It’s Time To Talk About Transportation

February 3, 2014 10:00 am

by Charlie · 62 comments

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

Tuesday was the big day.  After months of planning, PolicyBEST was launched at a 10:30am press conference.  The organization’s goal – of which I am the Executive Director – is to facilitate substantive policy discussion in areas where Georgia has specific needs but governance has gotten sidetracked.

The issue showcased at the launch was transportation infrastructure, with a coalition of members from Georgia’s Tea Party Patriots, the Georgia Transportation Alliance, and the Sierra Club.  Formerly opponents on the last major transportation plan, these groups along with PolicyBEST have found common ground on where to start, along with an agreement to have an honest and open dialogue on how to move forward.

None of us expected the dialogue to come easy.  The fact of the matter is, after the trouble of transportation referendums in much of the state two years ago, few elected officials have been eager to engage the topic.  That’s understandable.  It’s easy to view the public votes as “the will of the people” and move on to other topics.  This also is an election year.  No need to bring up that recent unpleasantness until after campaigns are done.  Then, perhaps, the waters could be tested again.

The waters managed to come before the press conference was over – in the form of snow.  24 hours later, Atlanta traffic was the talk of the State and much of the nation.  A mass exodus of over one million people from the City of Atlanta and surrounding areas managed to put the region into gridlock within an hour. 

The next 24 hours will be remembered in Atlanta for generations to come.  2014 will join 1993 and 1982 as “where were you then?” times for epic weather events.  This one, at least for now, may have a bit more of an edge to it.  The snow is melting, but some anger lingers.  Having thousands stranded in freezing temperatures overnight – many separated from their children who were still in schools or even on busses – will do that.

And suddenly, people want to talk about transportation again.

It would be cheap and easy to trumpet the events of Tuesday and Wednesday to underscore the need for the fixes that PolicyBEST has proposed.  They are modest and relatively simple to implement.  They would get funds immediately shifted to transportation infrastructure, as well as empower local jurisdictions to augment State efforts with maximum flexibility in planning and funding needed and desired projects.  It would be a start.

But just I have advised in the past that voters should not make decisions when they are angry, policy decisions should not be made in the midst or immediate aftermath of a crisis.  “Never let a crisis go to waste” is not a mantra for real, substantive, long term fixes.  Atlanta and Georgia’s transportation infrastructure issues are complex, and involve many issues that extend beyond taxes and project lists.

Part of the problem of past initiatives is that solutions were oversimplified and benefits overstated to a public that understands the problems are real, complicated, and expensive to truly solve.  As such, any attempt to gain trust and acceptance with the public cannot be seen as a quick fix, reactionary solution.

As such, we’re happy to have the discussion, but remain modest in our goals.  Our transportation proposals are not a quick fix.  They are but the start of a much needed look at the long term needs of the state with respect to its investment in transportation and how it will be funded.

Ideas such as allowing local governments maximum flexibility in both amount of local taxes (including the possibility of levying taxes in fractional percentages), choosing what counties if any they wish to partner with on initiatives instead of assigning them into regions, ensuring that all user fees collected as a tax on motor fuels go to transportation, and streamlining transportation agencies and their functions won’t keep what happened Tuesday from happening again.  These items would, however, keep the problems inherent in our system from getting even worse.

What hopefully will be the lasting goal of the groups who stood together as the snow began to fall will be a commitment to look beyond these initial proposals and offer solutions for the long term.  Solutions that will meet the needs of Georgians long after the ice has melted.

Thus, while our initial suggestions are modest on the surface, our long term goals remain ambitious.  As such, we’re glad to have this discussion.

Thomas Adams (@GeorgiaCRE) February 3, 2014 at 10:28 am

It’s Time To Talk About Transportation – This week’s Courier Herald Column: Tuesday was the big day.  A… http://t.co/Bg3gy8gFCy

Thomas Adams (@GeorgiaCRE) February 3, 2014 at 10:28 am

It’s Time To Talk About Transportation – This week’s Courier Herald Column: Tuesday was the big day.  A… http://t.co/Bg3gy8gFCy

RichardWest February 3, 2014 at 10:40 am

Situations like last week should not require much management by local and state authorities. The problem with last week was not so much lack of action by the Governor, mayors, or schools. We also can’t push the blame on Georgians overreacting to snow.

