Category: GDOT

A Proposal for a Suburban Monorail

Larry Bost, of Marietta, has been pushing an idea of late that may find some support among suburban commuters.

His proposal, which is surprisingly well researched, involves the construction of a monorail along the pre-existing interstate system surrounding Metro Atlanta.

In this map, green and blue lines represent inbound and outbound monorail lines, while yellow dots represent transfer stations.  Click to enlarge the map.
In this proposal, green and blue lines represent inbound and outbound monorail lines, while yellow dots represent transfer stations.
Click to enlarge the map.
Such a monorail, he says, would be a far more worthy investment than our continual expansion of highways surrounding Atlanta. He’s drawn up a plan that outlines 15 different stations for the proposed metro Atlanta monorail, with seven stations outside the Perimeter, seven along I-285, and only one station inside the Perimeter.

One key advantage of a monorail system in Atlanta is that it planners would simply build on top of the existing highway system along the center of expressways, eliminating the need for any additional land acquisition.

The costs, according to the Monorail Society, vary greatly depending on factors like the total length of the system, the number of stations, the speed of the train, and the topography of the land. Given that variability, a monorail system could cost anywhere between $10 million to $100 million per mile of track.

For comparison, the US Department of Transportation estimates that the construction of a new highway in urban areas can cost between $4.9 million to $19.5 million per lane mile, while simply adding a new lane to an existing highway can run anywhere between $2.4 million to $6.9 million per mile (twice that if adding a lane to each side).

But as both the Monorail Society and Bost emphasize, a monorail has the best chance of turning an actual profit once constructed.

Outside the United States, other countries have used monorails with incredible success. For the 1964 Olympics, Japan built a monorail for Tokyo, and the system has turned a profit every year since. China opened a 62-station, 34-mile long monorail in Chonggung in 2005 and will likely continue investing in the technology in the future. Even India has recently come on board with the idea, investing $2 billion in a 35-station, 36-mile long monorail system in Chennai.

Additionally, monorails are different than urban subway systems in that their target clientele consists of suburban commuters. In a city with notorious sprawl out to the suburbs and with suburban voters typically less willing to fund urban transit systems, Atlanta could be the perfect candidate for monorail construction in the United States.

As the legislature continues to toss around ideas about how to improve Georgia’s crumbling infrastructure, a suburban monorail is an idea at least worth considering as just one part of the solution to Georgia’s transportation woes.

Forsyth County And The Transportation Bond

Georgians often complain about traffic and road conditions, yet we complain more when a solution is offered. I find that those who stomp their feet and cross their arms whenever a solution is offered are the same people who never come up with solutions themselves. The voters of Forsyth County have the chance to approve a bond that the county desperately needs to accommodate its rapid growth.

Residents can point their fingers at a multitude of people when dishing out blame for the county’s dismal traffic problem. This is the time to end the blame-game and push forward a solution. The roads that need improvement the most are on the Georgia Department of Transportation’s backburner or not on their radar at all. Voters can take the matter into their own hands and expand the county’s most traveled roads.

In the simplest of terms, if the voters approve the bond, Forsyth County would be allowed to borrow up to $200 million at incredibly low interest rates to expand roads and alleviate traffic. There is a collaborative effort between Forsyth County and the Georgia Department of Transportation to fund the road projects. An $81,000,000 commitment from Forsyth County would be matched with $93,000,000 in state and federal funding. In essence, Forsyth County residents have the potential to get a $293 million investment while spending $200 million in local investment. Forsyth County created a map with the proposed road projects.

For a house valued at $250,000, this bond would add approximately $10 a month to property taxes. It’s a small price to pay to expand GA-400 within a few years. If this bond is voted down, GA-400 will not see expansion until 2030 at the earliest. Not to mention the state roads that experience heavy flows of traffic such as SR 371 and SR 369 would not see construction for years to come.

Transportation solutions are far and few between in Georgia; it would be a shame for the voters in Forsyth County to turn down a solution that promises a better future.

Atlanta Meteorologists Named to Weather Task Force

Ken Cook, Markina Brown, Glenn Burns and Chesley McNeil were all named to Gov. Nathan Deal’s newly formed Severe Weather Task Force on Monday.

The meteorologists work for Fox 5, CBS Atlanta, Channel 2 Action News and 11Alive, respectively.

Cook and Burns are the deans of metro Atlanta’s weather scene.

Others named to the task force include the heads of the Georgia DOT and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, as well as with school and law enforcement officials.

Rumors are circulating as to the status of Mike Francis who, until last week, was 11Alive’s veteran on-air meteorologist.  Francis has apparently been let go by the station after he failed to show up last month as the threat of a winter storm was bearing down on metro Atlanta.

Deal has come under heavy criticism for the state’s handling of last week’s winter storm.

