Atlanta gets trolley system rolling to boost tourism

31 Dec 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Atlanta streetcar makes inaugural run.

At yesterday’s debut of Atlanta’s Streetcar, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had a bit of advice for lawmakers readying for a knock-down debate over transportation funding.

The Atlanta Streetcar rolled into downtown on its inaugural journey Tuesday, marking the first time streetcars have regularly traversed those city streets in more than 50 years.Hundreds of Atlantans gathered in Downtown today where Peachtree Street meets Auburn Avenue to celebrate the official opening of the Atlanta Streetcar, the 2.7-mile transit loop running from Centennial Olympic Park to the King Center. Our AJC colleague Scott Trubey asked the mayor what proportion of the new funding should go to mass transit, long a priority for Democrats and suddenly an emphasis for some leading Republicans as well. “I believe that the appropriate split is about 55/45.

Robinson, President of the Central Atlanta Progress, Keith Parker, CEO of MARTA and Yvette Taylor, Regional Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration will be among the first to take a ride on Atlanta’s new streetcar at the unveiling Tuesday, December 30. The inaugural ride shuttled elected officials, civic leaders, and media from the $98 million transit line’s maintenance facility from under I-75 to Woodruff Park. Fifty-five in favor of roads, and 45 for transit, in the metro region,” said Reed. “I think that we have to respond to peoples’ lifestyles and what the public is demanding.” The long-awaited transportation blueprint didn’t offer any recommendations for a mass transit funding split, but suggested a historic investment to the growth of transit. The route includes 12 stops. “We’re really excited that the streetcars will be able to bring people around Atlanta, let them visit and tour without being in their cars and be able to appreciate the beauty of Atlanta,” said Meg Sheldon, 36, who lives in the Grant Park neighborhood. Reed and other dignitaries recalled the long process of bringing the system online and spoke Tuesday of its potential to help the city now that it’s finally running.

Case in point, he said, was State Farm’s budding new Dunwoody campus attached to a MARTA station. “Density doesn’t just mean the city of Atlanta. Department of Transportation’s TIGER II Grant, Atlanta leaders have worked diligently to bring the Streetcar to our city safely and just in time for the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and New Year’s celebrations.” All passengers are invited to ride for free for the first three months of Streetcar service.

The bottom line is people want to be around one another, so even if you’re not in the heart of the city, the direction of the country and the world is to want to be around other people.” The mayor said he’s working on boosting funding for the streetcar line to get wait times down from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, though he’s not yet certain where he’ll find the cash. He does, however, know where the Streetcar’s next new stop should be. “The next place that the Streetcar should go is a stop on the Atlanta Beltline,” he said. “The Atlanta Beltline is a globally significant project.” The mayor encourages families to ride the Streetcar while visiting tourist attractions like the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, and the College Football Hall of Fame. To the people who doubted the project, which ran roughly $6 million over budget and behind schedule, he said simply: “We did not build this for you.” The streetcar is an investment in future generations, Robinson argued, a point repeated by MARTA CEO and General Manager Keith Parker. “These are not projects for right now,” Parker said.

Reed said he envisions it connecting to the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail next — and he thinks the city could be competitive for federal funding that could make the extension happen.

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