Our interstates turned into a parking lot because the Atlanta commute has been broken for quite some time. This was just the same commute we have every day, except this time it was slower.

If we want to prevent this situation in the future, no amount of effort by a task force or deployment of salt trucks will do it. We need to fix our commute. We need a rail system that Georgians are actually willing to ride to work. This suggestion would cost a great deal of funding. But so did last week’s debacle. And so does spending an average 43 hours a year driving to and from work in Atlanta. Yes, we’ll probably have to raise taxes somehow to pay for it. But your kids will never get stuck on the train due to 2 inches of snow at midnight.

Chris Huttman February 3, 2014 at 10:48 am

No solution or response should be tailored to just one specific incident. But consider that nearly 80,000 people, according to the census, live in Cobb and work in Fulton or DeKalb. Even if you could just get 5% of them onto a train that would amount to a reduction of 30 cars/minute during peak traffic hours at major points on I-75, and it would be fewer cars during a giant snowstorm but also during a regular commute home, or when the Braves were playing, etc etc etc.

John Konop February 3, 2014 at 11:06 am

Chris,

I actually got a degree I never used from the University of Cincinnati planning school. A key point I learned as you increase efficiency, you increase growth….if you do it right the growth will eventually outstrip your solution. This debate goes in circles because we argue about end solutions for transportation…. when it is more about temporary solutions, that eventually need upgrading….This changes the debate as well as how you implement solutions….

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 3, 2014 at 5:17 pm

RichardWest, February 3, 2014 at 10:40 am-

Excellent points.

Though, we don’t necessarily absolutely have to raise taxes on a large scale (like through a sales tax referendum or what not) to come up with the tens-of-billions of dollars that it will take to improve, upgrade and expand our severely-stunted passenger rail transit network.

We can fund the long-overdue upgrade and expansion of our passenger rail transit network through such non-sales tax increase referendum methods such as:

…Revenues from user fees in the form of inflation-indexed distance-based fares of about roughly $0.20 per-mile in 2014 dollars that aim to cover up to 80% of the costs of operations and maintenance;

…Revenues from real estate transactions like the for-profit out-leasing of real estate at and around train stations and along transit lines (…like MARTA currently does around its Lindbergh Station, but on a much-larger and more-expansive scale where the stations themselves are revenue-generating and ridership-generating high-density mixed-use developments);

…Revenues from Tax Increment Financing (…which is a portion of property tax revenues from new development that pops along transit lines);

…Privatization of the transit network through the for-profit termed out-leasing of high-capacity passenger rail transit-anchored multimodal corridors to private interests using the transit corridors’ profit-generating high-profile real estate assets as the lure for private investment capital (…in exchange for getting to keep all of the revenues from fares and the revenues from the high-density mixed-use real estate development at and around stations and along transit lines, the controlling private interests would be responsible for all real estate acquisition, design, construction, operational and maintenance costs of the transit infrastructure they control during the life of the lease of said transit infrastructure from the public).

John Konop February 3, 2014 at 10:42 am

We also must define the goal. Increasing capacity for transportation of goods, services, people…is a major driving force behind economic development ie jobs…..As you fix transportation issues it drives growth which eventually causes gridlock, and or more investment to continue growth which lessen gridlock…. Charlie is right to many on both sides want simple answers to a complicated problem with ongoing moving parts…..The silver bullet sales pitch should be replaced with a realistic plan, understanding that no 100% solution is available. And like our countries rich history this issue will need future modification if we keep growing…we could solve traffic issues by having people move away….that would be economic suicide for the area….We need growth, but we need a plan to foster and maintain it….

Chris Huttman February 3, 2014 at 10:44 am

I applaud any effort, specifically ones that aim to plug the smaller holes and restore trust in government. However, I think the bigger problem with the T-SPLOST was that it lacked a grand vision, it was plugging some small to medium sized holes and how many of those holes were picked (and how some were omitted like an east-bound MARTA expansion) spoke to the lack of trust.

