Ed Ellis shares his wish list for transportation in Georgia

guest_photo81By Guest Columnist <strong>ED ELLIS;</strong>  transportation engineer; Regional Vice President of Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.

It’s just plain hard to talk about transportation in Georgia without cussing. 

I’ve been in the transportation engineering business for over 35 years and it hasn’t been easy.  I know what you’re thinking – nobody in their right mind would admit that, but I like to tell folks things would have been much worse if I hadn’t been here, and you can’t prove me wrong. 

I also like to remind folks that Atlanta has been called the fastest growing human settlement in  history over the last 25 years.  No one could have predicted that, and therefore, no one could possibly have planned and paid for a transportation system that could have accommodated that growth. 

But that’s all past history and now we just can’t seem to get our asses in gear to make things work better.

Atlanta’s congestion is awful. 

By traffic engineering standards, 60 seconds of delay at a traffic signal qualifies as a level of service “F” which, like school is failing, unacceptable and the worst there is.  We have intersections that take 8 MINUTES to get through at rush hour. I honestly haven’t been able to find congestion like that anywhere in the country. 

And how about the southbound backups on I-75 and I-85 that start at 3:00 every afternoon and last until 7:00.  What will things be like when rush hour lasts 7 hours instead of 4?  Can we really stand more pain, continue to have a prosperous community and claim a standard of living that is acceptable?  And want to know the real kicker?  There is not one reasonable transportation solution on the books that will help the downtown connector.  I could write hundreds of pages listing our traffic problems.

Now then you should be getting at least a little pissed off so let’s talk about this year’s General Assembly.  No actually, I can’t.  Let’s just say they didn’t do anything (insert appropriate cussing string) for transportation for another year.  Totally unacceptable but true.

Must get my blood pressure down.

OK, in the spirit of offering constructive ideas, I have made my personal transportation wish list.  This represents my opinion only and is not intended to be funny in any way – in fact I have never been so serious in my entire life.  We need to do these things, and we need to do them now. 

So here goes: 

1.    Political agendas need to be put aside in the General Assembly, and someone needs to be a leader under the Gold Dome. We need more money for transportation, and we need it now.  I’m tired of political dodge ball and behind covering. Somebody needs to man-up or woman-up, and the rest need to follow.

2.   I’ve looked into the bowels of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s transportation computer model, and the future is bleak if we continue doing the same things over and over.  We can’t put enough asphalt down to fix our system.  The real bang for the buck is driving shorter distances and investing more in transit.  It is maddening that people outside the Atlanta region just don’t get it, don’t want to get it, and sure as Hell won’t spend any money on these.  Did I forget to say that leaders need to be smart?

3.   And while we’re talking about state politics and transit, what gives the state the right to control MARTA’s money when they don’t put any in the game.  The money that pays for MARTA comes from all of us in DeKalb and Fulton counties.  Until the state wants to put up, I say shut up and let those of us paying the bills make the decisions.

4.   I want law enforcement on our roads.  There was a time when running a stop sign or a traffic signal or driving like you’re trying to kill someone would get you a ticket with a fine that hurt.  Neither of these happen enough now to make people act civilized.  It’s obvious to me that without better law enforcement, we will continue to needlessly kill people and continue to see the ubiquitous closing of all the freeway lanes to clean up a wreck that was caused by the all too common, 90 mph weaving lunatic in a 55 mph zone.  Charge fines as high as it takes to provide law enforcement.  This isn’t a hard concept to grasp.  And by the way, not only do I not feel sorry for poor people who have trouble paying speeding tickets as whined about in a recent op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, by a sheriff no less. In my world you never pay if you: JUST DON’T BREAK THE LAW!!!!!!!!!!

5.   My final wish is one that is easy, cheap, doesn’t take any government action and is probably totally unrealistic.  I want people to be nice and follow the rules when they drive.  I’m tired of being cut off, having people run signals in front of me when it”s my turn, speeding on neighborhood streets, driving in the left lane like it’s a God-given right, waiting until the last minute to change lanes, parking anywhere people want, using a cell phone that is not hands free so there’s no chance of using the turn signal unless you can steer with a knee, and generally acting like a jerk.  The implied justification for all of these actions is that traffic is so bad you have the right to be aggressive and ignore the rules. 

If I had known it would be this way, I would have done things much differently in my professional life. 

5 replies
  1. Richard E. Hodges says:

    A splendid, wonderfully candid and straightforward evaluation of a situation needing immediate attention, not postponement, by another knowledgeable authority on the vitally-importnat subject of transportation for the future of metro Atlanta and all of Georgia. Congratulations are due the writer and Maria Saporta for providing a platform for some intelligent thinking.Report

  2. mariasaporta says:

    I’m open to any ideas of how we can give this column wider distribution. Would love to share his thoughts with as many people as possible.Report

  3. Jay Johnston says:

    I could agree more with MR. Ellis. I have spent my entire 55 years trying to convince the rest of the world that we native Georgians are not a bunch of self serving country bumkins, but after the last two years of failure in our legislature I give up. Maybe all of those accusations of us being backwards Georgian simpletons are right. We really don’t “Get it”.

    As for the enforcement statements, it has truly become everyman for himself and that seems to be the prevailing attitude. Get all you can for yourself and the hell with everybody else. The southeast portion of I-285 is like the wild west everyday at 5 pm.

    We’re in trouble.Report

  4. Roger Coley says:

    Mr. Ellis has said what many of us have been thinking. It is a crying shame that the political leaders at the Gold Dome continue to drag their feet in regards to implementing a transit funding plan in Georgia, especially Metro Atlanta. There are so many good plans and options for changing the way we commute. Unfortunately, mass transit (which is what I’m really talking about here) is a political football that the Gold Domers love to kick wide right.

    We need players who aren’t afraid to get the tough yards.
    It’s the responsibility of the state to provide for the needs of its people. Too bad when it comes to transit, there is only one word to descibe the Gold Domers – GUTLESS. Everyone only cares about getting elected or re-elected, and no one wants to serve us.

    It’s a damn shame.Report


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