It’s About Time


It’s a meeting in late fall of Georgia Department of Transportation board members who deal with public-private partnerships, and from all appearances the world is about to change.

After years of stumbles, the state at last has a workable plan to make multibillion-dollar toll roads happen with the help of private investors. The packed room pulses with determination, excitement and the presence of executives with deep pockets.

Driving through Texas, Florida, Indiana, and even some parts of New England make you realize how far behind Georgia is.

But, and brace yourselves for this one, I still think we’re going to need to consider rail options too. There is only so much land onto which roads can be built. If MARTA got some inspirational leadership to layout a 20 year master plan to include more lines that went to places other than north-south and east-west, I suspect you’d get some buy in.


  1. griftdrift says:

    “If MARTA got some inspirational leadership to layout a 20 year master plan to include more lines that went to places other than north-south and east-west, I suspect you’d get some buy in.”

    Oh, if only we had some inspirational leadership! That would solve everything!

    Three reasons why this is pollyannish.

    1. Money. MARTA doesn’t have any and other than Millar’s plan ain’t nobody offering to give any.

    2. Buy in? That really gave me a good chuckle. When you don’t have Jill Chambers shutting off microphones, you have Earl Ehrhart on these very pages slapping his galluses and preachin the usual stump sermon about the heinous pit of incompetence that is called MARTA. Buy in? This ain’t Missouri, but please, show me any evidence that the Republican leadership would buy in to anything.

    3. And the most important. Property. Exactly where are you going to put these fanciful rail lines? Now, maybe 40 years ago, before the decades long development boom, there might have been a chance to extend MARTA in all sorts of directions. But the good people of Clayton, Gwinnett and Cobb said “nu uh”. And we are left with a lobotomized transit system that mostly sits in the corner and drools. Heck, when they talked about putting a rail line down the middle of Clairmont road, even the transit friendly liberals of Decatur threatened to march on city hall. There’s simply no place to put these lines without lawsuits, public outcry and political retribution.

    Bottom line is MARTA is integral to a regional transportation solution but it can no longer be the seed for the tree. It has to be just one of many branches and its going to take some creative problem solving to figure out where those other branches are going to go and exactly what kind of branches they will be.

    • iheartmaps says:

      “Exactly where are you going to put these fanciful rail lines?”

      check out the interactive mapping. property lines aren’t included for a number of reasons, but at least you get an idea of some possibilities that are out there.

  2. Technocrat says:

    “that went to places other than north-south and east-west, I suspect you’d get some buy in.”

    Besides the cardinal points what are they? vertical and subterranean or do you mean tying the spokes together so you do not have to loop thru Atlanta to change directions.

    Don’t worry $5 gasoline and rationing will improve Marta. The sooner the better before GDOT spends anymore money on roads.

  3. Harry says:

    From the AJC article:

    When Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Atlanta in September, he said he wasn’t aware of a project under way in the northeast metro area to launch optional HOV toll lanes, which may form the bedrock of the Atlanta toll system. The tolls will be charged by electronic sensors without tollbooth stops, and the price will rise and fall with congestion in order to keep traffic flowing. Funded with a $110 million federal grant, that first project on I-85 in Gwinnett County was part of the signature transportation initiative of the Bush administration. The idea is to get a foot in the door for a larger system, which could then draw private investors.

    LaHood didn’t much like it.

    “How do you tell taxpayers that their hard-earned money was used to build a highway, and oh, by the way, now we’re going to toll it?” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Finally, somebody in this administration has a clue.

  4. Progressive Dem says:

    “If MARTA got some inspirational leadership to layout a 20 year master plan to include more lines that went to places other than north-south and east-west, I suspect you’d get some buy in.”

    Well at least your coming around to transit, but what a shocking display of know-nothing-ness.

    • Progressive Dem says:

      Doug: What exactly is your point? Commuter rail exists in many locations in the US and and other countries. Those metropolitan areas have children and the people buy groceries. These things are not mutually exclusive of one another. Even right-wingers are smart enough not to commute to work with children and to buy their groceries close to home.