Among the 20 largest MSAs, Atlanta is the only one that either lacks an expansive transit system (like New York, Boston) or hasn’t made major investments in transit in the last 10 years (like Dallas, Houston). And by transit, I don’t specifically mean rail either, we’re just talking about for the most part no investment, and when you look at Clayton eliminating its bus system, on a net we may have had a divestment.

Either we have figured something out that no other large metropolitan area in the United States and quite frankly the world has, or we are getting left behind by everyone else. I was encouraged by how many people on Facebook were sharing similar thoughts after last week’s storm – knowing that transit alone wouldn’t have solved the problem – but it is the only solution that actually has the potential to take cars off the road.

John Konop February 3, 2014 at 10:59 am

We need a macro plan create more capacity and spread out traffic.

1) We should have a northern suburban airport for business to business movement of commercial goods

2) We need a highway loop like what was done in DFW and Houston reaching suburbs

3) We need a rail system like DFW that has a reach and connects the metro Atlanta and key transportation spots through the state

Above would be just start……

Jackster February 3, 2014 at 11:36 am

I could have sworn one of the major reasons we can’t have an expansive transit system was because we’re not dense enough to get the usage and ridership.

mpierce February 3, 2014 at 4:47 pm

It is:
2010 Pop Density
NYC – 31251
Boston – 7980
Houston – 4110
Dallas – 3909
Atlanta – 2173

Chris Huttman February 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I don’t believe population-weighted density in and of itself means much for determining regionwide transportation needs. Charlotte scores lower than Atlanta, and they’ve invested a lot in transportation there.

Salinas, California (population 415k) scores about 3x us on the population-weighted density scale but they don’t seem to have much need for heavy or light rail. Hint: Salinas is bounded by an ocean, which limits the area that people can live in.

We have a giant metro area – our population density according to this metric is more in line with metro areas with fewer than 250,000 people. Yet, lots of people are traveling long distances for work. Here are the 2006-2010 estimates for how many people live in X county but go to Fulton for work (not an exact proxy for Atlanta but we’ll go with it in 000s)
311 – Fulton
118 – DeKalb
091 – Cobb
067 – Gwinnett
040 – Clayton
023 – Forsyth
021 – Cherokee

So clearly if it makes sense for DeKalb (existing MARTA) you’re close with Cobb and Gwinnett. Daily GRTA ridership for the express buses is around 10,000, so surely that number and more would board transit. Looking for some links to any decent studies of true cost of hard fixed rail when you factor in highway lanes that don’t have to be built or maintained.

mpierce February 3, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Charlotte has 1 line of light rail w/ 15 stations
vs
Atlanta 4 lines of heavy rail w/ 38 stations

Salinas? Really? You need both population & density.

Daily GRTA ridership for the express buses is around 10,000, so surely that number and more would board transit.

Those 10000 riders are spread out over 33 routes in 12 counties. It would take an awful lot of rail lines to reach them and would be prohibitively expensive.

Chris Huttman February 3, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Well let’s just consider MARTA’s own numbers for expanding rail east along the I-20 corridor. In 2011 they said $522m is the 20 year cost including maintenance. Obviously an estimate but we’ve got to start somewhere. So the annual cost is 26 million. Even if we conservatively estimate that the public cost of a saved driving mile is $0.10, at an average daily commute round trip of 30 miles over 250 days per year, we’re talking about $750 savings/year per rider. That means we’d need 34,800 daily boardings to break even as a state if we were just giving away the trips for free. But if everyone were also paying $4.50/day to ride, each annual rider then becomes worth $1,890/year. At that point you only need 13,800 boardings for it to pay for itself. I believe this would be 3 extra stations – right now we average about 3,500 daily riders per station – so we’re close to paying for it, as far as I know stations further out account for more commuter riders than in town stations.

Improve the MARTA product (perception, frequency) and you’ve got a cheap way to increase the daily boardings even more.

mpierce February 3, 2014 at 10:40 pm

The lowest cost I-20 corridor extension was 12 miles (not 30) from Indian Creek Station to Stonecrest Mall at $2.04B (not $522M).

Including maintenance“?
How much maintenance should there be while it’s still under construction? What are expected annual O&M costs past completion

Where does your $0.10 per mile savings come from?

