MARTA Considers Expansion – Toward Republicans

June 17, 2014 8:00 am

by Charlie · 52 comments

MARTA is hosting public comment sessions about extending rail service up the GA-400 corridor.  We’ve discussed this before, but note the tone of Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) in the article below from WXIA.  (Then look back inside those parenthesis at that “R”):

State Senator Brandon Beach, who leads the North Fulton Community Improvement District, said the time to add more rail has come.

“When you look at the 400 corridor, there are 900 technology companies, and that attracts a young, smart employee,” said Beach. “They want to ride their bikes; they want to take a train; they want to take transit; they want alternatives.”

He also says people have changed their opinions about a MARTA expansion.

Beach told WABE, “In 1999, when I was first elected to Alpharetta City Council, if I would have mentioned that I was supportive of transit, I would have probably been run out of office. Today the attitude has completely changed.

There are places in Atlanta where transit will work.  And frankly, as I’ve discussed before, it’s about time we stop considering “transit” as a means to move poor people.  Or more specifically, exclusively poor people.  Transit only works as a solution for all of the city/region when all of the city/region feel comfortable with it. (Relax Cherokee and Fayette Counties, we’re not talking about you any time soon.)

An extension of the rail line up GA-400 would not be about moving commuters downtown (though that, and rides to the airport would certainly be non-stop possible).  Look at the growth going in around Perimeter Center, arguably Atlanta’s new downtown (TM by Dick Williams).  This is as much about being able to get workers into that land locked and gridlocked region as anywhere else.  It’s the next most logical expansion of MARTA rail (with the possible exception of the Emory corridor line from the last T-SPLOST.), and it will postively impact us all for generations if/when it happens.  Let’s get moving on this.

Moving – the opposite of GA-400 in both directions at rush hour.

John Konop June 17, 2014 at 8:04 am

Senator Beach is right….we need to invest into infastructure ASAP to help grow our economy….We are falling behind…..

Raleigh June 17, 2014 at 8:35 am

On a very rare occurrence I agree with Senator Beach. I never drive to the airport and I would welcome an airport express from North Point. If I can easily get to where I need to go in the City I will take MARTA from North Springs rather than drive. Bringing the train to North Point from North Springs needs to happen soon. I have supported this for a long time and being from Cherokee County I would not mind the state or some other support method(s) to help make this a reality so long as it is not a blank check. I also would like to see MARTA changed to something of more a “Regional” organization. Yep there is that R word again. The problem with a Regional MARTA is Atlanta would have a hard time swallowing that one.

Charlie you didn’t include Cobb or Gwinnett. Last time I looked they were not too keen on MARTA either.

bgsmallz June 17, 2014 at 11:26 am

Cobb is balking on even the most ‘light’ version of BRT…my question is…what is stopping a municipality from joining Marta without the county? If it is the law, some aspiring legislator needs to amend it in the name of local control.

“There are places in Atlanta where transit will work.”…like Smyrna and/or Norcross? Areas that are job centers, entertainment centers (Braves), transportation hubs and gridlock magnets? Shouldn’t these cities be able to opt-in without having to negotiate with the folks in Lawrenceville or Acworth on the notion of the benefits? That’s how they’ve expanded rail in the Dallas area…frankly, if the folks in Acworth or wherever don’t want Marta, that’s fine…but why should they be able to hold Smyrna and the region hostage?

Raleigh June 17, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong and I probably am but I believe it has more to do with municipalities collecting the penny sales tax. As far as I know cities can’t directly participate in LOST without the county. That would have to change and can you imagine the disaster allowing cities to collect sales taxes at different rates?

bgsmallz June 17, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Cities can tax at different rates than the counties…City of Atlanta has a MOST (Municipal Option Sales Tax)…anyway, Marta tax isn’t a LOST or a MOST…it is a Marta tax and to a certain extent you’re right…it is applied at the county level.

Even if you can’t implement the Marta sales tax on a city level, that doesn’t preclude a municipality from joining Marta, does it?

The Marta act says “i) The power to enter into contracts with the State of Georgia and any agency, instrumentality or authority thereof and with any of the county and municipal
governments within the territorial limits of the area served or to be served by the Authority, for public transportation services to be rendered by the Authority or its
rapid transit system, and for any other purposes incidental to the establishment and
maintenance of its rapid transit system, or any part or project thereof, including the
payment of funds to subsidize the operations of such system if it should ever be necessary to do so, and the usual facilities related thereto.”

