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Creating a ‘trail of prosperity’ with high-speed Atlanta—Savannah rail

By Maria Saporta

Another decade, another dream.

In the past several weeks, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has been floating a grand new vision for Georgia — connecting Atlanta and Savannah with high-speed rail.

“We can create a trail of prosperity between those two regions,” Reed said last week during a talk at the Commerce Club.

According to Reed, he started to focus on the idea after hearing the complaints of a server at one of his favorite restaurants that Atlanta was not close enough to the coast and the ocean.

But if Atlanta and Savannah were connected by a modern-day, high-speed train going an average of 200 miles an hour, the coast would be within a 75-minute ride from Atlanta.

Such a train would change the complexion of Georgia — from two Georgias with two different economies to a state with a transportation infrastructure that could help reinforce the notion of Georgia becoming “the logistics hub of the Western hemisphere” in the 21st Century.

“We stand here on the precipice of great things,” said Reed, who freely admitted that he’s been focusing on the basics of running a city. “But the basics should not stop us from dreaming what our city should be. We can’t be afraid of doing large things.”

The TGV train in France, which can travel at speeds of 235 miles an hour

Reed’s comments took be back to April, 1985. Then-Lt. Gov. Zell Miller was on a trade delegation to France to celebrate the inaugural Delta Air Lines flight to Paris.

During the trade mission of 150 Atlantans, Miller experienced the TGV, which stands for “Tres Grande Vitesse” or high-speed, from Paris to Lyon traveling at about 163 miles and hour.

“This is not an idle dream for Georgia,” Miller said during the ride.

He continued as though he was talking to himself: “You just don’t end the euphoria of a trip to Lyon. You completely dedicate yourself to it. It’s something that I’m interested in enough to pursue. It’s a fascinating concept for the future of Georgia, but I’m a practical and realistic politician.”

Also on that trip was then-Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young who shared the same vision.

“Some of us believe that TGV is very much needed in the United States,” Young said, “and I’d like the first TGV in the United States to be developed in Georgia.”

The “Bullet” train in Japan can reach the speed of 275 miles an hour

Despite being elected governor a few years later, Miller fell short of following through on the dream of bringing high-speed rail to Georgia.

After the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, metro Atlanta business leaders wanted to make sure the state’s economy would continue to prosper.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber joined forces with 14 other major metro chambers of commerce in six Southeastern states (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia) to promote a high-speed rail network for the region.

The Southeastern Economic Alliance was formed a dozen years ago, and it was politically well-received by several key leaders. Then-U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson (now a U.S. Senator) convened a high-speed rail summit in Atlanta in 2002 to focus on the idea.

Two high-speed rail trains in China — they can reach up to 236 miles an hour

“I’m very excited about it because it’s a project that could work,” Isakson said at the time. “The federal government could be a partner in providing capital funding to make it happen if the states can provide the money to operate the system.”

The co-chairman of the Southeastern Economic Alliance was Milton Jones, who was then the MidSouth president for Charlotte-based Bank of America.

“I love the idea of the Southeast corridor being the demonstration project,” Jones said at the time. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do before that can happen. It’s going to take a team effort across the Southeast.”

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much to show for those efforts.

But then our hopes were lifted again in 2009 when a newly-elected President Barack Obama got on board the high-speed rail movement.

On April 16, 2009, Obama announced a new vision for high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail in the United States.

“Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination. Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America.”

Designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States

But with the Great Recession and with only lukewarm support from state partners, the high-speed rail movement in the United States has been slow going.

Meanwhile, countries around the world continue to build out their high-speed rail networks — leaving the United States still in a catch-up mode.

But several high speed rail corridors in the United States have been designated, and Atlanta actually would fare quite well with proposed lines northeast to Charlotte and Virginia, southwest to New Orleans and southeast to Jacksonville. (What’s missing is a northwest line connecting Atlanta with Chattanooga, Indianapolis and Chicago).

Surprisingly, the already-designated high-speed rail corridor from Atlanta to the coast currently is not designed to serve Savannah. Perhaps Reed, working with his Republican partner Gov. Nathan Deal, could convince U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to tweak that line so that we could resurrect the modern day version of the Nancy Hanks.

“This is what I believe as a leader of the capital city,” Reed said. “I believe I can be helpful in achieving that vision. People in our community want a vision of what is next.”

Next week: The merits of investing in our rail infrastructure.

Maria Saporta

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.



  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia November 26, 2012 3:24 am

    The first priority in connecting Atlanta and Savannah by high-speed rail should NOT necessarily be implementing a high-speed passenger rail connection, but implementing a high-speed freight rail line that will help provide added connectivity between Atlanta and its main sea link to the world, the fast-growing and increasingly critically-important Port of Savannah while helping to relieve extreme freight traffic stress off of the often severely-congested section of I-75 south of Atlanta. 
    Another main rail priority that should come before implementing high-speed passenger rail between Atlanta and Savannah is implementing commuter rail service within the two rail corridors that run parallel on both sides of I-75 between Atlanta and Macon (within the Norfolk Southern S-Line right-of-way that runs parallel to the west of I-75 between Atlanta and Macon via Griffin and within the Norfolk Southern H-Line right-of-way that runs parallel to the east of I-75 between Atlanta and Macon via Jackson).
    Implementing commuter rail service within the two rail right-of-ways that run parallel to I-75 between Atlanta and Macon will help to relieve extreme local traffic stress from an often severely-congested, overcapacity and undersized (only 6-8 lanes) I-75 between Downtown Atlanta and Macon.
    First implementing critically-needed commuter rail service between Atlanta and Macon will also help to build local and regional rail transit ridership so that a high-speed passenger rail line between Atlanta and Savannah would be able to sustain itself financially over the long run.
    High-speed passenger rail between Atlanta and Savannah should actually be the THIRD priority AFTER implementation of high-speed freight rail between Atlanta and Savannah and implementation of LONG OVERDUE commuter rail service between Atlanta and Macon.Report

  2. Bear2 November 26, 2012 11:44 am

    “Higher speed rail” that is trains that run at a top speed of 110 mph are much cheaper to implement than stand alone high speed systems.   This would involve building up the present freight line with extra sidings, better signals etc.  The North Carolina passenger program is a good example to follow.  Incremental improvements have greatly increased on time reliability and reduced over all travel time between Raleigh and Charlotte.  This has resulted in steadily increasing passenger traffic over the years.  While these trains between Atlanta and Savannah would require longer running times than the 75 minutes of the HSR system they could still cover the distance in a little over three hours which would be competitive with driving and or the hassle time of short range flights.
    When building the TGV like system it would be well to study how this system was built up in France.  It was actually done in incremental steps beginning with a long stretch of new high speed track in the open country between Lyon and Paris.  Entry to the cities was by means of connections to the already existing passenger/freight tracks.  Not trying to build new high speed tracks into major cities saves a huge amount of construction expense. 
    France did have the great advantage of not having let their rail passenger system fall into nearly complete ruin during the 50’s and 60’s as we did in the United States.  However it is not too late to build out a passenger system in the South or anywhere else in this country.  Even the 200 mph + HSR systems are far cheaper to build than new interstate freeways.  Whether or not there is the interest or will to do anytthing, as the article points out remains the big question.Report

  3. DH-ATL November 26, 2012 12:37 pm

    An alignment from Atlanta straight to Savannah is a pretty obvious– as opposed to the current odd alignment south of Savannah– The problem however, is not logistical or technical, but political– as long as the tea party crowd sees no need to spend money on infrastructure or anything else that would actually provide for the future of the state and country the republicans in Congress will do nothing–  There is a deep and frightening ignorance at work here–Report

