2/14: Streetcars worth the investment?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Ground has been broken on construction of a new streetcar line in downtown Atlanta. The federal government is funding about half the cost, which the city estimates at $84.7 million.

Critics point to expensive subsidies needed to build and run streetcars, while supporters I spoke with claim the economic runoff in jobs and infrastructure is well worth the investment.

What do you think?

34 comments Add your comment

Native Atlantan

February 13th, 2012
6:42 pm

No…no and no. There is no way the “streetcar to no where” makes any sense in Atlanta. We need an integrated transit solution, not one-off projects with absolutely no return for the citizens.


February 13th, 2012
7:14 pm

if there was a reason to jump on and off between stops then maybe. But dowtown has no points of interest between point a and point b. shopping, etc.


February 13th, 2012
8:23 pm

I was downtown Atlanta on the weekend. I met 2 visitors from Italy who had just arrived. They were looking for ‘downtown’ meaning, restaurants, shops , cafes. Sadly I had to tell them there is nothing downtown except for a very few restaurants, lots of big hotels at night. I love mass transit but I have to say I think a trolley car is a waste of money. There is so much need elsewhere in the city where this money could have been spent that would have encouraged development .


February 13th, 2012
8:26 pm

A streetcar should take you through interesting places where a person can hop on and off. It is not a transporation system to get from point A to B. Sadly there is very little downtown Atlanta that would warrant anyone riding this streetcar at night since almost nothing is open except for the big hotels. You can shoot a cannon off in downtown Atlanta at night and most weekends and not endanger a life.
I love mass transit but I think this is a boondoggle.


February 13th, 2012
8:38 pm

Sure. Why not? It’s a better investment than the I-85 HOT lanes, the I-85/GA316 interchange, any proposed “improvement” for I-75,etc. etc. It’s cheaper to run than those HOT lanes, too.


February 13th, 2012
8:57 pm

But, what we really need is something that connects the west side of the connector from Atlantic Station to GA Tech with Downtown/Midtown.

There is a smidgen of “downtown” life in Atlanta. The area around Centennial Olympic Park, Broadway and Peachtree up through the I-85 overpass, Midtown on Peachtree from the Fox through the Arts Center area, and Atlantic Station.

That’s what we need a trolley to connect….


February 13th, 2012
9:00 pm

The private sector should decide if they are a good “investment.” Instead, the decisioni will be made by the parasitic government class and the flunkies that benefit from the theft of millions of dollars from the productive sector of society. Government doesn’t “invest”, it steals and gives to friends. There may be jobs involved, but those are balanced against the jobs that are taken from the productive sector and what the productive sector might have done with the money instead.

If you as a private citizen think that these are a good idea, contribute your own damn money. Stop using the power and force of government to steal what you wouldn’t have the courage to come and try and take from me yourself – cowards.


February 13th, 2012
9:50 pm

You should build transportation where people actually want to go, not some depressed area that’s sad to look at. This is a foolish waste of money.


February 13th, 2012
10:09 pm

Think of the infrastructure upgrades and improvements metroploiltan Atlanta desperately needs, then think about the $84.7 million dumped into this streetcar to nowhere. Within 5 to 10 years it’ll be gone.


February 13th, 2012
10:17 pm

The crackhead connector

Scratchin my head

February 13th, 2012
10:43 pm

Loop the dang thang from the sports stadium to the convention hotels and the ta ta bars and then you will see a revenue stream


February 13th, 2012
11:58 pm



February 13th, 2012
11:59 pm

Think about it…

Basically they are replacing an existing bus with a trolley at a cost of $90,000,000.00 give or take a few million.

Atlanta needs improvement in education, water & sewer, police, fire protection, courts, jails and numerous other projects.

If the average Atlanta resident makes approximately $40,000 per year about 2200 of you will be working fulltime next year to pay for this project.

I realize this is not part of TSPLOST, but the folks who made this decision are the same folks who will be making the decision on how to spend that money also.

Think about it…


February 14th, 2012
4:32 am

What will be the annual subsidy to keep the system running. Politically motivated idea with out any concern of the cost, based on a false premise that it will attract enough riders to pay for it. I agree with Scratchin my head, put it where it will be used.


