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How the Atlanta Streetcar plans to become smarter, beginning this month

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Coming soon ... optimal horn usage!

Strategic deployer of honks, as seen downtown.
Curbed Atlanta

The Atlanta Streetcar’s notorious, headline-grabbing rocky start has given way recently to largely positive news.

This includes: a 10 percent uptick in ridership reported last year; a thumbs-up from the Georgia Department of Transportation that persistent operational blunders had been resolved; the pending MARTA takeover; and word from former Mayor Kasim Reed that free rides will eventually return.

Fifty-plus miles of streetcar lines envisioned as part of the Atlanta Beltline/Atlanta Streetcar System Plan.
Atlanta Beltline

Now, the looping 2.7-mile downtown system, which is planning a web of expansions across the city, is gearing up to become one of the most highly analytical streetcar lines in the country, officials announced this week.

Global tech company Siemens has inked a longterm digital and technical services partnership with the Atlanta Streetcar that leaders say will allow the system to take advantage of the most cutting-edge technologies available.

Beginning later this month, the streetcar will move from a corrective maintenance approach to one that predicts problems before they happen. It’ll be one of the country’s first streetcar systems to tap into Big Data analytics technology, allowing for insights into everything from energy consumption to door-opening durations and traffic problems on routes. An added bonus, say Siemens officials: optimal horn usage.

The good news for riders and Atlantans in general? The Siemens partnership, officials say, will boost vehicle reliability, reduce costs, and cut out maintenance-related service interruptions for riders.

“As an interesting side note,” Siemens USA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cho wrote in an email to Curbed Atlanta, “a lot of this technology will be ‘homegrown,’ having been developed and honed out of our newly opened Siemens digital innovation center [at] Tech Square” in Midtown, near Georgia Tech.

In late 2017, Reed authorized the transfer of all streetcar facets from the City of Atlanta to MARTA, a process expected to take about a year.

As part of MARTA, the streetcar system will tap into the transit agency’s planned $2.6-billion expansion, funded by additional sales taxes Atlanta voters overwhelmingly approved in 2016.