    1. DW33 November 27, 2012 10:54 am

      @DH-ATL When do we stop throwing good money (ours) after bad (government run projects)?  You blame the Tea Party, but didn’t the voters and even the NAACP vote down TSPLOST?  Gotta be some good  reasons besides deep and frightening ignoranceReport

  4. Trey McClure November 26, 2012 12:48 pm

    How about instead of spending one billion + and 300,000 million in hotel tax money on a new stadium for the Falcons (that’s only 20 years old) we start funding viable public transportation and grow Atlanta into a vibrant and globally competitive place to live and do business.Report

  5. inertius1 November 26, 2012 9:29 pm

    Ummm, never mind there is no federal money for this, since it is $15 trillion going on $45 trillion in debt.  If there is real economic return on such an investment (not even addressed here) then let private money do it!Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia November 27, 2012 2:34 am

       Good point.  In this era of non-existent federal funding and diminishing returns from the traditional methods of funding transportation through sales taxes, financing from private sources and user fees (for roads and transit) and Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development along transit lines) is the only way to go.
      In this increasingly challenging environment for transportation funding, the emphasis should be on eliminating increasingly ineffective forms of traditional transportation funding (sales taxes for transit, gas taxes, etc) and replacing them with sources of funding that allow these critical modes of transportation to become self-funding and self-financing (private funding, user fees and Tax Increment Financing).Report

    2. WolfandRhys November 30, 2012 1:00 pm

      @inertius1 The Federal government doesn’t run out of money since they create it ex nihilo. Not saying this is necessarily worthy as far as the public purpose, but our only constraints are real resources, not accounting figures.Report

    3. gblatham December 2, 2012 4:17 pm

      Good point!
      Therefore, based upon that reasoning, if a “real economic return” concerning roadway construction truly exists – which I have NEVER seen outlined in detail, by the way* – then we should “let private money do it!”
      NO MORE ROADWAYS BUILT OR MAINTAINED BY THE TAXPAYERS until it can be conclusively proven they’re all “profitable”!
      What’s sauce for the goose…
      *For that matter, the concept is “not even addressed” in planning proposals for new and expanded roads; it is simply assumed. That’s obviously unfair and must needs be changed – unless, of course, the “economic return” argument is simply a ruse.

      1. inertius1 December 2, 2012 5:17 pm

        @gblatham  @inertius1
         well, the ‘profit’ realized by the Georgia 400 toll road would be one example. obviously there was enough demand to pay for it.  regardless, we cannot go on printing money by the trillions that we do not have.  the whole world knows we cannot pay back the $16 trillion of debt we already have, much less the $45-50 trillion in unfunded liabilities already committed over the next twenty years!Report

        1. The Last Democrat in Georgia December 3, 2012 6:33 am

          @inertius1  @gblatham
           Hence the need for financially self-sustaining transportation infrastructure that can pay for itself as needed in an era of sharply-declining and increasingly inadequate public funding.Report

  6. Brian November 27, 2012 9:42 am

    Actually, there is a long-term vision HSR corridor from Atlanta to Chattanooga.  According to GDOT, this corridor along with the Atlanta to Charlotte corridor are the two priorities at this time.  Atlanta to Chattanoog has a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on file at GDOT (it has not been officially published by the Federal Railroad Administration and released for public comments) and the Tier 1 DEIS for Atlanta to Charlotte is under contract right now.Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia November 27, 2012 12:57 pm

      Atlanta-Chattanooga is yet another corridor in which ridership on high-frequency commuter rail service would have to cultivated first in order for high-speed passenger rail service to have a shot at being sustainable over the long run.
      Just like south of Atlanta, there is a pressing need for high-frequency commuter rail service on two rail alignments to alleviate increasingly severe traffic stress on often severely-congested roadways northwest, north & west of Atlanta from I-75 North over to I-20 West.
      The most-likely candidate for high-speed rail passenger (and possibly high-speed freight) service over the long run would be the historic CSX/Western & Atlantic rail right-of-way that connects Atlanta and Downtown Chattanooga and virtually directly follows the route of I-75 by way of Vinings, Smyrna, Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth, Emerson, Cartersville, Calhoun, Dalton and the Chattanooga Airport.
      The CSX/W&A is crucial for cultivating passenger rail service from high-frequency commuter rail service to high-speed rail because of the crucial route that it runs directly parallel to I-75 through densely-populated historic downtowns of railroad towns built to “human scale” and its direct connection between the Atlanta Airport, the Chattanooga Airport and Downtown Chattanooga by way of Downtown Atlanta and the heavily-populated traffic-generating Northwest Metro Atlanta suburbs and exurbs.
      A high-frequency commuter rail line within the CSX/W&A rail right-of-way between the Atlanta Airport and Downtown Chattanooga would help to relieve the increasingly severe traffic stress off of an increasingly undersized and severely-congested I-75 north of Atlanta while also establishing a direct connection between the ATL Airport, the Chattanooga Airport and the increasingly touristy Downtown Chattanooga.
      High-frequency commuter rail service is also an increasing necessity on the rail right-of-way alignments that connect Atlanta and Chattanooga by way of Mableton, Austell, Powder Springs, Hiram, Dallas, Rockmart, Rome, Lyerly, Summerville and LaFayette to take increasingly severe traffic stress off of Highway 6 between Dallas and the Atlanta Airport, I-20 West and the West Wall of I-285.Report

      1. gblatham December 2, 2012 3:57 pm

        @The Last Democrat in Georgia 
        For the sake of meaningful discussion, we probably need to adopt technical railroad terminology as traditionally defined. What is being discussed here has NOTHING to do with “commuter” operations.
        Having said that, I completely agree with you concerning the need to establish conventional intercity passenger train services BEFORE constructing true high-speed lines.
        Garl B. Latham
        Dallas, TexasReport

        1. The Last Democrat in Georgia December 3, 2012 4:42 am

          {{“What is being discussed here has NOTHING to do with “commuter” operations.”}}
           Oh contraire, Mr. Latham.  The idea of Atlanta-Savannah and Atlanta-Chattanooga high-speed rail service has quite a bit to do with commuter rail operations as the high-speed rail service that is being proposed between Atlanta and the cities in question would utilize the same exact railroad right-of-ways as future commuter rail lines (and existing freight rail lines).
          The ongoing conversation about long-neglected passenger rail transit in increasingly mobility-challenged North Georgia cannot skip directly to discussions of high-speed long-distance passenger rail service without first recognizing the increasingly critical need for regional commuter rail service within the same state-owned railroad right-of-ways to relieve the severe traffic congestion that plagues Metro Atlanta’s wholly inadequate road network (both surface roads and freeways).Report

        2. The Last Democrat in Georgia December 3, 2012 5:03 am

          Take for example the proposed high speed rail line that Mayor Reed has proposed between Atlanta and Savannah.
          I-75 from Downtown Atlanta south to about McDonough is a total traffic nightmare during morning and evening rush hours and even on weekends during periods of heavy holiday travel and when there are delays due to a traffic incident (I should know as I have been stuck in traffic on I-75 south of town on WEEKENDS due to traffic incidents like collisions, carfires, etc).
          Just how would a high-speed passenger rail line with direct service to and from Savannah alone help to alleviate the severe traffic congestion that plagues I-75 South when it is the local suburban and exurban communities and environs in-between (Morrow, Stockbridge, McDonough, Locust Grove, etc) that generate much of that very heavy regional traffic on I-75 South?
          The same goes for an I-75 north of Atlanta stretch of roadway that is also a total traffic nightmare during peak hours between the I-285 NW Cobb Cloverleaf and Acworth.
          How would a high-speed passenger rail line with direct service to and from Chattanooga alone help to alleviate increasingly severe traffic congestion on I-75 when most of the peak-hour is generated by regional traffic making nearby trips to and from suburbs like Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth, Woodstock, Holly Springs, etc?
          I’m not saying that direct high-speed rail service to and from Chattanooga (120 miles from Atlanta) and Savannah (250 miles from Atlanta) should not be part of the greater rail-anchored transit vision moving forward.
          But I am saying that direct high-speed passenger rail service over long-distances to Savannah and Chattanooga should not be the highest priority when there is such an overwhelmingly pressing need for commuter rail-anchored transit to service the locales along the way within 50 miles or so that are absolutely drowning in severe traffic congestion.Report

