Atlanta Streetcar cites progress after critical audit

The Atlanta Streetcar is making significant progress in fixing problems identified in a critical audit of its performance late last year, the city of Atlanta and MARTA said in a joint letter to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The response from the city and transit agency to the audit came in the form of a Jan. 29 letter, which highlights the system's progress since the review was completed by GDOT in late October. That 129-page GDOT report listed a number of concerns with the city and MARTA's joint handling of the $98 million system, which had already been slammed for safety breaches, security breaches and high staff turnover during the course of its first year of operation.

The state proposed 55 action plans to correct the problems, which included a lack of clarity when it came to who was running the streetcar, vacancies in “safety-critical” positions, inadequate training, maintenance deficiencies and improper documentation.

According to the letter, key improvements achieved since the audit are as follows:

  • Vacancy rate is now 18 percent, among a total of 24.5 full-time equivalent employees in the required organizational structure.
  • Security has been stepped up with the addition of fare enforcement officers and an Atlanta Police Department streetcar coverage plan that includes foot patrols.
  •   With regard to staffing, two new full-time operators are in training and are expected to be certified in mid-February. A new maintenance technician has been hired. And a new compliance manager, interim maintenance supervisor and maintenance superintendent also have been put in place. The city is recruiting two additional maintenance technicians and has scheduled interviews for new operators, dispatchers and a data analyst.
  •   In terms of training, a tabletop exercise was conducted Dec. 18 among streetcar staff and safety personnel to hone emergency preparedness skills. The staff also completed required crane and forklift training in December and is scheduled to complete at least three other required training programs in the first quarter of this year.
  •   The maintenance department has been restructured, including with respect to training and compliance with required documentation.
  •   The streetcar staff have reviewed and updated more than 60 standard operating procedures.
  • Each successive class of streetcar staff has been optimized and a new training program plan is 85 percent complete.

In December, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of the streetcar's inaugural year found that streetcar boosters overstated the system's economic development impact and that ridership had fallen short of early projections. The AJC also found that underlying many of its troubles was confusion over who was in charge of the system: the city or MARTA.

Reed told the AJC then that the city was applying lessons learned in its start-up year to improve future operations — sentiments that were echoed in the city's letter last week to GDOT.

“As we enter the second year of service, we are proud to say that the Atlanta Streetcar is a safe, affordable and convenient transit option connecting east and west Downtown,” the letter said.