Metro Atlanta turning winning transit season into losing one

By Guest Columnist COLLEEN KIERNAN, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club

The way the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) is playing out in the Metro Atlanta Region feels a lot like the 2011 Braves season. It started out with a lot of hope and promise, primed with new leaders at the helm who would be able to undo years of disappointment.

In the early stages, it stumbled a bit, but by mid-season, it was in good shape. After the All-Star Break, aka the August 15 deadline for a draft project list, boosters claimed the list was about 55 percent transit, 45 percent roads.

Although I’m not aware of anyone who thought the draft list was perfect, it did represent the first time that the 10-county region, as a whole, was going to make a significant and (somewhat) ongoing commitment to funding transit. That commitment, like the ballclub, is starting to crumble in the home stretch.

The team that blew a long lead was the same team that had been looking good enough to run up that long lead. The TIA showed a similar appearance vs. reality profile: the 55 percent transit number was always a bit misleading.

That figure considered only the 85 percent of the pot that the Roundtable is allocating, omitting the other 15 percent that local jurisdictions get to spend on their own local projects – almost certainly roads.

Colleen Kiernan

The 55 percent also counts federal money that is tagged for projects, which makes the transit percentage appear higher than it is. The true final breakdown is likely to be around 40 percent transit / 60 percent roads – a discouraging result in light of the fact that road projects have a dedicated revenue stream, the gas tax; transit has limited regional and no state funding.

Even if the TIA were dedicated entirely to transit, overall regional spending on transit expansion would still fall short of projected roadway spending over the life of the tax. That long lead was not so long after all, not so long it couldn’t be blown when confronted by determined opponents. The difference between the Braves and TIA is that the opponents are supposed to be members of the TIA team.

But the most troubling element of the TIA draft list is that a segment of the Northern Arc expressway, an intensely controversial road that was repeatedly contested finally defeated by a diverse coalition of organizations (including Sierra Club) nearly a decade ago, was quietly slipped onto the list as project TIA-GW-060 with little public discussion regarding the true impact and ramifications of this decision.

The connection between TIA-GW-060 and the historical Outer Perimeter / Northern Arc concept is undeniable when properly articulated (click here for a visual explanation), and we are concerned that once voters fully appreciate the magnitude of the decision to resurrect a divisive proposal that was resoundingly rejected by the public years ago, this project will become a poison pill that could endanger passage of the tax next year.

While no amendments were offered that would strip the Northern Arc, Roundtable members have started hacking away at the transit component. Cobb County, which got the biggest allocation of transit money, proposed moving $271.5 million from their transformative rail project from Atlanta to Cumberland to making a portion of Windy Hill Road an expressway and adding bus service from Acworth to Atlanta.

While Cobb insists that the feds will step in and keep the rail project viable, the project will “live” on a wing and a prayer instead of a reliable stream of revenue.

More encouraging was a proposal from DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis to redirect road money from a massive widening and reconstruction of GA-400 to the proposal for rail along I-20, but the amendment received little support from fellow Roundtable members. It was then revised to take from the Clifton Corridor rail project instead, and was ultimately tabled until next week.

If this “robbing Peter to pay Paul” exercise is approved, it may be enough to satisfy South DeKalb constituents who have promised a “Vote No” campaign if I-20 East rail is not on the list, but will seriously jeopardize the viability of the Clifton project and likely lose another constituency that otherwise could have enthusiastically supported the tax.

The more offensive example of “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” however, is the proposal to fully fund Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s (GRTA) Xpress buses at the expense of MARTA maintenance and the Beltline and Clifton Corridor rail projects.

As Senator Doug Stoner pointed out, it’s time for the State to step up to the plate on GRTA funding. And finally, despite overwhelming support from all corners for adding the Griffin commuter rail line, all it got was $20 million for additional studies, which while taken from another bad road project (the Tara Boulevard “super arterial”) is good, but not enough.

Sierra Club can’t see any major public constituency that will be truly excited about supporting the T-SPLOST as the project list currently stands — not just on election day but also during the critical campaign season leading up to the vote.

Anti-tax activists and Tea Party types will oppose this new tax simply because it’s a tax.

Should the T-SPLOST fail to inspire significant support from environmental and pro-transit voters, this could be the death knell for passage of the 2012 referendum. The Roundtable would be much better served by focusing on gaining the support of the ever-growing and varied group of pro-transit voters.

