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City of Atlanta To Operate Streetcar With Help From MARTA

The City of Atlanta will hire nine full-time Streetcar drivers. The uniforms can be seen above.
The City of Atlanta will hire nine full-time Streetcar drivers. The uniforms can be seen above.
Credit Atlanta Streetcar
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The launch date of the Atlanta Streetcar is still several months out, but one of the last major steps for the project is now done. The city of Atlanta announced Monday it will operate the Streetcar, with some help from MARTA.

The Streetcar’s operator was an open question for months. City officials were considering outsourcing the job to a private contractor or MARTA.

Tim Borchers, the city’s Streetcar manager, is excited the city and MARTA will be working together.

“The city will be providing the majority of staff with MARTA oversight for the first 12 months. I think this is the best outcome for fiscal responsibility and safe operations that can be had,” said Borchers.

In December, a top official for Mayor Kasim Reed said MARTA wouldn’t be operating the Streetcar due to high insurance costs.

Borchers said having the city handle day-to-day operations – while MARTA acts in an oversight capacity – will save $5 million over five years.

“In the case for the city the insurance liability is already covered but the protection that MARTA had to have and the private contractor had to have was a large number,” said Borchers.

MARTA chief Keith Parker said Monday he had no objection to the city operating the Streetcar in the short-term. But he did say he’d like MARTA to play a larger role as the city looks to expand the system to the Atlanta Beltline.

“As time moves on, as they look to expand throughout the whole Beltline area, then we certainly believe we will be the best suited to run a more…a robust level of service like that,” said Parker.

The city expects to spend $3.9 million annually operating the Streetcar.

In November, the city was named a Federal Transit Administration grant designee, which allows Atlanta for the first time to compete for federal transit funds. 

Built with federal and city funds, the Streetcar project is around $6 million over-budget and has a launch date that remains up in the air.

At the outset of the project, passenger service was to begin in the summer of 2013. According to Borchers, that will now happen in August at the earliest. Mayor Reed, on the other hand, has said only it will launch by the end of the year.