What is stopping Smyrna from making a deal with Marta? (or the Cobb Recreation Authority for that matter?) Why couldn’t they, for example, have a city wide vote on a bond referendum that would pay for a heavy rail station, ROW, etc. at Cumberland as part of a contract with Marta to provide operations/service there? What if Lakeside/Briarcliff/whatever existed and wanted to fund a station at Emory and contracted with Marta for Operations. There doesn’t seem to be anything prohibiting that in the Marta Act.

All of this is obviously hypothetical and there are most certainly legal hurdles not being considered…but thought it is good fodder on a Tuesday when discussing ‘who wants transit’ and ‘who doesn’t’…there may be some creativity for municipalities

CJBear71 June 17, 2014 at 9:13 am

I think congestion, gas prices, and the lack of gas tax revenues are starting to convince people that we need more MARTA. Everywhere in metro Atlanta. We need it to go further up the 400. We need it to go further up 85, and relieve pressure on the hot lanes (and cold lanes). We need it to head down 75 into Clayton County (and those Commissioners better step up today!), and you can be certain the Braves fans will be screaming for it once they and Cobb County commuters sit for several hours trying to get to a game or just get home.

And yes, that is all choice riders. But the good thing is – expansion will help need riders as well. More users, more opportunities to get to jobs, better route management when you can hook into spokes of the rail system etc.

I hope this region can start to let go of some of the old fights. Worrying about “them” coming to your community with transit. Look at some of the articles on suburban poverty (Cobb County) – the poor are already in your area. Are Fulton and DeKalb being treated “equitably” with MARTA. You can waste time fighting about appointment powers and who controls a potential regional authority all you want… and people will be left behind by a system that has barely expanded since it’s creation.

I’m encouraged that GM Keith Parker is bringing MARTA back, and that after some hard, tough decisions, MARTA is expanding routes and service again. Let’s get even more. More MARTA. Everywhere.

ryanhawk June 17, 2014 at 9:23 am

“They want to ride their bikes; they want to take a train; they want to take transit; they want alternatives.”

All true, but he forgot the punch line: they want you to pay for it.

smvaughn June 17, 2014 at 9:43 am

ryanhawk

So you only drive on your own privately built and privately maintained roads?

George Dickel June 17, 2014 at 10:59 am

The lack of critical thinking that went into ryanhawk’s post is mind boggling.

ryanhawk June 17, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I tend to use the least subsidised form of transportation available to me. In practice that means I drive, fly, and take the bus.

If you are interested in discussing the extent to which various modes of transportation are subsidised rather than paid for by users through gas taxes, train fares, etc… and what we should do about it I’m happy to have a discussion.

The problem with “transit” (and especially rail) is that it is very heavily subsidised and does little to relieve congestion. Actual revenues and riders are less than projected, often far less, and cost to build and maintain is always higher, often much more.

I’d love to see a rail line extended up 400 and paid for largely by the people who ride it.

Chris Huttman June 17, 2014 at 2:06 pm

The problem with all other forms of transportation is that eventually you run out of space and rider density is important. At some point we can’t build additional lanes for traffic going from (for example) Midtown or Buckhead to Alpharetta.

But saying roads are the cheapest and we should only do roads or rail is more expensive so we should never do it is a dumb way to look at it.

Do you only eat sticks of butter because it’s got one of the highest caloric values per ounce? Should the state only run whatever public university is the cheapest and make everyone get the most cost affordable degree?

ryanhawk June 17, 2014 at 3:35 pm

The problem with roads is congestion because, um, people like using them. Unfortunately the social cost of congestion isn’t factored in to the individual cost of driving. The answer is congestion pricing. Priced correctly there will be no problem with physical space or capacity.

I also didn’t say roads were the cheapest, although in fact they are by any coherent measure (i.e. cost per passenger mile). I implied, correctly, that they are less subsidised. Much less. Users are apparently more willing to pay for road capacity than for, say, light rail. That is an important fact, no?

Chris Huttman June 19, 2014 at 10:15 am

It’s hard to necessarily say people like using them vs in most of metro Atlanta it being their only choice. While I’m a fan of the theory behind congestion pricing, it is a very tough sell. Users are more willing to pay for road capacity in the current system – where roads already dominate and they get to use them “for free”. Atlanta’s transit usage is roughly 35% of DC Metro (to pick a place that is roughly similar). Now no one is going to wave a magic wand and turn MARTA into the Metro overnight (in terms of service or scope of the system) but the experience of other cities and parts of the world show that when given a choice between their car and a higher class transit system many more people choose transit than in Atlanta, so I don’t think it’s that inconceivable that it would/could also happen here.