        3. The Last Democrat in Georgia December 3, 2012 5:21 am

          {{“What is being discussed here has NOTHING to do with “commuter” operations.”}}
          Oh contraire, Mr. Latham.  The idea of Atlanta-Savannah and Atlanta-Chattanooga high-speed rail service has quite a bit to do with commuter rail operations as the high-speed rail service that is being proposed between Atlanta and the cities in question would utilize the same exact railroad right-of-ways as future commuter rail lines (and existing freight rail lines).
          The ongoing conversation about long-neglected passenger rail transit in increasingly mobility-challenged North Georgia cannot skip directly to discussions of high-speed long-distance passenger rail service without first recognizing the increasingly critical need for long-overdue regional commuter rail service within the same state-owned railroad right-of-ways to relieve the severe traffic congestion that plagues Metro Atlanta’s wholly inadequate road network (both surface roads and freeways).Report

  7. K Anderson November 27, 2012 11:22 am

    Maybe it should be GOVERNOR KASIM REED!Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia November 27, 2012 12:15 pm

      @K Anderson
       Anything is possible, I suppose, but most certainly let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, especially in a state in which state government is thoroughly and completely dominated by Republicans (to the point of the State Legislature being only about one or so seats short of Republicans having a SUPERMAJORITY in both houses) and in which no statewide offices are currently held by Democrats.
      Though the demographics of the state are seemingly changing rapidly in the favor of the Democrats with non-Hispanic whites making up only 55% of Georgia’s population (compared to the Southern electoral swing states of North Carolina and Virginia where non-Hispanic whites make up 65% and 64.5% of the population, respectively), Democrats currently have very little, if any, meaningful organization at the statewide level.
      Though the Democrats seem to be making some significant inroads in Rockdale County where the countywide offices are in the process of switching from being dominated by white Republicans to being dominated by black Democrats as the county’s demographics have changed from being predominantly white to predominantly non-white with non-whites making up 60% of Rockdale County’s population and rapidly-changing demographics helping non-whites to become an increasing majority in Douglas County and GOP-dominated Gwinnett County (where non-whites makeup 51% and 57% of the population, respectfully) and stand on the verge of becoming a majority in Henry and Newton counties (where non-whites makeup 48% of the population in both counties) and an increasingly strong minority in GOP-dominated Cobb County (where non-whites makeup 44% of the population), the fact remains that Democrats overall remain not very-well liked by much of the electorate outside of Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties for the moment making a statewide run for any Democrat from those core Metro Atlanta counties a very-heavy uphill lift, especially for such a polarizing political figure as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.Report

  8. Kevin L. Hudson November 28, 2012 12:08 pm

    Heck…the coast is 75 min from Savannah on a busy summer day. Even so, I’d pay anything to never drive down I-16 again!Report

  9. SteveBrown November 29, 2012 6:07 pm

    I am saddened to see our leadership running down another ultra-expensive rabbit trail instead of focusing on important projects which could provide congestion relief throughout metro Atlanta.
    We do not need a mega-billion dollar project like high speed rail, especially to Savannah, on top of our current unfunded project list.  There is absolutely no way a high speed rail project could be justified from Atlanta to Savannah.  I wish we could take the “dreaming” and emotion out of transportation planning.
    I suppose the state is going to be asked to pay the operations and maintenance for this boondoggle?Report

    1. gblatham December 2, 2012 3:39 pm


    2. gblatham December 2, 2012 3:49 pm

      Mr. Brown,
      If concepts such as dreaming and emotion were completely removed from the world of transportation, very few automobiles would be sold! In fact , what seems to feed autocentrism as much as anything else is the (artificial) concept of “personal freedom” which, naturally (according to that industry), is only available by way of motor vehicle technology.
      By the way, I must congratulate you on being the first contributor in this thread to use the pejorative “boondoggle.”
      Garl B. Latham
      Dallas, TexasReport

      1. SteveBrown December 2, 2012 6:16 pm

        Garl B. Latham, no rebuff from me on the emotional ploys with automobiles.  
        Metro Atlanta’s most significant historical problem, in terms of transportation, has been not linking land planning to transportation.  Atlanta’s main economic driver has been growth for the sake of growth with very little consideration of how the transportation infrastructure could manage to sustain the massive changes in land use.  Thus, we are stuck and the same development “leaders” who butchered the landscape with unbridled land use changes are now the ones crying for improved transportation options.  Go figure.
        One of my constituents kept contacting me, demanding to have a heavy rail train from Peachtree City to Alpharetta where she and her husband work.  Finally, I politely asked her to move to Alpharetta and save us the $6 billion it would cost to provide her a ride to work.
        Somewhere along the line, common sense has to kick in.  I am sure there are some people who would like to live in Savannah and work in Atlanta, but let’s think realistically about what that would cost per the small band of riders.  
        Let’s look at the solutions that affect the most people first.  And, yes, that could have a transit component.
        I get a clear picture of how government really works when I am one of the only people who rides transit to the regional government meetings when nearly all others just talk about spending enormous amounts of taxpayer funding on it.  There is way too much “dreaming” and not near enough “thinking” going on.
         @gblatham  @SteveBrownReport

        1. The Last Democrat in Georgia December 3, 2012 6:28 am

          @SteveBrown  @gblatham
           Mr. Brown, I agree.  Those development “leaders” that you speak of that have overbuilt and overdeveloped much of Metro Atlanta without regards to how that overdevelopment would impact an underdeveloped transportation network aren’t crying for improved transportation options because they care so much about improving the traffic nightmare they’ve created.
          Those development “leaders” are crying for improved transportation options as a new means of profiting from yet more overdevelopment through high-density transit-oriented development in the 21st Century as opposed to the old way of profiting from sprawling automobile-oriented development in the post-World War II era.
          Your story about one of your constituents calling and demanding that a heavy rail train be built between P’tree City and Alpharetta is also in a way, hilarious, and in another way, not so hilarious.
          It’s hilarious because it sounds as if she thought that a train line can just be built seemingly overnight with no regards to how long it takes the entire political, planning, financing and construction process to play out as if you could just wave a wand and POOF!  A train line to the northside would magically appear in the morning.
          It’s not so hilarious because the lady seemed to have no concept of how much something like that would cost to build, didn’t necessarily seem to intend to be willing to pay her part to fund something like that and had no idea how to even suggest a way to finance better overall transportation (the ol’ “Something-for-nothing bit), a process that would most likely start with a ride on a Park-and Ride express bus or just simply trying to get the stoplights synchronized.Report

