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The Streetcar Experiment

July 1, 2015


Lately, a lot of people have been asking me about my experience with the Atlanta Streetcar and how it has been performing.  Quite frankly, I’m getting tired of defending its existence as much as I get questions about its usefulness, but since I am a likely candidate to testify the half year that the streetcar has been in operation, I figure that I would spill how I truly feel about it.  So today, I will give my personal diary of the last six months of trolley trials.

First some background about me. I live in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta.  So two stops are within a quarter-mile (or in my case a 5-minute walk) from my front door. I tend to use the Dobbs Plaza stop more than the King Historic District stop due to the fact that I can time when the vehicle shows up.  Generally, this is two to three minutes after it turns the corner at Jackson and Auburn every 15 minutes. I went to school at Georgia Tech during these first four months of streetcar, and now I work in the Equitable Building on Peachtree and Auburn, so I am a TRUE testament to what the streetcar was originally designed to do: PROVIDE LAST-MILE CONNECTIVITY.

Before the streetcar, my options of travel to class were: Walking to the MARTA stations (15-20 minute walk + MARTA trip + Tech Trolley), catching the 99 to Midtown (15-minute ride + Tech Trolley), catching the 3 to Five Points (10 minute ride + MARTA trip + Tech Trolley), and biking (15-20 minutes + sweat).

Generally, I have enjoyed the additional transit vehicle to my arsenal of options.  Pending traffic, I have had as high as 10 minute trips getting to Peachtree Center, to as low as today’s record-breaking 5 minutes from the Dobbs Plaza to Woodruff Park. (Shoutout to the driver who wears the suit). I’ve even shown it off to family, as my cousin who attends the University of Wisconsin was blown away by it, and wanted Madison to get a streetcar based on the size of the interior and the ease of connecting to MARTA’s bigger system (which was the point).

But every good thing comes with its problems…

The main hang-ups I have is that it still doesn’t have signal prioritization, that 10-minute layover at Centennial Olympic Park, and that most of the riders are generally homeless, tourists, and local (outside of downtown) streetcar hecklers (Bah! It’s not like San Francisco. Wah!). Oh yeah, and the fact that people cannot follow directions and don’t park in the lines.  That put two cars out of commission and I had no way of knowing when the streetcar would show up for about a month.

So overall, it’s great for me as a resident and employee of Downtown Atlanta.  if you don’t fit into either of those two categories and have something negative to say about it, save it. It’s not your fight. What I will say with this expansion all to and around the BeltLine, is that we need to be really wise about the options that we’re given and what we ultimately decide.  To that I will end with a quote from the great transit poobah, Jarrett Walker.

“I love seeing a house built, so I respect the role of hammers.  But if you fall in love with the hammer rather than the house, you’ll just go around looking for nails to pound, and that’s not the way to build the best possible house”

-Jarrett Walker

3 Comments leave one →
  1. anonymous permalink
    July 2, 2015 11:00 am

    I love seeing effective transit service, so I respect the flexibility of a Light Rail Vehicle (LRV). But if you fall in love with the LRV rather than the transit service, you’ll just go around looking for existing lanes to share, and that’s not the way to build the best possible transit service.

    • July 2, 2015 11:14 am

      Haha, I see you’re a Human Transit fan as well. I really hope that Atlanta can take that with deep thought with transit expansion inside the city and out. Education on different transit typologies and what it takes to support it will really set a tone of effective service apart from adequate service.

  2. July 8, 2015 9:08 am

    Damn the naysayers. The streetcar is a step in the right direction. Keep adding lines and prioritize the streetcars over automobiles. Soon, critical mass will be achieved and the majority of people will switch to mass transit.

    Soon, people will wonder how they ever preferred their cars.

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