Transportation And “That Vision Thing”

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

George H. W. Bush was at one point rated among the most popular presidents ever.  Just two years later he was defeated by a relatively unknown Governor of from a small state who was mired in scandal throughout his campaign.  Bush was criticized during his campaign for lacking in big picture efforts, and admitted he had problems with “that vision thing”.  A reasonable manager and task master, Bush failed to convince the American people that he had a compelling vision of where he wanted to lead the country (among other issues), and failed to win a second term.

Last Tuesday’s elections underscored Georgia’s current need for that vision thing.  Governor Perdue spent 8 years as a caretaker governor.  He openly expressed to those who questioned the lack of big initiatives that he believed he replaced a very “activist governor” and that the people of Georgia weren’t ready for another.  He certainly didn’t violate that philosophy.

Now two years into his successor’s term, Georgia’s overriding philosophy of government can best be described as “Jobs!”.  This is little more than a catchphrase too often used to enable legislation designed to benefit the selected few rather than to better the state as a whole.

The transportation sales tax referendums which failed in all but three regions of the state are generally criticized because they tried to put too many people together in regions that don’t have common goals.  A contrarian view is that the regions weren’t too large, but that they were too small to allow for that vision thing.

The three regions that passed the new taxes are contiguous, and stretch from Augusta to Macon to Columbus.  Had there been a better vision that encompassed the needs of the state, these same people could be building a fall line freeway over the next 10 years instead of improving a disjointed set of local roads.

Likewise, the Atlanta region was bitterly divided over the expansion of transit to serve an area which contains more than half of the state’s population.  One of the most popular proposals for transit – a commuter rail concept known as the Brain Train – was not included on the list.  Cheaper than the Beltline around Atlanta or the short MARTA rail expansion into the Emory area, the Brain Train would have connected the Atlanta University complex, Georgia Tech, Gwinnett College, and the University of Georgia by using commuter rail over existing rail track.  This path covered three regions, however, and was thus not a project eligible for consideration for the T-SPLOST regional lists.

Governor Deal made it very clear the day after the failed vote that the expansion of rail was off the table.  Again, this presents more vision problems.  After all, the City of Atlanta in partnership with state agencies are rapidly at work on redevelopment of “the gulch”, an area of rail beds in Downtown Atlanta that occupies the area between Underground Atlanta and Phillips Arena/CNN Center.

Plans are moving ahead to build a huge multi-modal terminal to support MARTA, bus service, and commuter rail, along with additional vertical construction for office towers to anchor more workers downtown.  With Governor Deal now attempting to appease his suburban Atlanta base, it remains to be seen why this project is needed if there is no coherent, long term plans for additional rail at the city’s urban core.  Yet the project has been a pet for interested developers for some time, so it plows ahead.  It will, we are told, create “Jobs!”.

Rail must be brought into the conversation when discussing Georgia’s traffic problems and future.  Freight is also a factor here.  With Savannah’s port nearing expansion, more goods will need to be moved through the state.  Trucks or trains are the options.  Without expanding rail capacity, more trucks will be on the roads.  Without alternate routes like a Fall Line Freeway, those trucks will end up in Atlanta.

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland will be visiting Kia’s manufacturing plant in West Point to highlight the need for rail expansion to grow Georgia’s manufacturing base on Thursday.  It’s not comprehensive, but it’s a piece of the vision thing.  Additional rail capacity expands options for commuter and passenger rail.  More importantly, it also removes freight from our roads by reducing truck traffic.

We need more pieces like this to get the big picture.  And we need leadership on this issue to make that happen.

It is time we view transportation holistically from the state level.  This is not about local control.  This is about how we move people and goods around the state in the most efficient manner possible.  If this problem were addressed reasonably and boldly, then we would need a lot less press releases from timid politicians proclaiming “Jobs!”.

And thus ends my column.  For an alternative on where Atlanta can move forward with rail, check out Sir Thomas Wheatley’s column from Creative Loafing on how in-town neighborhoods can fund the same transit project lists if separated from the suburbanites and their region of gridlock.

86 comments

  1. John Konop says:

    Very well said, I agree!

    …..We need more pieces like this to get the big picture. And we need leadership on this issue to make that happen.

    It is time we view transportation holistically from the state level. This is not about local control. This is about how we move people and goods around the state in the most efficient manner possible. If this problem were addressed reasonably and boldly, then we would need a lot less press releases from timid politicians proclaiming “Jobs!”………

  2. gcp says:

    I-285 in the sixties and seventies, MARTA in the seventies and eighties, “Freeing the Freeways” in the eighties and nineties, GRTA and the Toll Rd. Authority in the 2000s and we still have traffic problems. The problem with the “brain train” is how to get around once you reach a destination. And who is going to pay for this huge transport station in Atlanta? To reduce traffic counties need to partner with adjacent counties on projects, businesses need staggered work hours and yes folks need to live closer to their work places.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      The reason why we still have traffic problems, despite the implementation of MARTA, the then-massive Freeing-the-Freeways widening project, the opening of the Georgia 400 Toll Road extension and the creation of GRTA is because of the crushing population growth that continued until near the end of the last decade.

      When the bulk of the “Freeing-the-Freeways” widening project was completed back in the late 1980’s, the Atlanta Region only had a population of about 2.7 million.

      In the roughly 25 years since most of the “Freeing-the-Freeways” project was completed, the population of the Atlanta Region has grown by more than three million new residents to 5.8 million people.

      Freeing-the-Freeways and all of the transportation infrastructure projects are good projects with the best of intentions (particularly when properly managed), but there is no way that a road network which at the time had been modified just to better accommodate a then-regional population of just under or about 3 million could ever be able to reasonably accommodate a regional population of twice that amount.

      Freeing-the-Freeways was a project to help the Atlanta freeway system better handle the traffic produced by a regional population of under 3 million, not a regional population of 6 million.

      The biggest mistake of the Freeing-the-Freeways project in hindsight was that there was no viable transit alternative (preferably either to modify MARTA to expand throughout and beyond what is now the five-county urban core of the Greater Atlanta Region or in the form of regional commuter bus & rail service) developed in the event that crushing population growth and demand would eventually outstrip the ability of the then-newly widened freeway system to handle it, which obvious what has happened.

      The freeway system is basically attempting to handle (often very-poorly) more than twice the amount of traffic that it was intended or designed to handle.

