Lawmaker calls for MARTA to take over Atlanta Streetcar

051215 beltline ed AJC photo

AJC photo

State Senate Minority Whip Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said Wednesday that he would file legislation this year to force the city of Atlanta to hand over operations and management of the Atlanta Streetcar to MARTA.

During a press briefing at the Capitol, Fort said that the reason he’s introducing the bill is because MARTA handles 95 percent of transit trips in metro Atlanta and has far more expertise running a transit system than City Hall does.

Fort said that the city has proven to be an inept operator, referencing a scathing audit released earlier this month by the Georgia Department of Transportation which found several safety and security lapses. The audit was conducted in late October and listed numerous concerns. Among them: the city and MARTA lack clarity when it comes to their roles in running the streetcar; nearly half of “safety-critical” positions remained unfilled; workers have received inadequate training; maintenance deficiencies exist; and, the city hasn’t properly reported accidents to state officials.

Fort went on to say that the streetcar has been rife with problems since opening, stating it is “over budget, not on time, has a fare system system that is deeply flawed and a staff that is not able to do the safety checks that are necessary.”

“Streetcars are under deep debate all over the country, and it needs further discussion… about whether the streetcar is fundamentally unsuited for the city,” Fort said.

“If it connects with transit and is fully integrated, that’s good, but at the very least it needs to be operated by a transit agency rather than a city.”

The bill is being drafted and will be filed in the next week or two, he said.

Since Fort is a Democrat in a Republican-controlled Legislature, it’s unclear whether the bill will get any traction. Fort also proposed legislation that would prohibit a third-party vendor like PARK Atlanta from contracting with a local government to enforce parking, yet another issue that the city of Atlanta is currently wrangling with.

Reed officials have said they’re working to streamline a top-heavy streetcar management structure and that they may opt to turn streetcar operations over to a private vendor in the future. No final decision has been announced.

The Mayor’s Office was dismissive of both the Atlanta Streetcar and PARK Atlanta proposals when asked to comment on Thursday. Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for the Mayor, issued the following statement via email:

“We have no comment on either of these items because they are completely meaningless and have no chance of ever becoming law.”

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For more of the AJC’s exclusive reporting about the first year of Atlanta Streetcar operations, click here: http://www.myajc.com/news/news/transportation/cling-clang-clunk-inside-the-atlanta-streetcars-fi/npnH7/

To read more about the challenges that lay ahead for the Atlanta Streetcar in its second year, click here: http://www.myajc.com/news/news/transportation/second-year-second-chance-for-atlanta-streetcar/npnMB/

To dig deeper on the city’s ambitious plans to grow the 1.7-mile Streetcar line into a 50-mile network, click here: http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local/atlanta-approves-ambitious-streetcar-expansion-pla/npg34/

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