The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) assumed operations of the Atlanta Streetcar on July 1. The Atlanta City Council approved a statute that transferred all assets and operations of Atlanta Streetcar from the City of Atlanta to MARTA in September 2017.
According to a July 1 release, MARTA’s Office of Light Rail Operations will handle daily operations, maintenance, and technical inspections of the streetcar. Other support services will be provided by staff within current MARTA departments.
To commemorate the change in operations, MARTA General Manager & CEO Jeffrey A. Parker and MARTA Chief of Police Wanda Y. Dunham together will take an inaugural ride of the system on Monday, July 2 from 10:45 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. leaving from the Dobbs Plaza Station on Auburn Avenue. MARTA Police Officers will be on board every train to ensure the safety and security of the system, the release said.
The streetcar, also called the Downtown Loop, is a light rail trolley system that began in 2014 and operates a single route in the downtown corridor. There are currently 12 stops. But there were plans to develop and extend the line along the Atlanta Beltline. However, ridership fell significantly when the $1 fare was introduced in 2016.
Further, in the same year, the Georgia Department of Transportation had threatened to shut down the streetcar after the City of Atlanta and MARTA failed to address an extensive list of concerns made by the GDOT commissioner. In a letter addressed to MARTA CEO Keith Parker and then-Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, GDOT gave the city until June 14 to come up with plans to fix 60 problems with the streetcar, including issues of safety, adequate staffing and more.
In mid-May, MARTA made a comprehensive announcement of its Metro transit plan, including the construction of 21 miles of light rail, including the current Downtown Loop as a part of its footprint. The plan would also introduce a light rail line that would connect the Avondale station in East Atlanta to the Lindbergh station north of the city between Midtown and Buckhead.
Up until a few weeks ago, there was some discussion that MARTA officials were considered making the streetcar free to the public to encourage increased ridership. However, Dunham told MARTA’s Board of Directors in a June 22 meeting that the $1 fare was needed in order enforce a “no loitering” rule and to ensure patrons feel safe aboard the streetcar.
Customers have complained because homeless people often ride the transit line. The board voted to keep the $1 fare in place.
According to MARTA, there are a number of ways to now pay the $1 fare to ride the streetcar:
- purchase your fare directly from a Breeze vending machine at a streetcar stop using credit or debit.
- use stored value on your Breeze card to buy the fare from any Breeze vending machine at a streetcar stop.
- purchase your fare using the Atlanta Streetcar mobile app.
- pay using exact change when boarding the streetcar.