When I arrived at the Dobbs Plaza stop for the new Atlanta Streetcar Tuesday morning, I found throngs of people waiting to take that first ride. There were city council officials, parks and recreation officials, MARTA representatives, pastors of churches in the area were also there. There hadn’t been a streetcar in Atlanta since 1949.
A beaming Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told me, “It would be hard for me to be any happier than I am right now.” Reed said that a lot of people came together and worked really hard to make it possible. “I’m really appreciative of President Obama for helping to make this possible through a 47.6 million dollar grant.” The federal funding was 45 percent of the cost related to the streetcar. At an estimated cost of 69 million dollars, the streetcar was projected to open in Summer 2013. The price tag is now at 100 million dollars.
“I think when people ride it”, said Reed, “they’re going to feel like it’s a very cool, efficient, and environmentally sensitive way to get around the City of Atlanta.” He was joined on the inaugural ride by wife Sarah Elizabeth and baby daughter Maria. “The energy is amazing”, said the Mayor, “and we even have good weather.”
As we piled onto train 1001, there were plenty of compliments about the stylishness of the 80-foot-long car. We were pretty-much packed in like sardines. There was also the occasional “watch your step”. When the car took off, there were cheers and applause. A short while later, we arrived at Woodruff Park Station for the grand opening ceremony. It had been a very smooth ride. We were welcomed by a tuba chorus, and various other musicians. Balloons, in colors of the streetcar, were strung throughout the event site.
There were prayers from ministers from the Sweet Auburn area. They included Doctor Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and Big Bethel AME Senior Pastor Dr. John Foster. During the ride over, Rev. Warnock told me, “This is an exciting day for Atlanta, a great day for the Martin Luther King Historic District.” Warnock said he’s excited for many reasons, adding “It connects the heart of Atlanta’s business community to the historic district and that can only be good for commerce and revitalization of this area.”
Reed: Streetcar selfie Baby!
Among the dignitaries in attendance at the grand opening for the Atlanta Streetcar: MARTA CEO Keith Parker; Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson; Yvette Taylor, Regional Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, and City of Atlanta COO Mike Geisler.
For the first three months, there is no cost to ride the Atlanta Streetcar. After that, it will be $1 per person ten years and older. An all-day pass will cost $3. There are a dozen stops: King Historic District, Dobbs Plaza, Auburn At Piedmont, Woodruff Park, Peachtree Center, Carnegie At Spring, Centennial Olympic Park, Luckie At Cone, Park Place, Hurt Park, Sweet Auburn Market, and Edgewood At Hilliard.