to Mayor Kasim Reed.

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Atlanta streetcar ridership is below what it was two years ago and is bringing in very little revenue, according to authorities.

The Streetcar would also extend to the Atlanta BeltLine, though Reed did not specify where or when.

The takeover is a move that Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall told Channel 2 Action News has long made sense.

“The folks at MARTA are really good at running systems and the city should not be in this business,” Hall told investigative reporter Richard Belcher. “I think it’s a lot harder to run a transit system of this magnitude.”

The news comes just days after the 2.7-mile light rail system received word from the Georgia Department of Transportation that it had satisfactorily fixed or was on track to fix 66 safety and maintenance problems outlined in state and federal audits.

“We’re really excited to get the all clear signal,” Reed said in an interview with WXIA 11 Alive. “(There have been) six months without any incidents or accidents of any kind.”

Reed did not say when MARTA would take over the service or offer details about how it would connect to the BeltLine. Atlanta Public Works Commissioner William Johnson said in an exclusive interview earlier this month with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a connection to the BeltLine would take years.

As for free Streetcar service, Reed said that is definitely in the system's future. The system, which began in December 2014, costs $1 and has struggled with ridership, although it's numbers have improved in the last few months.

“I think we will be shifting to it being free, we are just trying to look at the right timing for that,” he said. “When we look at our peer cities, their streetcars are typically free and they are designed to encourage investment along the corridor.”

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