By David Pendered
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration has provided a written response to the Atlanta Streetcar fare discussion in the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee regarding the reasons that the Atlanta Streetcar will not charge fares this year.
During the committee meeting, Richard Mendoza, commissioner of the Department of Public Works, said fares won’t be charged because the Breeze card system used by MARTA is not a feasible system to collect fares on the streetcar. Mendoza said problems include the cost of operating the Breeze card system, and that it requires from 10 to 11 steps for a customer to buy a fare on the streetcar.
Mendoza said MARTA and the city have been examining the issue for six months.
Jenna Garland, Reed’s press secretary, provided the following response:
The Atlanta Streetcar is committed to collaborating with MARTA to design a fare system that is convenient and sustainable for everyday commuters, visitors and large groups. The administration’s decision to allow the Atlanta Streetcar to remain fare-free for the rest of 2015 demonstrates our commitment to delivering a best-in-class experience for all riders.
The fare collection system was cumbersome. It wasn’t designed for the streetcar, and at the end of the day, it didn’t make sense for the streetcar. On top of this, developers and entrepreneurs were coming to us, excited about new technology that would work seamlessly with the Streetcar system.
By taking advantage of emerging technology, the Atlanta Streetcar will soon allow riders to use a smartphone app that will include trip-planning tools and provide electronic access to alerts, schedule information, and real-time arrivals.
Fare collection was projected to generate $304,000 in revenue in 2015. The streetcar will offset these funds through private, philanthropic support and operational savings. The Atlanta Streetcar is also operating $870,000 under the proposed budget for the year. Therefore, the loss of fare collection revenue will not cause cost overruns.
The Streetcar is driving redevelopment and reuse in the neighborhoods where it operates. More than $561 million has been invested in these neighborhoods in the past five years, and another $684 million is currently under construction. The Streetcar is bringing new energy and attention to Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods.
Approximately $48 million federal dollars contributed almost 50 percent of the total construction costs. Additional federal funds to the tune of $12.2 million awarded to support projects that reduce congestion and improve air quality – which the Atlanta Streetcar does – will defray annual operating costs for the first four years. Leveraging federal dollars, private partnerships and city funds is the smart approach.
The Atlanta Streetcar provides an integrated multi-modal, high-quality transit network that links communities, improves mobility by enhancing transit access and options, supports projected growth, promotes economic development and encourages strategies to develop livable and walkable communities.
Atlanta residents can be proud of its leading-edge, beautiful and transformative streetcar system and everyone can enjoy free service this year as the city works to finalize a fare collection system that achieves the level of excellence Atlantans deserve.