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Atlanta streetcar proposal to skip a step

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More good news about the potential street car in Atlanta.

Streetcar project to bypass one step

By HENRY UNGER

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta streetcar organizers have decided to skip a stop on the way to bringing a trolley to Peachtree Street.

Response to the idea of running a streetcar line from downtown to Buckhead has been so positive that organizers are bypassing initial plans to do a preliminary study to garner political and public support.

Instead, they are jumping right into a more detailed study of the project's feasibility, which will take about a year, or about nine months longer than a preliminary study would have taken.

"We were looking for naysayers, but at every door that became a non-issue," said Michael Robison, chairman of the private, nonprofit group formed last month to try to put trolleys on Peachtree after a 40-year lapse.

"When we found out we would not have to do selling or overselling through a road show, we decided on doing a more detailed study," he said. "We think it's the same plan with one less step in the process."

After meeting with officials from the Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Department of Transportation, Robison said it became clear that his group could move directly to the comprehensive study phase.

"We agree with what they are doing. We think it makes sense," said Charles "Chick" Krautler, director of the Atlanta Regional Commission. But he added, "It's way too early to know if it's a go."

That's what the study will help determine. It will evaluate a number of issues, including potential ridership, revenue, expenses, financing, route options and neighborhood and environmental impact. The cost and scope of the comprehensive study are still being worked out.

Within five years, members of Atlanta Streetcar Inc. hope to build an eight-mile streetcar line from downtown to Buckhead that could cost at least $200 million.

They are getting their inspiration from Portland, Ore., where a $55 million private-public investment in a streetcar line there helped spawn more than $1 billion in development.

Organizers hope the line down the Peachtree spine will spur further commercial and residential development, as well as serve commuters and tourists traveling short distances.

The nonprofit group is assembling a management team to get the project rolling and try to keep it on a fast track. The team will include Leon Eplan, former planning commissioner for the city of Atlanta, and Mike Williams, a veteran project management consultant.

Atlanta Streetcar will hold its first board meeting on Jan. 16. Members include architect John Portman Jr., Georgia Tech President G. Wayne Clough and Georgia State University President Carl Patton. There also is an advisory board that includes philanthropist Bernie Marcus and City Councilman H. Lamar Willis, who chairs the council's Transportation Committee.

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This should be great for Atlanta! I wonder what stlye for the streetcars will they use? vintage or modern?

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If it has it's own ROW down the middle of the street, it will be a great addition, and can be a development catalyst (around the stops). If it shares lanes with car traffic, it is not much better than a bus.

In Toronto we have both types. Interestingly, 8-9 years ago one of the lines that had shared traffic with cars for decades, was given it's own, physically seperated ROW down the centre of the street (reducing auto lanes from 3 each direction to 2 each direction). Ridership increased roughly 80% almost overnight. Now they want to turn a major arterial where streetcars share car lanes, and is 2 lanes in each direction, into a streetcar ROW down the centre of the street, which would reduce it to just 1 car lane in each direction (and remember, this is a major arterial in a city where arterial through-routes are few and very far between). They are projecting a massive, overnight, increase in ridership for this route as well.

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Realistically it will likely run down the street with existing traffic. There isn't any room to run these, and there isn't a median on most of peachtree street, so no median to build on. I doubt they will remove lines to run the streetcar.

Not the best approach, but it's still much better than what we have... nothing.

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Realistically it will likely run down the street with existing traffic. There isn't any room to run these, and there isn't a median on most of peachtree street, so no median to build on.

There usually isn't a pre-existing media. Building the median would be part of building the streetcar line.

There are two ways to do this:

1. Raise the entire middle of the road several inches above the rest of the road. This is appropriate for a narrow road running alongside a body of water, for example, where there aren't many cross-streets.

2. Physically seperate the streetcar lanes with raised "sidewalks", but where the streetcar lanes themselves are just level with the regular road. This really needs a fairly wide street, and is better where there are frequent cross streets (meaning an entirely raised median would require lots of "up and down" motion).

Neither method requires a super-wide road. A road two lanes each way can be turned to car lane each way, with one streetcar lane each way. Of course, in this scenario, cars could not be allowed to park or even stop, unless "cut-aways" for cars are made, which is only practical where the sidewalks are really wide.

Streetcars that share car lanes have minor advantages (and one possible disadvantage in some people's eyes) compared to regular buses:

-they generally have higher capacity than buses. Buses can be articulated of course, but so can streetcars.

-they provide slightly smoother rides than a bus.

-there is no risk of a car improperly parked at a bus stop, which can be problematic in a dense city.

-buses don't have to have "cut-away" lanes (stops cutting into the sidewalk), but often do. These lanes are built so that cars don't have to stop behind the bus when it's stopped. The problem is that it can take time for bus to merge back into traffic. Because streetcars run in the left lane, they never have to merge back into traffic.

-related to the last point, it's difficult for motorists to pass streetcars at all. Because streetcars have to keep stopping, this can slow down auto traffic as well. Why is it almost impossible for cars to pass streetcars? If a road where streetcars run is only two lanes each way, during non rush-hours the outside lane is likely packed with parked cars, so there's nowhere to pass (unless you try to pass the streetcar in the intersection). During rush hours, the right lane is usually slower than the left lane anyways because of traffic and people turning right. This slowing down of traffic makes driving less attractive, and riding the streetcar relatively more attractive. Buses, on the other hand, aren't unpassable. Of course, many motorists would consider this a disadvantage of streetcars.

Of course, the biggest advantage of a ROW is that they don't get stuck in traffic. Because of this (the predictability of travel time), they are more likely to attract development, but not to the extent of a subway stop.

When I get back from my grandfather's funeral in Calgary, I'll take some pictures of different types of streetcars in Toronto.

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There usually isn't a pre-existing media. Building the median would be part of building the streetcar line.

There are two ways to do this:

1. Raise the entire middle of the road several inches above the rest of the road. This is appropriate for a narrow road running alongside a body of water, for example, where there aren't many cross-streets.

2. Physically seperate the streetcar lanes with raised "sidewalks", but where the streetcar lanes themselves are just level with the regular road. This really needs a fairly wide street, and is better where there are frequent cross streets (meaning an entirely raised median would require lots of "up and down" motion).

I don't disagree TC, they could remove a lane (or for extremely wide roads with wide enough lanes, narrow them to generate the right of way - although this isn't the case w/ PT street). I guess what I should have pointed out was that Atlantans, the people and the DOT likely as well, will not go for PT street being a single traffic lane. I also certainly understand the advantages of seperating it from traffic, but I don't think that will be the challenge.

And there is already a subway that runs the same corridor.

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