  3. Rambler1414 says:

    “This path covered three regions, however, and was thus not a project eligible for consideration for the T-SPLOST regional lists.”

    Incorrect.
    There was nothing preventing each of the three regions from putting it on each of their project lists and dividing the cost proportionally.

    There were several projects like this that were considered. Passenger rail from Atlanta to Macon was another.

    • Charlie says:

      Considered, but no region would put a project on the list that depended on another region also passing their TSPLOST to fund. Thus, effectively, any project that crossed a regional boundary was scrubbed from the lists as they were presented for final consideration.

      • bgsmallz says:

        “no region would put a project on the list that depended on another region also passing their TSPLOST to fund”

        If only there were some entity that had the ability to see the big picture and plan projects that would cut across regions. Oh wait…that was the point of the article. There is one.

  4. Big Tuna says:

    “…and yes folks need to live closer to their work places.”

    I found this argument offered by TSPLOST opponents fascinating. On one hand, you had folks saying this was part of a grand social engineering scheme to force people to live close to transit. Then on the other hand, the same folks are trying to tell everyone they need to live close to their work. What is the difference?

    Same thing with the ridiculous concept of tax credits for driverless cars. How is that different than Obama trying to incentivize people into electric cars?

  5. Jackster says:

    @Big Tuna – I found it amazing that the Chamber was not pushing their members to embrace technologies, products, and methodologies which would raise the telecommuting participation.

    it’s quite easy for many businesses to accomplishments, but most can’t, because they aren’t interested in changing their culture. Isn’t that the role of the chamber?

    I can tell you right now it’s a part of my “Vision Thing”, and businesses who position themselves to grow.

    • Jackster says:

      Shakes fist at the empty white space where the Modify button should be.

      Seriously guys – Do you need some wordpress help ?

    • Happy Face says:

      Most, though not all, middle managers HATE the idea of telecommuting. Even when a companywide directive comes down to allow it, individual managers make it known that they don’t want their people to do it. A CEO might look at the 30,000 foot view and see it as a good idea but if the guys down at street level hate it, it doesn’t get done without extensive internal effort. The Chamber coming out in favor in telecommuting would in this analogy be the view from the space station. The guy on the street really REALLY isn’t going to care.

      • Charlie says:

        It’s also not like this is a new idea, or one we haven’t already tried. We’ve had commercials about carpooling and telecommuting, even paying Georgians to try it.

        This is a 2000’s idea. It was Sonny’s idea to play defense for his doing nothing. It wasn’t a viable answer 10 years ago, and it isn’t any more of one today.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          Telecommuting is a piece of the transportation improvement puzzle, but it is only a relatively very small piece of the transportation puzzle as only about 5% of the working population telecommutes on average with rates of anymore than 7% being either extremely rare or completely unheard of.

          The simple fact is that even with an emphasis on increasing telecommuting rates as a means of lessening traffic congestion, most jobs cannot be either mostly or even partially done through telecommuting and must be done in person.

          Our investments in our transportation infrastructure must reflect the reality that most jobs, even office jobs, must be and will continue to have to be done in person.

  6. Big Tuna says:

    Jackster, I will go out on a limb and say the folks who buy into telecommuting are doing it. Like Charlie said, it is an old idea and although it has merit, but if a business has a model that is successful and profitable, they are not going to change.

  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Charlie, I completely agree. Expanding both passenger rail and freight rail capacity, along with targeted road expansions, are critical pieces of this state’s transportation infrastructure network that had not anywhere been near even remotely adequately addressed during the recent T-SPLOST debacle.

    Commuter rail is something that is at least 20 years past being adequately addressed and implemented, despite the continued and increasingly obvious critical need for it that is reflected in our less than one-dimensional transportation infrastructure that consists primarily of a very-limited network of often-gridlocked congestion-battered roadways.

    Not only does our incomplete and wholly inadequate transit network not work for people, but our road network does not even work for cars.

    Getting around Metro Atlanta by way of either a bus, train or a car is not exactly an exercise in convenience these days.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        I wonder if Rogers ever considered opening up a 1-900 phone line to accept wagers on his re-election chances?

  8. wicker says:

    The problem: politicians with “vision” are Democrats and liberals. Republicans like Hoover, Coolidge, Eisenhower and (yes) Nixon had vision, but those guys would be called RINOs today. Modern Republicans are more concerned with trying to shrink government than using government to do anything useful. Talk to your average GOPer about the brain train, the Beltline or anything else, and their honest response would be that if it was a worthy project, the private sector would have come along and done it better and for a profit. Or that the private sector COULD do such a thing if only taxes, regulations, trial lawyers and unions were nonexistent.

    The GOP is great for riding this message into winning elections, because it allows voters the good feelings associated with rejecting government for constituencies that they don’t like. It becomes problematic when coalitions are necessary to solve real problems. And this transportation issue is a great example. There is no way to arrive at a regional transportation solution without working with Atlanta (or Atlanta-Fulton-DeKalb). Rather than face that reality, the whole “government is the problem, not the solution” and other conservative slogans becomes the fallback position.

    Well, there is a second problem. The “vision” of the Democrats and left is the wrong vision: social justice, social engineering, social this and that. Voters rightfully reject it. Which, of course, leaves us between a rock and a hard place when it comes to looking for real solutions.

  9. ryanhawk says:

    Ok, I’ll play along. Why would anyone choose to spend money on a “Brain Train” when there are already two perfectly good routes connecting Athens and the universities in Atlanta (78 to Emory, or 316/I85 to (Gwinnett, GSU, and the Trade School on North Avenue)? Improving these existing routes by adding capacity, and free up existing capacity by pricing for congestion, if you want to really make an impact…. The Brain Train is just another example of taxpayer subsidized real estate development gussied up as congestion relief.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Hundreds-of-thousands of people would choose to spend money to ride on the Brain Train because in an international metropolis of six million people a great deal of the population does not want to have to be totally and completely dependent on their automobiles to go everywhere, especially when it comes to commuting between home and work everyday over moderate to substantial distances of varying length within an extended region such as the roughly 30-county Atlanta Region whose influence and commuting patterns extend as far as over 100 miles away from the exact center of the urban core.

