Atlanta Streetcar ridership exceeds estimates made when a trip was to cost $1

By David Pendered

Ridership on the Atlanta Streetcar is exceeding forecasts, although the forecasts were made with the presumption riders would pay for a trip.

Atlanta Streetcar

Passengers will ride the Atlanta Streetcar for free in 2015 because there’s no feasible method to collect a fare at this time, according to Atlanta’s commissioner of public works. File/Credit: walkableapp.com

Richard Mendoza, Atlanta’s public works commissioner, said ridership in July set the record, at 102,619 passengers. Monthly ridership has ranged from 47,037 passengers to 92,107 passengers, he said.

The city had anticipated daily ridership of 2,123 passengers on the system that operates seven days a week, Mendoza said. Ridership has exceeded forecasts for four of the six months tabulated, he said.

Fares are to be collected starting in January 2016, Mendoza said. Fares will be available at kiosks and via an application for handheld devices, he said.

Mendoza did not mention the amount of the fare. A one-way fare was priced at $1 in the plan that called for fares to be collected starting in April, following a three-month promotional period during which rides were free.

Atlanta Streetcars have been involved in six collisions this year, Mendoza said. The accident rate is 1.87 per 10,000 miles traveled, Mendoza said, adding that the rate is within industry standards.

Three accidents were deemed, “preventable,” meaning that the driver could have taken additional steps to avoid a collision, Mendoza said. Three accidents were deemed not preventable, meaning no additional steps could have been taken to avoid a collision.

During his presentation to the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee on Wednesday, Mendoza encountered some strident remarks from committee Chairperson Felicia Moore.

Richard Mendoza

Richard Mendoza

Moore asked who is overseeing operations of the Atlanta Street. Mendoza said that he is in charge, as public works commissioner, with assistance from the department’s staff.

The Streetcar’s former executive director, Tom Borchers, resigned in April. His last day on the job was May 8, and no replacement has been named.

Borchers resignation letter was dated Sunday, April 26. That was three days before Mendoza went before the council’s Transportation Committee and offered a reason different from one provided by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed regarding the reason no fares will be collected this year.

Mendoza told the committee on April 29 that fares aren’t being collected because there’s no economical way to collect a fare. MARTA’s Breeze Card technology isn’t feasible, he said. In addition, Mendoza said the cost of the Streetcar is tracking $870,000 below budget because service started later than expected. Consequently, the loss of the projected fare box revenue won’t cause cost overruns.

Reed announced at the annual meeting of Central Atlanta Progress, on March 31, that he had decided to waive the fare for the rest of 2015 after learning during a trip to Israel of new types of fare collection technology.

Reed also said the Atlanta Streetcar is on track to meet its 2015 budget without relying on the projected $300,000 in revenues from the fare.

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. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    “Reed also said the Atlanta Streetcar is on track to meet its 2015 budget without relying on the projected $300,000 in revenues from the fare.”
    More mystery math and obscure language from the City.
    The City forecast the Streetcar would cost $5 million/year to operate, so whether $300,000/year in fares is collected is of no consequence. If the Streetcar were to carry an average of 100,000 passengers/month at a $1 fare, the yearly funds collected would be less than 1/4 of the forecast operating cost, with the City taxpayers paying for the rest.Report

    Reply
  2. JDha Thompson says:

    When they start charging, ppl will stop riding!!! It doesn’t even go anywhere… One lil azz circle!!! Tourists will be the only riding when they start charging!!!!Report

    Reply

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