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As our region becomes more dense, we need more transit options

By Saba Long

As someone who regularly takes public transit, I fail to realize how stressful it is to commute by car. This weekend served as an unfortunate reminder.

Not because of the person who failed to use signal lights when changing lanes – but rather the inordinate amount of time it took to get from point A to point B.

To be sure, the improved temperature was a factor on the Interstate and roadway congestion. But it wasn’t the primary factor.

From downtown to Midtown to Buckhead and beyond, construction cranes are like kiwi seeds across the region’s core; it’s impossible to avoid them.

Our core is becoming denser, in land use and in population, resulting in more cars on the road and a greater urgency to maintain existing infrastructure while building new transportation facilities.

While sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Peachtree, I couldn’t help but wonder what the traffic patterns would like had the region invested in more transit options years ago.

Gridlock has become a testament to our success.

Every executive-level elected official in Georgia is beating the pavement and knocking on doors, selling the idea of life in the Peach State to every major corporation, innovating tech firm and growing manufacturer who’ll listen. As they should.

The universal rule of sales is “always be selling.”

Unfortunately, in the excitement of announcing one corporate relocation after another and welcoming thousands of new residents and visitors, Georgia’s elected officials have forgotten to sell to the people already here.

To be clear, we have a product to sell – numerous critical transportation infrastructure projects across the state that once open, would be a noticeable source of traffic relief.

Instead, we’ve let congestion become the norm even while it appears to worsen year after year. Our infrastructure needs aren’t going away, no matter how long we ignore them.

One would think members of the General Assembly use some invisible transport portal, allowing them to avoid traffic snarls. Teetering on the rope, it appears House Bill 170 has landed on its feet once again after today’s legislative session and, surprisingly, includes the removal of a tax break for one of the largest employers in the region, if not the state. It’s a bold move that will generate millions of dollars for air transportation improvements.

Last year, the General Assembly voted to allow Clayton County to decide its transit future. In two weeks, the county will see MARTA buses driving down Clayton’s streets and connecting residents to Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Another bold move – draft similar bills for the region’s core counties to vote on their transit future as their elected officials and residents desire to approach transit.

Rather than gridlock, let’s let bold leadership become a testament to our success.

Saba Long

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.



  1. Mark B Rinder March 3, 2015 9:52 am

    It’s incredible to me that we wring our hands about the Beltline light rail transit, which would spark massive further economic development and expansion in the city, wondering, “Well, where on earth are we going to get the money?  It’s going to cost $1,000,000,000 to build out!!!”  At the very same moment, the Governor and others (who ask that question) are presiding over the ground-breaking on a $1,000,000,000 project to improve…an INTERSECTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I mean, come on, folks, can we get our priorities straight here?  I’m not suggesting that the 400/285 improvements are not welcome nor that they are a bad idea.  I am saying, however, that if we were able to find that money so readily, we ought to be able to find the money to build out the Beltline.  I’m not a tree-hugger (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), I’m a business man in charge of one of Atlanta’s small (revenue of about $75,000,000) companies and am very business-focused.  #endofrantReport

  2. Burroughston Broch March 3, 2015 1:13 pm

    Mark B Rinder  Then tax the City taxpayers $1 billion and build it. Beltline activities will benefit only the City, so the City should pay for it. What are you waiting for? Get the City’s priorities in order.Report

  3. evinton1 March 3, 2015 1:50 pm

    Name one metro that doesn’t have terrible traffic. Thank you. Public transit doesn’t even begin to solve traffic issues.Report

  4. atlman March 4, 2015 7:42 am

    Burroughston Broch Mark B Rinder

    I have a better idea. How about we stop redistributing the tax revenue generated in Atlanta outside the city? All tax money generated in Atlanta stays in Atlanta. Sounds like a great start?
    An even better idea: folks who do not live in the city but fly into Hartsfield should pay a surtax. You live in Cobb or Gwinnett? Pay a tax when you fly in or out of Hartsfield. You have a business in Forsyth and are flying clients in via Hartsfield? Fine. Pay a tax.

    Stop redistributing Atlanta revenue to the (mostly GOP leaning) economically depressed areas outside of metro Atlanta, and tax the suburbanites who rely on the Atlanta airport for their jobs, businesses and vacations and Atlanta will be able to fund the Beltline in less than 5 years. Sounds like a good idea to me. What about you?Report

  5. evinton1 March 4, 2015 7:49 am

    You do realize that the airport does charge taxes and gate fees to the carriers right which in turn get paid for by consumers? You also realize that the airport is owned by the city?
    Also, your idea about tax revenue is what north Fulton has been trying to do with south Fulton for awhile now. North Fulton holds up that entire county.
    Stop with your ITP snobbish attitude. The city isn’t going to become great with your attitude. You sound like a child.Report

  6. evinton1 March 4, 2015 7:51 am

    Also Atlanta already has a property tax. Why don’t you rally and see if you can get an income tax for Atlanta and see how quickly people flee?Report

  7. Doug March 4, 2015 10:51 am

    Great article, Saba.  Good observations.Report

  8. Burroughston Broch March 4, 2015 1:57 pm

    evinton1  My comment about the City taxing itself to build out the Beltline was tongue-in-cheek. City finances are so stretched it can afford only a $250 million bond issue to correct only a small percentage of its $1 billion list of rotted infrastructure. The percentage will be much less than 25% because part of the proceeds will be siphoned off for new pet projects (such as infrastructure for the Falcon’s stadium, bike paths, etc.).
    City leaders don’t have the courage to ask the voters to pay $1 billion for the Beltline because they know the voters would say No. Instead, the City wants “partners” (aka private firms trying to buy political influence and favors) to pay for most of it. The City always has its hand out for others to pay, particularly when some of the money can stick to politician’s fingers.Report


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