Atlanta LINK delegation headed to Houston for economic success tips

By Maria Saporta

At first glance, one might question why 110 leaders from metro Atlanta would pick Houston, Texas as the city to study for its 17th annual LINK trip from May 15 to May 18.

But consider the following facts.

Forbes has named Houston, Texas as the “coolest” city to live in the United States. Atlanta didn’t make the top 20 list.

Between 2007 and 2012, Houston gained nearly 175,000 new jobs while Atlanta lost 178,000 during that same period.

Houston is the fifth largest metro area in the United States compared to metro Atlanta, which is ninth.

2013 LINK logo

2013 LINK logo

Houston has 25 Fortune 500 companies based in the Houston MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area); compared to 12 in the Atlanta MSA. That means that Houston, not Atlanta, actually ranks third among cities with the largest concentration of Fortune 500 company headquarters — after New York City (67) and Chicago (29).

And while the 10-county metro Atlanta region decisively defeated a regional one-percent transportation sales tax in 2012, Houston voters went to the polls in November and resoundingly decided to invest in their region’s future.

They approved $410 million in bond initiatives that will go toward libraries, health and safety facilities, parks, bayous, recreation centers as well as 150 miles of connected trails and linear parks along the Bayou Greenway Initiative.

Also, the Atlanta region is marketing itself as a biotechnology center and as a logistics hub. But, again, Houston is well positioned in both of those sectors.

Houston has more than 160 biotechnology companies and academic partnerships, more than 75 hospitals and health clinics, and some of the nation’s top research facilities. In 2008, Houston had the 10th highest rating in the world for the number of patents by a city.

When it comes to logistics, there is the Port of Houston as well as three other seaports in the region, two major passenger/air cargo airports, 3,700 lane miles of freeways and 14 mainline railroad tracks.

“There’s a lot more to their economy than oil and energy,” said Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, which organizes the annual LINK trip. “Because of its central location in the country, it is a huge logistics center. It also has many corporate relocations.”

Hooker said one area where Houston is quite different than Atlanta is with local governance. The City of Houston has a population has about 2 million residents of the metro area’s 6 million residents — representing a powerful third of region.

By comparison, the City of Atlanta only has about 500,000 residents of a metro area of about 5 million people — roughly 10 percent of the population.

One area Atlanta leaders can explore is what impact the two different governance styles have on each city’s regional mindset and on each city’s ability to address regional issues.

Houston leaders also say that their region is one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse, in the United States. Because of its proximity to the Mexican border, immigration issues are top-of-mind in Texas.

Atlantans also might be surprised to find that Houston is a vibrant center for arts and cultural. Its Museum District has 19 museums located within a 1.5 mile radius of the Mecom Fountain in Hermann Park.

It also has a 17-block Theatre district downtown with nine major performing arts organizations and many smaller ones that perform in four venues.

The Houston Arts Alliance, a nonprofit arts organization, distributes #3 million in grants to about 220 nonprofit arts organizations and arts. It also manages the city’s civic arts collection of 450 pieces as well as new acquisitions.

Rob LeBeau, ARC’s section manager in the Community Development Division who has been responsible for putting together the LINK trip, said another area of focus will be the Texas Medical Center — considered the largest medical center in the world. It serves as an umbrella organization for all the medical facilities and institutions in the region — providing an economic draw for talent.

Also, on the first evening of the trip. Houston Mayor Annise Parker will address the LINK delegation. Parker is the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed did help arrange for Parker to address the LINK delegation, but he will not be able to attend this year. It is the first LINK trip he will have missed since being elected mayor.

The mayor’s spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs said Reed worked to make it a success by connecting the organizers with Parker, but unfortunately could not make it this year.

“Mayor Reed is committed to working with regional leaders on vital issues that affect the metropolitan Atlanta area, such as transportation and infrastructure,” Jacobs wrote in an email.

Several other leaders, however, will attend, including DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis; Cherokee County Chairman Buzz Ahrens; Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee; Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash; Rockdale County Chairman Richard Oden; Clayton County Chairman Jeffrey Turner; Douglas County Chairman Tom Worthan and Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell.

