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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peach State Ramblings: Atlanta's Dilemma

Recently, there has been a lot of back and forth over whether Amtrak would do a back up move into the proposed Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal in downtown Atlanta (hint: the carrier is resistant to the idea). Within the last week, it has been revealed that Amtrak may move from its current location on Peachtree Street to a new site near Atlantic Station at the corner of 17th Street and Northside Drive--about a mile southwest of the current station. All parties--Amtrak, the state of Georgia, and Norfolk Southern--want a new station. 

There are many reasons why the three parties want Amtrak to leave Peachtree Station: 

  • The carrier wants to cut off/add cars on the Crescent but NS won't let them do it there
  • The current facility is overcrowded 
  • Parking is off-limits (passengers have to use a nearby Masonic temple because the parking lot has been condemned)
  • Peachtree Station was opened in 1918 by Southern Railway as a suburban station (it became the last station standing in 1972 when Terminal Station was demolished and Georgia Railroad moved its station to its freight yard)
  • NS trains have to stop whenever Amtrak is at the station since there are only two mainline tracks and a third track to nowhere
  • The costs of bringing the current facility up to ADA standards far outweigh the benefits
  • The elevator is small and slow while the stairs are steep

Atlantic Station vs the MMPT
For once, Amtrak has shown the willingness to take the initiative outside of the Northeast Corridor. Development will be around the new station as Atlantic Station demonstrates. Greyhound and possible mass transit could complement Amtrak. However, there is just one problem: While passengers could transfer to downtown trains at a proposed suburban station in Doraville, Amtrak passengers would not be able to connect with other routes, assuming that they will be operated by someone else.

Meanwhile in downtown Atlanta, the MMPT (120 acres vs over 12 for the new Amtrak station) would host SEHSR to Charlotte and Jacksonville, Gulf Coast routes, a future revival of the Nancy Hanks route to Savannah, proposed commuter rail routes, streetcars, MARTA, and bus service.

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