Streetcars in Atlanta

After an absence of 65 years, streetcars are running again in Atlanta!

It took decades of planning and nearly four years of construction, but in late December, 2014, the Atlanta Streetcar, also known as the Downtown Loop, finally took its first passengers on an abbreviated tour of Atlanta.

by Elisa Rolle via WikiMedia Commons

The initial route runs 2.7 miles east to west, connecting the Centennial Olympic Park area (near the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia World Congress Center, and CNN Center) to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

Along the route, stops include Dobbs PlazaPeachtree Center (where there’s also a MARTA station), Georgia State University, The Sweet Auburn Market near Grady Hospital, and Woodruff Park among others. As you ride through the Fairlie-Poplar Historic District, you’ll see some of Atlanta’s oldest central business district featuring beautiful buildings from the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

by Rundvald via WikiMedia Commons

Atlanta’s new streetcars run on tracks embedded in the streets and are powered by a single overhead electric wire. Although there are a few exceptions relating to certain turns, vehicles usually run with the traffic and are bound by the same traffic laws.

With a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour, the Siemens S70 Streetcar features wide sliding doors and a hydraulic height control system to permit easy boarding and exiting of the vehicle, along with four designated wheelchair spaces and 60 seats, allowing capacity for about 195 passengers. The Siemens S70 fact sheet states:

To maximize passenger comfort each vehicle is equipped with two roofmounted HVAC units per LRV (light rail vehicle). The S70 Streetcar utilizes a passenger information system consisting of operator and automated announcements, passenger-operator intercoms and interior and exterior electronic destination signs, as well as interior and exterior surveillance system for increased passenger safety

by Gray Wolf via WikiMedia Commons

Streetcars run about every 10 to 15 minutes, depending on traffic conditions and rider demands, from 6am to 11pm Monday through Thursday, from 6am to 1am Fridays, from 8:30am to 1am on Saturdays and 9am to 11pm on Sundays.

The Atlanta Streetcar uses the same Breeze smart-cards as MARTA bus and rail service. But for the first three months of operation, rides are free!

While there is no timetable at the present time, plans are for additional routes to reach throughout the Atlanta area with the potential to remove a significant number of automobiles from the roadways, improving commute times and reducing emissions.

For now, though, it’s a fun  new way to see this historic portion of the city and enjoy getting off to visit sites you’re interested in, then getting back on to continue on your adventure. And it’s free! What could be better?