Among some other notables attending this year are: Georgia State Rep. Stacey Abrams; Leona Barr-Davenport, president and CEO of the Atlanta Business League; Georgia State University President Mark Becker; Mike Cassidy, president of the Georgia Research Alliance; Woodruff Arts Center CEO Virginia Hepner; MARTA CEO Keith Parker; and Tim Hynes, president of Clayton State University.

A few other notable absences: Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber (trip conflicts with his executive committee meeting); Fulton County Chairman John Eaves; Henry County Chairman Tommy Smith; Fayette County Chairman Steve Brown; representatives of major philanthropic foundations; other state legislators and state government leaders.

Please click here for a complete list of attendees registered to go on the 2013 LINK trip.

Here is a chronological list of all the previous Atlanta LINK cities:

Denver – 1997

Seattle – 1998

Dallas – 1999

Cleveland – 2000

San Diego – 2001

Chicago – 2002

San Francisco – 2003

Boston – 2004

Portland – 2005

Miami – 2006

Vancouver – 2007

Denver – 2008

Minneapolis-St. Paul – 2009

Phoenix – 2010

Seattle – 2011

Baltimore/Washington, D.C. — 2012

Houston — 2013

Note to readers: Please stay tuned to SaportaReport and the Atlanta Business Chronicle website during May 15 and May 18 for regular updates of the LINK trip. I will have concluding columns after I return.

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.

43 replies
  1. Rob Augustine says:

    In metro Houston the cities control municipal functions. Counties have only limited jurisdiction such as courts and public health. Compare this focus on cities to Metro Atlanta where the often dysfunctional county govt’s control everything. You have many county leaders on the LINK trip over the years. But the disconnect here of having large counties dominate municipal decision making is a telling difference with Texas and most other states. We need more local city governments here in metropolitan ATL. These local city govt’s work better. Add in a few regional authorities for water, sewer, transit, and roads and we’d have a more workable model for our local government. One that empowers local citizens and leads to better governance and regional cooperation.Report

    Reply
  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    No further interest in this site since it is now inaccessible excessible during business hours Monday through Friday.
    I assume this is intended to restrict non-positive comments.
    It appears to be a Sam Williams-style change, so I assume the Metro Chamber is involved. That’s sad becuase the Metro Chamber now has little credibility after the TSPLOST and APS cheating fiascoes.Report

    Reply
    • Rob Augustine says:

      Burroughston Broch You may have experienced some login or posting issues, but I can assure you, there do not appear to me to be any inaccessible hours. I posted my thoughts late last night – definitely outside “business hours.”Report

      Reply
      • Burroughston Broch says:

        Rob Augustine
        The site was offline last night beginning at 2238GMT/538PM EDT. There was only a cached copy available. It was still offline at 738AM this morning.
        I tried to get in using Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome.
        Perhaps you have a special entry point other than http://www.saportareport.com.Report

        Reply
  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Houston is a very-interesting city to study (a VERY-INTERESTING city) because the city is home to what one could probably call ‘The Ultimate Car Culture’ as Houstonians are a people that are very-much intensely obsessed with their automobiles, even more so than the car-addled automobile-overdependent Los Angeles of today or the prideful automobile-manufacturing ‘Motor City’ Detroit of years’ past.
    Houstonians are obsessed with their automobiles especially far-and-away more so than an increasingly transit-hungry Atlanta region could ever imagine.
    What also makes Houston an interesting case study is the region’s maximum investment strategy in its transportation infrastructure over the past three decades or so, a transportation infrastructure investment strategy which has focused heavily on maximum expansion of the Houston region’s road infrastructure.Report

    Reply
  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Among the highlights of Houston’s maximum road expansion transportation infrastructure investment strategy has been:
    -The construction of 4 toll roads over the past three decades, including the construction of a second outer-loop (the Beltway 8/Sam Houston Tollway https://www.hctra.org/sh-northeast/index.html) that is located at a distance of 7-10 miles outside of the original outer loop of Interstate 610. https://www.hctra.org/tollroads/
    -The construction of 2 toll roads within freight railroad right-of-ways (the Westpark Tollway which was constructed in the former right-of-way of the Southern Pacific freight railroad line on the West-Southwest side of Houston http://www.westhouston.org/new_page_20.htm  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westpark_Tollway, and the Hardy Toll Road a north-south toll road which runs parallel 1-3 miles east of Interstate 45 and was constructed mostly within the active right-of-way of the Union Pacific freight railroad line whose tracks run down the median of the toll road for much of its length http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardy_Toll_Road).Report

