Published on May 20th, 2015 |12
BeltLine plans streetcar line along Peachtree Road in Buckhead
A streetcar line on Peachtree in Buckhead was soundly rejected by Buckhead residents during a series of Connect Atlanta Plan public meetings years ago and will likely again become a major controversy. One Buckhead leader that has opposed the idea is Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell.
One of former Atlanta Mayor Massell’s favorite comments regarding a streetcar on Peachtree Road is, “I have never seen Peachtree without a metal plate on it. Streetcars can’t run over metal plates.” That is one reason he fought for and got The Peach MARTA bus which follows that route.
The updated Atlanta Streetcar System Plan was initially unveiled during two community talks on April 23 and 27 and proposes expanding the Atlanta streetcar’s 2.7-mile loop around downtown to 50 miles of lines around metro Atlanta.
Called the “Crosstown Peachtree Line,” the Buckhead streetcar would travel between the MARTA stations at Lenox Square and Fort McPherson along Peachtree, West Peachtree, Peters and Lee streets. Stops on the line would include the Fox Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center and Piedmont Hospital.
BeltLine senior transportation project manager Marcus Arnold told those attending the BCN meeting that construction of the Crosstown Peachtree Line would “come down to available funding and interest from the community in getting that line in.”
Arnold was at the meeting to help support the BeltLine update presentation being made by the BeltLine organization’s Director of Community Planning and Engagement Beth McMillan and its Community Engagement Advocate Nathan Soldat.
Asked if the trio were aware of the Buckhead community’s rejection years before of the proposal to run a streetcar line up and down Peachtree Road, there was
no indication they had seen those reports, but responded that the concept has strong support.
In response to a question of where the support is coming from for that line, McMillan said that the business community is very interested in seeing a streetcar on Peachtree because of the development impact that streetcars have had in other cities, like Portland, where they have been constructed.
There was no indication by McMillan as to whether she was speaking about the downtown Atlanta business community or the Buckhead business community.
McMillan said there have been discussions of this with transportation planning groups, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Atlanta Regional Commission, city of Atlanta, BeltLine Northside Study Group last spring and at a meeting last year at Passion City Church.
There has always been a plan to incorporate transit around the 22-mile loop of walking/biking trails that encircle the city called the Atlanta BeltLine. But the discussion of a streetcar line running up and down Peachtree Road in Buckhead has been quiet since before the recession.
Officials did not discuss a timetable or cost for the 13-mile line from Fort McPherson to Lenox Square. But based simply on the cost of building the streetcar’s present 2.7-mile downtown loop, some estimate the Buckhead line alone could end up costing nearly half a billion dollars.
Along with the Buckhead-Fort McPherson line, there are plans for other connector lines. The grid of lines would all be connected to the BeltLine loop, MARTA
and a proposed regional transit hub in downtown, which many believe is all but dead at this time.
Officials said they would seek federal funding for the project. The current downtown Atlanta streetcar project received $47 million in federal grants in 2010 and the total cost is now estimated to run well over $100 million.
Soldat told the BCN that 16 of the proposed 50 miles of streetcar lines are currently undergoing environmental assessment, a first step toward receiving federal funding.
Costs to operate the loop have increased from $3.2 million a year to $4.8 million, and the city decided to make riding the streetcar free for the rest of the year as it works out fare integration with MARTA.
The book is still to be written on how successful the downtown streetcar route is. After a year and a half of delays, it finally opened to riders on Dec. 30.
One woman attending the BCN meeting, who works downtown, told BuckheadView she and her associates ride the streetcar every to go to lunch on Auburn Avenue and likes it. She even said she would continue if and when they start charging for the rides.
“After all, the fare will only be $1,” she added.
Editor’s Note: BuckheadView wants to provide our readers with online links to two differing viewpoints about the success of the downtown streetcar that appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The first is titled “A streetcar named denial” written by Georgia Public Policy Foundation Vice President Benita M. Dobb, which can be accessed by clicking here. Click here for the second piece, titled “Streetcar to BeltLine is right track”, written by Atlanta BeltLine Inc. President and CEO Paul Morris.