Atlanta: Streetcar testing begins in dead of night

First Siemens streetcar being readied for testing in the dead of night to minimize traffic disruption. Photo via Atlanta Curbed website.

First Siemens streetcar being readied for testing in the dead of night to minimize traffic disruption. Photo via Atlanta Curbed website.

In the wee morning hours of Saturday Aug. 16th, Atlanta’s 2.7-mile modern streetcar line experienced the first actual streetcar rolling over its tracks.

In a test, towed by a large truck, one of the first Siemens S70 streetcars to arrive in the city completed its initial test without power. The test checked clearances at all 12 streetcar stops as well as track alignments throughout Atlanta’s downtown.

Subsequent tests will be conducted with rolling stock under power from the 750-volt overhead contact system (OCS) — in this case, a simple trolley wire.

Opening of the line is targeted for some time later this year. The first three months of public service will be provided free of fares to help build ridership. ■

Thanks to news reports from WXIA-TV and WSB-TV, and summary information from Ed Havens posted on the LRPPro Internet forum.

Atlanta — Streetcar due to open next spring

Simulation of Atlanta's Peachtree St. streetcar. Graphic: Railway Preservation.

Simulation of Atlanta’s Peachtree St. streetcar. Graphic: Railway Preservation.

Atlanta, Georgia — Completion of Atlanta’s streetcar project (called a “loop” because, to provide two-way service, it consists of single-direction lines running on roughly parallel streets that form elongated loops) is just about six months away from its scheduled opening in the spring of 2014, according to an Oct. 14th report in the Atlanta Curbed blog.

As Urban Rail Today reported in the earlier article Atlanta Streetcar construction pushes forward (25 February 2013), the total route of the streetcar starter line is 2.62 miles, with a project cost of about $93 million. It would re-install a tiny fragment of the urban area’s once-extensive network of nearly two dozen urban and several interurban surface electric railway lines, the last of which was scrapped in 1949.

Streetcar trackage under construction in Ellis St., summer 2013. Photo: Central Atlanta Progress.

Streetcar trackage under construction in Ellis St., summer 2013. Photo: Central Atlanta Progress.

Looking to the future … the new modern streetcar line, designed to carry passengers between Centennial Olympic Park and the King Historic District, has 12 station-stops, with headways projected to be 15 minutes between trains. Ridership is projected at 2,600 per weekday.

All rides will be provided for free for the first three months of operation. After that, according to the blog post, fares will initially be just $1.00, “until MARTA upgrades its Breeze Card system to accommodate the light-rail route. Transfers from MARTA will be free.”

According to the project’s executive director, Tim Borchers, construction is now on time (overcoming earlier delays) and $2 million under budget.

Borchers, a streetcar expert from Australia, long respected in the U.S. rail transit industry, is extremely bullish on the potential benefits of the streetcar system. In an interview with Atlanta’s WABE-FM, he assured listeners: “It’s been happening all over the world. Streetcar systems are being used to rebuild decaying urban cores, give a financial boost to cities, relieve traffic, help the environment, and also, of course, provide public transportation.”

Atlanta Streetcar construction pushes forward

Simulation of Atlanta Streetcar on inner-city neighborhood street.

Atlanta, Georgia — Atlanta is another major U.S. city where streetcar mobility is making a comeback.

A recent article in Maria Saporta’s Saporta Report blog provides an update on the progress of the project. Quick summary: It’s several months behind, and about 5% over budget, mainly because of unforeseen problems with underground utilities. But the construction budget gap has been reduced from $10 million to about $5 million, and fingers are being crossed that that service will begin in the spring or early summer of 2014.

While the 2.62-mile streetcar project’s construction budget includes a financial buffer for contingencies — intended to offset exactly these kinds of cost overruns — and its enough to cover the current gap, says Saporta, “the project team does not want to use up all of its contingency budget in case other issues come up.”

Organized as a public-private partnership between the City, MARTA and the private Central Atlanta Progress/Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, the Atlanta Streetcar project is estimated to have a total cost of $92.7 million. Federal aid in the form of a $47.7 million TIGER II grant “gave the project life” says Saporta.

Based on Saporta’s tally, here’s a total budget breakdown for the project (millions):

• Federal TIGER grant — $47.7 million
• City of Atlanta — $15.6 million
• Atlanta Downtown Improvement District — $6 million

That adds up to an “initial net project total” of $69.3 million reports Saporta.

The rest of the budget includes:

• City of Atlanta — $9 million for streetcars (rolling stock)
• Department of Watershed Management — $8 million to move water and sewer utilities
• Livable Centers Initiative grant — $5.1 million for transit and pedestrian enhancements
• Another LCI grant — $1.25 million to convert Luckie Street into a two-way thoroughfare.

Map of Atlanta Streetcar starter line route.

A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, reports Saporta, emphasized how optimistic he was reharding the impact that the Atlanta Streetcar will have on Atlanta’s downtown. Already a number of new developments are being planned along the route.

“The building of the Atlanta Streetcar is the dawn of a new era for transit — one that can begin to transform the way we get around in our community” enthuses Saporta.

For more on the project, including a discussion of operating options, read the original article