Call me crazy but I think the best way to sell congestion pricing is as part of a comprehensive transportation plan/system that has essentially three tiers:
1 = congestion/hot lanes = highest price/highest convenience/predictable trip time
2 = regular car transport = medium price/medium convenience/variable trip time
3 = fixed transit/rail/brt whatever = lowest price/potentially lowest convenience/predictable trip time

Here’s an idea – on roads that are converted from existing #2 use to include #1, the fees from #1 can pay for #3. It’s a good bargain that I believe the public would accept.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm

“Here’s an idea – on roads that are converted from existing #2 use to include #1, the fees from #1 can pay for #3. It’s a good bargain that I believe the public would accept.”

Maybe the fees from #1 could help pay for the BRT part of #3, but generally revenues from user fees on roads should not pay for transit. High-capacity transit should be able to fund itself with its own dedicated revenue streams.

Dave Bearse June 17, 2014 at 9:45 am

I’ve advocated a north line extension to north of the Chattahoochee River as MARTA’s first rail extension primary for more than a decade.

Lea Thrace June 17, 2014 at 10:01 am

I work in Alpharetta. It is very difficult to recruit the workforce we need in this area due to transportation/traffic issues. A lot of the type of workers we need either do not want to deal with the traffic you encounter getting to this area or cannot get here because of lack of car/public transit options. My company is not the only one with this issue in the area…

bgsmallz June 17, 2014 at 11:23 am

I worked in Alpharetta about 15 years ago or so…lived in Buckhead and did the commute north…I like to think I was a trendsetter for the millennials! :)

I like Keith Parker…I think he’s doing an excellent job so far….and I hope they don’t stop with plans to North Fulton…there is a graphic circulating that shows rail expansion to Clayton if they vote for the .01 sales tax.

Oh…and the ‘Marta brings Crime’ folks are already out.

http://www.thecrier.net/news/article_ad48594a-f5a9-11e3-bfea-0019bb2963f4.html

“One of the main points of contention amongst residents is a proposed station at Northridge Road, a heavily residential area… Some residents stated that a study about potential crime rates within three miles of each station should be conducted before MARTA moves forward with any plans.”

Because we all know hooligans take Marta, walk three miles to a house on a cul-de-sac, rob them, and then walk back to the station with the loot. #facepalm

Chris Huttman June 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm

It’s impossible to get a seat on MARTA these days at the Dunwoody station, what with all the big screen tv’s and stereo systems taking up room.

Chris Huttman June 17, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Another point – though some try to blame the T-SPLOST’s failure on MARTA expansion, Clayton voters overwhelmingly voted (non-binding) to bring MARTA as a standalone, but the T-SPLOST was rejected.

In Gwinnett, T-SPLOST lost big. In 2008, a non-binding vote in the primary for MARTA expansion barely lost (got about 47%).

Everyday people sit in traffic, they internalize even more that what we’ve been doing isn’t working. Probably the biggest problem with T-SPLOST from the start is that it was mostly more of the same and didn’t have a true vision for the future. MARTA isn’t perfect, but for most of these areas it is something new.

saltycracker June 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

MARTA Considers Expansion – Toward Job Growth

pucillo.oscar June 18, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Job growth is happening downtown also, in no small part because MARTA is already there.

http://saportareport.com/blog/2014/06/coca-cola-unveils-its-new-it-division-office-downtown/
http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/blog/atlantech/2014/03/ncr-eyes-midtown-for-hq-campus.html?page=all

Also, it is not as if MARTA was avoiding North Fulton. Rather, it was North Fulton that was avoiding MARTA.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Excellent column, Charlie.

I completely agree that we need to get moving on improving, upgrading and expanding high-capacity passenger rail transit service to the places where it is most-desperately needed.

…And at this point in time, the best way to get moving on improving, upgrading and expanding high-capacity passenger rail transit service throughout the Atlanta region, both inside the current MARTA service area (to places like Emory and the I-20 East corridor) and outside the current MARTA service area (to places like Clayton, Cobb, Gwinnett counties and beyond) is for the state to take control of MARTA and sell it to private investors…

…Private investors who would fund the dramatic improvement, upgrade and expansion of the current high-capacity transit network with revenues from the aggressive construction of revenue-generating real estate development along transit lines, Value Capture taxing districts targeted to commercial properties along transit lines and high-capacity transit corridors (as opposed to highly politically-contentious countywide sales tax referendums), an inflation-indexed distance-based fare structure (fares of roughly between $0.10-0.40 per-mile in 2014 dollars instead of the current flat-rate fare of $2.50 one-way) and the very-aggressive sale of private sponsorships both large and small.

