Cost to run Atlanta's streetcar higher than original projection

ATLANTA (WXIA) -- 11Alive News learned that the cost of running Atlanta's streetcar is coming out to be much higher than originally predicted.

The service has been running for about two months, and for now, fares are free. Yet ridership has, on average, been less than the predicted 2,200 passengers per day. It is more like 2,000.

The system's head says the weather is partly to blame for the lower numbers.

"Typically, in a time without a lot of visitors to the city – freezing cold, middle of winter – the riderships are lower," said executive director Timothy Borchers.

Borchers acknowledges the streetcar will cost Atlanta taxpayers more to run than the $3.2 million originally planned – possibly upward of a million dollars more than that.

He blames inflation and strict federal rules that required two MARTA safety consultants be added to the management team, at a cost of $575,000.

"I believe those people are consultants and contractors," Borchers said. "That's in the comparable field for consultants."

Borchers says he has a plan to increase ridership: street car entertainment.

"You have a jazz musician on the streetcar, along the track entertaining folks, sometimes you have a magician or you might have a poet," Borchers said. "These are very important and successful promotions."

Building the streetcar system cost $98 million, and about half of that came from federal funds. So how much more than the $3.2 million will he need to run the system annually? Borchers says they are still crunching the numbers and will let us know when he has an exact figure.


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