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Guest donaltopablo

Article on proposed Peachtree Trolley

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Guest donaltopablo

This is a pretty good article and goes back into a lot of the history of mass transit in Atlanta.

All Aboard!

Plans to revive trolleys

By Ann Taylor Boutwell and Collin Kelley

story continued from previous page

Those of a certain age can remember when getting around downtown Atlanta and its neighborhoods was as easy as hopping a streetcar. The long, sleek cars running on embedded rails and overhead power lines took passengers from downtown to Decatur and to all points on the compass.

After the streetcars' demise in 1949, Atlanta still had a network of "trackless trolleys," essentially electric buses that used the same overhead power lines. However, those were discontinued in 1963 and the electric lines that used to crisscross the city like a spider web came down and city dwellers began using the gas-powered buses that would eventually become the backbone of the Metropolitan Area Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).

MARTA was created in 1972 after the dissolution of the old Atlanta Transit System, acquiring over 500 buses. By 1979 parts of the rapid rail service were in operation. While MARTA streamlined and modernized public transportation in Atlanta, many residents bemoaned the loss of the streetcars and electric buses that used to connect the city's neighborhoods large and small and made getting around the city so simple.

Former Atlanta resident Rose Hall grew up in downtown and rode the streetcars to work every day. "The streetcars and the electric buses went everywhere. It's not like MARTA today. The MARTA trains only have certain stops and then you have to hike to where you really want to go," Hall said. "Back then, you hopped on the streetcar and could go anywhere and stop anywhere just by pulling the cord to alert the driver. I miss those streetcars."

Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard feels Rose Hall's pain, and hopes to bring back some semblance of those halcyon days by using existing rail lines to bring back trolleys to Atlanta. Woolard's proposed "belt line" has received "great support" since she proposed it last year.

Woolard's plan envisions the new trolleys connecting with MARTA to provide public transportation to areas like Ormewood Park, Druid Hills, Inman Park, Oakhurst, Midtown, Peachtree Hills and points north.

"There is a whole network of old train tracks that crisscross the city that are no longer in use," Woolard said. "Retooling those, building new stations and getting trolleys or light rail back on these tracks would get cars off the streets and bring positive economic impact."

Woolard said the cost to bring the new trolley system would be about $20 million per mile, rather than $200 million per mile to build new train or MARTA rail lines. She would like to see a combination of federal, state, local and private monies to fund the new transportation system. "Having this new system would transform many neighborhoods, especially on the south side of the city," Woolard commented.

In other words, it would mesh old Atlanta with new Atlanta in a fashion not seen for nearly 40 years. When Atlanta Was "Mud City"

Getting around Atlanta was no problem before 1850 since the city's radius was only one mile. Everything and everybody was in easy walking distance.

However, after the Civil War and Reconstruction, Atlanta's need for public transportation became evident as horse-drawn buggies mired down in the slushy, unpaved streets and walking downtown ruined shoes and clothing. The problem was so bad in 1872 that Atlanta earned the nickname "Mud City."

After pulling out of the political mire of restrictions and objections, two visionaries, Richard Peters and George Washington Adair, put together the first trolley car system and called it the Atlanta Street Railway. They realized that transportation initiatives would increase real estate value near the lines, reinforce Atlanta's rapid growth, and spur more building opportunities while giving people commuter service to the city.

The Atlanta Street Railway's first mule-drawn trolley headed south on Peachtree to West End on Sept. 8, 1871. The route just happened to pass Peters' home on Mitchell and Forsyth streets and terminated at Adair's place across from the McPherson Barracks (Fort McPherson). In 1872, Peters and Adair opened three trolley lines: Marietta Street, Decatur Street, and Peachtree Street.

The Decatur line took passengers to Oakland Cemetery, while the Peachtree line stopped at Pine Street. Two years later it terminated at Ponce de Leon Avenue. During "the season" between April and September, riders paid an extra five cents to go to Ponce de Leon Springs on the site of today's City Hall East to enjoy swimming. By 1884, the Peachtree line reached Fourteenth Street (Wilson Avenue) and by 1885, riders could go all the way to Piedmont Park.

"We have endeavored to make the system adequate to the requirements of the city," co-founder Richard Peters said to the Atlanta Constitution. "By furnishing cheap and comfortable traveling facilities to the people, in every direction, and they appreciate it as a great public convenience."

