Free Atlanta Streetcar rides? MARTA considers changes

Riding the Atlanta Streetcar may be free again when MARTA takes over its operation later this year.

The transit agency also may reduce the streetcar’s operating hours but run it more frequently along its 2.7-mile route through downtown. And it may align transit schedules to make it easier for passengers to hop off a MARTA train and use the streetcar for the last legs of their journeys.

Those are some of the changes MARTA is considering as it prepares to assume operation of Atlanta’s streetcar in July. No decisions have been made. But MARTA officials believe they can improve the troubled streetcar’s operations and maybe save money in the process.

VIDEO: Previous Atlanta Streetcar coverage

“Transit is our core competency,” MARTA Chief Operating Officer Richard Krisak told the MARTA Board of Directors Thursday. “It’s kind of a foreign thing to the city. It’s not a knock on the city. It’s just not what they do.”

Improving the city-operated streetcar has been a persistent topic since it debuted in December 2014. Ridership has consistently fallen far short of initial projections – especially after the city began charging $1 to ride in 2016. And state and federal audits uncovered problems that lingered for months.

Last summer Atlanta fixed the remaining audit issues and even talked of expanding the $99 million streetcar system. But it has since agreed to let MARTA take over streetcar operations. The cost will be covered by the half-penny sales tax Atlanta voters approved in 2016.

MARTA is already thinking about how things might change when it assumes control July 1. Among other things, MARTA may make the streetcar free again, or at least integrate the streetcar fare system into its own. Currently, passengers must pay separate fares to use the two systems.

MARTA may reduce the streetcar’s operating hours but increasing its frequency from every 15 minutes to every 6-7 minutes. Currently, the streetcar operates as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 1 a.m., depending on the day.

MARTA may better align train and streetcar schedules to ease transfers. Agency officials believe they can reduce expenses by – among other things – consolidating administrative functions and training MARTA employees to operate the streetcar.

Ultimately, it may not even be called the Atlanta Streetcar. Krisak told the board it “will be branded a MARTA service.”

MARTA is studying those issues, with decisions expected in coming months. An Atlanta spokesperson said the city and MARTA have discussed the ideas and are working together during the transition to improve service and efficiency.

“We are excited about the future of the streetcar under MARTA’s leadership, and look forward to integration into the expanding regional network,” the spokesperson said.


The AJC's David Wickert keeps you updated on the latest in what’s happening with transportation in metro Atlanta and Georgia. You'll find more on, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Atlanta transportation news. Subscribe to

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

JUST IN: Sewage leak near MARTA’s Medical Center station causing delays
JUST IN: Sewage leak near MARTA’s Medical Center station causing delays

A sewage leak from a nearby apartment complex is causing delays at MARTA’s Medical Center station on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Sandy Springs, the transit authority confirmed. The northbound platform has been closed and southbound trains are being single-tracked, MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher told The leak has been capped, but there...
Petit out at MiMedx ‘for cause’
Petit out at MiMedx ‘for cause’

Parker “Pete” Petit, who stepped down earlier this year as CEO and chairman of Marietta-based biopharma company MiMedx, now has resigned from its board of directors. In a filing to federal regulators late Thursday, the company said that he had submitted his resignation that day, effective immediately. It also said that the board and the...
Doraville cops can now use Narcan when responding to opioid overdoses
Doraville cops can now use Narcan when responding to opioid overdoses

Doraville police officers are now equipped with a life-saving medication used to help overdose victims when they arrive on scene.  The department pulled from its asset forfeiture account — funds created using money seized from drug deals — to pay the $2,700 price tag for the Narcan nasal spray, Doraville police Officer Gene...
Kohl's will hire 90,000 seasonal employees
Kohl's will hire 90,000 seasonal employees

Kohl’s is hiring for the holidays. >> Read more trending news  The department store chain announced Thursday that it plans to hire 90,000 seasonal employees nationally for more than 1,100 stores, nine distribution centers, and five-commerce fulfillment centers and credit centers, WTKR reported. “Our early strategy is working...
Ex-Rockdale sheriffs sergeant booked in stolen guns, cash case
Ex-Rockdale sheriffs sergeant booked in stolen guns, cash case

A former Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office sergeant under investigation on suspicions that he stole guns from his agency’s evidence unit now faces 43 counts of felony theft. Dan Lang, 37, stole more than $40,000 in cash in addition to the guns, the GBI said Thursday. The bureau launched its investigation April 10, after a sheriffs supervisor...
More Stories