If they do, Atlanta can take its place among other forward-looking metropolitan areas that have positioned themselves for enduring success in the 21st century. And then the Roundtable’s last regular season game, despite dragging on for 13 innings, will end up in the “W” column, and we won’t have to once again “wait ‘til next year.”

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31 comments
UrbanTraveler
UrbanTraveler

What Ms. Kiernan points to again, as others have here before her, is the failing of what is spliced-together provincial process that validates the merits of projects purely on the basis that a local jurisdiction wants that project. The project list is so politically based rather than based on sound transportation planning, that good projects have been left off or underfunded, and traditional road-widening and roadbuilding occupy the preponderance of the funding now, even though there is a dedicated revenue-stream already provided for by the state in the way of the motor fuels tax.

The lack of state leadership, from both the governor and DOT, on mass transit, has been well-documented, so I won't belabor that point, but at least the Roundtable should understand that this TSPLOST referendum may be the ONLY way to direct any significant funding to transit for the next decade.

Yes, federal money may become available for several of the transit projects on this list, such as the Light Rail line to Cobb Country. But this Roundtable list is an opportunity to really get transit going: Beltline, Light Rail, Streetcars, Commuter Rail, and more, and I hope we don't miss that chance before the vote is even put on the ballot.

UrbanTraveler
UrbanTraveler

What Ms. Kiernan points to again, as others have here before her, is the failing of what is spliced-together provincial process that validates the merits of projects purely on the basis that a local jurisdiction wants that project. The project list is so politically based rather than based on sound transportation planning, that good projects have been left off or underfunded, and traditional road-widening and roadbuilding occupy the preponderance of the funding now, even though there is a dedicated revenue-stream already provided for by the state in the way of the motor fuels tax. The lack of state leadership, from both the governor and DOT, on mass transit, has been well-documented, so I won't belabor that point, but at least the Roundtable should understand that this TSPLOST referendum may be the ONLY way to direct any significant funding to transit for the next decade. Yes, federal money may become available for several of the transit projects on this list, such as the Light Rail line to Cobb Country. But this Roundtable list is an opportunity to really get transit going: Beltline, Light Rail, Streetcars, Commuter Rail, and more, and I hope we don't miss that chance before the vote is even put on the ballot.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"While Cobb insists that the feds will step in and keep the rail project viable, the project will “live” on a wing and a prayer instead of a reliable stream of revenue." That statement reflects the need for us here in the Atlanta Region to plan to recoup more of our transit funding through farebox revenues and other non-traditional means of funding besides just dependent solely upon a penny sales tax and relatively low fares. Transit advocates are going to have to face the fact that there just is not a substantial appetite in the current political and economic climate in Georgia to raise taxes to fund even the most basic of infrastructure needs, much less substantial tax increases to fund critically-needed massive (or even basic) transit improvements. We are going to have to find different ways other than just sitting around waiting for tax increases that are never going to come in this increasingly challenging political and economic climate if we ever want to get anything meaningful done with transit in the Atlanta Region.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

There are some great dense post-urbanist and even live-work-play type of residential developments already popping up in historical town centers in Smyrna, Marietta, Woodstock and Canton which are taking great pains to redevelop and revitalize their historical downtowns to have more living appeal.

These developments are all within walking distance of the existing CSX freight rail line (which is already targeted for modifications to accommodate high-speed rail service between Atlanta and Chattanooga) and the existing Georgia Northeastern Railroad line from north of Marietta up to Canton.

Running commuter rail through these town centers would help to concentrate the bulk of future resident and commercial development in these walkable human-scale historic town centers around multimodal (commuter rail, intercity rail, light rail, etc) stations and would also help to continue to revitalize those downtowns even more than is already underway.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

There are some great dense post-urbanist and even live-work-play type of residential developments already popping up in historical town centers in Smyrna, Marietta, Woodstock and Canton which are taking great pains to redevelop and revitalize their historical downtowns to have more living appeal. These developments are all within walking distance of the existing CSX freight rail line (which is already targeted for modifications to accommodate high-speed rail service between Atlanta and Chattanooga) and the existing Georgia Northeastern Railroad line from north of Marietta up to Canton. Running commuter rail through these town centers would help to concentrate the bulk of future resident and commercial development in these walkable human-scale historic town centers around multimodal (commuter rail, intercity rail, light rail, etc) stations and would also help to continue to revitalize those downtowns even more than is already underway.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

The Cumberland light rail line would also run only one mile into Cobb County, not likely advancing beyond that for many years after what is already a far-off completion date just to that point and ignores a much more viable COMMUTER RAIL option on the existing CSX rail corridor that runs through historical town and neighborhood centers with higher densities built more to HUMAN scale that could better support heavy and frequent rail-centered transit service over the very long-term.