SnowedOut Atlanta and the Blame Game

::bumped::

The snow had hardly settled Tuesday night before the SnowedOut Atlanta blame game had begun.

Now, it’s in full swing.

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The mayor (see above) is to blame for thousands of people getting stranded on your local streets.

Gov. Nathan Deal is to blame for not planning far enough in advance to have DOT crews out, salting the interstates.

Schools are to blame for sending kids home too late in the day, stranding them on school buses on gridlocked-highways or forcing them to spend the night at the school gym.

Businesses are to blame for not sending their employees home sooner. Or sending them home when everyone else was going home and the school buses were trying to get the kids home.

The National Weather Service and your favorite meteorologist are to blame for not predicting that the storm would hit farther north of the Gnat Line.

But what about the issue of personal responsibility when it comes to making the decision to drop what you’re doing, get your family safe and get home?

I’m not saying that the eight-month pregnant woman stranded for 14 hours on Langford Parkway was to blame for her predicament. Nor am I blaming a good friend for a nine-hour trek that only succeeded in his car winding up in a ditch. And I have nothing but heartfelt condolences for the hundreds of kids whose first night away from home was in a school gym.

But we all knew this was coming as early as 5 pm on Sunday, when the National Weather Service first issued a winter storm watch. By Monday night, everyone knew that at least an inch of snow was on the way. 

And everyone knows what happens when snow and ice hit metro Atlanta. It’s a national joke. (Besides, I thought all of these transplanted northerners and Chicago-ans knew how to drive in this stuff …)

We certainly haven’t heard the last of this. On Wednesday night, Georgia Democratic Party chairman DuBose Porter told All News 106.7 that Deal “got caught with his britches down.” State Sen. Jason Carter is bound to mention this once or twice or a couple of hundred times between now and November 4.

But I’d like to hear if anyone can specifically say what they would have differently if they were in charge, instead of playing the blame game.

Can Georgia Cities Learn Something About Public Transportation?

Is it possible for a public transportation system to improve service, increase customer satisfaction, decrease fares and decrease monetary losses? Yeah, but at the same time? The Atlantic Cities says it has been done – and more than once.

Mark Aesch doesn’t appear to use slight of hand to accomplish something that MARTA riders and taxpayers would love to see, but it sounds as if Penn and Teller should be involved. Aesch accomplished this in Rochester and then in Detroit. Yes, Detroit. That Detroit.

“I think the model works in almost any location,” says Aesch. “Improving the quality of the customer experience, creating that atmosphere where the individual employee is rewarded for organizational success — that’s critical. You can do that anywhere.”

Aesch stresses improving the riding experience and weighing route usage along with the impact of a bus route to its potential riders. Based on commentary, the focus seems to be on downtown-to-suburb routes and away from suburb-to-suburb routes.

If you actually read the story, take a look at the comments, too. Not everyone was thrilled with the results.

Your homework assignment is to make recommendations on whether Georgia cities would benefit from a similar approach. For extra credit you may complain about MARTA expense or MARTA service and safety. No extra credit will be given for anecdotes.

Georgia’s First Diverging Diamond Opens Monday

We’ve blogged about diverging diamond interchanges before (see here, here, and here). Now we’ll get our first chance to use one on the I-285 @ Ashford-Dunwoody Rd. bridge. The AJC has a write up:

The Perimeter CIDs initiated the DDI project in 2009 when they spent $100,000 to hire an engineering firm to find an interim solution to backups at the interchange. The PCIDs secured funding for project design and engineering from the State Road and Tollway Authority and DeKalb County. That projected cost to date totals $824,423. GDOT is funding the $4.6 million cost of the DDI construction.

That same year, Missouri built the first diverging diamond, and it has proved to be a big hit, said Don Saiko, a project manager for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

After the first interchange opened in Springfield, four more were quickly added. An additional half dozen are either under construction or in the planning stages.

Saiko said backups at the Springfield interchange on I-44 would sometimes reach three miles. Now, he said, there are no backups.

Also this video:

No Confidence in the T-SPLOST

Here’s an advance copy of my column this week on the T-SPLOST. I’ve been talking about it on the radio in Atlanta and I really think it is worth emphasizing that I’m not automatically opposed to the T-SPLOST. But I just don’t think we should approve it until our elected officials have made a concerted effort to clean up the ongoing problems within the Department of Transportation and the state’s transportation bureaucracy. Read more

11Alive News Survey: Georgia Voters Support Transportation Sales Tax

There’s a rule of thumb that says if there is no organized opposition to a local tax or project then it will pass. If there is any organized opposition to Georgia’s one percent regional transportation sales tax, then I’m unaware of it and so are those polled.

While not a surprise that a majority approve, the margin was impressive.