MattMD June 17, 2014 at 3:32 pm

So why don’t we just sell off the entire State government to a group of private investors?

Oh wait….

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Yeah, no need for private funding…because the current funding apparatus (a severely-underfunded system that frequently teeters on the brink of financial collapse while going around desperately-begging severely cash-strapped governments at the local, state and federal levels for bread crumb-proportioned handouts) has worked so well, hasn’t it?

MattMD June 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I just think your idea is pie-in-the-sky or “magic math” if you will. Do you have any actual numbers? Is there any precedent to privatizing a previously public system such as MARTA?

MARTA is also a political football, even having the state take it over would probably be tied up in litigation, not to mention what people would think of selling it off to a group of ‘private investors’. Let me be even more frank: you would essentially be selling off a transit system which benefits a significant number of minorities to some rich, likely white businessmen. You could see the demagoguing from a thousand miles away.

MARTA’s funding would be much more stable if other close-in metro counties actually paid into it, especially from the beginning. I imagine it’s never too late.

saltycracker June 17, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Moving folks around because they can’t afford cars or they abhor commerce/work places cannot be a top priority in a multi-billion dollar mass transportation program. They may coincidentally benefit but it can’t be from Alpharetta to the airport for $2.50.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 17, 2014 at 6:37 pm

The idea of privatized transportation infrastructure is just starting to take hold in North America (with a handful of privatized toll roads, but no large urban mass transit systems in North America…YET), but is much more prevalent in Asia….Particularly in China (a communist country, btw) where almost all of nation’s entire controlled-access highway system is tolled and privatized out of necessity (the Chinese could not afford to pay to build-out their superhighway network any other way)….Though it should be noted that almost all of America’s freight rail network is privatized along with much of America’s passenger airline and freight airline and freight truck industries.

Hong Kong stands as the world’s single-most successful privatized transit-operating model with its transit company MTR having a farebox recovery ratio of 186% (compared to MARTA’s average farebox recovery ratio of only 30%) and total assets of over $250 billion due to having operated as a partially-privatized (24% privately-owned) real estate development corporation that uses high-capacity transit lines to generate traffic (and revenue) to, from and between its developments.

Also, in a privatized setup where the state takes over MARTA and makes it a regional system by folding it into GRTA, the public would still own the transit system but would only be selling the private rights to collect revenue from the system and its assets in exchange for getting all of the capital and operating costs paid for by private entities.

The refusal of outlying counties like Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton to join and pay into the transit system did not destabilize MARTA’s funding. What destabilized MARTA’s funding was the total failure to collect an adequate amount of revenues from extremely-profitable sources like transit-oriented real estate development along transit lines on the large-scale that it has been so desperately needed. The lack of sales tax revenue from Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties should have had no financial effect on MARTA, particularly since the agency had virtually no operating costs in those non-member counties.

Charlie June 17, 2014 at 7:07 pm

No. Just no. We’re not discussing this again.

2 sentences -OR- 50 words. You’ve been warned enough.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

I apologize Charlie. I was just responding in kind to MattMD’s response to my original comments.

Charlie June 19, 2014 at 5:32 pm

I. Do. Not. Care.

You’ve lost the right to reply “in kind” to anyone. Ever.

50 words (quit hyphenating non hyphenated words) OR two sentences. No more warnings, and no more excuses.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 19, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Charlie, can I at least know exactly what it is I am in trouble for this time?

Charlie June 19, 2014 at 7:02 pm

You were first warned by Jon. You were then warned by Stefan. You’ve now been warned repeatedly by me. If you still have to ask, then I suggest you put away the keyboard for a while.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 19, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Understood.

John Konop June 18, 2014 at 8:39 am

Increasing capacity to move people and products is a major factor for growth of economic activity. By growing economic activity, we end up seeing higher wages and or more jobs, which creates more tax revanue. All should realize, that as time goes by without fixing the problem, we are only delaying the activity and cannot ever get the lost opportunity dollars via pushing off the problem….Charlie is right about the irrational behavior of pushing out solutions until it is a perfect idea….I have news nothing will ever be perfect.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 18, 2014 at 11:47 am

Good comments, Mr. Konop.

That missing capacity from our transportation network equates to a big chunk of missing activity from our economy.

jimgilvin June 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Transit expansion in North Fulton is an important topic and given the enormous impact that a MARTA extension would have on the city of Alpharetta it is a topic very near and dear to my heart. With Charlie’s admonishment against long comments above I won’t even try to give the response I would like but I will make a few points:

1) Transit does not solve traffic problems and it doesn’t even make them better it makes them worse. Pretending that it does ignores facts. The high density development which occurred after Sandy Springs added 4 MARTA stations made their traffic worse. Our traffic issues in Alpharetta are already bad enough we don’t need more urban growth making it worse.