  10. writes_of_weigh January 19, 2013 11:30 pm

    Maria – Mayor Reed is either unaware or simply in denial, if he truly believes that there is a snowballs chance in Macon of developing a high speed rail route between Atlanta and Savannah, when monumental stumbling blocks like rail safety problems abound. With it’s presumed public partner(GA DoT) unable to even fix several dysfunctional railroad crossing signals in the Helena-McCrae area on a state(Georgia taxpayer) owned rail route(due to lack of funding), and with the two presumed carriers that would operate the proposed Atlanta-Savannah H-S-R route/train, namely(Norfolk Southern and Amtrak), successfully petitioning Federal judges to hide from the general public their safety lapses on the only currently operating High Speed Rail route in the nation(Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor – Pennsylvania), I am agog at the dreaming that the Mayor and other elected officials in this state, engage in on this subject. Norfolk Southern has stated already that they believe it to be “unsafe” to operate passenger trains between the proposed MMPT and Howell Junction(wye) even though their own business/officer’s trains ply the route regularly. I guess that when the public part of the proposed “public/private” partnership upgrades occur, somehow “magically” the public will be able to ride that same hallowed route,  now subjected to only their customers freight and their own officials, and the occasional government types who must ride that route for inspection purposes.  I’m surprised that with the “dangers” involved that Norfolk Southern could afford their carrier insurance premiums. My bad. Forgot that they are self insured. Even more strange: CSX, NS’s competitor road, operates over the same route(MMPT-Howell Jct.) on a right of way leased from the State of Georgia, and immediately adjacent to NS’s tracks, and seemingly has no concerns about the same “dangers” NS indicated existed there? What gives, err… rather who gives. Well, as usual, the taxed shall. Or not. It’s clear that the current  “crop” of railroaders and politicians seem incapable of doing the jobs that their predecessors did with aplomb, The railroads, lacking public interest oversight(remember the I.C.C.) refuse to involve themselves in passenger rail initiatives, and demand what the politicians are loath to provide(a dollar exchange( tagged fee or tax, du jour) from public treasuries) unless there’s something in it for them(perhaps a nice con(-sulting)job or vice-presidency of passenger train development (internal)- wouldn’t want to have to deal with those nasty passengers/taxpayers, you know). My guess – unaware. Happy dreams, Mr. Mayor.Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 20, 2013 8:00 pm

       Your comments underscore the critical need for the involvement for the private investors and operators in any (long-overdue) upgrade or expansion of passenger rail transit in the Atlanta Region. 
      Extensive private involvement in the financing and continuing maintenance and operation of passenger rail transit upgrades and expansion is critically needed because, even if substantial tax increases were possible politically or economically (which they are not), taxes still couldn’t be increased anywhere remotely near high enough to anywhere near adequately fund the amount of passenger rail transit infrastructure that is needed to have a meaningful effect on our traffic congestion and mobility issues.
      In a political and fiscal environment where funding is scarce for existing expenses, the critical need for extensive private involvement in any (long-overdue) future upgrades and expansion of our wholly-inadequate and completely-lacking joke of a passenger rail transit network cannot be emphasized enough.
      The majority of funding for future passenger rail transit upgrades and expansion should come from private investment and distance-based user fees.  The rest of the funding for passenger rail transit upgrades and expansion should come from Tax Increment Financing (a portion of property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines), which should be the ONLY financing to come from tax revenue sources. 
      Our severely-pressing passenger rail transit needs will never be fulfilled with a one-track-minded sole dependence upon public funding alone.  Extensive private involvement absolutely must be a critical part of the conversation about long-overdue upgrades and expansion of our severely-lacking passenger rail transit infrastructure or there will be NO meaningful expansion of our passenger rail transit infrastructure.Report

      1. Burroughston Broch January 20, 2013 8:17 pm

        @The Last Democrat in Georgia  @writes_of_weigh  If there were money to be made in passenger rail transit, the railroad companies would be in the business. The only way they could break even would be with a heavy governmental subsidy; that would be politically unpalatable.Report

        1. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 20, 2013 9:45 pm

          @Burroughston Broch  
          Oh contraire, there are very-substantial amounts of money to be made from passenger rail transit, especially here in North Georgia where the population has grown by roughly 500 PERCENT over the last 60 years or so (from just under 1 million residents in 1950 to roughly 6 million residents today) and is expected to continue to increase substantially over the next several decades.
          If the State of Georgia were to put a contract out for new passenger rail transit infrastructure to be developed on, for example, CSX/Seaboard Airline (the “Brain-Train”) rail right-of-way between Atlanta and Athens, the CSX/Western & Atlantic rail right-of-way between Atlanta and Chattanooga or the NS.Southern Railroad right-of-way between Atlanta and Gainesville (and on up to through Cornelia, Toccoa and into the South Carolina Upstate to Clemson University, Greenville and Spartanburg), there would be a considerable amount of interest, particularly in those three railroad right-of-ways which run parallel to busy radial interstate corridors that connect the exurbs with the urban core of the Greater Atlanta Metro region.
          It’s just that the State of Georgia has seemingly never seriously considered using private investment (along with user fee-financing and Tax Increment Financing) as a means of financing passenger rail upgrades and expansion.  Heck, even the (flawed) idea of putting toll lane projects out to bid is relatively very new with the state only seriously considering using private investment to complete road projects only within the last decade or so.
          Just witness the amount of INTERNATIONAL interest there was when the State of Georgia previously put the contract on the I-75/I-575 NW Hot Lanes out to bid when they were seeking a private investing partner/operator for the project before it was cancelled by Governor Deal and resurrected as a DBF (Design-Build-Finance) project.
          Also, unlike the the earlier incarnation of the I-75/I-575 NW Hot Lane project, which would have been publicly-subsidized by meager existing gas tax revenues, the remaining cost of passenger rail lines can be subsidized by user fees (through a distance-based fare structure) and new tax subsidies in the form of Tax Increment Financing (a portion of the property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines).
          Just as I stated before, user fees and Tax Increment Financing should be the only way that the public subsidizes passenger rail transit.  No subsidizes to passenger rail transit should come from tax increases, new taxes or diversions from existing taxes.
          Just why do you think that commercial developers are virtually losing their minds over the three aforementioned corridors on the heavily-populated Northside of the Atlanta Metro region?  Because, as developers, they know that profit potential is tied directly to transportation infrastructure. 
          Just as America shifted from being a predominantly-rural society that was centered on compact urban cores anchored by rail transit in the pre-World War II-era to being a more urban society that was centered on and anchored by the automobile-dominated suburbs in the post-World War-era, early in the 21st Century, America is again shifting.  But this time America is shifting from being a predominantly-suburban society to being a transit-anchored multimodal society that is even that much more urban than in the 50 years or so after World War II.
          America’s shift from an predominantly automobile-centric suburban society to a transit-centered urban society is evidenced by the number of young college-educated professionals (many of them white) that are relocating to once-blighted and declining urban cores all around the country. 
          That new shift in American society from suburban-centric to urban-centric is actively on display right here in the Atlanta Region where, in recent years, young college-educated professionals have moved in droves into Intown neighborhoods like Virginia-Highland, Little Five Points, Decatur, Inman Park, Midtown, Atlantic Station (and even some Southside Intown areas like College Park, East Point, Adair Park, West End, Grant Park, East Atlanta, etc) and closer-in historic railroad suburbs who are building and planning new development around future rail transit stations like Vinings, Smyrna, Woodstock, Norcross, Duluth, Suwanee, Sugar Hill, Buford, etc.Report

        2. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 20, 2013 10:06 pm

          @Burroughston Broch  
          The only way that government officials in Georgia have ever tried to finance passenger rail in modern times is through the politically-unpalatable tax increases that you speak of (see this past summer’s unmitigated T-SPLOST disaster).
          Heck, North Carolina is planning to implement commuter rail service on an existing rail line north of Charlotte that will be financed solely through a combination of Tax Increment Financing and user fees (fares).
          When private investment and distance-based user fees are added to that funding calculus, the chances of financial sustainability and success are increased exponentially, especially if a transit line is properly placed in a densely-populated and densely-developed area (like a passenger rail transit line that operates in an existing freight rail right-of-way that runs through walkable densely-developed railroad neighborhood centers and town squares as opposed to the right-of-way of a freeway with stations in the middle of auto-centric freeway interchanges).
          Any government officials that try to convince the public that they need to continuously vote for new tax increases to fund rail transit are not serious about either funding rail transit or improving, upgrading and expanding access to rail transit.Report