    Reply
  5. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    The highlights of Houston’s maximum road expansion-dominated transportation strategy (continued):
    -The construction of a third at-grade surface outer-loop (the untolled at-grade Texas Highway 6/Addicks-Howell Rd/FM 1960/Cypress Creek Pkwy) that runs around the outer fringes of the metro area at a distance of between 2 and 25 miles outside of the third outer-loop of the Beltway 8/Sam Houston Tollway.
    -The reconstruction of the Interstate 10 West/Katy Freeway between the I-610 Loop and the Beltway 8/Sam Houston Tollway from a severely-congested 10-lane roadway that consisted of 3 thru lanes and 2 service road/local lanes in each direction, into a much faster flowing roadway that is up to 26 lanes in width in some spots and consists of 2 tolled carpool lanes, 6 untolled thru lanes and 3-5 service road/local lanes in each direction. https://www.hctra.org/katymanagedlanes/Report

    Reply
  6. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    The highlights of Houston’s maximum road expansion-dominated transportation investment strategy (continued from below):
    -The construction of a FOURTH outer-loop, the tolled Texas Highway 99/Grand Parkway which at a length of over 170 miles when completed will be the longest outer beltway in the U.S. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_State_Highway_99http://www.grandpky.com/home/
    -The proposed reconstruction/construction of the existing 13-lane US Highway 290/Northwest Freeway corridor into a roughly 20-lane transportation corridor that could include 8 untolled thru lanes, 2-3 reversible High Occupancy Toll lanes in the median, 6 service lanes for local traffic, a parallel 4-6 lane toll road and a parallel high-capacity rail transit line next to an existing freight rail line. http://www.my290.com/animations.htmlhttp://www.my290.com/Report

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  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (continued from below)
    Though the Houston region has and is continuing to pursue and execute a transportation investment strategy that is centered on the seemingly maximum expansion of the region’s road network, the Houston region is also pursuing a substantial expansion of its transit network.
    The Houston region plans to expand the region’s light rail transit system from a current single north-south line (the Red Line) by extending the current north-south Main Street Red Line by over 5 miles to the north and adding four new lines for a total of 5 light rail lines.
    Here is a link to a map of the current light rail transit system which only consists of one light rail line:  http://www.ridemetro.org/SchedulesMaps/RailSched.aspx
    Here is a link to a map of what Houston’s light rail transit system will look like upon build-out:  http://www.gometrorail.org/clients/2491/473439.pdf  
    Here is a link to a map that includes detailed descriptions of each of Houston’s future light rail lines:  http://www.gometrorail.org/go/doc/2491/1323783/Report

    Reply
  8. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below)
    The irony of Houston’s continuing maximum expansion of its road network while pursuing a somewhat less-substantial, yet still large-scale, expansion of its rail transit network was pointed out by the Sierra Club in a recent article in a local Houston magazine titled “METRO light rail expansion and sprawling Grand Parkway make Sierra Club’s Best and Worst list”.
    http://houston.culturemap.com/news/city_life/12-26-12-15-59-metro-light-rail-expansion-and-sprawling-grand-parkway-make-sierra-clubs-best-and-worst-list/Report

    Reply
  9. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below)
    In addition to the continued execution of the maximum expansion of the region’s road network through the construction of toll roads and High Occupancy Tolled managed lanes, the Houston region is also pursuing the eventual implementation of regional park & ride commuter rail service on existing freight rail right-of-ways.
    http://www.hgaccommuterrail.com/index.htm  
    http://www.hgaccommuterrail.com/docs/HGAC%20Commuter%20Rail%20-%20Relative%20Demand%20Potential_2.pdfReport

    Reply
  10. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below)
    Here is also a link to an article in the local Houston magazine of “Culture Map Houston” that gives some insight into the ongoing debate within the Houston region over whether to keep up the pursuit of a maximum road expansion strategy or spend more of those road construction dollars on passenger rail-anchored mass transit expansion:
    http://houston.culturemap.com/news/city_life/11-15-12-12-36-metro-referendum-is-decided-but-confusion-lingers-over-future-of-houston-public-transit/Report