2) Heavy rail is the most expensive and least efficient form of transit and anyone who pushes its expansion in North Fulton is completely ignoring the financial costs as well as the opportunity costs of doing so.

3) Heavy rail does generate tremendous economic value for commercial property owners in the corridor and Senator Beach in his role for the North Fulton CID works for those property
owners. In addition one of MARTA’s published revenue generating goals is to make more money off of Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Expansion of heavy rail in North Fulton will cost taxpayers billions (with a “B”) of dollars but make hundreds of millions for both MARTA and the NFCID. Every organization has the right to lobby for their own self interest but let us not pretend that the positions of either organization is objective.

4) The tremendous expansion of high density of development which would follow any heavy rail expansion in North Fulton would increase population densities, make traffic worse, increase crime and decimate the outstanding public schools that make this area one of the most desirable places in the state to do business and raise a family. These are much greater concerns for most Alpharetta residents than the stereotypes used by transit advocates to portray us all as racists who think gang members are going to ride MARTA up here and steal our TVs.

These are only a few of the points in a complex discussion but in the interest of time and space I will stop there to see if the discussion remains productive.

John Konop June 18, 2014 at 8:18 pm

1) You are anti- growth….how does your anti- growth grow the economy?

2) No real facts…do you really think more roads are more efficient than rail? No blogging while drinking or…

3) Once again no facts…. economic growth generally increases values….you really think anti- growth plan you advocate increaes values?

4) Once again no facts….I lived in Chicago and Dallas suburbs and the school are great…..and they are on the rail line….Please do not let facts get in the way of how you feel about the issue….

jimgilvin June 18, 2014 at 11:24 pm

1) You claim I am anti-growth. That’s just ridiculous and since you produce no facts to support that conclusion there is no need for me to argue your ridiculous claim.
2) It isn’t a “claim” that roads are far more efficient than rail it is a fact. Fewer than 5% of metro Atlanta commuters use rail and yet the $300+ million subsidy is about 30% of what is spent by the state on road maintenance for all of Georgia.
3) My third point clearly illustrates the facts that the CID and MARTA both have a vested financial interest in seeing a heavy rail expanded in North Fulton. Just because you don’t like a fact doesn’t make it less so.
4) I lived in Sandy Springs before they had 4 MARTA stations and the changes that have occurred since that time are indisputable. Their traffic is worse, their public schools are worse and the crime is worse. If Sandy Springs residents are happy with that kind of growth good for them but many Alpharetta residents like my self fled Sandy Springs because we weren’t.

I am not against all growth and my record speaks for itself but not all growth is good growth either.

Chris Huttman June 19, 2014 at 9:51 am

Dude – the same thing (worse traffic and the other stuff you cite) could be said about pretty much anywhere in metro Atlanta since 1990. Have you been to the Marietta loop on I-75 during rush hour. It’s terrible and last time I checked they didn’t add MARTA up there. Ever driven through Toco Hills? It is terrible and again no MARTA.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 19, 2014 at 12:34 pm

The Franklin Road area of Marietta has also acquired a bad crime problem without the help of MARTA.

John Konop June 19, 2014 at 12:29 pm

1) You claim I am anti-growth. That’s just ridiculous and since you produce no facts to support that conclusion there is no need for me to argue your ridiculous claim

YOU SAID:

………we don’t need more urban growth making it worse…….It seems really clear…..

2) It isn’t a “claim” that roads are far more efficient than rail it is a fact. Fewer than 5% of metro Atlanta commuters use rail and yet the $300+ million subsidy is about 30% of what is spent by the state on road maintenance for all of Georgia.

That assumes ridership does not go up….If you had more options than ridership would go up.

3) My third point clearly illustrates the facts that the CID and MARTA both have a vested financial interest in seeing a heavy rail expanded in North Fulton. Just because you don’t like a fact doesn’t make it less so.

HUH?

4) I lived in Sandy Springs before they had 4 MARTA stations and the changes that have occurred since that time are indisputable. Their traffic is worse, their public schools are worse and the crime is worse. If Sandy Springs residents are happy with that kind of growth good for them but many Alpharetta residents like my self fled Sandy Springs because we weren’t.