The success of the Atlanta Street Railway stimulated competition and in 1882 Lemuel Pratt Grant and Jacob Haas established the Metropolitan Street Railroad. Horse-drawn cars provided transportation to Grant Park, Oakland Cemetery, the Confederate Soldiers Home and later an extension from Reynoldstown to Decatur. In 1887, the company added small steam engines called dummies. Ladies along the route complained about soot from the dummies ruining their expensive parlor curtains.

The Gate City Street Railroad's owners Laurent De Give and Old Fourth Ward residents John Stephens, Levi G. Nelson, and Augustus Reinhardt launched a popular horse-car line in 1884, running from downtown's Kimball House through the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

Inman Park and the "Nine-Mile Circle"

In 1889, Joel Hurt, creator of the Inman Park neighborhood, introduced electric streetcars to the city. Painted yellow with gold and orange trim, the first line extended from downtown on Edgewood Avenue into the heart of the Inman Park community. In just a few years, electric streetcars would totally replace both the mule and steam-powered cars.

The Fulton County Railroad, the city's second electric trolley company also began operations in 1889. Company president and Jackson Hill resident Lodowick J. Hill called his famous route the "Nine-Mile Circle." It took passengers from the original DeGive's Opera House on Broad and Marietta streets north up Peachtree to John Wesley Dobbs Avenue (Houston). Then the line ran east, zigzagging through the Old Fourth Ward, then north down Highland Avenue passing the new residential development of Copenhill where the Carter Center stands today. After crossing Ponce de Leon Avenue the cars turned west at the Virginia Avenue intersection, traveled to Monroe Drive and then headed south, looping back into the city to complete the nine miles.

In 1891 the Atlanta Street Railway Co. became part of Joel Hurt's conglomerate. For 10 years Joel Hurt's name towered above all others. His dominance in the city's transportation industry ended in 1901 after a bitter public utility war with Henry M. Atkinson, son-in-law of street railway pioneer Richard Peters and owner of the Georgia Electric Light Company and the Atlanta Rapid Transit Company. In early 1902, Hurt retired and Atkinson, Preston Arkwright, and associates of the Georgia Railway and Electric Company acquired all the electric and street railway facilities.

Heading For The End Of The Line

Getting around became a lot easier for residents of Buckhead in 1907, especially those without automobiles. Kids rode the trolley to attend school at Washington Seminary, Marist, Boys, Girls, Tech, and Commercial high schools. Grownups had more shopping and working options, and getting to church on Sunday was an easier prospect.

A 10-cent ride took passengers to downtown for shopping or to the Atlanta Crackers game at Ponce de Leon Ball Park owned by the Georgia Railway Electric Company. Across the street they could ride the Ferris wheel, smooch in the tunnel of love, skate, dance, and picnic in the Ponce de Leon Amusement Park (the former Ponce de Leon Springs) where City Hall East stands today.

The conversion of streetcars to trackless trolleys began in 1946 and took 12 years to complete. By 1950, the Georgia Power Company had turned its street transportation facilities over to the Atlanta Transit Company, which operated 593 trackless trolleys over 244 miles of route, carrying 370,000 passengers and average of 52,833 miles a day.

Atlanta's last streetcar run was on April 10, 1949. A crowd gathered at 4 a.m. to mark the end of a 78-year era. Folks boarded the streetcar for one last ride and to hear the last screech of wheels.

Fourteen years later, Atlantans gathered to say another goodbye to the trackless trolleys. On Sept. 27, 1963, electricians decorated 13 trackless trolleys with multicolored lights. The trolleys rolled down Whitehall to Five Points loaded with passengers, as a band along the street played "Dixie," "The Trolley Song," and "Auld Lang Syne."

For the next 40 years, growth and the need for automobiles would choke the city with smog and see the federal government impose the Clean Air Act on the city. MARTA has proposed bringing a "flex trolley" to the city, which is essentially trains running on tires. The trolleys would operate in the HOV lanes or dedicated paths along the city streets and run on electricity or or a diesel/electric hybrid. Implementation of the new trolleys is still years away, according to MARTA officials.

As Atlanta continues to work toward improving public transport, Cathy Woolard's plan to bring back the trolley system is now finally "on the public radar" once again.


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One interesting tidbit is that many of the bus routes are numbered the same as the streetcar they replaced. Number 2 bus route is the same route as the number 2 streetcar along Ponce de Leon. I live near MARTA route 18 that takes an odd route through Reynoldstown - yet that route had once been the streetcar that went to the southside of Decatur through Edgewood & by Oakland Cemetary.

Here is a map of the system that I stole from someone else's website:


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