Atlanta’s new DOT to be one-stop shop for everything from transit planning to pothole repair
By David Pendered
Atlanta residents are to be allowed to voice their thoughts about how the city’s newly created Department of Transportation goes about its business – including transit planning. Late 2020 is the target date for the new department to be fully functional, according to legislation approved Monday by the Atlanta City Council.
The DOT commissioner no longer is to report directly to the mayor, as was envisioned in previous versions of the paper. The legislation approved Monday eliminates that provision. The chain of command is not expressly stated in the legislation. Most department heads report to the city’s chief operating officer, according to a flow chart in the city’s budget.
The legislation observes that the first order of business for the new DOT is to:
- “Develop a comprehensive multimodal transportation plan that provides residents, commuters, and visitors safe access within and to the City of Atlanta.”
In addition, the legislation contemplates a structure for the city to establish a DOT. The structure is addressed, in the broadest of terms, in the start-up date for the new department. The legislation observes:
- “WHEREAS, the City of Atlanta transportation staff will lead a community engagement process to capture feedback from residents to build a Department of Transportation that aligns with the interests and values of the public; and
- “WHEREAS, the creation of this new department will begin in Fiscal Year 2020 using a phased approach and is expected to take 18 months to complete.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has endorsed the concept of a single department to manage all the city’s transportation-related issues. She placed the matter front and center in this year’s State of the City presentation.
In a statement the mayor’s office released following the council’s vote to create the department, the mayor observed:
- “Every aspect of our mass transit system must be improved in order for our city to meet the demands of our growing communities. Improving mobility not only makes it easier to get around Atlanta – it helps level the playing field for all Atlantans to thrive and get ahead in a 21st century economy.
- “This newly created office provides a space for experts to convene and strategize how we can implement greater efficiency and support the transportation needs of residents.”
The mayor provided an opportunity for comment from one of the earliest advocates of a one-stop-shop for transportation-related issues. Councilmember Andrew Dickens, elected citywide, said in the mayor’s statement:
- “I’m excited that Mayor Bottoms and I teamed up for over a year with several community leaders to form this department that will bring greater efficiency and effectiveness for transportation in our city.”
The legislation establishes the basic framework for the new department. The DOT is to consist of:
- Office of the Commissioner;
- Office of Mobility Strategy, Planning, and Performance;
- Office of Capital Project Delivery; and
- Office of Operations and Maintenance.
According to the legislation, six functions have been assigned to the DOT, with the sixth providing a degree of latitude for it to take on additional responsibilities:
- “Develop a comprehensive multimodal transportation plan that provides residents, commuters, and visitors safe access within and to the City of Atlanta;
- “Coordinate transportation operations, funding, and project delivery with partnering jurisdictions and agencies to improve mobility;
- “Plan, design, manage, and execute transportation projects to improve mobility for residents, commuters, and visitors;
- “Conduct maintenance and operations on existing transportation assets to maintain an efficient and effective transportation system for the City of Atlanta;
- “Manage the use of transportation funding to plan or execute enhancements to the City of Atlanta transportation network; and
- “Other transportation functions and duties which are under the purview of the Department of Public Works, the Department of City of Planning, and Renew Atlanta which may be transferred to the Department of Transportation.”