MARTA's participation is a shift from previous city policy outlined late last year. At that time, a spokesman for Mayor Kasim Reed told local media, "It's been over the last year that we pretty much determined that the best way to go about this is using a mechanism other than MARTA." Cost was cited as a major concern, including estimates for insurance that MARTA declined to cover.
Under the current agreement, "The city will be providing the majority of staff with MARTA oversight for the first 12 months," said Tom Borchers, the city's streetcar manager. "I think this is the best outcome for fiscal responsibility and safe operations that can be had." He said that the city's control of daily operations, combined with MARTA's ovesight capacity, would save roughly $1 million per year during the next five years.
MARTA General Manager and CEO Keith T. Parker expressed willingness for MARTA to play a larger role in future streetcar deployment. "As time moves on, as they look to expand throughout the whole Beltline area, then we certainly believe we will be the best suited to run a more...a robust level of service like that," Parker said.
Revenue service is slated to begin sometime this year, though a specific date has yet to be identified.
Other U.S. cities targeting streetcar debuts in 2014 include Washington, D.C., and Tucson, Ariz. (SunLink). Salt Lake City's Sugar House Streetcar (S-Line) began operations last year; unlike some other U.S. streetcar lines, the Sugar House line is operated by the area transit agency that also oversees light rail transit service, Utah Transit Authority (UTA).