An alternate-transit link between the Beltline's Eastside Trail and the Atlanta Streetcar's initial downtown loop won't happen as soon as some officials would have liked, after federal transportation authorities denied the city's bid this week for $29.3 million in grants. No place in Georgia received a dime of $500 million in a round of grants that will fund projects in 34 states, including $15 million that will double the size of Tacoma, Washington's streetcar network, the AJC reports. The news is the latest speed-bump in the nascent streetcar's quest for solvency.
It wasn't clear if the Atlanta Streetcar's rocky first 10 months — plagued by everything from staff shortages to vehicle collisions and graffiti — contributed to the snub, but officials with Mayor Kasim Reed's administration told the newspaper they plan to take the public-private route toward funding the streetcar expansion instead. Another sour pill of bad press came this week when WSB-TV reported that streetcar operators are fearing for their safety due to the large number of homeless passengers — so-called "career riders" — constantly at their backs. A union rep said sleeping passengers have become belligerent with operators who try to rouse them and then added this bit of PR napalm: "The operators have complained about it being such a stench on the train that it has overwhelmed them to the point where one of the operators got sick because of the smell." Will the institution of rider fees actually be cheered?