English: Great Seal of the State of Georgia
Image via Wikipedia

The poll of 1176 registered Georgia voters was an 11Alive News Survey that showed approval across the state with the exception of the area defined as North / West Georgia, where the survey shows a 47/47 tie with six percent undecided.

This region may have been influenced by the self-identified party breakdown among voters. While Democrats favored the poll by a wide margin 70/24 with six percent undecided, Republicans opposed it 41/53 with, again, six percent undecided.

I do not have the tabs on the poll or the margin of error, but it appears to me that this is a significant margin. Overall, those polled favored passage of the tax by a 55/38 margin with seven percent undecided.

Somewhat surprisingly to me was that the highest level of approval was for the region listed as South / East Georgia where the margin was 60/35 with (you guessed it) six percent undecided. Who are these six percent anyway? This was slightly higher than the Metro region though the margin was one percent less.

So, will the transportation tax pass? Do Georgia voters understand what they will and will not get from passage or do they see it as a panacea for all that ails Georgia’s transportation ills. If so, will there be a backlash when they learn that there is a projects list already in existence? Discuss among yourselves and try to make it interesting, the legislature might be reading.

More details of the survey results on the 11Alive site.

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I assume there is a legitimate explanation to this HOT Lanes business

Either there is a legitimate explanation or there is a scandal.

Jannine Miller is the Executive Director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

According to her biography, “Miller coordinated Georgia’s multi-agency proposal to U.S. Department of Transportation for an Urban Partnership Agreement, which led to a $110 million grant award to implement a HOT lanes demonstration project on I-85, one of metro Atlanta’s most congested interstate highways.”

What her biography does not mention, is that Ms. Miller is the patent applicant (and if approved, the holder of the patents) for both patented technologies used in the HOT lanes.

The first is the credit billing system.

The second is the electronic barrier technology to ticket violators.

Now, there is more likely than not a legitimate explanation for all of this, but it raises a real question too — did the Executive Director of GRTA push for a system she stands to profit from due to patent royalties?

UPDATE: The answer is that these folks assigned their claims to GRTA as employees of GRTA so they won’t profit. The additional questions though are (1) is their assignment in total or just for Georgia so if this rolls out elsewhere they stand to make money and (2) does GRTA stand to make money off a roll out in other states and (3) did we roll out HOT lanes so GRTA or some individual(s) could make some money off the patents later?

This news could very well destroy the regional SPLOST for metro-Atlanta.

What If We Had A General Assembly That Broke The Stick?

I enjoy talking politics with members of our district GOP. I was on the phone with one of the executive committee members this weekend to discuss the transition and organization of district committees. We ended up on the topic of federal funding of state activities. He eventually said “I wish the state legislators would lay out an 8-10 year plan to ween us off of federal funding of highway projects.”  We also agreed on extending that plan to education as well.

From what I understand, there are many requirements/regulations/laws that are obeyed just to get full federal funding. A governor, state executive, or legislator wouldn’t be arrested…just wouldn’t get funding. Wait a minute…the state can’t make a decision to do something contrary to the federal government (and say that the law requires) because we won’t get money? Sounds like about 50 donkeys are being lead around with one big green money carrot tied to a stick by Uncle Sam.

It would be interesting to see how much (percentage-wise) that the federal government sends highway dollars to Georgia. Then, it would be interesting to see a few rising conservative stars in the state House and Senate that would lay out a plan to make Georgia more self-reliant starting with federal highway and education funding. It would be hard. We’ve been getting federal funds for years, so it would take many years to get ourselves off of it.

It might be a worthy experiment though.

Georgia Toll Lanes – Only the Beginning

According to the AJC, the I-85 toll lanes are the beginning of an extensive network that could extend more than 150 miles over the next three decades. After that, if the current model proves successful, it would be expanded again.

In the meantime, no one is certain how well it will all work. Replaced will be the old HOV lanes, but without adding additional lanes, will it actually make traffic better?

The emphasis seems to be on creating HOT lanes that will provide a reliable flow of traffic for those who are willing to pay between ten and 90 cents per mile, depending on traffic congestion, and those who fit the profile that allows for free access to the HOT lanes.

Car poolers with three or more occupants, motorcycles, transit vehicles, mass transit and cars with alternative fuel license plates all travel for free in the HOT lanes. One must; however, have a Peach Pass to do so. I would suggest reading this piece, also from the AJC, that gives the straight skinny on what one needs to know. If you screw up, there is a $25 fine from the SRTA – to go along with the possible $150 ticket from law enforcement.

In the meantime, if you simply want to drive fast on an interstate and have, as Chuck Berry says, “no particular place to go,” I suggest you just come on down and drive up and down I-16 to your heart’s content. It’s cheaper, you may not see another car for miles, and neither a Peach Pass nor a road manual is required.

