Augusta, Georgia, sitting on the state line with South Carolina, is the state’s second largest city with about 200,000 more than 500,000 inhabitants. Like most southern cities, it’s not particularly dense, but its downtown has been growing in recent decades. Though the city has a public transportation service, it is not hugely popular. The board of the downtown development authority, however, thinks that a streetcar line connecting some of the center city’s most popular destinations would be well used and a development booster.
The Augusta Chronicle reports that the downtown group is currently studying a preferred corridor, running north-south along 13th street to serve the medical district in the southern part of the center city and possibly across the Savannah River to North Augusta in South Carolina. Two parallel east-west lines would run on Reynolds and Broad Streets to a planned new bus depot. At $2.5 million, the corridor would cost $25 million to build, though the authority’s cost estimates are very much estimates – little actual design has been completed thus far.
The city lacks a funding mechanism to build the project, though the downtown development authority could presumably use a transit district tax that would be imposed only on property in areas immediately surrounding the proposed lines. This taxation system is also proposed for Atlanta’s Peachtree Streetcar. I have my doubts about the viability of Augusta’s plan, unlike Atlanta’s, which would serve the South’s biggest downtown. The north Georgia city is too small, its downtown too filled with abandoned lots, and too little of a history of mass transit usage.
That said, city leaders are looking at Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee for inspiration, both of which have incredibly low ridership. At least they haven’t deceived themselves into thinking that this project is suddenly going to alter travel patterns for a significant portion of the workforce…
Image above: Augusta Streetcar plan, from Augusta Chronicle