You want a rail transit project that would TRULY TRANSFORM land use and commuting patterns in the I-75/575 Northwest Corridor from unsustainable auto-dominated sprawl to more dense human scale development that is sustainable over the long run? Frequent commuter rail (and/or even light rail or heavy rail) in the existing CSX (and Georgia Northeastern Railroad) corridor that runs through walkable historical town and neighborhood centers built to human scale in Vinings, Smyrna (by way of the Cumberland area where light rail is proposed to run along I-75 and Hwy 41), Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth, Woodstock, Holly Springs and Canton.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

The Cumberland light rail line would also run only one mile into Cobb County, not likely advancing beyond that for many years after what is already a far-off completion date just to that point and ignores a much more viable COMMUTER RAIL option on the existing CSX rail corridor that runs through historical town and neighborhood centers with higher densities built more to HUMAN scale that could better support heavy and frequent rail-centered transit service over the very long-term. You want a rail transit project that would TRULY TRANSFORM land use and commuting patterns in the I-75/575 Northwest Corridor from unsustainable auto-dominated sprawl to more dense human scale development that is sustainable over the long run? Frequent commuter rail (and/or even light rail or heavy rail) in the existing CSX (and Georgia Northeastern Railroad) corridor that runs through walkable historical town and neighborhood centers built to human scale in Vinings, Smyrna (by way of the Cumberland area where light rail is proposed to run along I-75 and Hwy 41), Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth, Woodstock, Holly Springs and Canton.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"Cobb County, which got the biggest allocation of transit money, proposed moving $271.5 million from their transformative rail project from Atlanta to Cumberland to making a portion of Windy Hill Road an expressway and adding bus service from Acworth to Atlanta."

The proposed light rail line from the Arts Center MARTA Station to the Cumberland/Galleria area with subsequent phases proposed to eventually be completed up Hwy 41-3/Cobb Parkway to the Town Center Mall area is not quite as "transformative" as one may think.

The light rail line proposal is very much misguided because it is intended to attempt to enhance and prop up an aging strip of sprawling post-suburban development built to automobile scale (as opposed to a more walkable HUMAN scale) that is already known to at times struggle to support the transit service that is already there while also ignoring commercially overdeveloped and heavily commuter-used gridlocked local surface roads in obvious sore need of design and capacity improvement.

.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"Cobb County, which got the biggest allocation of transit money, proposed moving $271.5 million from their transformative rail project from Atlanta to Cumberland to making a portion of Windy Hill Road an expressway and adding bus service from Acworth to Atlanta." The proposed light rail line from the Arts Center MARTA Station to the Cumberland/Galleria area with subsequent phases proposed to eventually be completed up Hwy 41-3/Cobb Parkway to the Town Center Mall area is not quite as "transformative" as one may think. The light rail line proposal is very much misguided because it is intended to attempt to enhance and prop up an aging strip of sprawling post-suburban development built to automobile scale (as opposed to a more walkable HUMAN scale) that is already known to at times struggle to support the transit service that is already there while also ignoring commercially overdeveloped and heavily commuter-used gridlocked local surface roads in obvious sore need of design and capacity improvement. .

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

It's no secret and is pretty much beyond obvious that the I-20 East Corridor through South DeKalb needs much, much, MUCH better transit options to help allievate some of the brutal gridlock that plagues that area. But taking funding away the Clifton Corridor which is slated to finally provide Emory University with a long-overdue rail transit connection to the rest of the MARTA system is a very bad and short-sighted idea. Emory University is one of the nation's most prestigious institutions of higher learning, one of the top employment centers in the entire region and state, is home to at least a couple of the city's major hospitals and multiple medical facilities of regional importance and is surrounded by and connected to the rest of the city by a network of undersized and over-capacity 2-4 lane city streets and collector roads. If there is anyplace in the city or region that MOST CRITICALLY needs more transit connectivity, it's absolutely, positively, most definitely Emory University which is a crucial center of medicine and higher learning.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

As anyone and everyone who has ever driven through that area is well-aware, those extremely poorly-designed, undersized and over-capacity ramps at the junction of I-285 and GA 400 are frequently the site of both many fender benders and serious multi-car collisions alike at morning and afternoon rush hours that are often the cause of the frequent gridlock and traffic jams of biblical proportions that are a daily way-of-life along the Top End of the Perimeter between Interstates 75 and 85.