Among Atlantans the big discussion seems to be, “Is it fair?” more than will it work. So is this just another way to cater to “the man” or is it a reasonable attempt to improve traffic congestion?

Would Increasing Georgia’s Speed Limits Soothe Our Lead Foot Syndrome?

Steve Williams over at Georgia Road Geek posed the questions on if Georgia’s speed limits are too low. I’ll let you hop on over to his blog for his answer. Interestingly enough, I’ve been asking myself the same question. This past weekend, I visited a friend in Trinity, Alabama (right outside of Decatur…which is right outside of Huntsville). I got on to US-72 and travelled about 65+ miles per hour. I made very good time between my house and her house.

This got me to thinking: if Alabama can trust their people to go 65 MPH on a divided, non-interstate highway, why not Georgia? I see people routinely going in excess of the 55 MPH speed limit on highways in my area like US-27…especially along the Chickamauga Battlefield bypass, GA-193, GA-341, GA-2, etc. (granted, GA-193 and GA-341 are not divided highways, but could probably handle an upward bump in the speed limit). What really gets me is the 55 MPH speed limit in Atlanta where there seems to be a tacit “speed or die” mantra held by folks that live in the area.

I’m sure a few of us here have a lead foot and would like to see the speed limit increased on Georgia’s highways, but it probably won’t cure our lead foot syndrome. People will still speed in excess of the speed limit. However, I say raise the speed limit in rural, relatively flat and straight areas of highway (especially the stretch of I-16 running from Macon to Savannah…) in the state. Heck, let the engineers at GDOT use their discression to determine if a stretch of highway would be alright to travel at higher speeds. Just a thought.

H/T to Baker over at That’s Just Peachy for linking Steve Williams’ article this morning

 

Economic Impact of Snow and Ice

I am not an angler.  At some point in the future, I may decide to angle, and at that point I may be glad that the state decided to spend some of my taxpayer money on the Go Fish initiative. But for now, I am not glad even though the state boasts that their investment can mean an economic impact of between $4-5 million or as high as $27 million for a big time tournament.  Of course, economic impact does not mean that it’s revenue neutral for the state as they only recapture some of that impact in the form of tax revenue (although with their tax proposal they are certainly trying to increase their return).

Now that we’ve finally dug ourselves out of this snow and ice storm, here’s my question: What’s the economic impact of a snowstorm like the one we just had?  I’ve seen some say that it’s minor but tell that to someone who works an hourly retail job, they can’t get those work days back.  Even if the economic impact for the week was only about $100 million, surely the cost to have minimized the delays and damage would be well below that.  And I know some people will say that it doesn’t make sense to budget funds for something that will only happen once every ten years – which I counter by saying that may be more often than I will use one of the Go Fish ramps.  Why has state government decided that anglers’ economic impact is more valuable than mine or the other hundreds of thousands of residents who were rendered homebound during the great blizzard of 2011?

It seems that Gov. Deal and others are kind of coming around to this viewpoint, and I applaud them for that after initially using the old “once in 15 years” excuse to ignore it.

Allow Me To Defend Our New Governor For A Moment

Governor Nathan Deal, in his second day in office, continues to deal with a “State of Emergency” that was declared prior to his official swearing in.  It’s not what he had planned, and instead of enjoying the efforts of his innaugural committee’s hard work, he’s been mostly having to figure out the logistics of how to get his administration started when legislators couldn’t even get to the Capitol without assistance, and many more state employees either can’t get to work, or can’t get home.

Thus, in his first meeting with the press, Governor Deal said this:

The weather has to cooperate in order for us to do what we really need to do. So I would just urge everyone to make sure they take care of themselves, and that they do not put themselves in a position of danger,”

Which brought quick commentary from Atlanta’s queen of social media and our friend, SpaceyG: Read more

Legislators Urge Reversal Of 400 Toll Extension.

A group of Legislators from north Fulton have sent a letter to the Department of Transportation urging a reversal of the decision to extend the toll on 400 for an additional ten years.

“On behalf of the Georgia state representatives and senators representing 350,000 north Fulton residents, I am writing to request the State Transportation Board reverse its action extending the Georgia 400 toll for 10 additional years. We are gravely concerned about the negative impact on our constituents and Georgia as a whole as a result of the manner in which the decision was made without community engagement and support and the broader ramifications for future support for transportation funding and improvements.

It is unacceptable to make a decision of this magnitude, one that revokes a 20-year long commitment to citizens for a time-limited user fee in return for corridor improvements, without the explicit involvement of state legislators representing the primarily affected residents, collaboration with other locally elected officials, and extensive discussion and hearings.”

Read the entire letter here.

Bravo!