The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) will be expanding its public transportation options in 2013 with the addition of four new streetcars. MARTA recently announced that Siemens Industry Inc. was awarded a $17.2 million contract to build the new streetcars.

The streetcars will not only be the first streetcars in Atlanta since 1949, they will also be part of Siemens introduction to the American streetcar market. The new cars will be built at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, Calif., while many of the components will be manufactured in nearby Alpharetta, Ga.

Although this will mark Siemens’ first foray into the national streetcar market, the company is a mainstay in the American light rail market. The new streetcars will be based on the Siemens S70 light rail vehicle platform. If you’ve ever used the light rail system in Houston, San Diego or Portland, then the Atlanta streetcars will look familiar. The S70 streetcar is essentially the same vehicle used in the light rail system but the track systems differ.

“Unlike light rail transit systems that mainly run on tracks separated from the roads, streetcars run on rails set into the road surface and therefore share the road with private motor vehicles. The streetcar offers an attractive alternative to traveling by car or bus because it is designed for a top speed of 35 mph (56 km/h), runs parallel with the road traffic and serves short local routes with frequent stops.” Source: Siemens

The streetcar system is designed specifically for inner-city areas. The Atlanta system will connect the city’s downtown area with nearby business districts, shopping centers, historic landmarks, universities and other points of interest in the city center.

MARTA is expected to take delivery of the first streetcar in September 2012 with plans to place the car in service in early 2013. The streetcars are part of the first phase of the new streetcar and light rail transit system planned for Atlanta.

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