The real measurement is capacity not traffic….If improvement does not keep up with capacity than you have traffic issues….As far schools Sandy Springs does have very good public schools.

http://www.city-data.com/forum/atlanta/1580665-newsweek-top-high-schools-2012-a.html

pucillo.oscar June 18, 2014 at 10:49 pm

“1) Transit does not solve traffic problems and it doesn’t even make them better it makes them worse. ”

The purpose of transit is not to solve traffic problems. It is to provide an alternative mode of transportation for people who choose not to drive – and sit it traffic – if they do not want to. It provides choice – freedom if you will – instead of imposing one form of transportation – and the economic choices and lifestyle that goes with it – on everyone. And providing this choice, this freedom, allows a region to attract a larger diversity of people and a bigger diversity of industries.

“2) Heavy rail is the most expensive and least efficient form of transit and anyone who pushes its expansion in North Fulton is completely ignoring the financial costs as well as the opportunity costs of doing so.”

In that case, lobby for light rail. But by opposing mass transit in North Fulton, you are ignoring the financial and opportunity costs of depriving people of a choice, and of losing the economically and culturally productive people who prefer mass transit to places that have them, places that include red states like Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Indiana incidentally.

3. “Expansion of heavy rail in North Fulton will cost taxpayers billions (with a “B”) of dollars but make hundreds of millions for both MARTA and the NFCID..”

Actually, expansion of heavy rail in North Fulton will cost billions and make more billions (with a “B”) back. What you are not considering is the billions (with a “B”) in economic impact that not providing an alternative for the many workers and companies who will never consider North Fulton because it imposes the ability to only travel by car on everyone.

4) “The tremendous expansion of high density of development which would follow any heavy rail expansion in North Fulton would increase population densities, make traffic worse, increase crime and decimate the outstanding public schools that make this area one of the most desirable places in the state to do business and raise a family.”

The high density development would be high income development: condos, lofts and high end apartments. Because lawyers, doctors, financiers and tech workers tend not to commit street crime, those rates would stay the same. Similarly, the schools would retain their excellence because they would be populated by children with educated, high income parents, with the difference being that there would be more of them.

But if this does not happen, your fair area faces the real danger of what is already happening in Cobb and Gwinnett: economic/cultural stagnation and decline. Because Cobb and Gwinnett did pretty much nothing to sustain the booming eras of the 1980s and 1990s, things became stale very fast. Crime increased, the schools became worse, and lots of people with economic mobility are leaving … some towards the exurbs in Cherokee and Forsyth but others into the gentrifying areas and new, denser developments that are springing up around the Beltline and streetcar.

“These are much greater concerns for most Alpharetta residents than the stereotypes used by transit advocates to portray us all as racists who think gang members are going to ride MARTA up here and steal our TVs.”

But those concerns are no less spurious. And they are also the same concerns voiced by the same anti-transit conservatives everywhere. So if your arguments were unique to why rail should not be built in North Fulton, they would have more legitimacy. Instead, they are often used to oppose all rail projects everywhere, which is untenable as it is obvious that rail is very successful in a great many areas.

Conservatives love to talk about the economic success story that is Texas. Interestingly enough, they leave out how mass transit systems that incorporate light and heavy rail play a major part in cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. So please make the case of how rail increases crime and ruins schools in Austin, Texas before claiming that it will do the same to North Fulton. Meanwhile, Arlington, Texas is the largest city in the nation without public transportation, and it is not exactly a low crime area.

jimgilvin June 19, 2014 at 12:33 am

Pucillo I appreciate your thoughtful responses and will try to respond in kind.

1) I am glad you are honest about this fact because other proponents of heavy rail refuse to admit this and I fully understand your argument about offering transportation options. I am personally not opposed to all forms of transit in North Fulton but rail is prohibitively expensive and as a taxpayer I find it repugnant that 95% of the population who prefer commuting in cars should subsidize the most exorbitantly expensive way of commuting just because other people prefer options. BRT would be far more efficient at about 20% of the cost.
2) You make the mistake of assuming I oppose all mass transit. Please go back and review my comments. I never said that. I am simply annoyed that the transit conversation is always steered to rail despite the astronomical costs when there are much more practical solutions. I find it ironic in the age of Uber people who think they are progressive want to solve 21st century transportation problems with 19th century technology.
3 & 4) Alpharetta is only 26 square miles and we have the highest bond rating in the state, the lowest unemployment rate in the state, many of the best schools in the state and one of the strongest real estate markets in the state. Would we love to attract more employers? Absolutely and we are busting our tails and investing in infrastructure and programs to do so. We spend millions on road infrastructure each year and recently spent $3 million to help Gwinnett Tech build a campus here that will provide valuable training and support for our technology companies. The people of Alpharetta are highly educated and understand that we don’t want to stagnate with zero growth. But they also know that not all growth is equal.

