Counting four heavy rail lines and almost 40 train stations, MARTA is the envy of many U.S cities longing for a decent mass transit network.
As all Atlantans know, however, there’s plenty of room for improvement—and expansion, as evidenced by voters’ willingness to tax themselves to see the system grow.
Granted, even if MARTA doubled in stature, Atlanta’s transit network wouldn’t hold a flame to those in cities such as New York or Chicago.
Nonetheless, Forbes squeezed Atlanta this week into its list of U.S. cities with the best mass people-moving systems.
“The population of Atlanta has exploded in the past 20 years,” Forbes notes. “While most southeastern cities don’t have much of a public transportation infrastructure, riding the MARTA subway is your best option if you’re downtown or live in a suburb.”
Now, that’s all well and good, but the next Atlanta shoutout in the article is sure to induce head-scratching and eyeball rolls.
“The most recent transportation option is the Atlanta Streetcar with 12 stops at major locations in the city,” the story continues. “The prices are also very reasonable to ride the streetcar. Each adult only costs $1 each way. Children 46 inches and under are free.”
Whether or not people believe the price per ride is appropriate is one thing. Using the streetcar system as an example of why Atlanta’s mass transit arsenal is among the best in the country, however, is perplexing.
The streetcar doesn’t have its own designated lane, meaning the hulking blue trolleys inch along city streets whenever there’s traffic.
There’s always traffic.
Additionally, “12 stops at major locations in the city” is a bit of a stretch, unless, by “major locations,” Forbes meant a handful of historically significant sites—think Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in the King Historic District—and a few tourist hotspots, such as Centennial Olympic Park.
Plus, the 2.7-mile circuit almost exclusively serves downtown workers and visitors, and it only directly connects to MARTA’s heavy rail network at one location, the Peachtree Center station.
But there’s hope yet for the sluggish light-rail system. In early July, MARTA took control of the Atlanta Streetcar, which has been encumbered by poor ridership due to its limited reach.
Becoming part of MARTA means the streetcar system can utilize some of the cash garnered from the sales tax Atlantans approved in a 2016 referendum, which could spell another 21 miles of light rail for the city—some along Beltline trails.
But until that happens, we suggest one Forbes reporter takes a ride on the Atlanta Streetcar.