A streetcar line from Buckhead to Fort McPherson appears to be back in play with the release of a new study that proposes expanding the Atlanta streetcar’s 2.7-mile loop around downtown to 50 miles of lines around metro Atlanta.
Called the “Crosstown Peachtree Line,” the Buckhead streetcar would travel between the MARTA stations at Lenox Square and Fort McPherson along Peachtree, West Peachtree, Peters and Lee streets. Stops on the line would include the Fox Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center and Piedmont Hospital.
The updated Atlanta Streetcar System Plan was unveiled during two community talks on April 23 and 27. Officials did not release a timetable or cost for the 13-mile line, which would tie into the Atlanta BeltLine. But based simply on the cost of building the streetcar’s downtown loop, the Buckhead line alone could end up costing nearly half a billion dollars.
The BeltLine’s senior transportation project manager Marcus Arnold told the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods at its May 14 meeting that construction of the Crosstown Peachtree Line would “come down to available funding and interest from the community in getting that line in.”
Beth McMillan, the BeltLine’s director of community planning, told the BCN meeting that the business community is very interested in seeing a streetcar on Peachtree because of the development impact that streetcars have had in other cities, like Portland, where they have been constructed.
This isn’t the first time a streetcar route between Buckhead and south Atlanta has been on the table. When the idea of resurrecting streetcars in Atlanta began in earnest back in 2003, and before the Great Recession struck in 2008, there were meetings, debates and renderings of a streetcar gliding down Peachtree.
The Atlanta BeltLine project jump-started the streetcar discussion again, and there has always been a plan to incorporate transit around a 22-mile loop of walking/biking trails that encircle the city.
The expanded Atlanta streetcar plan re-establishes a streetcar system that hasn’t been seen in Atlanta since 1949, when the city pulled up the tracks and decided buses and automobiles were the future.
Along with the Buckhead-Fort McPherson line, there are plans for other connector lines including an East-West line that would link Inman Park to Atlanta University Center, a north-south line running by Atlantic Station, Georgia Tech and what is now Turner Field, and another cross-town line that would run on North Avenue and Hollowell Parkway. The grid of lines would all be connected to the BeltLine loop, MARTA and a proposed regional transit hub in downtown.
Officials said they would seek federal funding for the project. The current streetcar project received $47 million in federal grants in 2010. Nathan Soldat, the BeltLine’s engagement advocate, told the BCN that 16 of the proposed 50 miles of streetcar lines are currently undergoing environmental assessment, a first step toward receiving federal funding.
The success of the downtown streetcar route is still uncertain. After months of delays, it finally opened to riders on Dec. 30.
Costs to operate the loop have increased from $3.2 million a year to $4.8 million, and the city decided to make riding the streetcar free for the rest of the year as it works out fare integration with MARTA.