February 14th, 2012
7:57 am

Back in the old days, MARTA bus route 2 used to run all the way up Peachtree from Underground to Lenox Mall. Then there was the route 17 that ran down Edgewood to Inman Park. These and other major bus lines replaced older trolley lines and should have shown us the way to go, again. They were useful and worked well until MARTA took away the connecting bus lines in favor of trains, and then got rid of more bus lines in more recent years. You can’t use the bus to get everywhere any more.

The worst part about this trolley is that it goes between two places people have shown little interest to go. Sure, both places are great to visit and get lots of people, but the same can be said of many two points of interest. Nobody has shown they are the same people, or that the only thing keeping them from visiting both places was a lack of a way to get there. The least they could have done was run a bus shuttle first to see if there was any demand -MARTA has plenty of mothballed busses and drivers, or even get a private company to do it. But a test bus route might have revealed the answer was no, not really; it won’t work, or that it needs to include the hotel district to work, and nobody wants to hear that their perfect design is flawed. They’d rather build it and see if anyone comes.

And once you’ve visited the King Center and Centennial Park, then what? If you are a tourist, it’s back to your hotel. Thanks for your $3 trolley fare contribution. Be sure to visit Atlanta again! If you are local, heck, you’d drive downtown and skip the trolley entirely. Thanks for your $5 parking lot fee.

Dumb and Dumber

February 14th, 2012
8:02 am

Of course roads don’t require subsidies, so that is why we should build only roads!

If y’all had your way, nothing transit related would ever be built. And, BTW, its the City’s tax dollars that are being spent, not the suburbanites. Before you start chirping about how you pay taxes too, remember that Atlanta receives less of its tax dollars back from the state and feds than the suburban and rural counties do. If the Atlanta City Council wants to build a streetcar line, the only people who should be complaining are city taxpayers — not folks in Cobb or Gwinnett or DeKalb.

I remember a governor that took city tax dollars and built boat ramps in South Georgia to promote fishing…and I don’t recall any of y’all having a problem with that.

How does that hypocrisy taste?


February 14th, 2012
8:06 am

I agree with many of those above who say if the trolley served truly a combo of tourist and locals by allowing on and off trolley-hopping at points of interest as well as business destinations, it would be a great idea and worth the investment. In southern Florida they had water busses that for a flat daily fee, tourists could get on and off as many times as they wanted at predesignated stops. The cost was $10 or so, but cheap for such service. Combine that with a $3 locals one time on/off and it could well serve both masters.


February 14th, 2012
8:15 am

The streetcar will die a quick death due to insuficient ridership. First they will cut hours of service, then drop some days, then its gone.

Unfortunately the reminder of the unused tracks will remain for years!


February 14th, 2012
8:50 am

What a waste, and the politicians that back this think I need my taxes raised. These boongoggles show taxpayers that we are overtaxed.


February 14th, 2012
9:05 am

If it’s the only line built, then yes, it’s a complete waste.

However, if it eventually connects to the Beltline, if similar lines are built up through midtown, if it attracts long-term businesses and residents, it could be the best $94mil we’ve ever spent.

Those are big ifs.

Common Sense

February 14th, 2012
9:19 am

If mass transit lines were indeed efficient, do you really think DisneyWorld would have halted their lines between the parks? They have massive crowds. They control all new roads and traffic.

And still, it was smarter for them to use buses.

Have you ever considered that the real problem in Atlanta is that the bus lines are not laid out properly? I bet if UPS spent 2 months analyzing the routes, we could have massive improvements in place within a year. Instead, we will spend millions to run empty buses where people do not go, and fail to have enough buses and rail cars on the line for major events, and wonder why it’s not working.


February 14th, 2012
9:22 am

Dumb and Dumber @ 8:02 am: 40+ million FEDERAL tax dollars are going in to this. If the city could have propped it up on its own merit without having to use the King Center as the hook (Federal Gov’t can pass up giving money to something involved with MLK) then maybe it’d be worth it. Does anyone actually believe that this won’t cost anything less that 100 million?

