Atlanta's Nascent Streetcar Systems Begins Charging, Critics Pounce

After a stumbling start getting off the ground, proponents of Atlanta's new streetcar see hope in its future while others question further investment.

1 minute read

January 10, 2016, 11:00 AM PST

By jwilliams @jwillia22


Atlanta streetcar

Central Atlanta Progress: Lauren Holley / Flickr

Atlanta's new streetcar system has had a rough go of it early on. Critics have called the 2.7-mile system a "colossal waste of taxpayer dollars" after it failed to reach ridership goals, with others complaining that the homeless "had turned the streetcars into sleek-looking shelters." Now as Atlanta begins charging fares for riders, some believe that ridership is set to take a nose dive. Alan Blinder reports in the New York Times that the mayor and other supporters of the streetcar are asking for patience as the system works out its kinks, but they believe the investment is worth it.

Streetcar boosters, who lament what they perceive as prematurely hostile coverage by news outlets and say they are encouraged by the first year’s ridership statistics, acknowledge that the existing route is insufficient. But they contend that proposed expansions in future decades would help the system appeal to more people than the visitors whose hotels are often near the current line.

The steady opposition to the streetcar has some backers worried that federal funding for future expansion could be in jeopardy, but critics think the money could be spent better elsewhere. Blinder quotes one of the leading opponents: "Let’s view this as a lesson, and let’s consider better options that don’t involve taking a lane away from the downtown roads."

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