      • ryanhawk says:

        Ridership on similar projects around the country has been consistently overstated. Far fewer people than advertised actually want to ride, even when the cost is heavily subsidized. 95% of us actually like the convenience and freedom offered by our automobiles and are willing to pay for it.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          There’s no arguing that most of the population loves the convenience and freedom offered by automobiles, the only problem for Metro Atlanta is that much of that convenience and freedom has been severely curtailed during much of the day due to too many automobiles on the roads and not enough anywhere near enough road for them to drive on and not necessarily enough physical space or political will or desire to build more road for those too many vehicles to drive on.

          • ryanhawk says:

            And yet the very people who have had their freedom curtailed by congestion refuse to support congestion pricing and the vast majority will not eschew their cars even where transit is readily available and heavily subsidized. Perhaps it is time for development to increasingly move OTP where we still can put in place a rational transportation network.

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              That’s the thing, a lot of people who already live OTP don’t necessarily want any additional development there as one of the (many) reasons that many people voted down the T-SPLOST was because they thought that it was just a giveaway of public money to developers and roadbuilders to build more roads to serve more overdevelopment which would cause more traffic.

              Well, that is, many people don’t want anymore development OTP unless they can profit from it personally when they sell their land to developers, which I can’t blame them because if I had developers knocking down my door to give me a million-plus dollars for my land which I bought at comparately rockbottom prices years ago, I would probably take it.

              The point is many people OTP don’t want the kind of rational transportation network that you speak of for fear that it will produce more overdevelopment in the form of congestion-inducing auto-dependent sprawl which will only make traffic worse (see the angry public backlash to the erstwhile-Northern Arc/Outer Perimeter that preceded the even angrier public backlash to the T-SPLOST by about a decade).

              • ryanhawk says:

                I know more than I want to about the NIMBY/BANANA/CAVE people OTP. But I have seen the intensity and level of opposition changing dramatically now that we have 10% unemployment and a shrinking tax digest which threatens to impose real cuts (versus imaginary budget cuts) on local governments, and especially on local schools. They still oppose high density residential developments (ironically since it is the opposite of auto dependent sprawl), but I see them rolling out the red carpet for commercial and industrial developments. Of course the immediate neighbors still oppose it, but the general public is much more in favor of it.

                I would like to see our General Assembly take another look at another “Northern Arc” of some sort, additional connectivity that allows interstate travel and freight to completely bypass Atlanta, as well as regional airports to the north and south of Atlanta.

                • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                  The problem is that who in the General Assembly are you going to get to take another look at the Northern Arc since the Republicans who dominate the Legislature won control by campaigning against the Northern Arc a decade ago and much of their political base of power lies in two counties in Cherokee and Forsyth that actively and successfully worked to block the construction of the Northern Arc.

                  Another problem is that where would you build it?….Much of the once-proposed right-of-way of the Northern Arc is now filled with heavy high-end residential development filled with affluent outer-suburban conservative voters who play a very-large role in deciding elections by way of both the General Election and, especially, the GOP Primary and people who live near the routh of a proposed farther-out Northern Arc that would run above Lake Lanier and into the southern ranges of the Blue Ridge Mountains have let it be known that they don’t want any parts of a new road.

                  Just the rumor that T-SPLOST funds were going to help build a new freeway in a section of abandoned right-of-way of the Northern Arc that Gwinnett had kept free of development for that purpose was enough ammunition to, along with many other issues, help sink the T-SPLOST as many voters thought that project was a resurrection of the entire Northern Arc.

                  I agree of the need allow freight traffic to bypass Atlanta, but anything with the words “Northern Arc” or “Outer Perimeter” in it is dead-on-arrival politically as there is just no way around investing in our ridiculously and embarrassingly lacking transit infrastructure.

                  • ryanhawk says:

                    It’s certainly true that the state is now lead in no small part by people who campaigned against the northern arc. But a lot has changed since then and the people we are talking about are not known for their consistency. Did fear of a revived northern arc really play a large role in TSPLOSTS defeat?

                    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                      Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club wrote in an article on Maria Saporta’s website in October 2011 around the time that the TIA list was being put together about how the inclusion of the Sugarloaf Parkway extension, a road that is proposed to be built in the abandoned right-of-way of the cancelled Northern Arc through Gwinnett County, on the TIA project list had the potential, amongst with a litany of other issues, to derail the entire T-SPLOST because of how environmental activists and voters in the Northern outer suburbs, particularly in Cherokee County as it pertains to the 10-county Metro Atlanta region, would think that the project was a resurrection of the Northern Arc.

                      The inclusion of that Sugarloaf Parkway project made many people in the 10-county Metro Atlanta think that the T-SPLOST was a vehicle to fund the resurrection of the Northern Arc/Outer Perimeter.
                      http://saportareport.com/blog/2011/10/metro-atlanta-turning-winning-season-for-transit-into-a-losing-one/

        • George Dickel says:

          Yes, because when I look at 85 Northbound at Spaghetti Junction 5:30PM on a weeknight, the first word that pops into my head is “freedom”.

        • Self_Made says:

          Oh yeah…people just LOVE those lovely 2 hour stop and go concrete countryside tours that only cost them some fuel, time, and well-being each day.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      One of the existing routes that you speak of, GA Hwy 316, has the right-of-way remaining to add capacity in the form of at least one lane in each direction and a long-overdue modernization that includes separated-grades and interchanges at the busiest intersections.

      But the other two, Interstate 85 and US Hwy 78, largely do NOT have any right-of-way remaining to add capacity in the form of new additional travel lanes.

      The right-of-way I-85 is effectively completely built-out with heavy commercial and much industrial development very-closely lining both sides of a roadway that has varying widths of between 14-20 lanes.

      There is no place to expand I-85 other than upwards vertically by adding an elevated level of traffic above the existing one, a prospect that would be so expensive so as to be extremely controversial politically in light of the almost total lack of very much in-demand reliable, consistent and viable long-term transit options in an extremely heavily-congested and often gridlocked I-85 Northeast Corridor with the exception of the fledging GRTA Xpress and Gwinnett County Transit regional commuter buses whose continued funding in very much in question at this time.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          US 78/Stone Mountain Highway was recently reconstructed to eliminate the reversible lane system that was in place there for many years because of the deadly head-on collisions that would frequently occur in the reversible lanes and cause worse delays than that system was intended to try an mitigate.