Chris Huttman February 4, 2014 at 12:34 am

That is a more expansive plan then the one I was reading about earlier which I believe only covered expansion for the first 2 or 3 stations instead of the remaining 3 heavy rail stations and BRT. The O&M is $18m/annually – I don’t know if that’s net of expected revenue.

For 30 miles I meant the average person riding from out I-20 into downtown for work and back, not 30 miles of new track. Apparently the estimate is around 13 miles/new rider, a lot of these people are currently just waiting for the bus, I guess.

Got the cost per mile from this http://commutesolutions.org/external/calc.html although they say 39 cents, I was being conservative.

Now I guess a true comparison would be to something like the 75 toll lane, which I think is a worthy project. Its estimated cost is about $800m to the state and it will probably generate about $15m in annual toll revenue if it has similar usage to the 85 toll lanes. However, by design if it increases capacity it’s somewhat of a failure as the existing lanes would end up just as clogged as they are now.

I guess the 400 corridor is a good one to look at as the drivers on 400 are mostly going the same places as the MARTA train, which is rare. Know if anyone has done that study?

mpierce February 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

The estimate is 6400 new daily riders. That’s a cost of $318750 + $2812.50 annually per rider.

mpierce February 4, 2014 at 11:25 am

1)I’m not buying the commutesolution numbers.
2)Even if I did accept those numbers, rail would have similar added costs so it’s not really a saving.

John Konop February 3, 2014 at 9:53 pm

M,

You are missing increase capacity also drives growth…..look at the history of Atlanta….had they not built the airport here instead of Birmingham…what would Atlanta look like….the airport by using your thought process would of never been built….Was that a mistake?

mpierce February 3, 2014 at 11:38 pm

I’m not missing that at all. Do you think the Hartsfield-Jackson of today has any resemblance to Candler Field in the 20′s? Maybe it’s had a few changes over the years. This isn’t Field of Dreams. You need reasonable projections of costs, revenues, and growth. Then build accordingly.

John Konop February 4, 2014 at 6:57 am

I agree but it was built for growth not current needs at the time…..

mpierce February 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

How’s that? The layout has changed including the terminal location, the runway orientation, etc.

John Konop February 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Read the history it is constantly building and expanding ie investing…Has had a major impact on our economy……

Result:

…….The airport today employs about 55,300 airline, ground transportation, concessionaire, security, federal government, City of Atlanta and Airport tenant employees and is the largest employment center in the U.S. state of Georgia. With a payroll of $2.4 billion, the airport has a direct and indirect economic impact of $3.2 billion on the local and regional economy and a total annual, regional economic impact of more than $19.8 billion.[33]……

……In 1999, Hartsfield–Jackson’s leadership established the Development Program: “Focus On the Future” involving multiple construction projects with the intention of preparing the airport to handle a projected demand of 121 million passengers in 2015. The program was originally budgeted at $5.4 billion over a ten-year period, but the total is now revised to be at over $9 billion.[34]…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartsfield%E2%80%93Jackson_Atlanta_International_Airport

mpierce February 4, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Here is some more history. The airport existed long before 1999. From your wiki link:
“That year work began on a new terminal; on May 3, 1961, the new $21 million terminal opened. It was the largest in the country and could handle over six million travelers a year; the first year nine and half million people passed through.”

John Konop February 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

M,

You think if we stayed under capacity the airport would of grown this fast? HUH? If you were in charge you never would of done future planning like what was done in 1999? That is your point?

mpierce February 4, 2014 at 3:34 pm

My point is that the airport has focused more on building to accommodate needs and projected growth than on increasing capacity to create growth.

John Konop February 4, 2014 at 3:37 pm

HUH?

Ghost of William F. Buckley February 4, 2014 at 4:49 pm

If I can pop in here to amplify good points by both John Konop and mpierce.

Birmingham or Atlanta had the choice to host an international airport, at the same time, but Birmingham declined and Atlanta is what it is, largely due to Har-Jack, according to commercial real estate types.

Heavy or the more do-able lite rail is not the same as an airport. Nodes MAY develop along the line, but there is no freight, no supply line commercial activity that builds up an area.

