Next year will mark a decade since the Atlanta Streetcar system broke ground downtown—to the delight of most urbanists and furrowed brows of skeptics.

After an onslaught of delays, the 2.7-mile, 12-stop Downtown Loop opened just after Christmas in 2014—some 18 months behind schedule and nearly $30 million over its initial budget of $69 million.

Supporters have long called the loop the nascent, required first step in what could be a comprehensive system; detractors argue it’s a perennial waste of money that should be shut down.  

What isn’t up for debate is that the streetcar system hasn’t grown by a foot of additional rail after six years of puttering around downtown—when it isn’t stuck in traffic or ironically shut down for major events.

But that stands to change.

Following three years of delay-riddled construction, the loop opened in December 2014 and hasn't expanded since. Photos via Shutterstock

MARTA, which took over streetcar operations three years ago, is hosting a virtual public meeting Thursday to provide updates and gather input on what’s called the Streetcar East Extension project.  

The idea is that the existing streetcar line will be extended from downtown to Ponce City Market.

To get there, the route would run from its current limits at Jackson Street along Edgewood Avenue, up to the BeltLine at Irwin Street, then north along the Eastside Trail to the Old Fourth Ward jobs hub and retail destination.  

According to a MARTA announcement, Thursday’s virtual meeting will include a presentation from the project team and Q&A session. Expect updates on proposed alignments, stop locations, and early engineering efforts.

This year, MARTA has been the recipient of nearly $300 million in COVID-19 rescue funds. But transit advocates say funding culled from the More MARTA sales tax approved by voters in 2016 has already raised more than enough cash to build the first streetcar extension.

BeltLine Rail Now leaders believe the streetcar route to Ponce City Market can be built in three years, per their consultations with experts, instead of the 2027 timeline for opening the extension that MARTA has projected.

MARTA approved a $500,000 feasibility study last month to analyze eastside streetcar routes, which also ruffled the feathers of some transit supporters who feel it’s an unnecessary delay.

So, on the eve of this significant day in the Atlanta Streetcar's history/saga, we ask: What do you think is crucial for the streetcar system? In the near term? Long term? Or after so long, have you lost all hope?  


MARTA’s virtual streetcar meeting is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. To join:       

Click here:   

Meeting ID: 970 9550 3767

Or call: 1-646-558-8656

Access code: 441656

MARTA will also accept questions and comments about the streetcar project until June 30 in the virtual meeting room at:  

• Q&A: BeltLine Rail Now leaders on why Atlanta transit has golden opportunity today (Urbanize Atlanta) 

Recent MARTA coverage, discussion (UA)