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Atlanta’s Next Fleet of Trains Could Double as Streetcars

An Atlanta train (Photo by Josh Hallett via Flickr)

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is considering swapping out its entire fleet of train cars for versatile vehicles that could also operate as streetcars on city streets.

With Atlanta’s train cars now over 30 years old, Marta has put out two requests for information: one for new cars, and one for extending the life of the old ones until new ones are procured. According to the Saporta Report, the agency is considering out-of-the-box cars that can be powered by either a third rail or from an overhead wire.

MARTA’s train cars are currently “married pairs” — two cars permanently conjoined. With the new car RFI, the agency is also interested in hearing about options like triplets and open gangways, a concept New York City recently announced it would test. MARTA is also looking to improve accessibility, perhaps by color-coding or otherwise making priority seating more visible and easy to locate from any door. And the new cars will need to meet updated ADA standards, particularly for communicating with the hearing-impaired.

Though all of MARTA’s 216 cars received mid-life overhauls between 2005 and 2008, they’ll reach the end of their lifespans in 2021. The RFI for “life extension” is seeking a company to replace and check many vital elements of the cars — including HVAC, doors, and electricity — so they can last past 2021 until new cars are procured. Solicitations for the new car RFI are due by April 2017, and a contract will be awarded around November 2017. MARTA also expects to award a contract for the older car extension in 2017.