We are in a miasma of Balkanization, NIMBY-ism, and non-Atlanta power interests that could care less about sending more dough to inefficient large County governments – And who can blame them?

Charlie, you are taking a bite of a big biscuit, best luck moving forward.

Consensus is important, we need to quit thinking in terms of ‘County/ City’ and more like the Atlanta Region. Specifically, what the Region can contribute back toward the rest of the State, over the long haul, will go a long way toward fulfilling our immediate objectives.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 5, 2014 at 5:58 am

Ghost of William F. Buckley, February 4, 2014 at 4:49 pm-

Those are some excellent points that bring up another point…

…That, if so desired, the Atlanta region (and the State of Georgia) could probably use the increased value that a facility like Hartsfield-Jackson has brought to Atlanta’s real estate market as powerful leverage to easily attract substantial amounts of transportation funding from private investors on the international market.

…Substantial amounts of transportation funding as in tens-of-billions of dollars in transportation funding for both roads and transit…much more than any politically contentious full or fractional T-SPLOST and adjustment of the state motor fuels tax could ever provide alone on their best days.

When inflation-indexed distance-based user fees are added to a busy superhighway, that superhighway by itself instantly becomes a very-valuable piece of real estate.

When inflation-indexed distance-based user fees and prime real estate assets are added to a high-capacity transit line in a fast-growing large major metro region that is home to the world’s busiest international airport, that high-capacity transit line instantly becomes a very highly-desired piece of real estate that is capable of attracting very-high amounts of private investment capital from international markets.

The Atlanta region (and the State of Georgia) is sitting on a veritable gold mine of transportation funding and it doesn’t even know it.

saltycracker February 3, 2014 at 11:08 am

Serving the metro Atlanta sprawl may be assisted only somewhat by costly rail for those on the few lines we can add to in the next 20-30 years. We can’t even agree to raise fuel tax or local sales taxes with the ideas out there.

One consideration should be a portion of the transportation funding be directed to programs to encourage businesses to locate in suburban locations currently zoned for them . Encouraging businesses located near employees might be cheaper than building a rail from them.

With that option the county must improve their roads.

gcp February 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

Agree. More roads and more trains only encourage folks to live far from workplaces. Everything is a temporary solution until this proximity issue is addressed.

DavidTC February 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm

But the people who work in Atlanta can’t possibly *live* in Atlanta. If they did, they’d probably have to live near *black people*!

Much better to ship all the white people into the city in the morning, while at the same time shipping all the black people out to work retail in the suburbs. Then flip them around in the afternoon.

gcp February 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm

It’s about taxpayer money, not race. You got government and nongovernment entities that would love to waste billions in taxpayer money to “solve” the traffic problem. They tried but were unsuccessful with T-SPLOST.

Dave Bearse February 4, 2014 at 9:34 am

That’s why a broad new sales tax for roads, instead of revenue tied much more closely to use, should be dead on arrival. It’s a subsidy for long commutes and sprawl paid by general economy and those with short commutes or that take transit.

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 4, 2014 at 10:33 am

Excellent points.

2g Strategies (@2gstrategies) February 3, 2014 at 11:37 am

From @peachpundit It’s Time To Talk About Transportation – This week’s Courier Herald Column: Tuesday wa… http://t.co/INXVdUsL0g

RichardWest February 3, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Decentralization created this problem in the first place. Encouraging business, residency, and ultimately transportation investment to be pushed to the suburbs will bring us right back to where we started. It’s true growth will only increase the need for more transportation investment, but that’s hardly a reason to forgo it.

Rail lines that follow I-75, I-85, and I-20 for 30 or so miles out of the city would allow a huge number of commuters to get off the road. This sprawl was built around our interstates, so it would make sense to essentially upgrade these routes.

Chris Huttman February 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Well put.

John Konop February 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Richard,

I do not disagree with rail….but decentralize plan creates capacity…..which creates growth…..

Dave Bearse February 4, 2014 at 9:38 am

There’s merit in lines being located away from interstates. Lines along interstates promote additional congestion on an inadequate arterial road system feeding the interstates that would also have to feed transit.

