Saba Long

Articles by Saba Long

Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

Driverless cars, repairing broken sidewalks, promoting transit for workplaces, public art and transportation.

That’s just a taste of the diversity of ideas discussed during the breakout sessions at the transportation nerd fest known as TransportationCamp. Even better, this year’s event, held a couple of weeks ago, also including a Govathon transportation-centric hackathon. Naturally, MARTA was the focal point for transit discussions.

Over the past several months, we have all watched the disruption of the taxicab industry, not only in metro Atlanta, but also across the country. A couple of smart phone apps, Uber and Lyft, have revolutionized the transportation industry, and in the case of Uber, have brought the black towncar experience within reach of the common middle-class individual.
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Time for U.S. elected leaders to address climate change issues

“There is no debate in Germany about climate change,” Iris Shultz of the German consulate nonchalantly remarked during a recent Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable on urban sustainability. The statement clearly shows the difference in stating an issue rather than politicizing it.

Just under a quarter of the Germany’s electricity is gathered from renewable sources. While the average home size is much smaller than the United States, the cost of residential electricity is more. Shultz said it is because their energy rates are intended to modify behavior.
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Urban investments must weigh issues of equity, diversity and inclusion

Since leaving City Hall, I have had the opportunity to get back to my first love – transportation. I recently joined the boards of two nonprofit advocacy organizations – the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) and PEDS, and I am working with MARTA’s media relations and external affairs team.

Over the past few weeks, conversations sparked at our ABC board retreat in February keep playing in my head – particularly given recent discussions about the future of the Atlanta BeltLine and Streetcar as well as broader national comments from U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan on the future of our inner cities.
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Forty days of frenzy at Georgia legislature leaves children behind

Forty. It is a number of biblical significance. Oftentimes in the Old Testament, God used the number 40 as a time period of intense trials and testing of the peoples’ faith. Goliath terrorized the Israelites for 40 days before a young shepherd boy hurled a stone toward his forehead. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and was then tempted by the devil.

And in just 40 days, the Georgia General Assembly blazed through the legislative session in what seemed to be a race to take the logic out of lawmaking.

Too frequently, Georgia’s children take the proverbial bullet for legislators and “suits” lacking the spine to stand up to interest groups and the old way of doing things. We saw it firsthand this session with the attempted rush job at privatizing foster care. But perhaps where this behavior hurt Georgia families the most was with the failure to pass the medical marijuana and autism insurance bills.

A personal friend of mine watched with deep disappointment the hacking of and eventual demise of the autism insurance bill. He and his longtime partner have already spent thousands in healthcare costs associated with their toddler’s autism.
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Creating Atlanta’s “third places” for all – rich, poor and every one in between

Earlier this week, I took advantage of a rare evening of sunshine to enjoy sushi and sake outside at Strip in Atlantic Station. While dining, I watched young children playing tag, couples chatting on benches, a photo shoot taking place, amongst other activities.

My thoughts drifted to a recent The Urbanist podcast from Monocle featuring Dr. Ray Oldenburg, who coined the term, the “third place.” Our private home is considered our “first” place while our “second” place is the work environment.

“Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community.
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Russia’s Vladimir Putin thumbs his nose at West reversing global gains

Six years ago, Vladimir Putin, then prime minister of Russia, accused the United States of stirring up conflict in the Republic of Georgia as a way to influence the 2008 presidential election.

The Kremlin’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, called the Bush Administration’s support of Georgia a “special project” and warned the United States it would have to choose between future ties to Moscow and its relationship with Georgia.

Putin banned exports from a number of U.S. poultry companies under the guise of failed health inspections, alleging that meat being transported to Russia contained arsenic.

In the book, “A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West,” one can indeed get a glimpse into Putin’s soul.

“You think you can trust the Americans, and they will rush to assist you?” Putin asked, according to a Georgian record of the talk. “Nobody can be trusted! Except me.”
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Government needs to adapt to transparency in digital age

Atlanta – this may come as a surprise, but when it comes to transparency in data keeping, we’re faring better than other large cities.

Through events such as Random Hacks and Govathon, civic hackathons are becoming the norm within the city limits. In fact, just this weekend, Atlanta transparency advocates participated for the first time in CodeAcross, a global event in its third year organized by Code for America, the Sunlight Foundation and the Open Knowledge Foundation – all leading open government organizations.

This year’s theme Beyond Transparency focused on establishing an open data inventory to include, among other items, city code enforcement violations, business listings and procurement processes.

Nationwide, CodeAcross participants assessed the availability of city data and catalogued its inventory on the U.S. City Open Data Census. Of the participating cities, Atlanta received high marks in transparency, ahead of Washington, D.C. and Seattle.
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Maker method of teaching considered in metro schools

The K-12 education system is overwhelmingly rote in nature. Students memorize formulas and facts year after year, moving from one standardized test to the next.

Yet we know real life application and tangible problem solving skills gives students a sense of place in the world around them.

Across the country, school boards are hearing proposals to bring the Maker mentality into classrooms. Four years ago at the request of the school superintendent, Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller of Studio H developed a yearlong lesson plan for juniors at a high school in Bertie, a sprawling, rural county in North Carolina.

The students, they proposed, would design and build projects meaningful to the town’s agricultural economy, including a chicken coop. Students would learn welding, and the basics of architecture would be acquired. Soft skills such as team building and critical thinking would be developed during each project.
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Minimum wage debate must also consider economic advancement

The federal minimum wage debate is taking place in editorial boards, gold-domed capitols and boardrooms across America. Raise it to lift people out of poverty, some say. Others argue an increase will cripple job growth.

The waters of truth are murky in this hyper-partisan climate, making it difficult to determine the credibility of economic forecasts footed by various chambers of commerce and policy.
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Metro Atlanta and nation need to step up investment in transportation

Last week, national journalists unapologetically exposed Georgia and metro region’s dirty laundry. A mere few inches of snow crippled the state and the ninth largest metro area in the union. Frustrations and anger were displayed. And the blame-laying commenced.

An hour before the snow began to fall, I walked (a reliable form of transportation in a snow storm) to a Capitol press conference.
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