        3. Burroughston Broch January 21, 2013 6:12 pm

          Georgia is very much different than North Carolina. All is not as simple as you would have it.
          In North Carolina the bulk of the population, commerce, and industry is in the Fertile Crescent (Charlotte to Winston-Salem to Greensboro to Raleigh-Durham, a distance of 200 miles or so). The North Carolina Railroad is owned by the state and the NCRR owns the rail corridor. They let Norfolk Southern operate 80 freight trains per day over the route, in addition to NCRR’s 8 passenger trains.
          In Georgia, none of the trackage is owned by the State except for the CSX line to Chattanooga. Use of any of the trackage would necessitate negotiations with the railroads. How do you propose this would work? Take me, for example. I live in Dunwoody and work near the Galleria. How would I handle my commute using what you propose? Or better yet, I have to go to the outskirts of Macon once a year, but the train station is downtown?
          I know I’m suggesting picky details but, at the end of the day, picky details must be worked out at the expense of time and money.Report

        4. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 1:07 am

          @Burroughston Broch
          There’s nothing wrong with inquiring about so-called picky details. 
          And though the states of Georgia and North Carolina have some similarities in culture, growth rates and population, you make a very valid point about the key differences between the states of Georgia and North Carolina. 
          Another major difference between Georgia and North Carolina is that the majority of Georgia’s 10 million residents are crowded into one increasingly larger metro area of nearly 6 million people in the Atlanta region which dominates Georgia and sometimes much of the Southeastern United States while North Carolina has three smaller major metropolitan areas in Charlotte (Metrolina), Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point (the Triad) and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-Cary (the Triangle).
          All three of North Carolina’s major metro regions are connected by the North Carolina Railroad Company line (NCRR) that you are referring to that runs roughly parallel to Interstate 85, which is the backbone of the fast-growing and increasingly-urbanizing North Carolina Piedmont. 
          The difference between Georgia, which is dominated by one emerging mega-metro area in Atlanta and North Carolina, whose increasingly urban population is divided up into three smaller, yet still large and fast-growing major metro areas is like the difference between Midwestern states like Illinois, which is thoroughly-dominated by the Chicagoland metroplex of 10 million and Ohio, whose population is broken down into three smaller, yet still very-large urban areas in Southwestern Ohio (Cincinnati-Dayton), Central Ohio (Columbus) and Northeastern Ohio (Cleveland-Akron-Canton).
          Yet another major difference between Georgia and North Carolina are the multiple institutions of higher education in North Carolina that help to attract a steady and heavy stream of relocatees from Northern states (institutions like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University in Durham, Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, East Carolina University in Greenville, etc). 
          Many of the students who move to “Tobacco Road” for their undergraduate or postgraduate studies at one of the state’s hallowed institutions of higher learning often stay in the area after earning a degree, which explains the high amount of college graduates living in a metro area like Raleigh-Durham (which is home to UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, NC State and Research Triangle Park, which is the Southeastern U.S. version of “Silicone Valley”).Report

        5. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 2:42 am

          @Burroughston Broch
          {{“In Georgia, none of the trackage is owned by the State except for the CSX line to Chattanooga. Use of any of the trackage would necessitate negotiations with the railroads. How do you propose this would work?”}}
          It would work by including plans to expand the amount of freight rail capacity available to the freight rail companies, in this case CSX and Norfolk Southern (NS), by relocating some of the busiest sections of freight rail track underground alongside new high-frequency passenger rail tracks, where physically applicable (through areas that are densely-developed with existing commercial and residential development).
          Like say, for example, on the “Brain Train” (CSX/Seaboard Airline Railroad) right-of-way on which passenger rail is slated to someday carry passengers betweeen the Atlanta Airport and the University of Georgia in Athens by way of stops near the Atlanta University Center, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Emory and Georgia Gwinnett College.
          Instead of attempting to add high-frequency commuter rail service to the same busy existing trackage on which high-frequency freight trains already run, many sections of which consist of only one single track, we could relocate the CSX tracks so that they run underground (through the densely-developed commercial and residential sections) and/or are depressed into the ground on a railbed that is well below ground level (through industrial areas where existing freight trains must make freight stops).
          By relocating the existing freight rail trackage underground and below ground level to run adjacent to new high-capacity passenger rail trackage and upgrading it to support higher-speed freight trains and expanding it (to carry more trains) we will eliminate at-grade conflicts between automobile traffic and high-frequency rail traffic at busy at-grade railroad crossings.  We will also completely minimize, if not totally eliminate, the scheduling and logistical conflicts that would happen between passenger rail trains and freight rail trains if they were using the same trackage while increasing the rate of speed that both the freight trains and passenger trains are capable of.
          Relocating existing freight rail trackage underground while locating new passenger rail trackage underground will also open up the surface of railroad right-of-ways for recreational rail-to-trail conversion opportunities (linear park/bike/run/walking trails similar to the Silver Comet Trail…Imagine 12-foot-wide paved recreational paths down the middle of urban linear parks and greenways where freight trains used to run on a surface railbed with double-tracked freight railbeds and double-tracked passenger railbeds tunneled in the ground underneath along the path of those surface urban linear parks) and open up opportunities for dense transit-oriented mixed-use commercial development in the existing established and historic neighborhood and town and city centers that straddle existing rail right-of-ways (like, for example, mixed-use transit-oriented developments built to human scale instead of automobile scale on the surface of rail right-of-ways over freight rail and passenger rail trackage immediately adjacent to underground multimodal passenger rail stations in the downtowns of historic railroad suburbs like Vinings, Smyrna, Marietta, Kennesaw, Woodstock, Acworth, Canton, Norcross, Duluth, etc).
          Portions of property tax revenues from the new commercial development located on and above the surface in and adjacent to the rail right-of-ways near underground multimodal passenger rail stations on underground freight and passenger rail lines would help provide a great deal of the revenue that would help pay the costs of initial startup and continuing operations and maintenance through the Tax Increment Financing method (portions of property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines).
          The underground passenger rail lines would also be built with additional tracks around multimodal transit stations so that express high-speed intercity trains and express higher-speed commuter trains will be able to bypass stations as needed.Report