          And the congestion pricing program that was recently installed on I-85 in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties in place of the existing HOV-2 lanes had such a wild, flawed and unpopular startup (a HOT lane startup that should have included at least a couple of new elevated reversible lanes added to the right-of-way) that state transportation officials are now strongly reconsidering their plans to put the same system in place all over Metro Atlanta.

          Though before the T-SPLOST debacle eliminated their expected sources of funding, the state did have plans to install a reversible toll lane system on Interstate 75 & 575 north of I-285 and on I-20 east of I-285, but congested pricing, especially on existing lanes only has the effect of pushing traffic out-of-those lanes to which adjustable tolls have been applied and either into lanes that have no tolls on them or off of the expressway completely if most or all of the lanes have adjustable tolls on them that increase with the amount of congestion of the road.

          The effects of congestion pricing on existing lanes or roads are usually to push commuters into multi-occupant carpools, onto express commuter buses or completely off the road and onto rail transit, which is what the Feds may likely do if Metro Atlanta Interstates are not expanded in the near future so that through traffic will be able to flow better through the metro area.

          • ryanhawk says:

            I’m not talking about the barrier free US 78 reversible lanes, but something like the I5 express lanes in Seattle. However you characterize congestion pricing, and however much the I85 hot lane implementation was bungled, one thing we know from projects around the world is that it works to relieve congestion.

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              The construction of the type of barrier-separated reversible lanes that you speak of would require them to be constructed so as to be elevated over the right-of-way of the existing roadways since there is not much, if any, remaining right-of-way available in Metro Atlanta to expand roadways horizontally to accommodate new lanes, particularly inside of I-285 where the prospect of new road expansion is a definite political no-no.

              Construction of those lanes may be doable on some stretches of highway outside of I-285 as GDOT has what are now completely-unfunded plans to add two partially-elevated reversible HOT lanes to the right-of-way of I-75 North outside of I-285 and four partially-elevated HOT lanes (two EB, two WB) to the right-of-way of the Top End of I-285 between I-75 and I-85.

              The thing is that the unfunded I-285 HOT Lane plans have a substantial transit element involved as part of the plans in the form of a rail transit line that parallels the HOT Lanes between Cumberland Mall and the Doraville MARTA Station.

              The state has also indicated in recent public meetings that it is backing away from the metrowide HOT Lane strategy in the aftermath of the angry public backlash to the I-85 HOT Lanes debacle….If there was ever a way to introduce what already had the potential to be an unpopular concept in HOT Lanes, the I-85 HOT Lane startup was most definitely NOT the way to do it.

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              And I agree that congestion pricing can work to relieve congestion, especially if paired with a dependable high-frequency transit option, an option that for all intents and purposes is virtually almost non-existent from the Atlanta Region at the moment.

              Though I get the feeling that the Feds will impose congestion pricing on all lanes of the freeway system to push what they consider to be excess local traffic off of the Interstates, if the state does not somehow get out in front of this thing and either expand the Interstate network and/or create a dependable high-frequency transit alternative in the near future.

          • Dave Bearse says:

            Another significant result is pushing commuters out of peak period commuting, i.e. they change their commute to begin just ahead of or after peak periods. Indeed at this point improvements reduce the duration of the congestion—they’ll do nothing to the amount of delay at the peaks.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      And while there is plenty of right-of-way available to add new capacity in the form of a new lane in each direction of the roadway of US Hwy 78 between from west of Athens to just east of Loganville, from Loganville west to Snellville there effectively is very-little, if any right-of-way available to add capacity through an outer suburban area that is in the process of being built-out with heavy commercial development along many stretches.

      From Snellville east to I-285 the right-of-way of US Hwy 78 is effectively built-out with a 6-8 lane surface roadway that runs through an area of very-heavy existing commercial development and an 8-lane freeway that runs through a heavily-wooded park/recreational area near Stone Mountain Park is closely-lined mostly with heavy existing residential development that is separated by the roadway with a very-popular thick buffer of mature trees through many stretches.

      We pretty much have reached a point in the Atlanta Region where it has become cost-prohibitive, both financially and politically, to further expand the road network on even a relatively-moderate scale without expanding a wholly inadequate, totally incomplete and long-ignored and completely neglected rail network.

      As we are experiencing firsthand right now, large metropolitan regions of 6 million or more people just don’t function very well logistically without a serious rail-anchored transit option, a transportation option that absolutely must be subsidized with user fees and private investment instead of being subsidized with extremely-limited and often non-existent taxpayer funds.

    • bgsmallz says:

      Who is subsidizing these “improvements” to the roads and purchase of the right of ways? It’s not the taxpayers?

      Oh…wait…it is the taxpayers.

      Saying train vs. roads is taxpayer subsidized vs. not taxpayer subsidized is 100% false.

      I love the idea of the ‘brain train’ because it would serve two purposes: a connection to Athens via rail and would probably be a commuter line for Gwinnett, as well.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        It principal purpose, and what would make or break its success, is commuters. Indeed ridership studies have indicated there would be little demand for non-peak period service or counterpeak flow service, i.e. perhaps only one or two morning Atlanta-Athens trains, one train in each direction midday, and one or two evening Athens-Atlanta trains. The “Brain Train” travel demand is secondary (other than in marketing for project support) but it important to the counterflow and non-peak period service, that are important to well-rounded service, and increased utilization of what would be a large taxpayer capital investment—bascially the construction or an additional track along the existing track between Athens and Atlanta costing hundreds of millions, $100M+ in stations, $100M+ in rolling stock, and tens of millions for a facility in Athens for servicing equipment and storage at night, and layover a layover near downtown Atlanta during the day (together probably approaching $100M).

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          The capital investments that you speak of in a potential rail transit line between Athens and Atlanta should not be made by the taxpayers, they should be made with private investment through the utilization of two public-private partnerships, one with the freight rail operator CSX to expand and possibly double the existing freight rail capacity and one with a third-party private investor that would provide a very-large chunk of the cost of construction and continuing operations and maintenance of two totally new tracks that would be for passenger rail service only so that we could run as many trains as we wanted without scheduling and logistical conflicts with the existing high-frequency freight rail service on the existing tracks.

          The rest of the cost of construction and continuing O&M could be financed against future fares and against the future revenues from Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops up along a transit line).

          Also, the western end point of passenger rail service for the ‘Brain Train’ should not be Downtown Atlanta, but should be Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, which should be the end point of all future commuter rail lines that originate from above and north of I-20 so as to establish a direct rail transit link between the more heavily and densely-populated part of the region above I-20 and the world’s busiest airport.

