GDOT seeks public comments on funding of transit, bike and walking paths, more

By David Pendered

The window of opportunity for the public to express opinions on state funding of transit, bike and walking paths – and all modes of transportation – opened over the weekend and public comments will be accepted online through Oct. 20. The outreach is part of the state’s effort to update mobility plans that are to guide spending through 2050.

Streets Alive, 2019, SWAT

The Streets Alive festival Sunday in Southwest Atlanta featured booths, including this one and one where GDOT gathered public comments about future state spending on transit, trails for biking and cycling, roads and bridges. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Surveys are available in Spanish and English. Each of the six questions that pertain to modes of travel provides an answer that includes transit or public transportation – including a question that asks:

  • “Where is/are the opportunity(ies) for the Georgia Department of Transportation to improve? [can choose more than one]”

The public comments are part of the information-gathering process launched by the Georgia Department of Transportation. GDOT has started its effort to update mobility plans for modes including roads, bridges, ports, airports, rail freight, transit, and trails for walking and bicycling.

The update is required to comply with state requirements regarding a Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan, and federal requirements for a Statewide Transportation Plan. The most recent update was completed in 2015, according to a GDOT report.

GDOT took the public outreach campaign on the road over the final weekend in September – setting up booths at Atlanta’s Streets Alive and at the 32nd annual Georgia’s Big Red Apple Festival, in Cornelia. Five upcoming festivals are to offer GDOT booths, ending Oct. 19 at the Georgia Peanut Festival, to be held in Sylvester, the “Peanut Capital of the World.”

GDOT doesn’t indicate online the weight that will be assigned to public comments in the setting of spending priorities for transit and transportation programs.

Downtown Connector, Midtown

Roads that serve the ongoing construction in Midtown of offices and residences are expected to fall to the lowest service level possible before 2040, GDOT predicts. Credit: Kelly Jordan

The plan is to be complete and presented to the board that oversees GDOT in autumn, 2020, according to GDOT’s schedule.

The state’s current long-range plan calls for a 10 percent funding target for transit/bicycle/pedestrian projects. This figure represents a total allotment of $6.4 billion for alternate transportation, out of the state’s anticipated $65 billion general investment portfolio by the year 2040.

This 10 percent figure is the one often highlighted by transit advocates in contending GDOT and the Georgia Legislature have little interest in evaluating or providing additional funds for mobility options other than roads and bridges, ports and airports.

Comments contained in the plan, and other documents, indicate GDOT planners have fairly extensive plans regarding these alternate modes of transportation. Money to implement the plans hasn’t been allocated.

The report reviews transit in two categories, urban and rural, and cites expansion needs in both categories. A section on bicycle/pedestrian notes that most such facilities are handled at the local level. GDOT adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2012 that’s used when state projects are in areas where there’s a high expectation of alternate modes of travel along the state roadway.

The section on transit begins with this statement:

  • “Approximately 81 percent of the population of Georgia today is served by transit, either through urban fixed-route, paratransit/on-demand or rural human services (demand-responsive service).
  • “Statewide, about 2.26 percent of commuters take transit to work; in the Atlanta region the figure rises to 12.66 percent. People also use transit to perform other significant functions of daily life, including medical appointments, shopping, personal and recreational trips.”
MARTA and DOT

MARTA and the Downtown Connector provide alternate modes of travel in Downtown Atlanta. Credit: Kelly Jordan

In terms of potential improvements to transit, GDOT planners observed three distinct funding needs:

  • “Multiple transit-supportive clusters in the Atlanta urbanized area are not served by transit:
  • “The Brunswick, Cartersville, Dalton, Warner Robins, and Valdosta urbanized areas lack fixed-route transit service, as does Georgia’s portion of the Chattanooga urbanized area.
  • “Potential demand exists for park-and-ride facilities along key interstates around Atlanta, Macon, Brunswick, and Augusta.”