    Reply
  11. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) A key passage from the article in Culture Map Houston magazine titled “METRO referendum is decided, but confusion lingers over future of Houston public transit”:
    {{“Future too bus-centric for some…….Jay Crossley with http://www.houstontomorrow.org/, the advocacy group that led the anti-referendum movement, fears that the voter-approved measure allows METRO too much room to abandon the future rail lines — routes that will be needed to help control vehicle traffic as the city continues to grow….”}}Report

    Reply
  12. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) A key passage from the article in Culture Map Houston magazine titled “METRO referendum is decided, but confusion lingers over future of Houston public transit”:
    {{“….He (Jay Crossley with Houston Tomorrow) pointed to a recent http://www.houstontomorrow.org/livability/story/houston-region-spending-most-per-capita-on-roads-of-top-ten-us-metros/ that found that the eight-county Houston region spends more on roads per capita than any other major metropolitan area in the nation. Of the top 10 largest US cities, the Bayou City spends about $330 per person on street maintenance and construction compared to Los Angeles at $261, Dallas at $253 and New York at $96….”}}
    http://houston.culturemap.com/news/city_life/11-15-12-12-36-metro-referendum-is-decided-but-confusion-lingers-over-future-of-houston-public-transit/Report

    Reply
  13. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) A key passage from the article in Culture Map Houston magazine titled “METRO referendum is decided, but confusion lingers over future of Houston public transit” (continued):
    {{“…..”Clearly, this level of (road construction) spending isn’t a sustainable path for Houston transportation,” Crossley told CultureMap. “http://www.ridemetro.org/ has been a model for great light rail. Along with http://www.metro.net/ we’ve been leading the nation in the creation of modern public transportation systems. After this referendum, L.A. certainly will move ahead”}} 
    http://houston.culturemap.com/news/city_life/11-15-12-12-36-metro-referendum-is-decided-but-confusion-lingers-over-future-of-houston-public-transit/Report

    Reply
  14. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) A key passage from the article in Culture Map Houston magazine titled “METRO referendum is decided, but confusion lingers over future of Houston public transit” (continued):
    {{“……With the ability to use more tax dollars for road projects like the http://www.grandpky.com/, he believes that METRO and the area municipal governments encourage people to live in distant neighborhoods, increasing congestion and average commute times. He promised that, post-referendum, Houston Tomorrow will recalibrate its outreach and continue to push for responsible transit………According to a http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2011/5/12%20jobs%20and%20transit/0512_jobs_transit.pdf by the Brookings Institute, Houston http://houston.culturemap.com/newsdetail/05-14-11-brooking-ranks-houston-a-pitiful-72-in-job-access-via-public-transit/ 72 among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas in providing transit access to jobs.”}}
    http://houston.culturemap.com/news/city_life/11-15-12-12-36-metro-referendum-is-decided-but-confusion-lingers-over-future-of-houston-public-transit/Report

    Reply
  15. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) {{“And while the 10-county metro Atlanta region decisively defeated a regional one-percent transportation sales tax in 2012, Houston voters went to the polls in November and resoundingly decided to invest in their region’s future…..They approved $410 million in bond initiatives that will go toward libraries, health and safety facilities, parks, bayous, recreation centers as well as 150 miles of connected trails and linear parks along the Bayou Greenway Initiative.”}}
    …Metro Atlantans didn’t overwhelmingly defeat the T-SPLOST because they don’t want to invest in their region’s future.  On the whole, Metro Atlantans absolutely DO want to invest in their region’s future, Metro Atlantans overwhelmingly defeated the T-SPLOST because they (rightfully) did not trust that the powers-that-be would use their hard-earned money to invest in their future WISELY.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      One of the (many) main reasons why Metro Atlantans did not trust that T-SPLOST funds would be spent wisely was because many metro residents thought that their sales tax dollars would be used to build more automobile-overdependency and congestion-inducing low-density sprawl to the benefit of everyone (roadbuilders, land spectulators, real estate developers, high-priced consultants, etc) except them as they are the ones who have to drive in the even worse traffic that would result for the continued sprawl and over-development.Report