          Establishing a direct rail link between the Southern reaches of the greater Atlanta Region and the airport would not be a concern for the most part as three of the four possible future commuter rail lines that originate from below I-20 (Auburn, AL-Atlanta, Columbus-Atlanta and Fort Valley-Macon-Atlanta) would run right past the Atlanta Airport on the way into Downtown Atlanta and points beyond.

          • Dave Bearse says:

            You can more than double that $100M+ if you’re talking two new tracks throughout. A second new track was not included in any previous serious planning.

            Class I railroads have little interest in capacity without control, and in fact avoid capacity where they don’t need it. They run 20,000 mile networks spanning half a continent, and won’t be rearranging network traffic because, hey, there’s extra capacity on the 75 miles of track between Athens and Atlanta at night. A second new track, if any, would be of no signficant use to CSXT for the forseeable future.

            Most travel to the airport isn’t commuting. I like the idea of at least some service to HJIA, but add at least nother $200M for airport access. Initial commuter service need only an excellent connection to MARTA downtown, or at East Point in the case of south side service.

            A direct airport connection won’t add much. Airport ridership would be but a fraction of total ridership, plus the system would get on the order of half of the ridership anyway with a good MARTA connections.

            The lines you cite are intercity, not commuter service, though commuter service could operate on the portions nearest Atlanta. There’s never been much of a plan for Auburn-Atlanta service. There are significant issues with any Columbus-Atlanta service, as there is no signficant freight traffic to share the line with for half of the route.

            I liked the state’s 1999s plan for Atlanta-Macon-Albany service. The north two-thirds offer would an alternative to middle Georgia residents to I-75 congestion, and the south third serves one of the state’s largest cities not on an interstate, offering rail the opportunity to be more competitive travel-time wise.

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              But you’re only thinking about commuter rail mainly as a 3-5 times a day service that takes just a handful of automobiles off the roads and runs on existing freight rail tracks mainly to transport weekday commuters between home in outlying areas and work in Downtown Atlanta, like between Athens and Five Points in Atlanta.

              I’m thinking of commuter rail as a heavy rail service that basically performs the function of a commuter rail service almost 24 hours a day with very high-frequency trains with very low headways (as low as 2-3 minutes at some centrally-located stops) that are capable of relatively high speeds on their own tracks within the most developed and relatively close-in portions of the region.

              I’m not talking about a regional commuter rail service that would only be used to get to work in the city in the morning and back home to the suburbs in the evening.

              I’m talking about a regional and intercity rail service that would be used to get to and from the airport at any time of day or night; to museums, sporting events, shopping and to restaurants, to bars and parties on evenings and late nights, to college football games on Saturdays in the fall in Athens, on North Avenue, in Auburn and in Clemson, to Falcons’ home games on Sundays, to Hawks’ home games during the winter, to Braves’ home games during the summer, etc.

              I’m talking about a high-frequency, relatively high-speed passenger rail service that appeals not only to commuters, but also to bicycle riders, shoppers, airport users, tourists, high-level business executives, conventioneers, foreign diplomats, politicians, government bureaucrats, sports fans and especially in the case of the Brain Train, college-aged students who sometimes tend to be without personal vehicles but still have a tendency to still want to be very mobile at times.

              I’m talking about doubling the existing capacity of freight rail tracks on the busiest sections and tunneling those expanded freight rail tracks along with new higher-speed passenger rail capacity underground through the most heavily-developed areas so as to create new greenspace, linear parks and new commercial property on the surface in the existing right-of-way, the new commercial space being key to helping to finance the cost of operating the comprehensive passenger rail service through Tax Increment Financing.

              I’m talking about a much more wide-ranging and comprehensive vision for rail-anchored transit than just a few trains each workday that shuttle people to their jobs in the city in the morning and back to their homes in the suburbs in the evening.

      • ryanhawk says:

        True, but misleading and hardly relevant. The subsidies for rail far outweigh the subsidies for roads on a per passenger mile basis. Rail advocates like to point out that roads are subsidized but never provide any details regarding the level of subsidy. I would be happy to stop the cross subsidies and have each mode of transportation financed with user fees.

        • bgsmallz says:

          Interesting…I could have sworn you were/are the one throwing out broad generalizations about levels of subsidies?

          Anyway, I doubt you’d like to pay the user fees associated with repairing your local roads, so let’s just go ahead and all admit that a 100% user fee model for infrastructure is at best unrealistic and at worst just plain stoopid.

          Feel free to let the following links burst your bubble on what rail advocates ‘never’ do.

          http://www.theamericanconservative.com/cpt/uspirg-report-on-roads/
          http://uspirg.org/reports/usf/do-roads-pay-themselves

          “he latest Federal Highway Administration statistics show that user fees, including the gas tax, only cover 51 percent of the direct costs of highways. That’s not even looking at the vast indirect costs. And many rail – – not bus, but rail – – public transit systems are able to cover 50 percent and more of their expenses out of the fare box. Of course they’re all built with government money, mostly federal, more federal in the highways than transit. Highways get 80 percent federal; normally transit only gets 50 percent. So the picture that many conservatives have that it’s a matter of free enterprise versus subsidy couldn’t be more wrong.”

          • ryanhawk says:

            Are you aware that the 51% number PIRG cites is from a third party, and that the actual source (Pew’s Subsidyscope) does NOT include gas tax revenue which is diverted to pay for other things? If not, now that you are aware of it are you sure you want to cite PIRG as a reliable source on transportation subsidies, or continue to defend the subsidy “details” that rail advocates rely on.

            The truth is that highway subsidies are around a penny per passenger mile and transit subsidies are 60x higher.

            So no, I’m not ready to agree that a user fee model is unrealistic or stupid. On the contrary it’s exactly the model we need to move toward.

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              I wholehearted agree that distance-based user fees should be the primary means of funding road maintenance and construction as opposed to the state gas tax, which IMHO should be abolished on all in-state drivers at the very least, if possible.

              Funding the road network through user fees would allow the busiest roads to become self-funding according to how many vehicles use them and would also allow the State of Georgia to get out in front of transportation issues before the Feds impose their brand of congestion pricing and clear the Interstates of excess local traffic for the benefit of out-of-state and through traffic.

