Community News Streetcar 2

Published on May 20th, 2015 |

12

BeltLine plans streetcar line along Peachtree Road in Buckhead

The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods heard on May 14 plans supported by Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and the business community to run an Atlanta Streetcar line from Fort McPherson in southwest Atlanta north through Downtown and Midtown and along Peachtree Road in Buckhead up to Lenox Square mall.

Years ago, Buckhead residents said they did not want a streetcar running up and down Peachtree Road in the community. Despite that, it is in the plans.

Years ago, Buckhead residents said they did not want a streetcar running up and down Peachtree Road in the community. Despite that, it is in the plans.

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.

A map of he planned BeltLine's transit routes, as in streetcars.

A map of he planned BeltLine’s transit routes, as in streetcars.

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

Beth McMillan

Beth McMillan

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.

The BeltLine's proposed streetcar route from Fort McPherson to Lenox Square mall in Buckhead is shown in yellow.

The BeltLine’s proposed streetcar route from Fort McPherson to Lenox Square mall in Buckhead is shown in yellow.

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

Nathan Soldat

Nathan Soldat

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.

 

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    12 Responses to BeltLine plans streetcar line along Peachtree Road in Buckhead

    1. Rumson Rd Neighbor says:

      NOOOOO!!!

      please listen to Sam Massell – he knows what he is talking about

    2. Dan says:

      Atlanta is a growing city, and in order to remain competitive with other cities in the southeast, it needs a better transit network- that’s without question. For this to work, the streetcar would have to operate in its own dedicated lane. Yes that means taking away two lanes from car traffic (the horror!). People in Buckhead, and Atlanta in general, need to realize that they live in the middle of a city, in the largest city in the southeast. Traffic will always be bad and it will continue to get worse. A streetcar running down Peachtree in its own dedicated lane would help connect neighborhoods, people, and businesses. This is the way the world is going, whether you like it or not.

    3. Gale says:

      NIMBY much? As a Buckhead native, I am saddened by the “Buckhead bubble” thinking.

    4. Chris says:

      A streetcar from Fort Mac to Buckhead would be redundant due to the existing MARTA heavy rail line and bus service. A streetcar from arts center/midtown to the Buckhead Village would be useful in connecting a densifying and disconnected corridor.

      Can we also ensure these don’t operate in mixed traffic?

    5. Frank says:

      The only portion of this line that even makes sense is the leg from Arts Center to Lenox. Why spend valuable transit dollars overlapping existing Marta rail, south of Arts Center? Those resources should be used on areas that do not have existing rail.

    6. Cleo says:

      Come on people we’ve got to have more transportation options in buckhead. People need to be able to get around, walk around. Buckhead IS part of Atlanta after all.

    7. Janice says:

      I am all for the streetcar running up to Buckhead village. I t would be great to be able to get on at Brookwood for example and ride the streetcar to go shopping at Lennox. Right now I have to drive and hate it. This idea will really make the whole area much more accessible for residents and give an alternative to the car.

    8. Will says:

      Now, this would never ever happen in my lifetime…but what would be interesting is if they tore down Lenox and redeveloped along Peachtree Road with store fronts, making it walkable along with access to transit like a dedicated streetcar line that operates independently of traffic on Peachtree.

      That would be interesting; the former Lenox mall area could be redone as a parkland for all of the high rises and hotels nearby, creating lots of much needed green space for that part of the City.