      Reply
  16. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below)  There is also some controversy over the $410 million in bond initiatives that was approved by Houston voters in November 2012. 
    There is some concern that money is being diverted from the region’s transit expansion plans for road construction and other purposes not specifically related to transit or even transportation at great expense to the region’s transit plans in a debate that is reminiscent of some of the continuing debates over the use of SPLOST funds in many municipalities in the Atlanta region.
    http://houston.culturemap.com/news/city_life/10-29-12-more-light-rail-for-houston-if-youre-pro-transit-vote-no-on-metro-ballot-issue/Report

    Reply
  17. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Something else that is interesting about Houston is the conversion of existing surface roads into toll roads and freeways.
    In addition to both toll roads being built within the pre-existing right-of-ways of freight rail lines, Hardy Toll Road on the Northside of the city was converted out of the pre-existing at-grade surface thoroughfare Hardy Road while Westpark Tollway on the West-Southwest side of the city was converted partially out of the pre-existing at-grade surface thoroughfare Westpark Drive.
    US 90/South Main Street has been converted to at-grade expressway-type road with somewhat tightly-constricted interchanges and separated-grade express lanes elevated over major intersections through Southwest Houston while the plans to convert the at-grade surface thoroughfare Hempstead Highway (old US 290) into a 4-6 toll road through the Northwest suburbs seem to have been placed on hold for the time being.Report

    Reply
  18. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    {{“And while the 10-county metro Atlanta region decisively defeated a regional one-percent transportation sales tax in 2012, Houston voters went to the polls in November and resoundingly decided to invest in their region’s future…..They approved $410 million in bond initiatives that will go toward libraries, health and safety facilities, parks, bayous, recreation centers as well as 150 miles of connected trails and linear parks along the Bayou Greenway Initiative.”}}
    …While okay for many large urban regions, the regional referendum approach of transportation funding is incompatible for the Atlanta region as the unique politics of the Atlanta region where the urbanized portion of the region is governed by as many as 12 different county governments (and hundreds of city/town/village governments)….That’s compared to the Houston region where the urbanized portion of the region is governed mostly by one large county government in the 4 million-inhabitant Harris County, TX government with 4 other counties governing small portions of the rest.Report

    Reply
  19. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    {{“Hooker said one area where Houston is quite different than Atlanta is with local governance. The City of Houston has a population has about 2 million residents of the metro area’s 6 million residents — representing a powerful third of region……By comparison, the City of Atlanta only has about 500,000 residents of a metro area of about 5 million people — roughly 10 percent of the population…….One area Atlanta leaders can explore is what impact the two different governance styles have on each city’s regional mindset and on each city’s ability to address regional issues.”}}Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      …Comparing the differences in geopolitical makeup between the Houston and Atlanta regions, if the Atlanta region was governed like the Houston region with roughly more than 2 million residents inside the corporate limits of the City of Houston and roughly 2 million more residents outside the Houston city limits being under one county government in Harris County, TX, then the roughly 2 million residents of the Atlanta region’s urban core who are now governed by 5 different county governments in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton and Gwinnett counties would live within the jurisdiction of one large city government while 2 million more residents who live immediately outside of the 5-county urban core of Metro Atlanta and are now governed by 7 different county governments would be under the jurisdiction of one large county government.Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      While not desirable for some, the multiplicity of local governments in the Atlanta region with residents of the metro region living under dozens of different county governments and hundreds of municipal governments is what makes the Atlanta region unique and not unlike large and heavily-populated metro regions in the Northeastern U.S. whose residents live under dozens of county governments and hundreds of municipal governments.
      While the greater Atlanta region as a whole sprawls across roughly 30 different counties in North Georgia, the metro regions of Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston each spread across parts of 3 different STATES while the metro region of Baltimore-Washington (last year’s LINK trip destination) spreads across parts of 3 different states and the District of Columbia while the monster New York City metro region spreads across parts of 4 different states.
      The most-glaring difference between the roughly 30-county greater Atlanta metro region of 6 million residents and the multi-county and multi-state greater metro regions of Chicago (10 million), Philly (6 million), Boston (6 million), Baltimore-Washington (8 million) and New York City (22 million) is the much-greater involvement of those metro region’s state governments in providing rail and bus transit to those metro regions’ residents.Report

      Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        The very-heavy and very-necessary involvement of state government in providing rail and bus transit in the heavily-populated multi-county and multi-state large metro regions of the Northeastern U.S. underscores how much of a necessity that it is that the State of Georgia play a much-greater and much more productive role in funding, administering and managing all modes of transportation in the severely road infrastructure-limited multi-county Atlanta region, including roads and particularly transit.
        Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Kyle Wingfield described it best with the name of his recent column “State must lead on the road ahead” http://www.ajc.com/news/news/opinion/state-must-lead-on-the-road-ahead/nXfLw/Report

        Reply
  20. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    To further expound on the governing differences between Houston and Atlanta, the City of Houston proper with roughly 2.2 million residents is not only the most-populated incorporated city in the Houston region but is also the second-most populated jurisdiction in the entire Houston region behind only Harris County and its roughly 4.2 million residents of which the City of Houston is the county seat of.
    That means that just as Ms. Saporta pointed out that the 2.2 million-inhabitant City of Houston is home to 1/3rd of the Houston’s population of 6 million, the 4.2 million-inhabitant Harris County is home to over 2/3rds of Houston region’s population of 6 million people.
    By comparison, while the City of Atlanta with its 432,000 residents is the most-populated incorporated city in the Atlanta region and in the entire state of Georgia, the City of Atlanta is only the 5th-most populated jurisdiction in the Atlanta region behind DeKalb (707,089), Cobb (707,442), Gwinnett (842,046) and Fulton (977,773) counties.
    The City of Atlanta with its population of roughly 432,000 residents is also home to only about roughly 7% of the roughly 30-county greater Atlanta region’s population of 6 million residents.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Because the City of Houston makes up a much-larger percentage of the Houston region’s population than the City of Atlanta does of the Atlanta region’s population, the City of Houston has a much larger ability to address and impact regional issues than does the City of Atlanta which is home to only roughly 7% or just under 1/14th of the 30-county greater Atlanta’s region’s population of 6 million inhabitants.
      It is because the City of Atlanta makes up only 7% of the population of the greater Atlanta region, which stretches across 30 different counties in North Georgia, that the State of Georgia absolutely must take the lead role in addressing matters of regional significance.Report

      Reply
  21. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    {{“Between 2007 and 2012, Houston gained nearly 175,000 new jobs while Atlanta lost 178,000 during that same period”}}
    …In addition to much-stronger regulation of real estate finance by the State of Texas, one of the main reasons that Houston has continued to add jobs during the economic downturn is the region’s continued very-strong investment in its transportation infrastructure.
    Houston may be a little too ambitious in its investments in road expansion for road construction-averse and increasingly transit-hungry Metro Atlantans and North Georgians to want to emulate, but the lesson that Metro Atlantans should take from Houston’s much more-successful outing during the downturn is that they, along with the State of Georgia whose government Metro Atlantans now dominate by virtue of continued explosive population growth, absolutely must invest more in their transportation infrastructure if they want to stay economically viable in the national and international marketplaces.
    If Metro Atlantans and North Georgians don’t want to or can’t go heavy or road infrastructure investment than the region and the state have no choice but to go heavy on transit infrastructure investment.Report

    Reply
  22. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Taking a cue from Houston’s conversion of some of its at-grade surface thoroughfares into toll roads and super-arteries, some Metro Atlanta at-grade surface thoroughfares that are good candidates for conversion into urban super-arteries that utilize tightly-constricted formations within existing right-of-way (separated-grade express lanes below at-grade surface local lanes, where applicable) that don’t require the acquisition of new right-of-way or the condemnation of existing development include:
    -US Hwy 41/Cobb Parkway from the NW I-285 Perimeter out to Bartow County north of Cartersville which could be converted into an urban double-level super-artery that includes separated below-grade express through lanes so as to foster the development of the surface right-of-way into a densely-developed pedustrian-friendly and transit-compatible urban boulevard as is highly-desired by the local governments of Cobb County and the City of Marietta.  US Hwy 41/Cobb Parkway could be converted into an urban double-level super-artery in conjunction with the development of the parallel historic CSX/Western & Atlantic rail right-of-way into a high-capacity passenger rail transit corridor between Atlanta and Chattanooga.Report

