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Planner Offers Checklist For ATL Streetcar's Success

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The advocacy group Citizens for Progressive Transit realizes that Atlanta's urban core was built around streetcars. As the city embraces light-rail again, they want to make damn sure the streetcar system is not only successful in the short term, but that it becomes the initial seed for an extensive root system of transit. So the group's president, transit planner David Emory, has offered his insightful 2 cents in a Saporta Report column this week. In offering suggestions, Emory's goal is to enhance ridership, maximize the streetcar's transformative potential and even lure in public-transportation newbies. Officials said recently they expect the 2.7-mile loop to be toting passengers by the end of April, with 12 stops and an estimated 15 minutes between trains. Writes Emory: "As construction continues ... we turn our attention toward key operational and policy decisions that must be made to support the project and maximize its success."

Below are selected highlights of Emory's checklist ...

Increase the Frequency of Service:
Yeah, about those 15-minute intervals ? Emory argues for putting a third streetcar on the route (the city purchased four, but is deploying only two). He also advocates for increasing frequency during large events like the Final Four.

Continue Improving Walkability and Bikability:
On this topic, Emory opines: "Every streetcar trip will begin and end on foot or bike, so we must ensure that areas along the route offer a pleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists."

Adopt Transit-Supportive Zoning and Planning:
Here, he argues for land use and zoning changes to ensure that future development is transit and pedestrian-friendly, preventing another misstep like the "suburban-style gas station at Edgewood Avenue and Jackson Street adjacent to the key M.L. King Center stop."

Communicate a Clear, Logical Plan for Expansion:
Here's where common sense kicks in, but it might also be the most vital piece of advice on the checklist: "Whether the next steps are to the east on the Beltline, to the north along the Peachtree corridor, or to the west toward the Westside, the public must understand future plans to expand the system."

When the Streetcar loop begins service, all rides will (wisely) be free for the first three months. After the free-ride period, rides will cost just $1 for a while, until MARTA upgrades its Breeze Card system to accommodate the light-rail route. Transfers from MARTA will be free. A project leader also noted recently that traffic lights along the route will be adjusted, in hopes of keeping the streetcar from being mired in congestion with the thousands of vehicles it will share lanes with.

· With several tweaks, Atlanta streetcar can lead region to new transit era [Saporta Report]
· Official: Streetcar Coming In April, With 3 Months Of Free Rides [Curbed Atlanta]