New Atlanta Taxes

February 14th, 2012
10:46 am

Who pays the operating and maintenance costs for the next 40 years? Where was the referendum?

Atlanta Sales tax is going up 1% in July with the TSPLOST/TIA Tax and this trolley will cause another sales tax increase on top of that.

Shoppers will go to stores outside Atlanta to avoid our high sales taxes.


February 14th, 2012
10:59 am

Typical. A waste of $85 million.


February 14th, 2012
11:04 am

total waste of money. transportation needs a major overhaul in atlanta and a streetcar is not the solution.


February 14th, 2012
11:18 am

Total WASTE of $$$. Just like in Buckhead where some genius want to put plants BUT never thought that folks had to turn into buildings, etc. SO that project was totally torn up this past
fall and it cost the city 3 million BOTH times. Building and tearing down.

Grob Hahn

February 14th, 2012
11:34 am

Visit Houston if you want to see how a street car system really works. What they installed actually goes to places where people work and connects two major city centers. It’s a little precarious where it has to interface with automotive traffic, as anyone would expect, but it’s actually useful. However, it doesn’t pay for itself and neither will this ornamental white elephant that Atlanta plans to build on top of the crumbling infrastructure. It would probably be cheaper to simply form a limousine train so that the massive throngs of visitors to the King center etc. can ride in style. I’m also very curious to see how this will be impacted by the crime that the city chooses to ignore in Atlanta. “Tourists” don’t like to be harrassed and robbed any more than locals.


February 14th, 2012
11:38 am

Dear fellow Georgians: This project will make your utilities bills rise as Reed forced the utilities to eat the costs of the street car project. Stealth taxation thru utitlies is why our rates are so high.


February 14th, 2012
11:50 am

MLK would have wanted this money to go towards education of children, not wasted on government graft.


February 14th, 2012
11:59 am

Can you say: Fanplex or Underground Atlanta or Five Points MARTA station? Need I say more about the future of a trolley?

Urban Republican

February 14th, 2012
1:08 pm

After 5pm traffic leaves the area it is a virtual ghost town with no spark or excitement. Visitors to the King Center scatter before dark. Students at Georgia State University make a mad dash to their dorms to avoid being harassed and robbed after sundown. The “brilliant” politicians at City Hall who represent the area and support the trolley are never seen walking, shopping or visiting the area unless it is election season. Guess when it is time to troll for votes they will be able to use the Atlanta Trolley!


February 14th, 2012
3:00 pm

Some say the trolley will spark development along the line. I don’t believe it. Look at the area around the aquariam, millions of turist flock to the area and there is very little in terms of street vibrancy. Restuarants and watching kids run through fountains in the park during the warmer months don’t make a city vibrant. I have spent a lot of time in Baltimore near the aquariam, the area is bustling with shopping and stree activity.


February 14th, 2012
11:50 pm

I firmly believe that this amount of federal money ($47 million) is worth spending in this historically significant downtown area. It sounds like a lot, but larger amounts of federal money than this are spent statewide every year on transportation and community development projects.

The federal money spent on this streetcar project is, in part, providing an investment in area that contains the home and final resting place of one of Georgia’s greatest treasures, Martin Luther King, Jr. The blight that neighbors part of the King memorial site should be a source of shame for the city and deserves economic attention.

Also, the historical significance of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, destroyed in large part by the downtown connector, can’t be understated here. This is a place that unfairly suffered disinvestment and abandonment after the construction of the dual interstates. I think it’s also deserving of this kind of investment.

For me, the real question is whether or not the streetcar project is going to have success in bringing new businesses and vitality to its route. Downtown Phoenix has benefited from a similar rail project. It’s possible that we could see success here.

Asking about the worth of this investment is a great way to attract naysayers. But the real shame would be if this negativity ended up hurting the chances for success. The money has already been granted and the construction of the line has started. Wishing failure on the project at this point could both waste the funding and condemn historically-significant parts of Atlanta to decades more blight and disinvestment.


February 15th, 2012
7:08 am

Not wishing failure… I just don’t expect success and see the money as already wasted. Historically significant, yes, but its mismanagement has been part of its blight, and federal taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden to fix it.