Atlanta Streetcar riders see potential for growth

The Atlanta Streetcar is clean, air-conditioned and cheap. Yet on a typical weekday, its riders are few.

The Centennial Olympic Park stop sits beneath the shadow of the Skyview Atlanta ferris wheel. But Anthony Murdock, who works security for Skyview, said he rarely sees anyone using the Streetcar, except when events are going on.

“I work here from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, and I hardly see anyone using it,” Murdock said.

Traffic picks up around noon, as people use the Streetcar to get across downtown for lunch. Many of the riders are tourists using it to travel to sites such as Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia State University, the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, Woodruff Park and the Peachtree Center MARTA Station.

Tour guides suggested that first-time Atlanta visitor Gavin Schachat, a native of Capetown, South Africa, use the Streetcar as an easy way to reach tourist destinations. While purchasing a ticket was a challenge(there are separate ticket machines for riders with international credit and debit cards), Schachat said he is “sure it will be worthwhile.”

Locals do use the Streetcar, but make up much less of the ridership, which is up nearly 10 percent in the past five months since the city instituted a minimum $1 fee for a one-way ticket in 2016. Chris Terrell, a lifelong Atlantan, said he rides the Streetcar several times a week. “I like it because you have your AC on. It’s comfortable, and it’s clean. You get your money’s worth.”

To better service locals, Terrell said he’d like to see the current 2.7 mile route expanded. The city has plans to ultimately construct a 53-mile streetcar and light-rail network across the city. But first, it has to fix all 66 problems outlined by state and federal auditors concerning the Streetcar’s safety, security, maintenance and operation. The Georgia Department of Transportation says the city is on track to complete those improvements by the end of the month.

Murdock thinks more people should take advantage of the Streetcar. “It’s pretty,” Murdock said when asked his favorite thing about the Streetcar. “But unless there’s event like an SEC Championship game or an Atlanta Hawks game when there’s a couple people, no one uses it on an average day.”

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