        6. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 4:33 am

          @Burroughston Broch
           {{“Take me, for example. I live in Dunwoody and work near the Galleria. How would I handle my commute using what you propose?”}}
          That is one of the best questions that anyone could have asked.
          To get from Dunwoody to the Cumberland/Galleria area under a scheme where transit in the I-285 Corridor (and the rest of the Metro Atlanta/North Georgia region) is vastly-improved, you would have multiple choices, depending on where you live.
          Seeing as though there are unfunded, but serious and popular plans for the development of a rail transit line along the Top End of the I-285 Perimeter between the I-85/Doraville area and the I-75/Cumberland/Galleria area, you would:
          A) Catch a local vanpool shuttle from the front doorstep of your home to one of the four nearest multimodal transit stations planned for Dunwoody at either Chamblee Dunwoody Road & I-285, in Perimeter Center East business park between Ravina and Perimeter Center East (Ravina North), at Perimeter Center Mall at a new station constructed just south of the existing Perimeter Mall MARTA Station (Perimeter Mall) or at a new station just south of Hammond Drive on the westside of Perimeter Center Parkway (Concourse-Palisades).
          B) Catch a taxicab from your home to one of the four multimodal transit stations on the East-West I-285 heavy rail line (expanded taxicab service for first-mile/last-mile connectivity to and from rail transit stations would be apart of the upgraded and expanded transit scheme throughout many of the more relatively densely-developed areas of Metro Atlanta).
          C) Drive your own personal vehicle from your home park it in a secured parking garage at one of the four nearest multimodal transit stations in Dunwoody.
          D) Board a local bus shuttle that feeds directly into one of the four multimodal stations in Dunwoody, if you live close enough to safely walk to a local bus line (upgraded feeder local and express bus service with improved pedustrian facilities, crosswalks, etc would be a key part of the upgraded and expanded transit scheme in Metro Atlanta, also)     
          From one of the four stations in Dunwoody, you would take a privately-operated, but publicly-overseen westbound train on a high-frequency heavy rail transit line from the Dunwoody area roughly about 10 miles west along the Top End of the I-285 Perimeter over to a multimodal transit station that is right at the corner of Akers Mill Road and Galleria Drive at the south end of the Galleria office park complex (Galleria-Akers Mill) for the roughly 10-mile train ride from the Dunwoody area over to the Galleria area you would pay no less than $2.50 one-way and no more than $3.00 one-way upon exiting the system on the train (to walk to your destination if you are really close by) or circulating area bus/shuttle/vanpool that serves the Cumberland/Galleria are (if your destination is a few blocks or more away from the train station) under a combination distance-based/zone-based fare structure where the rate is roughly about $0.25-0.30 per-mile.
          In the afternoon or evening, you would do the reverse of what you did in the morning, catching a circulating local bus/shuttle/vanpool (or walking if you are really close) over to the Galleria-Akers Mill Station and catching an eastbound high-frequency train over to one of the four Dunwoody stations and transferring either to a local circulating bus/shuttle/vanpool and paying the same roughly no more than $3.00 one-way (or cheaper with a weekly, monthly or yearly frequent-user transit pass).Report

        7. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 5:13 am

          @Burroughston Broch
           Here’s the link to some information about possible transit stations and rail transit line right-of-way alignments on a likely future rail transit line across the Top End of the I-285 Perimeter between roughly the Cumberland Mall/Galleria area near the I-75/I-285 NW Cobb Cloverleaf and the Doraville area near the I-85/I-285 NE Tom Moreland Interchange a.k.a. “Spaghetti Junction”.
          The likely I-285 Top End Perimeter future rail transit line is still in the somewhat early (and unfunded and currently inactive) stages of planning.
          As of right now, the plans are for the I-285 rail transit line to be a light rail line that runs only between Cumberland Mall and the Doraville MARTA Station.
          But with the state HOT Lane strategy being somewhat poorly-received by the public and and with any type of potential significant road expansion being somewhat controversial and ultimately politically-unpalatable around these parts, it is nowhere near out of the realm of possibility that the proposed transit line across the Top End of I-285 will end up being a heavy rail transit line when all is said and done.  Especially with the almost complete lack of east-west automobile alternatives to the increasingly crowded I-285 Top End Perimeter and especially if the I-285 roadway is never expanded to accommodate increasingly heavy traffic volumes that are only expected to grow over the long run.
          There have also been many questions by the public as to why there are no plans to implement rail transit service along and near the I-285 Top End Perimeter right-of-way and corridor between the I-75 NW Corridor in Cobb County and the I-85 NE Corridor in Gwinnett.  Especially seeing as how much of the very-heavy to severe traffic congestion that plagues the I-285 Top End Perimeter is as a result of a very-busy commuting pattern between the I-85 NE Corridor in Gwinnett and the I-75 NW Corridor in Cobb.
          Lack of plans for a high-frequency rail transit line between roughly Marietta in the northwest and Buford and/or Lawrenceville in northeast by way of the I-285 Top End was one of the items commonly sighted by voters in the politically-influential Northern Suburbs who must frequently commute by way of the wretched I-285 Top End Perimeter in last summer’s stinging defeat of the T-SPLOST.Report

        8. Burroughston Broch January 22, 2013 7:33 am

          @The Last Democrat in Georgia  
          Under what you propose, I would drive my car 5 miles each way, catch a train at $3.00 each way, and pay $2.00 each way for a van pool. That’s $2.50 + $3 + $2 + $2 + $3 +$2.50 = $15 and 2 hours a day. This assumes $0.50/mile for my car.
          Using my car today , it’s $13 and no more than one hour a day.
          Please identify the improvement because I don’t see it.Report

        9. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 5:26 pm

          @Burroughston Broch
           {{“Or better yet, I have to go to the outskirts of Macon once a year, but the train station is downtown?”}}
          To get to Macon, you would do the same thing that you did to get from your home to the transit station on the I-285 E-W transit line (by way of personal vehicle, taxicab, local circulating bus, shuttle or vanpool/carpool, etc).
          But this time you would use that same means to get to what is currently known as the Dunwoody MARTA Station (MARTA would be completely overhauled and integrated into a much more effective and palatable system under a new upgraded and expanded transit scheme in Metro Atlanta/North Georgia).
          Since the Dunwoody/Perimeter Center area is a major employment center for the Atlanta region, some trains to and from Macon would originate and terminate at what is currently the Sandy Springs MARTA Station as some other trains to/from Macon also would originate at Cumberland Mall and some I-85 SW Corridor trains would originate/terminate at Norcross (all major employment centers on the Northside).  That means that you would be able to catch a heavy rail-type train that provided regional commuter service all the way to Macon.
          (The current MARTA Red Line/North Line right-of-way that runs between North Springs and the Airport would no longer be a line that carried only heavy rail trains, but also commuter rail-type express trains between Warner Robins and what is currently known as the Sandy Springs MARTA Station…Also, all)
          Once in Macon, if going to the Main train station in Downtown Macon (there would likely be more than just one stop in Macon, btw, but multiple stops seeing as though Macon is a relatively sprawling community of over 100,000 people), you would deboard the train there, pay the estimated $32.00 one-way single-trip fare that a passenger rail trip between the Top End Perimeter and Macon would cost (at roughly no more than $0.30/mile times roughly 105 miles) and hail a taxicab (if your destination is off the beaten path…remember taxicab and local shuttle service would also be vastly upgraded and expanded under an upgraded regional transit scheme for first/last-mile connectivity) or catch a local bus, shuttle or vanpool (if your destination is on or near a major street).Report

        10. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 6:22 pm

          @Burroughston Broch
           No, I never said anything about you paying $2.00 one-way to catch a vanpool or bus or shuttle to the transit station before and/or after paying $3.00 one-way to catch a train between rail transit stations.
          If you are catching a local bus or shuttle or vanpool to and from the train station either at one or both ends of your trip on rail transit, the portion of your trip on which you used a bus/vanpool/shuttle to get to/from the train station at the ends of your trip would be covered by a one-way fare of $3.00.
          That means that you would still pay roughly $3.00 one-way for the entire multimodal trip in which you used a bus/vanpool/shuttle to get to the train station in Dunwoody, caught a train from the station in Dunwoody to the station at the Galleria and used a local circulating bus or vanpool to get the rest of the way to your destination at work in the Galleria area in the morning and did the reverse in the afternoon/evening to get home.
          Under an upgraded transit scheme, fares would paid at the end of the trip so that passengers could pay for the total distance that they have traveled within a transit network (roughly about $0.25/mile under a distance-based fare structure, maybe up to $0.30/mile in some instances and as low as $0.20/mile in other instances) as opposed to paying a flat one-way fare under the current severely-declining transit scheme.Report