Most reasonable people are well-aware that Georgia sorely needs to invest much more in transit in Metro Atlanta, which has grown into one of the Western World's major population centers, but Georgia ranks 49th out of 50 states in total per-capita transportation investments which means that Georgia is not just sorely lacking in transit investments, but also in road investments during what has been a period of very explosive growth, contrary to a stubborn local popular belief.

I completely and whole-heartedly agree that this state MUST invest more in well-placed and well-thought out transit investments, but taking very limited funds away from critically-needed road safety improvement projects like that at I-285 and GA 400 is NOT the way to do it.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

As anyone and everyone who has ever driven through that area is well-aware, those extremely poorly-designed, undersized and over-capacity ramps at the junction of I-285 and GA 400 are frequently the site of both many fender benders and serious multi-car collisions alike at morning and afternoon rush hours that are often the cause of the frequent gridlock and traffic jams of biblical proportions that are a daily way-of-life along the Top End of the Perimeter between Interstates 75 and 85. Most reasonable people are well-aware that Georgia sorely needs to invest much more in transit in Metro Atlanta, which has grown into one of the Western World's major population centers, but Georgia ranks 49th out of 50 states in total per-capita transportation investments which means that Georgia is not just sorely lacking in transit investments, but also in road investments during what has been a period of very explosive growth, contrary to a stubborn local popular belief. I completely and whole-heartedly agree that this state MUST invest more in well-placed and well-thought out transit investments, but taking very limited funds away from critically-needed road safety improvement projects like that at I-285 and GA 400 is NOT the way to do it.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"More encouraging was a proposal from DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis to redirect road money from a massive widening and reconstruction of GA-400 to the proposal for rail along I-20, but the amendment received little support from fellow Roundtable members. It was then revised to take from the Clifton Corridor rail project instead, and was ultimately tabled until next week."

Taking funding away from the long overdue reconstruction of GA 400 and I-285 on the Top End is NOT a good idea either politically or transportation-wise. Taking money away from a project that is critically-needed to replace with safer high-speed, high-capacity flyover ramps and right-lane merges those very dangerous, short and DEADLY left-hand merge lanes from I-285 W to 400 S and from 285 W to 400 N as well as those slow, low-capacity loop rams from 400 S to 285 E and from 400 N to 285 W, can do nothing but diminish support for the entire T-SPLOST in a county that is as politically-crucial as Fulton is for it to pass.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"More encouraging was a proposal from DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis to redirect road money from a massive widening and reconstruction of GA-400 to the proposal for rail along I-20, but the amendment received little support from fellow Roundtable members. It was then revised to take from the Clifton Corridor rail project instead, and was ultimately tabled until next week." Taking funding away from the long overdue reconstruction of GA 400 and I-285 on the Top End is NOT a good idea either politically or transportation-wise. Taking money away from a project that is critically-needed to replace with safer high-speed, high-capacity flyover ramps and right-lane merges those very dangerous, short and DEADLY left-hand merge lanes from I-285 W to 400 S and from 285 W to 400 N as well as those slow, low-capacity loop rams from 400 S to 285 E and from 400 N to 285 W, can do nothing but diminish support for the entire T-SPLOST in a county that is as politically-crucial as Fulton is for it to pass.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Though, I am under the opinion that the Sugarloaf Parkway should be built as a toll road and NOT as a freeway funded with T-SPLOST funds between 316 and PIB.

But make no mistake that the road is sorely-needed to relieve some of the gridlock off of GA 20 through the very heavily-commercial Mall of Georgia area and provide a controlled-access connection from the north between Interstates 85 and 985.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Though, I am under the opinion that the Sugarloaf Parkway should be built as a toll road and NOT as a freeway funded with T-SPLOST funds between 316 and PIB. But make no mistake that the road is sorely-needed to relieve some of the gridlock off of GA 20 through the very heavily-commercial Mall of Georgia area and provide a controlled-access connection from the north between Interstates 85 and 985.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Though, I am under the opinion that the Sugarloaf Parkway should be built as a toll road and NOT as a freeway funded with T-SPLOST funds between 316 and PIB. But make no mistake that the road is sorely-needed to relieve some of the gridlock off of GA 20 through the Mall of Georgia and provide a controlled-access connection from the north between Interstates 85 and 985.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

I can reassure you that there is NO CHANCE that the road will advance west beyond PIB (P'tree Industrial Boulevard) because the proposed route of the erstwhile Northern Arc ran through some kind of very affluent areas west of PIB in North Gwinnett, Forsyth and Cherokee Counties.