              If the Feds were to impose congestion pricing on all lanes of the freeway system then local motorists would likely be up a creek with no paddle as there is not much of a dependable transit alternative that they could use in lieu of the freeway system because of being restricted from the Interstates.

              Though there is GRTA Xpress and some CCT (Cobb) and GCT (Gwinnett) buses, but GRTA Xpress buses on the verge of running out of funding because their continued funding was based on the passage of the T-SPLOST which went down in flames.

            • bgsmallz says:

              Whatever. The maintenance of your local roads would probably bankrupt you and/or your neighbors if they weren’t being paid for by property taxes. We could go back to dirt roads in most of America, if that’s your huckleberry. Yay, America!

              Feel free to actually cite something that supports your case about PIRG details or point out details on why my citation is wrong rather than ranting at some point. You know…because that’s what you asked me to do.

              Anyway, as long as I’m responding to a comment that contains no substance, I might as well blow the baseless premise of said comment out of the water. Feel free to read below to see where Pew’s Subsidyscope takes into account the fact that not all gas tax goes to pay for roads and in fact does account for taxes diverted to other things.

              “B-U-N-T…in perfect cursive. Any more brain busters?”-Billy Madison

              http://subsidyscope.org/transportation/direct-expenditures/highways/funding/analysis/

              “Not all user fees collected are made available for highway purposes. Of the 18.4 cent per gallon federal tax on gasoline, 2.86 cents are allocated specifically for mass transit projects. Another 0.1 cent per gallon is used to pay for environmental cleanup resulting from leaking fuel storage tanks. From 1990 to 1997, the federal government also set aside a portion of taxes on gasoline, diesel and other fuels to reduce budget deficits.
              However, even if those funds were fully devoted to highways, total user fee revenue accounted for only 65 percent of all funds set aside for highways in 2007, according to Subsidyscope calculations. This is down from 84 percent in 1997 and 77 percent in 1967. Subsidyscope provides a complete data set of user fee revenues and allocations for download.”

              • ryanhawk says:

                Well that’s progress bgmallz. You’ve now discovered that gas taxes are diverted for other purposes and that the 51% subsidy number you cited earlier is BS.

                It’s a fairly simple exercise to calculate transportation subsidies using stats from:

                http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2010/

                Per passenger mile the 2010 subsidy works out to just over 2 cents per passenger mile for automobiles. I’ll let you do the math for rail and get back to me.

    • trainsplz says:

      because driving in traffic is obnoxious and dangerous but trains are safe and you get to read the news or get some work done on a laptop. it’s nice, you should try it.

  10. wicker says:

    It is funny how using taxpayer money to drive development is all of a sudden a “bad” thing. Look, the laissez faire approach isn’t working. Georgia is already a low tax, low regulation, low union state. Georgia is competing with other states for jobs, and these are states that are actually doing things to spur economic growth, not just sitting back and waiting for the supply side fairy to grant their wishes. If your mindset existed decades ago, Hartsfield never would have existed in the first place.

    If you were going to make the argument that the brain train is outdated because of distance learning and telecommuting, that is actually a valid, legitimate argument. (And even that obscures the fact that we missed out on doing this 20 years ago back when it was still a good idea, and we need to be on the lookout for the next good idea.) But making the case that state and local governments should not work to attract and grow jobs is ridiculous. It totally ignores the last 100 years (at least) in this country, and in capitalist countries worldwide.

    And finally … not everybody has cars. (College students tend not to, especially those attending school on financial aid.) And not everyone who has cars particularly likes driving. Lots of the academic/intellectual types who work for high end universities and do research would prefer to kick back, ride the train for an hour while looking at their chemistry lecture notes or going over their physics equations to battling traffic and speeders on 78 and 316. Those are the types that we want to get to relocate from MIT and NYU to come do their research in Georgia and generate jobs in Georgia.

    • ZazaPachulia says:

      Not that I’m the academic type, but back when I had the great fortune of living near and working near MARTA and used it every day, I really enjoyed having 90 minutes each workday to read (instead of flipping through Atlanta’s crappy talk radio stations while mired in traffic).

      If transit options really are viable options, people use them–even people in the suburbs. The D.C. metro area, with less than half a million more residents than the Atlanta metro area, is a prime example.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        I loved using MARTA when I worked downtown. It was clockwork. 11 minutes from my front door to the Chamblee Station platform. MARTA was reliable with 4 out of 5 days less than 3 minutes on the platform. (People complaining about long waits don’t know what they’re talking about, or are ignornant of the schedule. During four years I had perhaps only a half bad experiences with reliability.) 25 minutes downtown. 5 minute walk. I loved it when MARTA operated trains on ten minute headways. I recollect trains leaving Chamblee on the threes… 8:03, 8:13, 8:23, 8:33, 8:43. With a little discipline MARTA was about 10-15 minutes longer each way, more than compensated for by 25 minutes of reading.

    • ryanhawk says:

      Sure they would. And they want someone else to pay for it.

      “Lots of the academic/intellectual types who work for high end universities and do research would prefer to kick back, ride the train for an hour while looking at their chemistry lecture notes or going over their physics equations to battling traffic and speeders on 78 and 316.”

    • ryanhawk says:

      Well yes. Highways are very lightly subsidized and the shortfall is made up from general tax revenues of which I pay far more than my proportional share. Highway subsidies are 1 cent per passenger mile while rail subsidies are 60x higher. Figure out a way to cut this subsidy and you will find much less opposition to rail, since most of us are opposed to the subsidy and not to the rail.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        Well I wouldn’t say that highways are lightly subsidized, its just that the cost of them are “hidden” so-to-speak in the price of gas with the combined state and federal gas taxes that equal out to somewhere close to 50 cents per gallon when figured up and in property taxes when it comes to locally-maintained roads (non-state and federal routes).

        As for a good way to cut or eliminate the public subsidy to rail…

        Distance-based and zone-based user fees that utilize an increased fare structure that covers most, if not all, of the cost of initial construction and up to 80% of the costs of operations and maintenance (BART-Bay Area Rapid Transit in Northern California covers 78% of their cost of O&M with their increased fare structure that charges up to $11.05 for a one-way ride).

        The remaining 20% of O&M as well as up to half of the cost of initial construction and the cost of future expansions can be covered with Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from future development that pops up along a transit line) and public-private partnerships with the freight railroads (to expand freight rail capacity which is severely-constrained in many spots in North Georgia and build new passenger rail capacity) and multiple third-party investors (who will pay up to half of the cost of initial construction of new passenger rail capacity and all of the cost of continued operations & maintenance in most cases).