        11. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 7:46 pm

          @Burroughston Broch
           Also, keep in mind that even if transit in the Atlanta region is eventually improved and expanded so that the level/quality of transit service is at least adequate or better (up to exceptional), that vastly-improved level of service, even if it is improved to an exceptional level of service, still may not necessarily be for everyone who has to commute on every single individual commute that they have to make.
          Many commuters will still find that driving (even driving alone) may be the best option for their own individual situation, either on an everyday basis or on selected days for whatever individual reason.
          The difference will be that there will at least be an adequate (preferably exceptional) multimodal transit option available for those hundreds-of-thousands of Metro Atlantans and North Georgians who would like to have to not have to only utilize a Single Occupant Vehicle (SOV) to get to and from work during a severely-congested peak-hour commute to and from their respective places of employment every workday, an option that is clearly not available for most of the Atlanta region’s residents at the moment.
          Even after a comprehensive overhaul and vast upgrade and expansion of the Atlanta region’s currently embarrassingly inadequate transit network takes place, you may personally find that transit may not be for you on either selected individual commutes or on even on virtually every commute, but at-least the multimodal transit option will be there for the hundreds-of-thousands, if not millions of Metro Atlantans and North Georgians who would like to use it on either a consistent or even occasional basis.Report

        12. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 8:35 pm

          @Burroughston Broch
           We should also be mindful that, if the State of Georgia does not take action to expand the Interstate system to accommodate the increased amounts of already very-heavy freight truck traffic that will be generated by the pending expansion of the fast-growing international seaport at Savannah and continued growth and expansion at seaports along the Gulf Coast, congestion pricing will most assuredly be imposed by the Feds on ALL LANES of Metro Atlanta region freeways as a means of pushing excess local Single Occupant Vehicle (SOV) traffic off of the Interstate system (and onto bus and rail transit lines) so that through traffic, particularly through freight truck traffic, can continue to flow relatively unimpeded.
          If Metro Atlanta Interstates are not expanded to accommodate the additional truck traffic that will be generated by growth and expansion at seaports at Savannah and the Gulf Coast and the increased amount of vehicular traffic that would result from another exponential economic and population growth spurt of the kind that Metro Atlanta experienced between 1980-2008, congestion pricing will likely be federally-imposed on all lanes of Metro Atlanta freeways sometime before 2030 at the latest, but quite possibly sooner.
          Meaning that you can take that nightmare that was created when the State of Georgia used federal funds to convert the untolled HOV-2 lane to a tolled HOV-3 lane (HOT Lane) on I-85 in late 2011 and apply it to all lanes of the Metro Atlanta freeway system.
          That’s because the I-85 HOT Lanes are only a demonstration project for a much-larger, all-encompassing system of congestion tolling on all lanes of Metro Atlanta freeways
          Using the California State Route 91 HOT lanes (where tolls can range as high as $10.00 for one-way use of the entire 10-mile distance of the HOT lane) as a guide of what the pricing structure would be under a congestion pricing scheme that is applied to all lanes of Metro Atlanta freeways, drivers can expect to pay up to $1.00 per-mile to make a commute that is currently untolled, save for state motor fuel taxes which are “hidden” in the price of gas. 
          That means that sometime transit-averse Metro Atlantans are likely going to become avid transit users whether they really want to or not sometime with in the next couple of decades.
          Under a scheme where congestion pricing in is place on all lanes of Metro Atlanta freeways, you would pay at-least $8.00 in tolls each way ($16.00 round-trip) to use the roughly 8 miles of I-285 between Dunwoody (the Ashford-Dunwoody interchange) and the Cumberland/Galleria area (the US Hwy 41/Cobb Parkway interchange).
          Compare that $16.00 round-trip that you would pay to use I-285 between Dunwoody and the Galleria and vice-versa under a freeway congestion-pricing scheme to the roughly $6.00 or so round-trip that you would pay to use transit between Dunwoody and the Galleria under an improved/upgraded transit scheme and that is where your REAL savings will be.Report

        13. Burroughston Broch January 22, 2013 9:36 pm

          @The Last Democrat in Georgia  You and I both know that what you propose is a pipe dream. Tell me one place in the US and one place outside the US that function the way you describe. If ever put together, all pricing will be ala carte.
          I noticed you ignored I would be traveling twice as long each way. Kinda hard to dispute that, isn’t it? I’ll keep my 2007 Toyota that gets 35 MPG around town and buy 8 gallons of fuel every 2 weeks.
          I could do the trip by public transport now, using MARTA and CCT buses. It takes almost 2 hours each way. I once did it to see how it worked – once.Report

        14. Burroughston Broch January 22, 2013 9:39 pm

          @The Last Democrat in Georgia I enjoy conversing with you, but your fantasies are a bit extreme. It’s like looking at a cartoon from 1913 speculating what life will be like 100 years hence. Life doesn’t work that way, in my experience.
          Nevertheless, dream all you wish.:)Report

        15. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 22, 2013 11:47 pm

          @Burroughston Broch
           These are not dreams or fantasies, but a way to help guide where the very-important conversation about critically-needed transportation upgrades, particularly transit upgrades and expansion, should go.
          There are a lot of very influential people who read the Saporta Report.  You can’t help to guide the conversation about where transportation should go, should be going, should already be and should have already been if you don’t put forth any ideas saying so.Report

        16. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 23, 2013 12:39 am

          @Burroughston Broch
           {{“You and I both know that what you propose is a pipe dream. Tell me one place in the US and one place outside the US that function the way you describe. If ever put together, all pricing will be ala carte.”}}
          That’s not true as there are multiple large metro areas that are dependent upon a very-heavy transit presence to just simply continue functioning, both here in North America (New York, Chicago, Bay Area, Washington DC, Toronto, etc) and abroad (urban regions throughout Europe, China, Japan, etc).
          BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California is a heavy rail transit-anchored system that was designed to function like a regional commuter rail system.
          BART also covers nearly 80% of its costs with its distance-based/zone-based fare structure where one-way fares are as high as $11.00 one-way from end of the system to the other (as opposed to MARTA, which only covers just over 30% of its costs with its flat fare structure).
          {{“Fare-paying customers account for 78% of the operating funds in the FY13 budget.”}}
          BART alone proves that a very-large urban transit system can cover up to 80% of its operating costs with the fares it collects through a distance-based/zone-based fare structure.
          If 80% of operating costs can be covered by fares collected through a distance-based/zone-based fare structure, the remaining 20% of operating costs can easily be covered with private investment and Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines).Report

        17. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 23, 2013 2:10 am

          @Burroughston Broch
           {{“I noticed you ignored I would be traveling twice as long each way. Kinda hard to dispute that, isn’t it? I’ll keep my 2007 Toyota that gets 35 MPG around town and buy 8 gallons of fuel every 2 weeks.”}}
          I didn’t ignore it, I addressed it when I said that just because transit may be vastly-improved and expanded for the Atlanta region still does not necessarily mean that transit use may be for you, personally.
          It is very good that you have a fuel-efficient vehicle that you really like and a commute that is manageable and works for you.  Again, that is a very, very good thing.  It cannot be underscored how much of a good thing that is.
          But even though you may find that transit may not personally work for you after a massive upgrade and expansion of availability (it’s no big deal that the current meager transit offerings don’t work for you now as the current substandard transit offerings don’t work for most Metro Atlantans and even in some cases are better at repelling more potential riders than they are at attracting them), there are millions of other Metro Atlantans and North Georgians who will likely find that vastly-improved, upgraded and expanded transit options work for them in a metro area known to have a wretched rush hour commute, or two, or three, or four, or five, or….Report

        18. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 23, 2013 2:18 am

          @Burroughston Broch
           {{“I could do the trip by public transport now, using MARTA and CCT buses. It takes almost 2 hours each way. I once did it to see how it worked – once.”}}
          You are a good one, sir, as most people who didn’t have to make the trip by bus would likely have nothing to do with it.
          Most commuters with other options (personal vehicles) would take one look at the bus schedules, the route maps and the people standing on the bus stop who likely have no other mobility options but to use a bus service of last resort that will escape from as soon as they gain the financial means and go the other way (into their personal vehicles).
          Two hours just to get 10 miles on the bus through one of the more densely-populated sections of the metro area kind of says it all about the state of transportation (roads and transit) in this town.Report

