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Super Bowl fanatics will soon pack Atlanta. Can the streetcar help move them efficiently?

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The city’s transit slug has a history of shutting down during major events, but MARTA says the Big Game will be different

a photo of the streetcar wrapped in Super Bowl garb
A streetcar’s bold new look on Edgewood Avenue.
Sean Keenan, Curbed Atlanta

Many a transit advocate harrumphed on New Year’s Eve as MARTA officials announced the Atlanta Streetcar would stop running early due to street closures.

That left thousands of people downtown without the option to hop aboard the streetcar and cheaply head to points west, east, and north of the Peach Drop. And it was the latest evidence that the streetcar’s becoming off-limits at times when pedestrians are most abundant downtown has become routine.

The NYE news this year prompted noted urbanist Matt Garbett, co-founder of ThreadATL, to tweet, among other frustrated messages: “I got $10 says the streetcar is closed for the Super Bowl.”

While his bet is not unwarranted, Garbett is likely to lose that $10.

MARTA officials tell Curbed Atlanta the streetcar will be running its usual route during Super Bowl week. And the system could even be operating on extended hours (it’ll be a game-time decision).

“The streetcar will be running during the 10-day period of events leading up to and including the Super Bowl,” said MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher. “The street closures mandated by the NFL will not affect its route.”

In the past, however, the 2.7-mile, light-rail circuit linking downtown and Sweet Auburn has proven inaccessible during times it’s needed most.

The Atlanta Streetcar’s initial segment, which cost nearly $100 million to create, was shut down during New Year’s Eve 2017 and 2018 and during the College Football National Championship last January, according to ThreadATL.

This year, though, it seems that MARTA, which took control of the transit system in July, is making a point of utilizing it during the world’s biggest American football game.

“The idea is to keep the streetcar running until crowds disperse the weekend of the game,” said Fisher. “That call [to implement extended hours or not] will be made by the director of streetcar operations and will be communicated via social media and the website.”

To celebrate the colossal event, MARTA has wrapped its streetcars in Super Bowl LIII decor, which features a bright red and royal blue color scheme—so American—and a massive image of a pigskin.