Kasim Reed: Atlanta Streetcar’s fare to be free through 2015

By Maria Saporta

The Atlanta Streetcar will continue its free fares through the end of the year, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced at the annual breakfast meeting of Central Atlanta Progress.

The Atlanta Streetcar, which began operating its downtown loop on Dec. 31, was supposed to be free for the first three months. Then the fare was supposed to be $1 and be collected through MARTA and its Breeze card system.

The mayor, however, explained that he had a change of heart when he started learning about all the different technologies that could be available for fare collection on the streetcar.

Atlanta Streetcar

Opening day of the Atlanta Streetcar – Dec. 31, 2014

He has just returned from a trip to Israel where he learned about some of those technologies, and he thought it would be better to take the next several months to really study what system would work best for Atlanta “rather than force a solution.”

Reed also said that the Atlanta Streetcar is on track to meet its 2015 budget without having to rely on the estimated $300,000 in revenue from the fares.

“We should let the Atlanta Streetcar become a habit,” Reed said in an interview after the CAP annual meeting. “I’m confident we can have an app that can work better than the Breeze card.”

Reed also said the Atlanta Streetcar has had more than 100,000 riders since its inception, adding that he has been pleased with how well it has been received.

But the most important element, he said, has been the investment that has taken place along the streetcar corridor since it was announced in 2010.

There has been $560 million in new investment along the streetcar corridor since 2010, and there is another $280 million in investment underway in 2015 for a total of $840 million in five years.

“That’s the argument we’ve been making all along,” Reed said. “I feel really good about it.”

The next step is to extend the Atlanta Streetcar a quarter mile so it will connect to the Eastside segment of the Atlanta BeltLine. The mayor said he has been working with federal officials to get funding for that extension.

“First I need to get a real estimate I can stand behind,” Reed said, adding that he now has “tunnel-vision” on getting that extension built and being able to secure federal funding for the BeltLine connection.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

3 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    What wisdom is there in abandoning the business plan the City crafted at considerable cost? This just leaves the taxpayers to shoulder all of the cost.
    And it will be years, perhaps decades before the streetcar is integrated with MARTA and the BeltLine, if ever.

    I suspect this is a tool to improve the lagging ridership to prevent further embarrassment to Hizzoner.Report

    Reply
  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    kevinalynch Burroughston Broch 
    City plans are always written in pencil, to be changed as the political winds or politician’s income opportunities change.
    Regardless whether sunk cost or opportunity cost, all additional costs for this project are paid by the City taxpayers. The City last stated it would spend $4.8 million for operations, net of $0.3 million in fares, for a total of $5.1 million; it earlier stated the operations would cost $4 million, net of $1 million in fares.
    Putting $5 million per year into perspective, it is about 30% of the yearly amortization cost of the recently-passed $250 million bond issue. Had the $5 million being spent on the streetcar operations been available instead to pay bonds, the bond issue could have been $333 million against the $1 billion list of decayed and failing infrastructure.Report

    Reply

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