The plan’s section on bicycling and walking recognizes the growth in this sector of travel options, and dangers in the existing system:

  • “The number of bicyclists and pedestrians has been increasing in response to population growth as well as a shift to these alternative modes of transportation. In the United States, the share of trips taken on a bicycle or walking has increased significantly over the last two decades. This trend is expected to continue into the future both at the national and state level given increasing demand for non-automobile travel options and growing elderly population.
  • “This higher share of users also results in more crashes involving a bicyclist or pedestrian. Between 2010 and 2012, 1,125 crashes occurred involving a bicycle and 3,204 crashes occurred involving a pedestrian. As the number of cyclists and pedestrians increase, safer infrastructure and public outreach to share the road can combat these types of crashes.”
GDOT funding levels, transportation plan

Georgia now allocates about 10 percent of anticipated revenues to transit and facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists. Credit: GDOT

Regarding rural on-demand transport, the existing plan doesn’t appear to mention the state’s three years of efforts, through 2014, to improve the rural transit system and meet mandates including transport to health care, community options and jobs.

The state worked to reduce costs and improve transport services provided by three state departments – Transportation, Human Services, and Community Health. More than two thirds of the cost, or 68 percent, was paid by the federal government and state funds were used to match the federal dollars, according to a 2013 report.

Costs of the existing rural transport program were forecast to rise from $142.3 million in fiscal year 2012 to $187.6 million in FY 2030. The final recommendation to the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, from the Governor’s Development Council, attached to GRTA, was for Georgia to maintain the existing program and seek to manage it more efficiently in order to curb costs.

 

Downtown Connector, parking

Atlanta is trying to revise an aborted mobility plan in the Downtown district to balance the needs of pedestrians and vehicles that travel from highway to parking structures. Credit: Kelly Jordan

 

Candler Park Golf Course

Citizen-funded lawsuits halted construction of the planned Stone Mountain Freeway, which was to have paved over a portion of the Candler Park Golf Course. Credit: Kelly Jordan

 

Locks over Downtown Connector

A few ‘love locks’ that represent undying love may have been attached to a fence above the Downtown Connector. Or, literalists could have affixed locks to represent gridlocked traffic. Credit: Kelly Jordan

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

7 replies
  1. Avatar
    David says:

    The rapidly growing use of electric scooters and bicycles are leading to increasing conflicts with both automobiles and pedestrians. These trends are likely to continue in urban areas. We should start to think about investing in streets with three levels traffic/speeds: pedestrian with perhaps a 5 mph limit; bicycle and scouter, 5 – 15 mph; and cars/trucks above 15 mph. In densely populated areas, some of the latter might be restricted to deliveries and emergency vehicles.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Barry PRESTON says:

    Just a thought… have been reading about GDoT and the success it is having with a concrete with – what I believe is an additive -EdenCrete… seems form my observationit can do wonders for the roads – I 20 testing Aug 2015 -MARTA-(see the white paper on this product).

    I believe from my observation and research it could save those that pay some form of 'rates' many $$$$$$ . Especially in ever on going repairs in the concrete that is presently used..

    All this from my observation. Keep safe all

    This I do believe — maybe Administration of GDoT could investigate…..Report

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Bekah Williams says:

    I would LOVE more bike paths in and around Atlanta, as long as they are completely separate from the road. Bike lanes just don't cut it.Report

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Steve Hagen says:

    Thanks for bring the survey to our attention! I basically told them we have the greatest highway system in the world but it fails because we do not use it for mass transporting of people in buses. Why not encourage private buses to get in to the long trips getting individual drivers off the roads.Report

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Steve Hagen says:

    Any government which wants to do a street car should be required by state law to first paint stripes on the proposed roadway and run buses for a few years to see if they can build ridership! I moved to Atlanta from Miami and MIami does some really stupid stuff but they do have several trolley bus routes and they are used!Report

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    jennifer brooks says:

    The survey questions are not well constructed. They seem biased towards obtaining certain responses. The survey is not designed to capture actual public opinion. It's disappointing.Report

    Reply

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