        19. Burroughston Broch January 23, 2013 6:50 pm

          @The Last Democrat in Georgia  I am in SF often and use BART a lot. It does not function as you described. Almost everything is pay as you go, with limited transfers. I’ve noticed no van pools at stations to get me the last leg – I must hire a taxi. If that’s your best example, it’s way short of your dream.Report

        20. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 23, 2013 8:13 pm

          @Burroughston Broch
           I wasn’t using BART necessarily as an example of a system where the pricing is completely integrated so that only one payment is made for the entire multimodal transit trip. 
          I was using BART as an example of a large urban system that is able to cover 80% or four-fifths of its operating costs with its distance-based fare-structure.
          The immediate local area vanpools and circulating shuttles at the busiest stations are tools for first-mile/last-mile connectivity that the Atlanta region would use in eventually upgrading its currently super-substandard transit system.
          Also, it is not at all uncommon for taxicabs to be utilized for last-mile (or farther) connectivity between transit stations and originations and destinations on transit systems and networks in large metro regions, especially if said origination or destination is not immediately located on or near a transit line of some sort.
          Right now a varying mix of modes are used for first-mile/last-mile transit connectivity often depending on the immediate locality.
          Some areas utilize public vanpools, some areas utilize semi-public or quasi-public vanpools, some areas or group utilize private carpools, some areas utilize local circulating shuttles, some areas utilize park & ride express bus service that connect a distant park & ride lot with the train station, some areas are just straight-up park & ride service where train riders either drive their own individual personal vehicles or utilize a private carpool with family (often a spouse), friends or neighbors as modes of first-mile/last-mile connectivity between originations and destinations and rail transit stations.
          The Atlanta region and the State of Georgia must figure what first-mile/last-mile transit connectivity strategy is best for it both as a whole and for individual neighborhood locations and go with it from there.
          Obviously, nothing is finalized as of yet (in fact, everything is FAR from being finalized) as we’ve got a heckuva long way to go before turning this wayward and adrift transit “ship” around and getting it headed in a positive direction.
          In any case, first-mile/last-mile transit connectivity absolutely must be a major part of the conversation about improving, upgrading and expanding critically-needed access to transit in the Atlanta region and the State of Georgia.Report

        21. Burroughston Broch January 24, 2013 7:30 am

          @The Last Democrat in Georgia  I asked you for an example of an operating system with integrated pricing, van pools for the last miles, etc. These are the features you described as desirable. Do you have an example or not?Report

        22. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 24, 2013 8:50 am

          @Burroughston Broch
          Well. believe it or not, there are actually a few limited examples or integrated pricing right here close to home.
          GRTA Xpress commuter bus Route 408 Doraville to John’s Creek Parkway is a very-limited example of integrated pricing in which only GRTA Xpress bus Route 408 patrons with a Breeze Card can make free transfers to and from the MARTA Gold Line/Northeast Line at the Doraville MARTA Station, which means that those riders who board a southbound GRTA Xpress bus Route 408 in Gwinnett (or North Fulton where the route originates from) will only pay $3.75 one-way with a Breeze Card for the entire combined trip on a GRTA Xpress commuter bus and MARTA heavy rail transit (only those bus patrons with a Breeze Card can make free transfers to and from MARTA as patrons paying cash cannot).
          {{“Transfers to/from MARTA…Free transfers between GCT and MARTA require the use of a Breeze Card loaded with GCT fare. Cash patrons and paper ticket/pass holders will not receive a free transfer to/from MARTA.”}}
          Riders/patrons on GRTA Xpress commuter bus Route 410 Sugarloaf Mills to Lindbergh MARTA Station (a GRTA Xpress commuter bus route which is operated by Gwinnett County Transit) also get free transfers to/from MARTA heavy rail transit with a Breeze Card and only pay $3.75 one-way for the entire combined trip on a GRTA Xpress commuter bus and MARTA heavy rail transit.
          Though, overall, local examples of integrated pricing between two separate systems are somewhat limited because GRTA Xpress commuter bus routes 408 and 410 are basically the only two local examples where buses from one system feed directly into and out of the rail transit service of another system.Report

        23. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 24, 2013 9:07 am

          @Burroughston Broch
           Those GRTA Xpress commuter bus routes 408 & 410 that feed into and out of the Doraville and Lindbergh MARTA stations, respectively are park & ride commuter bus routes, meaning that patrons must drive to and from the park & ride lots where those routes provide service for first-mile and last-mile connectivity between their homes and those express commuter bus routes.Report

        24. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 24, 2013 9:44 am

          @Burroughston Broch
          Though what is probably the monster of all integrated pricing examples is the Greater New York City region.
          The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) which serves the New York State and exurban Connecticut side of the Greater New York region provides integrated pricing on one-way trips through use of a MetroCard which can used as a direct form of payment on NYC subways and buses or as an indirect form of payment for trip tickets on Long Island Railroad and Metro North Railroad regional commuter trains which serve suburban and exurban locales within the Greater NYC Region.
          On the New Jersey side of the Greater NYC region, integrated pricing is provided mostly with the purchase of a simple one-way ticket for a continuous ride between two stations.
          Though integrated pricing can also be provided with the purchase of various types of Monthly and/or Weekly Passes.
          {{“One-Way Tickets…One continuous trip between the stations on the ticket. One-way tickets are valid until used (no expiration) and are non-refundable.”}}Report

    2. The Last Democrat in Georgia January 20, 2013 8:30 pm

       Your comments about either the seeming inability or outright refusal of GDOT to fix dysfunctional railroad crossing signals on a section of railroad right-of-way that it owns in the Helena-McCrae (on the Heart of Georgia railroad line, I presume) also reflects the need for any future expansion of passenger rail transit to involve a strategy of grade separation at railroad crossings, where possible.  Especially at railroad crossings where very-busy major roads intersect very-busy railroad right-of-ways at the same grade.
      Making sure that most, if not virtually all, major railroad crossings are grade-separated as passenger rail transit is expanded moving forward will require a strategy of relocating many existing stretches of surface-graded freight railroad tracks to be relocated to new grades of track that are either depressed into the ground below ground-level or are relocated completely underground besides newly-constructed passenger rail tracks in densely-developed areas.  
      Relocating railroad traffic underground where possible, will be necessary so that growing volumes of both high-frequency freight rail and passenger rail traffic does not increasingly conflict with high-volumes of vehicular traffic on very-busy surface streets and roads.
      Relocating high-volume rail traffic underground through densely-developed urban/suburban/exurban areas will also free-up existing surface right-of-ways for new commercial development (and further Tax Increment Financing-funding) opportunities in densely-developed suburban/exurban historic downtowns and urban neighborhood centers and new linear greenspace development opportunities between (like a Silver Comet Trail, etc).    
      The need to relocate railroad traffic underground also again underscores the need for extensive amounts of private investment so that upgraded and expanded rail infrastructure can be built correctly THE 1ST TIME.Report

  11. writes_of_weigh March 2, 2013 11:54 am

    Maria – further on H-S-R developments…..as so many have commented about North Carolina and it’s developmental DOT Rail Division, not to mention either, the privately owned/funded Florida East Coast Railway’s H-S-R plans for Miami – Orlando along Florida’s Atlantic Coastline, there is now actually a “window”(webcam) which allows one to view how certain rail operations in the Tarheel state occur. The camera is “control-able” at times, with differing perspectives. One wonders if such an “eye” were afforded a view of similar developments in the Peach state, just how many decades one might have to gaze upon the tracks, before a true commuter train or High-Speed inter-city train might appear? 
    Follow this link to NC train observations near Charlotte : http//

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