Atlanta Streetcar to accept Breeze Card despite reports of conflict, to get new interim director
By David Pendered
It turns out that the Atlanta Streetcar will utilize the Breeze Card, despite an earlier report by a top city official that Breeze isn’t cost efficient and resulted in no fares being collected this year. In addition, the streetcar has a new interim executive director, according to a statement issued Thursday by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office.
A main reason for interest in the fare technology is that Reed told Central Atlanta Progress at its annual breakfast meeting in March that there was one reason for delaying fare collection on the streetcar until 2016. Reed said fares wouldn’t be collected in 2015 because he’d learned of new fare collection technology while traveling abroad.
A month later, Reed’s commissioner of public works gave a different reason for the delay in collecting fares. Richard Mendoza said the lack of technology to collect fares, including the Breeze Card technology, meant city administrators decided to waive fare collection:
- “One of the drawbacks of the current technology is the background software support, to extend to the streetcar, offsets all the revenue we get from the $1 fare. We have to come up with a lot better fee technology.
- “MARTA is looking at the current technology, it’s antiquated. In order to utilize that, the passengers are having to go through a 10- to 11-step process and, frankly, folks aren’t going to go through that cumbersome a process to access the fare and utilize the streetcar.”
Evidently, all issues have been resolved.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Transportation Committee of the Atlanta City Council, William Jones, of the Public Works Department, told the Transportation Committee that Breeze Card machines will be provided at every stop of the Atlanta Streetcar.
Jones is a transportation planner charged with implementing the streetcar, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Here’s what Jones said about app’s relation to the Breeze Card:
- “This will be another way for the City of Atlanta to collect fares, in addition to having Breeze vending machines at each of the streetcar stops.”
Jones cited the Breeze Card as he was explaining on Wednesday a proposal pending before the Transportation Committee to pay a vendor $172,272 to develop a mobile app. The app is to enable streetcar passengers to buy a fare from their mobile device.
The source of funds includes $100,000 in federal funds and $72,000 from Atlanta’s car rental tax collected at Atlanta’s airport. Committee Chairperson Felicia Moore asked for an accounting of how the car rental tax seems to be a bottomless pit of funds that subsidize so many varied projects that can’t pay for themselves. Jones said he will get more information to say how many years the $72,00 fee may cover.
At the Transportation Committee meeting, Councilmember Alex Wan said he’s ready for the streetcar to begin generating revenues: “We’ve run into problems, but we’ve got to starting bringing money in on this project.”
Moore called for an accounting of the funds being used to maintain the app for the streetcar. Williams said he needed more time to determine if the sum covered one year or several years.
Councilmember Natalyn Archibong asked who is in charge of the streetcar. Mendoza answered the same question last month and said he’s in charge. Some on the council seem to doubt that a department head is handling the daily affairs of the streetcar.
Reed’s office issued the following statement Thursday concerning leadership of the Atlanta Streetcar:
- “The Atlanta Streetcar announced today that Keith Jones has been named Interim Executive Director. Jones comes to Atlanta from the URS Corporation, formerly United Research Services, and has previously served as the CEO and General Manager of the Central Arkansas Transit Authority. Jones will serve on an interim basis while a national search is conducted for a permanent replacement.
- “In addition, Ozell Hayes has been named Interim Director of Safety, Security and Training. Mr. Hayes previously served as the Safety Manager for the Department of Aviation for the City of Atlanta.
- “The City of Atlanta is pleased to welcome Keith Jones to our Atlanta Streetcar team. His wealth of experience and industry knowledge makes him a valued member of our leadership team,” said Kristin Wilson, Interim Chief Operating Officer. “The Atlanta Streetcar is committed to being a national leader in the transit industry, and I am confident that with two new leaders in place, the Streetcar will continue to provide riders with a safe, comfortable and convenient experience.”
- “Jones has 40 years of experience in transit and transportation. While leading the Central Arkansas Transit Authority, he directed the implementation of the first two phases of the River Rail Streetcar project. River Rail celebrated its 10th year of operation in 2014, and Jones has been credited for its role in generating more than $900 million in new investment along the 3.5-mile route. He also managed the design and construction of the streetcar operations and maintenance facility, the bus operations and maintenance facility and the River Cities Travel Center.
- “I am excited to continue the progress of the Atlanta Streetcar and look forward to working with the team to further develop its existing system,” said Jones. “I am fortunate to join such a respected city that prides itself on constructing and operating the best streetcar system in the United States.”
- “Prior to joining the City of Atlanta, Mr. Jones also served as president of the eight-state South West Transit Association. He was the Director of Statewide Planning for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and Director of Transportation Planning for Metroplan, the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Little Rock area. He has also worked for the St. Louis MPO. In 2004, the Community Transportation Association of America named Mr. Jones outstanding transportation manager of the year.