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ATL Streetcar transfer to MARTA to take about a year: Public Works commissioner

Atlanta Streetcar, 11:16 The Atlanta Streetcar route is to cover 53 miles, with 22 miles in the Atlanta BeltLine, according to the city's Connect Atlanta Plan. File/Credit: David Pendered

By David Pendered

The transfer of the ownership and management of the Atlanta Streetcar from the city to MARTA will take about a year to finalize and will be retroactive to July 1, Atlanta’s Public Works commissioner said Wednesday.

Atlanta Streetcar, 11:16

The process to transfer ownership and operations of the Atlanta Streetcar will take about a year, Atlanta’s public works commissioner said Wednesday. File/Credit: David Pendered

“In our ongoing conversations, the way we see this happening is MARTA will fund the operation of the streetcar,” Public Works Commissioner William Johnson told the Transportation Committee of the Atlanta City Council. “It will be retroactive to July 1.”

MARTA’s Board of Directors voted June 1 for a resolution to authorize CEO/General Manager Keith Parker, or his delegate, to enter an intergovernmental agreement to transfer the ownership and control of the streetcar’s operations to MARTA. The pertinent part of the legislation states:

  • “Whereas, the Parties desire to enter an intergovernmental agreement to provide for the transfer of the Project operations and assets to MARTA to expand and enhance MARTA transfer service in the City;
  • “Resolved, therefore, by the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority that the General Manager/CEO or his delegate be, and hereby is, authorized to execute an intergovernmental agreement (and such ancillary agreements) with the other Parties to provide for the transf3r and control of Project operations and assets to MARTA in accordance with Section 8(r) of the MARTA act.”
William Johnson, atlanta public works commissioner

William Johnson

Johnson made his remarks in response to a question from Councilmember Kwanza Hall. Hall asked whether the city or MARTA will be responsible for maintaining the streetcar system.

Johnson said MARTA will be responsible for those costs. Meanwhile, many details have to be resolved and negotiations will take time.

“We want to be thoughtful,” Johnson said. “We all agree we want to get this done, but we want to get it done right.”

Issues include the transfer of assets from Atlanta to MARTA. Construction costs reached about $100 million. Terms of the deal called for the system to be owned by Atlanta and funded with money from four sources, according to streetcar records:

  • TIGER II grant from the Federal Transition Administration: $47.6 million;
  • Atlanta, via Recovery Zone bond proceeds and clean water funds from the Watershed Management Department: $32.6 million;
  • Atlanta Downtown Improvement District: $6 million;
  • Atlanta Regional Commission, via the Livable Centers Initiative program: $6.5 million.
atlanta streetcar, map

The Atlanta Streetcar travels a 2.7-mile loop through Downtown Atlanta. Credit: streetcar.atlanta.gov

Assets located along the streetcar’s 2.7-mile loop through Downtown Atlanta include the guideway and track elements; stations; support facilities, including a maintenance facility; fare collection components; the electrical power delivery system; land improvements; and the streetcar vehicles and parts.

Current employees will remain on the city’s payroll for the foreseeable future, Johnson said.

“There won’t be any major change in terms of our personnel,” Johnson said. “Those folks will remain on the city’s payroll for a period of time.

“We think it will take a year or so to transition,” Johnson said. “There are a number of discussions that we’ll have to do, and logistics – deal with the assets, get approval from GDOT [Georgia Department of Transportation] and FTA.”

In the only other discussion of the streetcar during the Transportation Committee meeting, Hall asked about efforts to prevent drivers from parking their vehicles in the path of the streetcar.

Johnson responded that the protocol calls for the streetcar operator to sound a horn to attract the driver’s attention, and to call for assistance to have the vehicle ticketed and towed.

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Steve Hagan June 28, 2017 7:52 pm

    A perfect example of bringing home the bacon from DC where beans would have been much better for all….Report

  2. Burroughston Broch June 29, 2017 12:09 am

    A blue elephant it is and a blue elephant it will remain. The City squandered over $52million in City taxes to build it and over $5million per year to operate and maintain it.Report


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