        Utilizing a robust combination of distance-based and zone-based user fees, Tax Increment Financing and public-private partnerships is not only a way to cut public subsidies to rail transit in the form of increased taxes, but is more than likely a way to completely ELIMINATE public subsidies to rail transit.

        • ryanhawk says:

          I’d like to see your math. Using table HF-10 and VM-1 I just calculated a per passenger mile subsidy for vehicle travel in 2010 of 2 cents per passenger mile. I think it is fair to characterize this as “lightly subsidized” relative to transit. Of course I still don’t approve of the subsidy, but it is a much smaller problem compared to rail subsidies.

          http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2010/

        • ryanhawk says:

          And I’m all for rail, I just don’t want to heavily subsidize it with income, sales, and property tax. Credibly commit to a rail user fee that ensures rail subsidies do not exceed road subsidies (or better yet end all transportation subsidies) and I will become and advocate rather than a critic.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            Using a robust combination of distance-based/zone-based user fees, public-private partnerships and Tax Increment Financing is absolutely the best way to subsidize passenger rail-anchored transit (bus and rail) because we can make up a lot more ground in a very short period of time than we could by attempting to use traditional means of subsidizing and financing transit like with almost exclusively through sales tax revenues and flat fare structures, which is important because we have got a heckuva lot of ground to make up with what is currently a very less than one-dimensional transportation network that is made up primarily of a disjointed network of overcapacity and undersized roads with few other travel options.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        And for those who say that up to 80% of the cost of operations and maintenance cannot be covered with user fees in the form of a distance-based/zone-based structure, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in Northern California already does it with farebox revenues covering 78% of operating costs with fares of up to $11.05 one-way:

        “BART’s $672.1 million operating budget is benefiting from ridership that is projected to increase by 3% in FY13 to an average weekday ridership of 376,000 for the year, which would be an all-time high. Fare-paying customers account for 78% of the operating funds in the FY13 budget.”
        http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2012/news20120614a.aspx

        • Charlie says:

          Remember when we had that talk? The one about you posting really long answers? And then going back under them with other long answers? The one about you having conversations with yourself?

          You’re doing it again. And we’re not going to have this conversation again.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            Sorry, Charlie, I’m just trying to explain myself by offering irrefutable proof of my boasts of fares covering 80% of O&M that people often think are pure fantasy.

            But I do remember that talk, and I do apologize for veering out of those lines.

    • trainsplz says:

      see, this is funny, because since I ride a bicycle / take marta and therefore don’t pay gasoline taxes, ryanhawk is actually paying to pave and construct the roads that I use and don’t pay for. I’m probably going to use ’em extra tomorrow, too, just for the satisfaction.

      honestly ryanhawk, I want to pay for the damn trains. I voted to pay half a cent for your crap and half a cent for my crap. I think that roads are very efficient for some things, very inefficient for other things. please continue to consider yourself an ayn rand superhuman, but be careful you don’t get the pages of your copy of atlas shrugged too stuck together.

  11. wicker says:

    ryanhawk:

    What you are doing is claiming that what you want personally – more highways, more development OTP – are the only projects that are worth doing, regardless of what other people need or want. You are perfectly fine to take my tax dollars and pay for what you want, but you oppose taking your tax dollars to pay for what I want. You can spin and justify it whatever way you wish, but that is what it amounts to. More highways OTP only benefits OTP people that are dead set on driving like yourself. It doesn’t do squat for folks ITP, it doesn’t do a thing for people OTP who don’t want to drive (or at least want a choice) and it particularly doesn’t do squat for people who don’t live in metro Atlanta. You want all those people to be forced to pay for your roads with user fees and with gas taxes whether they actually want to drive or not, and the significant portion of the state who won’t get any benefit at all from more highways but could actually use rail to attract jobs can just go take a hike as far as you are concerned. The fact that rail costs less than highways is absolutely meaningless if you live in a place where highways won’t attract more jobs (i.e. ITP, Athens, Savannah, Macon, Columbus) but rail might. I can get your opposition to paying for something that you won’t use, but the deal is that you want everyone else to be forced to pay for something that they won’t benefit from.

    Keep in mind: this isn’t laissez faire free market stuff we are talking about here. We aren’t talking about letting private companies come in here and build these highways. The state will still have to come in and build these roads, and it will still be paid for by taxes. You can call them user fees or whatever other Reagan/Bush-esque language to try to get around the fact that it is a tax by not calling it a tax, but it is still a tax. It is still big government. The only difference is that it being big government that you personally, philosophically like instead of dislike.

    If you were against taxes, spending, government, and social engineering, you wouldn’t be for highways. Your position would be “everything is fine just the way it is, so no more taxes – and again tolls are taxes – and no more spending.”

    • ryanhawk says:

      Sorry wicker but you obviously missed the point. I want people to pay for their own ride which is why I’ve repeatedly said I don’t support transportation subsidies and prefer user fees. We should not build infrastructure that users are not willing to pay for. Clear enough?

  12. Dave Bearse says:

    “Now two years into his successor’s term, Georgia’s overriding philosophy of government can best be described as “Jobs!”.

    A better description would be that the word currently most used by politicians is “Jobs”. There’s no coherent underlying philosphy, strategy or tactics, except for relying on people being too dumb to notice the there’s almost no connection between employment (other than in some instances for insiders), and the legislation to which the word “Jobs” is connected.

  13. Dave Bearse says:

    Concerning Savannah…”Without expanding rail capacity, more trucks will be on the roads.”

    More trucks on the road will happen whether or not there’s additional capacity. Currently only 20%-25% of Savannah freight is handled by rail. The fraction of rail traffic between the port and Atlanta is likely less than that.

    Intermodal rail to and from ports is inferior to trucking at distances less than 200 miles, and superior at distances of more than 400 miles. What I call freight service capacity is as much a concern for Savannah-Atlanta intermodal rail traffic as is the traditional volume capacity concept. Rail capacity available between Savannah and Atlanta isn’t severly constrained. It’s more that operations can’t deliver the premium rail service that the 250 mile Savannah-Atlanta freight market demands (faster and more reliable).