    Reply
  23. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) Metro Atlanta at-grade surface thoroughfares that are good candidates for conversion into urban expressways and super-arteries:
    -GA Hwy 6/Camp Creek Parkway/US Hwy 278/Thornton Road/C.H. James Parkway from the I-85 South interchange near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int’l Airport out past the city of Dallas in Paulding County because of the very-heavy automobile traffic that uses the road between the Atlanta Airport and the Camp Creek Marketplace shopping area just west of the I-285/Camp Creek Pkwy interchange and because of the extremely-heavy freight truck traffic that uses the road between I-285 and the Norfolk Southern truck-to-rail/rail-to-truck Intermodal Facility in Austell.  Turning GA Hwy 6 into an urban super-artery/expressway would help to eliminate some of the deadly collisions between automobiles and trucks at the numerous signalized at-grade intersections along the high-speed surface road.  GA Hwy 6 could be converted into an urban super-artery/expressway in conjunction with the implementation of high-capacity passenger rail transit within the paralleling NS rail right-of-way between Atlanta and Rome by way of Austell.Report

    Reply
  24. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) Metro Atlanta at-grade surface thoroughfares that are good candidates for conversion into urban expressways and super-arteries:
    -US Hwy 19-41/Tara Boulevard from I-75 in Clayton County south to Barnesville in Lamar County in conjunction with the implementation of high-capacity passenger rail transit service between Atlanta and Warner Robins by way of Macon within the paralleling Norfolk Southern rail right-of-way that has long been targeted by the state for the implementation of regional commuter rail service.
    -Peachtree Industrial Boulevard from its junction with GA Hwy 141/Peachtree Parkway in the Peachtree Corners/Norcross area of Gwinnett County out to its junction with GA Hwy 347/Lanier Islands Parkway in Southern Hall County near Lake Lanier in conjunction with the implementation of high-capacity passenger rail transit between Atlanta and Clemson University in the Upstate region of South Carolina by way of Gainesville within the paralleling historic NS/Southern Railway line.Report

    Reply
  25. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) Metro Atlanta at-grade surface thoroughfares that are good candidates for conversion into urban expressways and super-arteries:
    -The construction of very tightly-constrained urban separated-grade interchanges at congested at-grade intersections along the GA Hwy 92/Woodstock Road/Crossville Road/GA 140/Holcomb Bridge Road/Jimmy Carter corridor between I-75 Northwest near Acworth and I-85 Northeast in Norcross
    -The construction of very tightly-constrained urban separated-grade interchanges at congested at-grade intersections and the partial conversion of the road to an urban expressway where applicable along GA Hwy 141/Peachtree Parkway/Medlock Bridge Road between the P’tree Industrial Blvd split in Peachtree Corners and the GA 400 interchange in Forsyth County where a flyover exit ramp from GA 400 SB to GA 141 SB would be constructed.  Conversion of roadway to partial urban expressway would in conjunction with an increase in park & ride bus service along the corridor that would feed into and out of a multimodal/high-capacity passenger rail transit station in/near Downtown Norcross.Report

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  26. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    (Continued from below) Metro Atlanta at-grade surface thoroughfares that are good candidates for conversion into urban expressways and super-arteries:
    -The construction of tightly-constrained urban separated-grade interchanges at congested at-grade intersections along stretches of GA Hwy 120/Dallas Highway from the US Hwy 278/GA Hwy 6 junction west of Hiram in East Paulding County to Barrett Parkway in West Cobb County and along GA 120/Roswell Road from the GA 120 Loop in East Cobb to the GA 9 junction in Roswell in North Fulton County with the consideration of a subterranean urban express tunnel the historic district within the City of Marietta to connect both ends of GA 120 within Cobb County while taking traffic off of Marietta’s historic but narrow city streets (Whitlock Avenue, in particular).Report

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  27. Rob Augustine says:

    Parsing through the Last Democrats articles, I think the point to be made is that it does not matter that there are numerous local government entities – that is a given for all jurisdictions to live with. What is most important is that we MUST HAVE A REGIONAL ENTITY that controls transit throughout all these local governments. A regional transporation authority that actually runs a regional system for all of Metro Atlanta is very much needed here. My contention is that we have not developed such a regional entity because of the extraordinary power vested in large county governments who do their own thing. This decades long use of power by the big counties has limited  regional and comprehensive planning for metro Atlanta. My further point is that had we vested more home rule powers in local city governments of any size, we would of necessity also developed a fully functioning regional authority to handle matters of a regional nature such as transit and roads.Report

