I live in Atlanta, and teach downtown at Georgia State University. So I've been pretty excited about the new Atlanta streetcar system that they've been building for a while. I knew it was mainly for tourists and that it wasn't even pretending to be a solution to the city's tremendous traffic and transportation problems. But I am always excited about public transportation, find streetcars to be charming, and appreciate that the route goes right through the heart of Georgia State. So I was moderately excited about the addition of the streetcars to the downtown environment.
The route officially opened yesterday. (Evidently drivers still aren't sure how to interact with the streetcars--there were two accidents on the route's first day.) The unveiling was written up in the New York Times, and one quote in the paper's article comes close to souring me on the whole project. “To all of those who may still have a slight doubt of the significance of the Atlanta streetcar," said A.J. Robinson, the president of the Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, "I say to you, frankly, ‘We did not build it for you.’ We are building it because Atlanta is in a global competition for attracting future human capital. This beginning step of streetcar infrastructure is a critical tool in that competition.”
As I read this comment, the people who live in Atlanta are not important. Those who do matter are the hypothetical out-of-town Millenial "knowledge workers" who might consider living here if the city can meet their desire for quaint urban trappings and the businesses who might someday employ them. It is hard not to feel dismissed by Mr. Robinson's statements which hopefully do not reflect the priorities of the city.