DRightOne February 4, 2014 at 9:19 pm

But, even so, rail would have a net effect of reducing cars from the interstate. I’ve taken MARTA at the Doraville station and the roads to the station are two lane. These roads aren’t heavily congested due to the fairly frequent train runs.

Charlie Harper (@IcarusPundit) February 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm

It’s Time To Talk About Transportation — Peach Pundit http://t.co/AypX1DeXEU #gapol #gagop #gadems #tcot #p2

@StephenFleming February 3, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Atlanta transportation: “Policy decisions should not be made in the midst or immediate aftermath of a crisis.” http://t.co/PRvfaeuceW

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 3, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Good column, Charlie, and congratulations on taking action on issues like transportation that not too many others were going to take.

It’s unfortunate that it had to take an apocalyptic type of traffic event where the loss of life and limb was threatened and the region was completely embarrassed to get the clear and undivided attention of both the public and the powers-that-be in government, but then so be it.

bkeahl February 3, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Even if we had a more robust mass transit system, it doesn’t go door-to-door, so you’d just have had an overloaded mass-transit system that would have had people waiting for long periods, because of the rush, to get on the train. The early riders would get off the train (or bus) and make it to their car in time to get home (as the early driving escapees did Tuesday). Those coming out later would have been trapped on the icy surface streets. For the most part, the wreckage would have just not been as significant on the interstates.

Also, the “time wasted driving” argument is misleading. Try jumping on a MARTA bus and see how fast you can complete a 15 mile route vs. in your car. Sure, the train is fast, but not if it has to start and stop regularly. To achieve high route speeds requires fewer stops, meaning the rider has a greater distance to travel once getting off the train – either by the previously mentioned bus or by car. Yeah, you can read or listen to audio while riding, but how many people are willing to do that if the result is a significantly longer travel times and/or they need to switch buses and/or drive their car for part of the trip anyway?

Throw in the other issues, such as cars left a stations and the security/crime at these locations, the need for associated law enforcement/security, and traffic congestion (delays) around the bus or train stations and mass transit in a low population density area like Atlanta becomes far less appealing.

Higher population density makes these systems more appealing, but MARTA has demonstrated that mass transit is not anywhere near break-even here.

Chris Huttman February 3, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Where does mass transit break even?

Harry February 4, 2014 at 8:41 am

Never.

bsjy February 4, 2014 at 9:06 am

Never, since we made it a public good. One thing that has been proven definitively over the past 150 years is that centralized decision-making always misallocates capital. The reason to support privitization is that a “decentralized” (really, a dispersed) system of estimation-building-maintenance done by private market participants makes smaller mistakes than a centralized system. Government operatives are not more stupid than private operatives; they just play with bigger budgets so their mistakes are that much larger. Private property is ultimately the least bad way to allocate capital efficiently, for it gives individuals freedom to make their own decisions and leaves them to handle the consequences of their decisions.

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 4, 2014 at 10:31 am

bsjy February 4, 2014 at 9:06 am-

Excellent points.

RichardWest February 4, 2014 at 11:27 am

After what happened last week, it’s clear that a decentralized response won’t do the trick.

Rambler14 February 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Where do highways break even?

Answer: Never.

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 5, 2014 at 4:04 am

But highways and, particularly, mass transit would break even if we funded them the correct way (with private investment backed with inflation-indexed distance-based user fees for Interstates and expressways, and with private investment backed with inflation-indexed distance-based user fees and real estate revenues for mass transit) instead of attempting (and increasingly failing) to fund highways and mass transit with increasingly inadequate sales tax revenues in a region of the country that is increasingly highly-averse to the concept of both tax increases and the expansion of government.

Not only should highways and mass transit be paying for themselves, but highways and mass transit both absolutely need to pay for themselves so that they can both adequately and efficiently serve the public need.

That’s because multimodal transportation infrastructure is not merely optional, but is an absolute necessity, particularly in large major metro regions of 6 million or more people like Atlanta.

saltycracker February 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm

The jobs growth for the metro area is OTP, even with commercial space abundant ITP (occupancy among the U.S. worst).

