Three months after Atlanta Streetcar vehicles were yanked from service over safety concerns, MARTA says the purplish-blue trolleys will start making a comeback downtown next week.

MARTA, which took control of streetcar operations five years ago, removed all four of the city’s streetcar vehicles from the system’s downtown loop on Nov. 29 after engineers had found wheel degradation issues that could have posed risks.

To help fill the transportation void, MARTA wrapped shuttle vans to look like streetcars (to the extent possible) and deployed them on the same route.

MARTA officials report this week the first streetcar vehicle has been fixed, and is set to return to downtown streets for testing Tuesday. Passenger service with that lone trolley is expected to begin March 2.

Wheel repairs for the three sibling streetcars are pending, and they’ll be worked into the system as they become ready in coming weeks. MARTA’s capital budget is footing the roughly $400,000 cost for replacement wheels, according to the transit agency.  

In the meantime, MARTA’s lookalike shuttle vans will stay in service, circling downtown, the agency reports.  

“We ask that everyone who works, lives, or visits downtown to be mindful that the streetcar is back and to stay clear of its tracks and route,” George Wright, MARTA’s chief operating officer, said in an announcement today.

Atlanta’s streetcar system opened eight years ago on a 2.7-mile, 12-stop route of new tracks around downtown. It’s taken lumps for being stuck in traffic, shut down for some major events, and for pulling in dismally low ridership numbers (just 4,000 riders per week on average—or about 570 people per day—according to a Fox 5 report in late 2021). Plans for growing the streetcar system have yet to materialize.

How the planned Atlanta Streetcar extension's Ralph McGill stop would relate to the Fourth Ward project's offices' doorstep. Kimley-Horn/MARTA 2040; via Vimeo

But brighter days for the streetcar could be ahead, as MARTA moves forward with plans for a controversial, $230-million expansion from downtown to the BeltLine, and then on to Ponce City Market.

MARTA’s timeline calls for beginning construction on that expansion next year and welcoming the first passengers aboard in 2027.  

Hundreds of more apartments aimed at Georgia State University attendees and other downtown dwellers have recently delivered, are under construction, or are planned near streetcar lines now—meaning a fresh customer base that would probably appreciate a cheap means of getting to the BeltLine and PCM is there. Riding the system today costs $1.


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