Very affluent areas full of conservative, politically well-connected, highly-influential, REPUBLICAN voters who make very big monetary donations to the ruling Georgia GOP and vote heavily in Republican primaries and general elections.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

I can reassure you that there is NO CHANCE that the road will advance west beyond PIB (P'tree Industrial Boulevard) because the proposed route of the erstwhile Northern Arc ran through some kind of very affluent areas west of PIB in North Gwinnett, Forsyth and Cherokee Counties. Very affluent areas full of conservative, politically well-connected, highly-influential, REPUBLICAN voters who make very big monetary donations to the ruling Georgia GOP and vote heavily in Republican primaries and general elections.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

The Sugarloaf Parkway extension is only meant to be a completion of a loop of the road that runs around Lawrenceville.

The Sugarloaf Parkway Extension from 316 north and west to Interstates 85, 985 and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard is sorely needed to relieve congestion (and out-and-out total gridlock) from Highway 20 between GA 316 and I-985 which is currently a parking lot, especially at evening rush hour.

Because there are no ramps connecting I-85 Southbound to I-985 Northbound and vice versa from I-985 Southbound to I-85 Northbound, the surface route GA 20 is very heavily utilized as the only real transition between the two interstates from those directions and will help relieve ALOT of stress from GA 20 between I-85 and I-985 which notoriously bottlenecks from 6-8 lanes down to only four lanes between the I-85 and I-985 junctions.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

The Sugarloaf Parkway extension is only meant to be a completion of a loop of the road that runs around Lawrenceville. The Sugarloaf Parkway Extension from 316 north and west to Interstates 85, 985 and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard is sorely needed to relieve congestion (and out-and-out total gridlock) from Highway 20 between GA 316 and I-985 which is currently a parking lot, especially at evening rush hour. Because there are no ramps connecting I-85 Southbound to I-985 Northbound and vice versa from I-985 Southbound to I-85 Northbound, the surface route GA 20 is very heavily utilized as the only real transition between the two interstates from those directions and will help relieve ALOT of stress from GA 20 between I-85 and I-985 which notoriously bottlenecks from 6-8 lanes down to only four lanes between the I-85 and I-985 junctions.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Basically, Gwinnett County wants the extension of Sugarloaf Parkway in the right-of-way of the erstwhile Northern Arc to be built with its portion of T-SPLOST funds that is designated for road construction because the county didn't want to fund it with tolls as they were planning to do before the opportunity to use T-SPLOST funding came up.

(Gwinnett County also wants to use T-SPLOST funding to build an western extension of Ronald Reagan Parkway to connect with I-85 instead of building it as a toll road as was originally planned)

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Basically, Gwinnett County wants the extension of Sugarloaf Parkway in the right-of-way of the erstwhile Northern Arc to be built with its portion of T-SPLOST funds that is designated for road construction because the county didn't want to fund it with tolls as they were planning to do before the opportunity to use T-SPLOST funding came up. (Gwinnett County also wants to use T-SPLOST funding to build an western extension of Ronald Reagan Parkway to connect with I-85 instead of building it as a toll road as was originally planned)

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"But the most troubling element of the TIA draft list is that a segment of the Northern Arc expressway, an intensely controversial road that was repeatedly contested finally defeated by a diverse coalition of organizations (including Sierra Club) nearly a decade ago, was quietly slipped onto the list as project TIA-GW-060 with little public discussion regarding the true impact and ramifications of this decision."