RichardWest February 4, 2014 at 9:33 am

bkeahl, while I might be able to disagree with your concept of the long waits — bodies standing at the train station does less harm to our community than vehicles on the interstate. I can bump into you in line and apologize. My car would be a different story. It’s not necessarily about the total time saved, but the time saved from a car.

Low population density is a moot point when you consider rail lines going out to places like Coweta, Cobb, Henry, and Gwinnett. Those are the fastest growing areas of the state — and plenty of people farther out than those locations could take advantage of driving to those end points and riding the train to Atlanta.

If security is a reason to forgo transportation investment, we’re simply making policy decisions based on fears.

One final point, MARTA is not even a halfway decent example of failed public transit. A system that only serves the poorest populations and places of the region will inevitably fail. An effective investment would involve rails that go to College Park AND Marietta. A few backwards folks will just have to get over the fact that someone of a different race can now ride to their neighborhood.

notsplost February 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

The elephant in the room here, or maybe the medium-sized mammal, is that in some sense the region is a victim of its’ own success.

Building more roads and housing developments in far-flung corners of the region made sense in the 80′s and 90′s. Land was cheap and the highway infrastructure sufficient to handle the traffic.

All the “growth” eventually choked itself off. They’re still building housing developments in Cobb as if it’s 1990. But with no infrastructure to handle the traffic, and a school system that is facing overcrowded classrooms and a budget shortfall, who really wants to live there anymore?

Unfortunately everything has its limits. The Chamber of Commerce and the ARC would have you believe the Atlanta metro area can handle another 5 or so million residents in the coming years.
In fact they’re counting on it so that they can buy more Maseratis and retire in style somewhere in the Caribbean.

I think they’re insane. We have to downscale, focus on sustainibility and prepare for a world without economic growth.

saltycracker February 4, 2014 at 2:10 pm

The metro is hooked on growth and has borrowed heavily to be paid back by future ponzi players.
We refuse to develop/follow a land use plan to become what we want to be and there is no way we will get growth to fund growth. Too fiscally responsible.

Ghost of William F. Buckley February 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm

notsplost – Assertions that include the summary, “…downscale, focus on sustainibility and prepare for a world without economic growth…. ” fog my rose colored spectacles.

Crawling up into a fetal position hoping the bad news will just go away isn’t much of a solution. ARC and C of C growth projections do not take into account how quickly a market can become unpopular. In Atlanta’s case that seems unlikely, given some of the recent long term buy decisions.

Rambler14 February 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I’m curious, in light of Erick’s STRONG and LOUD opposition to TSPLOST, what he thinks about these new transportation proposals.

DRightOne February 4, 2014 at 9:22 pm

The biggest issue MARTA has with expansion is mental and not physical. The people I talk to about riding MARTA fear the “diverse” crowds and spread of crime. I’ve taken the train on occasion and never had a problem. The issue is stopping a criminal from taking the train out to the fearful burbs, committing a crime then jumping on the train to make his escape. That’s what I hear all the time.

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 5, 2014 at 3:31 am

You mean like how criminals already ride in cars to the ‘burbs, commit multiple crimes and jump back in cars to make their escapes (…escapes to affordable homes that are most-often already out in the ‘burbs…see the overwhelming abundance of ridiculously affordable multi-family and single-family housing in suburban areas like Cobb, North Fulton, Gwinnett, etc)?

A good question for those that think that transit is the main cause of crime is that if transit is the sole cause of crime, then how did largely transit-less suburban Gwinnett County rise to become the Latin American drug cartel hotbed and main illegal drug distribution hub of the Southeastern U.S.?

Are we all really to believe that those thousands of criminals living and committing crimes in Gwinnett just simply walked into the county from the Doraville MARTA station?…and that high-speed major roadways like the 14-20 lane-wide I-85 and the Interstate system played no role in bringing in those criminals from other parts of the metro area, nation, and the world?

Rambler14 February 5, 2014 at 7:16 am

Which is why the loudest and strongest supporters of a regional transit system (including Sen. Brandon Beach) all call for some kind of re-branding of MARTA including a name change.

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 5, 2014 at 8:38 am

That’s a good point as wasn’t GRTA originally created with the intent to one day eventually absorb MARTA into a larger and more expansive regional system?

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