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  28. Rob Augustine says:

    Counties never were designed to handle municipal governance. Seven commissioners of roads and revenues cannot possibly represent adequately large areas and big populations. That is why these county governments are ultimately dysfunctional and their overall planning and operation leaves so much to be desired. Smaller city governments do handle the municipal tasks extremely well. Now all we need is more of them plus a regional authority — yes, spearheaded by the State of Georgia — to get our metro region on track for the future.Report

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  29. scfranklin says:

    Cheers to Link participants. Exchaning ideas with colleagues in the group and those met on the trip is a best practice for deeepening regional relationships, learning about the “ways” of other similarly situated leaders and setting a baseline for understanding and solving tough, complex issues that confront metro Atlanta civic and elected leaders.Report

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  30. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Another interesting statistic of note is that despite the Houston region’s continued pursuit of a maximum road expansion-dominated transportation strategy, Houston’s urban area has more density than Atlanta’s urban area.
    The Houston urban core, which is confined mostly within the 1,729 square miles of Harris County, Texas, has a population density of 2,460 persons per square mile.
    That is compared to the Atlanta urban core, which is found mostly (but not completely) inside the 1,714 combined square miles of the five counties of Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett (3,500, 238 combined population) which all have a combined land area that is 15 square miles smaller than Harris County, TX (population 4,253,700), has a population density of only 2,043 persons per square mile.
    (Houston’s urban core population density of 2460 persons per square mile > Atlanta’s urban core population density of 2043 persons per square mile)
    That means that Atlanta actually sprawls more over an inadequate road network than Houston does over a much more adequate road network.
    With a population density of 417 more persons per mile than Atlanta’s urban core, Houston’s urban core is about 10% more dense than Atlanta’s urban core.Report

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  31. Christopher says:

    Maria’s “information” is highly flawed. Maria has gotten a number of factoids wrong. Metro Atlanta had 5.5 million residents in 2012. It’s probably about 5.6 million now. The fact that Houston is #5 and Atlanta is #9 doesn’t say much either. Metro’s #4 to #10 are pretty closely matched population wise. They are all within a few hundred thousand to a million or so within each other. As a matter of fact, Atlanta has generally outgrown Houston over the past 25 years. Atlanta added more people and grew at a faster rate than Houston or Dallas-Fort Worth in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Houston does indeed outrank Atlanta with Fortune 500 companies but Atlanta MSA has more than 12. It had 14 in 2009, well before she sat down and wrote that. It could rise to 15 or 16 if PulteGroup regains it’s ranking. Also, metro Atlanta has 12 other companies within the Fortune 1000. Not sure how many others Houston has. Atlanta actually led in corporate relocations for years. When discussing economics it’s not just corporations that matter. Atlanta is most likely a bigger education center than Houston given that Atlanta has 43 colleges and universities in it’s metro and Houston has a lot less. Atlanta is a bigger center of media than Houston with CNN, Turner Broadcasting Systems, and the Weather Channel all broadcast from Atlanta worldwide. Atlanta is also a major medical research center. Atlanta has the headquarters of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society. The CDC probably can outclass the Texas Medical Center. Atlanta also possesses the biggest trump card of them all-Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The Atlanta Airport leaves Houston’s in the dust. Atlanta also has a major HEAVY RAIL transit system which is much faster and moves more people than Houston’s light rail. Contrary to Maria’s claims, the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta are moving forward on transportation. Georgia is turning to high-tech highways utilizing variable speed control, HOT lanes, flex lanes, reversible lanes, HOV lanes, improved interchanges, and diverging diamond intersections. The city is investing in the Beltline, the streetcar, bike lanes, and intersection improvements. Atlanta also trumps Houston in climate. Atlanta’s tree canopy provides a quality of life Houston could never match. Atlanta’s plethora of plant life gives the city plenty of shade and a cooler climate than Houston. Atlanta also gets far more rain than Houston does. In short, despite other cities’ success, Atlanta’s future is bright as well.Report

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