Apple could sell a lot more computers if they would just mass produce computers that ran Microsoft and sold them in WalMart. Their sales would increase exponentially. But would they be better off? No, it would destroy what makes them successful.

Alpharetta has great public schools, an amazing quality of life and it is absolutely the best place in Georgia to do business and raise a family. That’s our niche and that is what makes us special. Can we do a better job of incorporating walkability and multimodal transportation? Absolutely… and we are. But any transit improvements in Alpharetta need to be in a form that is consistent with what we are and what we do so well.

I thank you again for your thoughtful comments. You make some very good points and I assure you that many Alpharetta residents including our mayor and city council are aware of them and are working to address them in ways consistent with what makes us so successful now.

But bigger isn’t necessarily better and most Alpharettans have no interest in trying to be the next Sandy Springs or trying to out-Midtown Midtown. Alpharetta is perfectly happy being the best place in Georgia to do business and raise a family.

If some companies prefer heavy rail to great schools, great quality of life and incredible business environment I can live with that. We just have to find the companies that appreciate what we have to offer and so far that hasn’t been hard to do.

John Konop June 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm

How do you connect bad schools with rail…..you just spew what you feel….Dallas/ Ft worth has rail and the schools in suburbs are still very good, same in Chicago, NY….

pucillo.oscar June 19, 2014 at 8:40 am

1) “I am personally not opposed to all forms of transit in North Fulton but rail is prohibitively expensive and as a taxpayer I find it repugnant that 95% of the population who prefer commuting in cars should subsidize the most exorbitantly expensive way of commuting just because other people prefer options.”

So, you make cars the only transit option available, and then say that 95% of people prefer cars? Funny how that works. That is little different from creating a public school monopoly and then claiming that 95% of people have no interest in private, charter or home schools. The truth is that in metro areas with good transit, ridership rates are very high.

“BRT would be far more efficient at about 20% of the cost.”

The anti-rail folks love to bring up BRT, but no one can identify a BRT system that actually works. Effective mass transit includes a combination of buses and trains. Always has and always will.

“I find it ironic in the age of Uber people who think they are progressive want to solve 21st century transportation problems with 19th century technology.”

Sorry, but more conservative talking points. Airplanes were invented over 100 years ago and still remain pretty much the only viable option for commercial air travel. Similarly, trains remain the only way to move high densities of people. Uber and Lyft are merely taxi services, which – when you consider that such things were originally powered by horses and in some parts of the world are actually powered by HUMANS – are every bit as old as trains. But the idea that tens of thousands of people can simply call Uber, which will traverse the same congested highways as everyone else, is not serious. Perhaps there are some fantasies that Uber can be turned into some sort of private BRT, but if they have to travel the same highways as everyone else it doesn’t change anything.

” I am simply annoyed that the transit conversation is always steered to rail despite the astronomical costs when there are much more practical solutions.”

Your saying that they are more practical solutions does not make it so. Just as if you are a hammer everything looks like a nail, if you oppose rail everything looks like a better option than rail whether it actually is or not.

“We spend millions on road infrastructure each year …” Aha.

“The people of Alpharetta are highly educated and understand that we don’t want to stagnate with zero growth. But they also know that not all growth is equal.

Apple could sell a lot more computers if they would just mass produce computers that ran Microsoft and sold them in WalMart. Their sales would increase exponentially. But would they be better off? No, it would destroy what makes them successful.”

I could have a lot of fun with that comment but I will refrain. Instead, allow me to point out that you are ignoring that tons of high income, educated, successful communities have light and heavy rail. Including areas with higher incomes, better educated people etc. than Alpharetta. If those areas can have light and heavy rail without descending into the spiral of urban blight and decay that you clearly fear (as your Apple running Microsoft and selling in Wal-Mart analogy implies … Apple fans certainly went apoplectic when Apple bought a headphones company with a heavily urban image and clientele did they not?) then so can Alpharetta.

” We just have to find the companies that appreciate what we have to offer and so far that hasn’t been hard to do.”

It wasn’t hard for Cobb and Gwinnett in the 1980s and 1990s either. It is very hard now. That is the issue. Things change. Lifestyles change. Just 10 years ago, highways were clogged with SUVs that were literally bigger than a lot of people’s bedrooms. Now gas being consistently over $3.50 a gallon has changed all that.

jimgilvin June 19, 2014 at 9:49 am

Instead of constructing false arguments against things I haven’t said it would probably be more helpful if you would address the actual points I make about rail being the least efficient and most expensive way to move people. But I will briefly try too address some of your points.