Now, now, have no fear Ms. Kiernan. The Sugarloaf Parkway Extension is a LOCAL project being built by the local government in Gwinnett County, NOT the Georgia Department of Transportation. The road is built in the abandoned right-of-way of the erstwhile Northern Arc/Outer Perimeter Highway because Gwinnett County had never permitted any development to be built in the right-of-way of the proposed road and had always had plans to build its own road and complete a loop of locally-funded and maintained Sugarloaf Parkway as the construction of the Outer Perimeter had always seemed somewhat highly unlikely during the period when it was being proposed by the state.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"But the most troubling element of the TIA draft list is that a segment of the Northern Arc expressway, an intensely controversial road that was repeatedly contested finally defeated by a diverse coalition of organizations (including Sierra Club) nearly a decade ago, was quietly slipped onto the list as project TIA-GW-060 with little public discussion regarding the true impact and ramifications of this decision." Now, now, have no fear Ms. Kiernan. The Sugarloaf Parkway Extension is a LOCAL project being built by the local government in Gwinnett County, NOT the Georgia Department of Transportation. The road is built in the abandoned right-of-way of the erstwhile Northern Arc/Outer Perimeter Highway because Gwinnett County had never permitted any development to be built in the right-of-way of the proposed road and had always had plans to build its own road and complete a loop of locally-funded and maintained Sugarloaf Parkway as the construction of the Outer Perimeter had always seemed somewhat highly unlikely during the period when it was being proposed by the state.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"While Cobb insists that the feds will step in and keep the rail project viable, the project will “live” on a wing and a prayer instead of a reliable stream of revenue."

That statement reflects the need for us here in the Atlanta Region to plan to recoup more of our transit funding through farebox revenues and other non-traditional means of funding besides just being dependent solely upon a penny sales tax and relatively low fares.

Transit advocates are going to have to face the fact that there just is not a substantial appetite in the current political and economic climate in Georgia to raise taxes to fund even the most basic of infrastructure needs, much less substantial tax increases to fund critically-needed massive (or even basic) transit improvements.

We are going to have to find different ways other than just sitting around waiting for tax increases that are never going to come in this increasingly challenging political and economic climate if we ever want to get anything meaningful done with transit in the Atlanta Region.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

"While Cobb insists that the feds will step in and keep the rail project viable, the project will “live” on a wing and a prayer instead of a reliable stream of revenue." That statement reflects the need for us here in the Atlanta Region to plan to recoup more of our transit funding through farebox revenues and other non-traditional means of funding besides just being dependent solely upon a penny sales tax and relatively low fares. Transit advocates are going to have to face the fact that there just is not a substantial appetite in the current political and economic climate in Georgia to raise taxes to fund even the most basic of infrastructure needs, much less substantial tax increases to fund critically-needed massive (or even basic) transit improvements. We are going to have to find different ways other than just sitting around waiting for tax increases that are never going to come in this increasingly challenging political and economic climate if we ever want to get anything meaningful done with transit in the Atlanta Region.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

It's no secret and is pretty much beyond obvious that the I-20 East Corridor through South DeKalb needs much, much, MUCH better transit options to help allievate some of the brutal gridlock that plagues that area.

But taking funding away the Clifton Corridor which is slated to finally provide Emory University with a long-overdue rail transit connection to the rest of the MARTA system is a very bad and short-sighted idea.

Emory University is one of the nation's most prestigious institutions of higher learning, one of the top employment centers in the entire region and state, is home to at least a couple of the city's major hospitals and multiple medical facilities of regional importance and is surrounded by and connected to the rest of the city by a network of undersized and over-capacity 2-4 lane city streets and collector roads through very dense, established, mature commercial areas and residential areas of historical significance that cannot be widened.

If there is anyplace in the city or region that MOST CRITICALLY needs more transit connectivity, it's absolutely, positively, most definitely Emory University which is a crucial center of medicine and higher learning.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

It's no secret and is pretty much beyond obvious that the I-20 East Corridor through South DeKalb needs much, much, MUCH better transit options to help allievate some of the brutal gridlock that plagues that area. But taking funding away the Clifton Corridor which is slated to finally provide Emory University with a long-overdue rail transit connection to the rest of the MARTA system is a very bad and short-sighted idea. Emory University is one of the nation's most prestigious institutions of higher learning, one of the top employment centers in the entire region and state, is home to at least a couple of the city's major hospitals and multiple medical facilities of regional importance and is surrounded by and connected to the rest of the city by a network of undersized and over-capacity 2-4 lane city streets and collector roads through very dense, established, mature commercial areas and residential areas of historical significance that cannot be widened. If there is anyplace in the city or region that MOST CRITICALLY needs more transit connectivity, it's absolutely, positively, most definitely Emory University which is a crucial center of medicine and higher learning.