A panel’s thoughts about transportation in Georgia

The first Friday morning of every month, the Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable convenes — one of the best grassroots, community-building events in town.

The topic this month was transportation in Georgia, and I was fortunate enough to serve as moderator of a great panel.

The panel: Cheryl King, MARTA’s assistant general manager of planning and transit system development; Tad Liethead, a senior vice president of Cousins Properties who chairs the Transportation and Air Quality Committee for the Atlanta Regional Commission; and Kevin Green, executive director of the Clean Air Campaign.

As moderator, during the program I write down noteworthy comments from the panel and the audience. At the end of the discussion, I provide a recap of what was said (without attribution).

So here is that recap of key points in our Friday discussion:

“Atlanta no longer is the crown jewel of the Southeast because of traffic.”

“We need dedicated funding for transit.”

“May 1 is the first day of smog season, and half of our emissions comes from cars and trucks.”

“In 10 years, we have made no progress. Right now ARC, GRTA, MARTA, GDOT, SRTA are cooperating. But we have run out of money.”

“We are in a crisis situation.”

“We don’t have our collective act together.”

“The logjam is at the state level.”

“When all was said and done, a lot was said and little got done.”

“The IT3 (Investing in Tomorrow’s Transportation Today) recommended a three-pronged approach — more money, demand management and the coordination of transportation investments with good land use.”

“Instead of promoting IT3’s recommendation, the governor proposed to totally reorganize transportation agencies.”

“We need to keep pressure on elected officials.”

“IT3 really was a breath of fresh air.”

“There have been years and years of mistrust of MARTA at the state.”

“MARTA was left hanging at the last legislative session.”

“Perception of MARTA has little or nothing to do with reality.”

“Remember when Atlanta could do anything? Now we can’t do anything.”

“North Carolina’s governor took the lead in transportation.”

“How did we get from where we were to where we are? Transportation has become a partisan issue. How did that happen?

“Instead of having transit-oriented development, metro Atlanta has had car-oriented development.”

“We need to provide transportation choice.s”

“Can you imagine what would happen if we had a governor who liked trains rather than fish.”

“We need to communicate throughout the whole state.”

Now some of my closing thoughts.

When possible need to take regional control and seek state support. The transit Planning Board provides a pathway for new regional transit governance. Georgia needs a state rail plan, and MARTA can provide professional expertise.

New state elections will change the current dynamics. With ARC Chairman/Cobb Chairman Sam Olens running for Attorney General, what are the implications for region?

What happens now? Will our region say: “We’re mad as hell and we won’t take it anymore” or will we just continue to plan and wait, hoping for action.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

2 replies
  1. b says:

    if cars are half the smog problem, what is the other half? what is being done to address those factors? why continue to fight cars? midtown is a perfect example. “greening” has only led to more traffic which generates more emissions. why not embrace automobile transportation and make it more efficient? if Atlanta was the crown jewel of the Southeast it was when the city accepted automobiles instead of creating more headaches for motorists. realize and accept trains are not the answer. Stop being so arrogant that you are
    trying to tell citizens what the answer is. try instead listening to what citizens want. What a idiotic comment to include “Can you imagine what would happen if we had a governor who liked trains rather than fish.” if this were non-partisan such nonsensical comments would not be made. everyone has an agenda. you are going to be very unsuccessful in pushing yours if you do not check your arrogance and stop telling people how much better your ideas are than everyone elses.Report

  2. esse says:

    1) what is meant by this: ““greening” has only led to more traffic which generates more emissions.” thousands of people have moved into midtown and areas adjacent and bike/walk/ride transit instead of driving.

    2) cars are becoming more efficient because gas prices are finally driving manufacturers (and their customers) to prefer something smaller and more efficient.

    3) MARTA heavy rail is one of the things that helped Atlanta become what it has today. not it’s terrible road system – you can’t be serious about that. Look to Detroit if you want to find a perfectly gridded city with wonderful freeways and plenty of arterials.

    You can’t road-build your way out of traffic. The only option is to provide ALTERNATIVES.Report


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