Atlanta streetcar fails to deliver on game day - CBS46 News

Atlanta streetcar fails to deliver on game day

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Monday seemed like the perfect day for the Atlanta Streetcar to prove its usefulness. The two-and-a-half-mile loop doesn't go far enough to help daily commuters, but it's good for people who want to see a football game without parking near the stadium or getting stuck in cold, wet weather.

CBS46 met a fan Monday afternoon who planned to take the streetcar from the King Center to Centennial Olympic Park. He didn't find out until after he paid for the fare that the streetcars were shut down 11 hours early because of the football game.

Most of the streetcar's current ridership comes from tourists, but it seems like whenever there's a special reason for visitors to be in town, the streetcar is missing in action.

It's the second time in two weeks a big event caused streetcar service to run a shorter schedule, or no schedule at all.

Last time, the streetcar stopped running for New Year's Eve and the day before.

Part of Atlanta's argument for why they needed four streetcars instead of two is spelled out in a 28 page document they wrote when applying for $100 million in federal assistance. They specifically said they needed the extra help for big sporting events.

When it comes to sporting events in Atlanta, it doesn't get any bigger than the college football championship.

We expected the reason for service interruption was because downtown streets would be closed for the game, but a CBS46 crew saw nothing impeding the route. Regular traffic was allowed through, all the way to the edge of Centennial Olympic Park.

So with nothing to obstruct the streetcar's path, we asked a city spokesperson what gives?

They blamed it on Atlanta police, who asked for the streetcar to be shut down for "security reasons.''

We pressed police for details about why excluding the streetcar would make things safer, but they wouldn't give us an answer, claiming the information was too sensitive to publicly divulge.

But now, several city councilmembers are taking interest. They are demanding to hear an explanation for why a rail system that costs $5 million a year to maintain, but only gets 700 riders per day, would be shut down on one of the few occasions when a large number of people might use it.

Atlanta's deputy chief operating officer gave a full account at a meeting in city hall on Wednesday. He says the city was told the streetcars could pose as a security concern, so it was left in the park.

When asked about the security threat, no answer was given. It was also disclosed that federal agencies gave the call to keep the streetcars grounded.

MARTA is supposed to take over management of the struggling streetcar operation from the city this year. CBS46 a MARTA spokesperson if they plan to handle big events like these differently in the future. They told us they don't know yet.

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