      The

    9. William McClure says:

      Dedicated lane rail transit along Peachtree Road is desperately needed from Arts Center Station to at least Buckhead Station to unify the corridor with fast and efficient transportaion. This area is very dense but the development is stretched out along a five mile section of Peachtree Road instead of grouped together in a mass like a traditional downtown. This means that it’s a very long walk to get from place to place. (About an hour and 40 minutes along Peachtree according to Google Maps from Arts Center Station to Buckhead Station) Underground heavy rail may be too expensive to fund but a streetcar is realistic. Currently the transit options for the many neighborhoods along Peachtree Road between Arts Center Station and Buckhead Station are cars, a very long sidewalk, a disconnected but improving bike network, and an unreliable bus that gets stuck in traffic. During rush hour periods vehicular traffic is very congested. Currently there is no alternative to sitting in this traffic that comfortably protects you from the weather and gets you to your destination faster than a car would. A dedicated lane streetcar would solve this problem. Large amounts of people would be transported throughout the district while protected from weather unlike biking and walking. It would also actually be faster than driving a car or riding the bus during periods of heavy vehicular traffic. Business travelers and tourists could get around without having to rent a car or worry about where to park their car. Residents and workers that have a car may even decide to ride the streetcar because of it’s ability to get them to their destination faster. The streetcar is not just for people who can’t afford a car. Whether you want to see your investments in the area increase in value, or just want to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike, the streetcar would be great for Buckhead.

      • John Schaffner says:

        The MARTA 110 bus, affectionately called the Peach, is very reliable and is actually the best equipment MARTA has in its system. On the flip side, I had a friend recently tell me that she sat on the streetcar (which I affectionately call the trolley folly) for 20 minutes without moving because of a car stalled on the track. All the streetcar could do is sit there idle. If you want to get from the Arts Center MARTA station to the Buckhead MARTA station, MARTA rail goes there and a whole lot faster and more reliably than a streetcar or even a MARTA bus. That’s a real tough call to make.

        • William McClure says:

          First of all, look at the success of established streetcars in other American cities like Portland and San Francisco before you denounce them as useless. The concept is still new to Atlanta. Marta rail is great but it doesn’t go very many places. Imagine being able to take the train within a 5 minute walk of wherever you need to go. This is already a reality in world class cities like New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo. Projects like the Beltline and Atlanta Streetcar are starting to make this possible in Atlanta. The downtown streetcar has experienced hiccups but once it starts running efficiently and connects to dedicated lane lines along the Atlanta Beltline it will start to solve one of the biggest issues this city has: You must get in a car to get where you need to go. If Atlanta ever wants to be a world class city or even just a competitive American city this must change.

          Concerning the Peach bus: unless it has it’s own lane, it will never be reliable or efficient during rush hour periods because of vehicular traffic. The traffic on parts of Peachtree in Buckhead gets extremely congested during certain morning, mid-day, and evening hours. The lack of a street grid certainly does not help as it creates a sort of bottle neck.
          The streetcar must be in a dedicated (exclusive) lane to work on Peachtree. A dedicated lane streetcar does not get stuck in traffic. It is better than a bus because it can hold more people and load/unload faster. The ride is smoother. The route is permanent which encourages development around the stations much more so than a bus stop. It does not have the stigma of a bus and will attract more choice riders. An underground subway system is also a great option but that is far too expensive for Atlanta to afford.

          Concerning getting from Arts Center Station to Buckhead Station: I am not talking about simply getting to those two points. I am talking about everything in between those two points. (five miles which takes an hour and forty minutes to walk from end to end)

          Thousands of people live, work, and play on Peachtree in Buckhead. There are many existing residential/commercial high rises along the corridor. New buildings are being constructed and proposed every month. The population density increases every year and is very spread out/not walkable.
          Buckhead along Peachtree is no longer a single family residential suburb of Atlanta with a few low density apartment buildings like it was in 1950. Lets bring back the streetcar on Peachtree in Buckhead like it was in the 1930’s/40’s but this time have dedicated lanes. There are tens of thousands more people living here now. We can’t keep adding all these highrises and expect everyone to drive a car to get around. That is not sustainable. Traffic is getting more congested and it now takes longer than ever to drive during peak hours. A dedicated lane street car running at least every 10 minutes would offer a pleasant alternative to sitting in traffic. Cars are not going away in Buckhead but there are other great (and even better in certain situations) ways to get around.

          • RAndy says:

            There are dozens and dozens of cross streets along Peachtree RD from Midtown to Lenox. Every one of those is a potential blockage/delay for a streetcar on a fixed path. Take your comments to build a more efficient bus for loading, unloading, view, etc…. But leave it on rubber tires. Also you could define a lane that would only be used by the “streetBus” certain hours of the day. No reason to tear up the road to lay rail lines….

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