    Macon’s a bit of an NS bottleneck. Trip length the CSXT isseu because CSXT doesn’t have a direct Savannah-Atlanta route. Railroads are necessarily stingy on increasing capacity, as it’s in the interest of shareholders to limit the risk associated with long service life capital investment. That’s where 3P comes in. 3P can provide access to low cost capital (though that’s not nearly as important now as it better times), risk-sharing in one form or another, and/or railroads being compensated in some manner for the public benefits of they’re investment in capacity.

    Railroad shareholders get no direct benefit in terms of reduction in air pollution, highway congestion relief and safety, less wear and tear on bridges or pavements, fossil fuel and carbon output, from their investments, plus their property taxes increase. The crux of a good 3P freight rail projects is in the proper factoring in of public benefits into capital investment decisions.

    Returning to the Atlanta-Savannah freight market, it takes at least a couple hours driver time at the port, and say an hour at the other end picking up or dropping off. Picking up/dropping off plus 5-6 hours on the road, say 300-350 miles, make for delivery in one day with one driver. The best the railroad can do is next day service between Atlanta and Savannah, plus there’s a couple hours at the Atlanta intermodal terminal end, so really it closer to two day delivery.

    The railroad’s next day service zone extends to 500 miles however. At longer distances (>1 driver day) the railroad is thus much more competive with trucks time wise. Plus the railroad’s fuel economy advantage increases with distance too. (I stated rail was superior to truck at more than 400 miles, but even at 400 miles I don’t think rail carries more than half the traffic.)

  14. Dave Bearse says:

    As likely transit projects stand, the downtown multi-modal passenger terminal (MMPT) will be the building a bus terminal adjacent to MARTA rail, and the aesthetic improvement and development of the corridor between the Gold and Georgia Domes. Worthy aspirations, but not warranting MMPT as the leading descipter.

  15. Dave Bearse says:

    As likely transit projects stand, the downtown multi-modal passenger terminal (MMPT) will be the building a bus terminal adjacent to MARTA rail, and the aesthetic improvement and development of the corridor between the Gold and Georgia Domes. Worthy aspirations, but not warranting MMPT as the leading descripter.

  16. fuzzypeach777 says:

    “Cheaper than the Beltline around Atlanta or the short MARTA rail expansion into the Emory area, the Brain Train would have connected the Atlanta University complex, Georgia Tech, Gwinnett College, and the University of Georgia by using commuter rail over existing rail track. This path covered three regions, however, and was thus not a project eligible for consideration for the T-SPLOST regional lists.”

    Cheaper…? Really? The CSX Abbeville Subdivision between Atlanta and Abbeville South Carolina is one of the most congested routes in the southeast. Although departure of the GM Doraville plant reduced traffic to a degree, inadequate terminal facilities at Tilford Yard in Atlanta continue to constrict movement. Add in the tangle at Howell Junction and you have major issues impeding additional traffic.

    There simply isn’t anyplace for more traffic to go, barring double tracking of the entire subdivision. Those who advocate “commuter rail” simply do not have an adequate understanding of the amount of rail traffic moving through the greater Atlanta area. Simply adding more track between the points in question won’t address not having a place for the trains to go when they arrive in Atlanta itself. As you drive over the rail “gulch” in downtown, take note of the number of parked trains you see below you. They are waiting for space in the yards or an available outbound crew. How will commuter trains get around this?

    MARTA should have been built in the median of the area interstates. Instead, the cheapest way was taken by building next to the freight rail routes. A major mistake. Now the MARTA trains go through some of the most dangerous areas in the city. Who in their right mind would expose themselves to the likes of the Youtube “Crazy Woman On The Marta”?

    The point is frequently made that taxpayer money should be put into the freight railroads to address the forthcoming traffic increase from the port of Savannah. Ridiculous. If that traffic materializes, the railroads themselves will use their money to address the increase. Norfolk Southern recently completed a multi-million dollar third track addition from the Chattahoochee River down to Inman yard. This was done to address the heavy coal traffic going to power plant Scherer at Juliette Georgia. When(If) the economy improves, they plan to add to the Chattahoochee River bridge and a third track all the way to Austell Georgia. No taxpayer money will be involved.

    If taxpayer money is offered, you can be sure the railroads will take it. And if the condition of rail passenger traffic is overlaid, you can also be sure that a long list of requirements to accommodate it will appear, vastly increasing the cost. With taxpayers showing no patience for seeing more money taken away, the reader must ask if this is an effective way of spending scare funds? As I said above, if traffic appears at Savannah, competitive pressures will cause the railroads to make necessary improvements to accommodate it. No tax money should be required.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      fuzzypeach777,

      You make some really good points, but your best point is that NO TAX MONEY SHOULD BE REQUIRED as any improvements to the existing freight rail corridors to accommodate passenger rail service should be done with user fees and private money.

      I also agree that any future passenger rail service in existing freight rail right-of-ways should not use existing tracks that are extremely heavily-utilized by freight trains as any future passenger rail trains in those right-of-ways should have their own set of tracks so that there are no conflicts between passenger rail and freight rail trains.

      Though I disagree that Interstate and freeway medians are good places to run rail transit tracks for extended distances as rail transit lines that run in the medians of freeways sometimes tend to struggle with ridership and self-sustainability over the long run because of an inability to generate foot traffic and pedustrian-friendly development in an area of extreme low density of population and strictly automobile-oriented development that lessens long-term automobile overdependency.

      MARTA has many, many, many, many problems with its service and flaws in its business model, but having rail transit lines being built in the right-of-ways of existing freight rail lines that run through some of the most densely-populated and densely-developed areas in Metro Atlanta is not one of them.

      If anything, MARTA’s biggest problems are having a business model and service mission that seems to be setup primarily to be more of a transit service of last resort for people without cars than being a transit service that is setup more to get people out of their cars.

      • saltycracker says:

        “If anything, MARTA’s biggest problems are having a business model and service mission that seems to be setup primarily to be more of a transit service of last resort for people without cars than being a transit service that is setup more to get people out of their cars.”

        amen

  17. LarryS says:

    I respectfully share my harrowing stay in Atlanta. Six weeks, three locations. Trains rattling down tracks, blowing horns, vibrating the ground. There was no escape. It was even worse in Tucson, AZ. Current U.S. trains are a huge source of noise pollution and as such disturb sleep resulting in all manner of ailments. Either go toward some kind of ultra quiet train, or fuel-efficient trucks.

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