  5. gilmorce says:

    @ Doug Deal

    What does that mean? Sounds like you’re saying, commuters don’t want commuter rail (if I’m correct in assuming that your grocery bag and baby carrying person lives OTP). Or maybe you mean families in general don’t want commuter rail. Or may thats not what you are saying at all.

    Either way, commuter rail is need in Metro Atlanta. We are too sprawled out to rely only on the interstate and highway system. Also, a true commuter rail only runs during the rush hour morning traffic and the evening traffic, as its main purpose is to transport those who live in the suburbs to the urban core for employment.

    It works in favor of those suburbs that want to stay residential with only retail stores in their cities rather than office space. Prime examples are Sandy Springs/Dunwoody and Alpharetta. These once bedroom communities of Atlanta, now have zoning battles day in and out for how high or how large an office structure can be.

    With office and businesses comes growth. Once a city grows out too much, they must grow upwards. More upwards you grow, the more the once suburban landscape begin to look urban.

    Commuter Rail is an essential infracture piece of a metro our size and highways/toll roads will not meet the demand of our problems.

    • Doug Deal says:

      The reason rail does not work is because we do not live like they do in Europe. Sprawl does not make for better rail, people living 10 people per square foot does.

      Metro Atlanta has a ridiculously low population density for an urban area. It is 3,921/sq MI.

      NYC, on the other hand, has a density of 27,440/sq mi.
      San Francisco 17,323/sq mi
      Chicago 12,649/sq mi

      Atlanta is closer to the likes of Cincinnati with 4,273.5/sq mi.

      That means, there is 7 times the demand per equally spaced train station in NY, 4 in SF and 3 in Chicago. It is even worse for the metro area, as Atlanta then drops to ~600/sq mi.

      Perhaps if government forced us to live in tiny animal pens (condos) downtown this could work.

      • gilmorce says:

        There is plenty of demand for commuter rail in Atlanta. We witness it everday on the interstate and GA 400. The demand is only spread out along different economic centers. The five main centers are downtown, midtown, buckhead, perimeter, and cobb galleria (with Alpharetta soon becoming a sixth). However, people who live in Lawrenceville, Cumming, Peachtree City, Marietta, and even Atlanta who work in all six areas. Thus we have people driving miles and miles on end to get to and from their jobs. The demand is simply more spread out, which is why the stations on the commuter rail are more spread out.

        Furthermore, there are many other cities with commuter rails that have less density than the metro Atlanta area:

        Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex 634/sq. mi. with 6.3 M people
        Minneapolis/St. Paul 489.7/sq mi with 3.3 M people
        Seattle/Tacoma 543 /sq. mi. with 3.3 M people
        Even Nashville 226/sq. mi. 1.55 M people (they only have one linne completed so far, so not a full system)

        Besides, population density is a better indicator for light/heavy continuous rail rather than commuter rail. As I have alluded to already you can create more efficient stops with a more stable ridership when using commuter rail. Though these areas do not have the density when all their communities are lumped together, they do have large populated areas that are individually congested.

        Lastly, commuter rail is also job focused. To point is to get people from their homes to their jobs, and back again. Therefore, as I have already alluded to as well, commuter rail is needed when large amount of people do not live where there are large amounts of jobs. Metro Atlanta is a mixture of bedroom Communities and well established disconnected city centers. Roads will not help. You can stay in McMansion and still work next door to the “animal pens” as you call them.

        PS: at full build-out commuter rail can offer an economic boon to the Atlanta region and to the coastal regions of Georgia (particularly Savannah). I bet there would be swarms of people riding a train down to Savannah or the Geogia Isles for the weekend if they could.

        • B Balz says:

          Commuter rail would work intra-City (Savannah, Macon, Toccoa, Gainesville) MAYBE.

          Atlanta is not, nor will it ever be conducive to commuter rail simply because its’ workers are largely service oriented and have dynamic schedules. (We go all over and not to one location)

          There are efficiencies to be made, largely in feeder express bu routes to MARTA. Cheaper than rail up GA400, and easier to implement.

  6. Game Fan says:

    “Public/private partnerships” = Corporate fascism. (a little terminology I learned from the left) And “Republicans” still sit around scratching their heads about what they’re doing wrong. When IQ butts heads with corporate interests, the “leaders” don’t even have to think about which side they’re on.

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