“you make cars the only transit option” – I never wrote that and specifically stated that I do not oppose all transit options. The fact is that the nearest municipality with rail is Sandy Springs and with 4 heavy rail stations only about 5% of their residents use rail for their commute. They do have options and overwhelmingly choose cars. To invest billions of dollars in inefficient rail for 5% of commuters in one corridor of metro Atlanta when a cheaper more efficient system costing the same amount could be implemented in 5 corridors is ludicrous.

“no one can identify a BRT system that really works” – Brazil

comparing airplanes to rail- Airplanes are successful in a free market because they are the most efficient way of moving people quickly over great distances. If rail were anywhere close to being as efficient as air travel we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Not really sure what to make of your other comments but I am well aware that that there are other places where people have higher incomes and higher education levels than Alpharetta. Some of them may even have rail. As long as they are happy I am happy for them.

pucillo.oscar June 19, 2014 at 2:40 pm

“Airplanes are successful in a free market because they are the most efficient way of moving people quickly over great distances. If rail were anywhere close to being as efficient as air travel we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

But you don’t use airplanes to go from Norcross to Kennesaw do you? Planes are not efficient or cost-effective for travel within a metro area, and for most people are not even used to replace a 4 hour car trip.

And you want to compare Brazil to metro Atlanta? Really?

“It is estimated that about 27 million passengers use BRT worldwide everyday, of which about 17 million are in Latin America, which has the most systems, with 55.”

So all right, provide a relevant example that is not taken from a developing or third world country.

” I am well aware that that there are other places where people have higher incomes and higher education levels than Alpharetta. Some of them may even have rail. As long as they are happy I am happy for them.”

Nice dodge. My point of mentioning that was to rebut your claims that heavy rail would increase crime and harm schools. Unless a point is factual, it should not be said.

Finally, I mentioned that perhaps light rail should be considered instead of heavy rail to lower the cost. Light rail is used a lot in Texas, and San Fran is planning a BRT line now that they will convert into a light rail system later. But the main thing is that I have looked at the various transit systems in America that use BRT, and they all rely on light and heavy rail to do the big work with the bus portion as supplemental feeders. Going into North Fulton is a big deal, heavy lifting, and is not the sort of mass transit project that has been addressed with BRT in this (or for that matter pretty much any other first world) country. It would be better not to spend the money at all than try to make North Fulton be the first, just so it can serve as some sort of victory for fiscal conservatism for the Eric Erickson and Neal Boortz crowd. (Actually, not Neal Boortz, as Boortz supported expanding MARTA into North Fulton.)

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 19, 2014 at 4:39 pm

The problem is not necessarily the cost of transit. The problem is that we don’t know how to properly fund transit with profits from revenue-generating transit-oriented real estate development along transit lines.

jimgilvin June 19, 2014 at 5:34 pm

You make a valid point. I am not a fan of using an unnecessarily expensive method to solve our transportation problems in any case but if the profits accrued from building an inefficient system were paying for it instead of taxpayers it would certainly remove one objection

jimgilvin June 19, 2014 at 5:25 pm

From your previous comment: “So please make the case of how rail increases crime and ruins schools in Austin, Texas before claiming that it will do the same to North Fulton. ” If you insist.

Guess what these numbers are: 1,1,2,2,2,2,5,7,7?
Those are the greatschools.org ratings of Austin, TX public high schools along their rail transit corridor. That is an average of 3.22 on a scale of 1 to 10.

The three high schools districted for Alpharetta are 10, 10 and 9 which gives us a 9.67 average on the same scale. Almost exactly 300% of Austin’s.

And guess what the number 363.7 is? It is the latest crime rate number for Austin, TX as compiled by city-data.com That is 20% higher than the U.S. average of 301. And in case you were interested Alpharetta’s crime rating is 148.3 which is less than half the national rate and a mere 40% of Austin’s.

Well who would have ever thought crime is less in Alpharetta and the schools are better?

I didn’t pick Austin you did. And I’m not trying to claim that rail is the only reason Austin’s schools and crime rates are so much worse than ours. But now that I have shown you it is “factual” that public high schools along rails lines in Austin are abysmal compared to those in Alpharetta I hope you will allow it to be said.

masr July 16, 2014 at 7:17 pm

NO THANK YOU!
We moved away from “wonderful government sponsored” transportation and CRIME 20 years ago.
You bring in government sponsored transportation and you will bring in crime!!!

Charlie July 16, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Hi, and welcome to Peach Pundit.

I would ordinarily ignore your comment, but the third exclamation point tells me that you are super serious and informed.

YOU’RE WELCOME!

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