Improve list of regional transportation projects; fix flaws in HB 277; and the region stands to benefit

Passing a draft list of transportation projects on Aug. 15 was only the first step.

The Atlanta region has two months left to improve both the list as well as the process outlined in House Bill 277.

What’s at stake? Creating a transportation system for the Atlanta region that will best serve our metropolis for decades to come.

First: the list.

The executive committee of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable — working with state and local government officials — has been hard at work for the past several months trying to come up with a list. A list was passed Monday in a meeting that lasted nearly four hours.

A goal was to come up with a list that could be supported by all the different constituencies in the region — the urban counties, the close-in suburban counties as well as what Henry County Chair B.J. Mathis has called the five “non-transit” counties (an inaccurate and disappointing description).

The good news. Contrary to concerns early on, transit projects have held their own — thanks to the tremendous public support that exists for more transportation options.

But, not surprisingly, there are several critical transit projects that are either not on the list or are not funded to the level that many had hoped for.

Topping that list is funding for the commuter rail line from Atlanta and Griffin as well as its sister project — funding for the Multimodal Passenger Terminal station in downtown Atlanta.

Despite the fact that there’s passionate multi-regional support for these projects and despite the fact that there are federal dollars available, the Roundtable’s executive committee has failed to include even limited funding for the project as part of its draft list.

The most surprising absentee leader in the commuter rail project is Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who did not speak up for the project at the meeting on Aug. 11.

“I don’t believe that the case was made to me individually or members of the Roundtable (for commuter rail),” Reed said after the meeting. “It’s not priority. You can’t have everything. My focus in this process was strengthening the Atlanta BeltLine, and that has fared reasonably well, and supporting MARTA.”

Asked if he was against commuter rail, Reed quickly answered: “No. It’s just not a priority.”

Commuter rail and the MMPT station, however, should not be so easily dismissed. The economic development potential of both projects is probably greater than any other transit project in the list.

Also, the project would address the obvious slight to communities south of I-20 — areas that have largely been ignored in the draft list when it comes to transit. That brings up all sorts of troubling issues — race, income, unbalanced investment that impacts economic development.

The other big transit project that needs greater financial backing is building a MARTA connection in South DeKalb, either along the I-20 corridor or towards Candler Road.

Once again, there are several issues of regional equity, fairness and race that could raise their ugly heads if the South DeKalb link is ignored.

And both of these transit project will serve the “non-transit” counties (commuter rail — Henry; MARTA line — Rockdale), which could be more important for their economic future than the multitude of road projects they have included.

So how can the Roundtable add more transit projects when it’s having to keep to its budget total $6.14 billion?

The answer is greater state participation. Yes, the state should become a true partner in transit.

In a dramatic moment Monday, Reed told the committee members that Gov. Nathan Deal had agreed to help cover a portion of the $180 million needed to run the state-controlled Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s Xpress buses over the next decade. The governor reportedly agreed to contribute $80 million of GRTA’s total.

But the state also should become a more significant partner in metro road projects. In the draft project list, more than $1 billion is to widen or improve “state roads.”

At one point during the executive committee meetings, it sounded as though Todd Long, director of the Georgia Department of Transportation, said that if the Roundtable funded some of the state road projects, it would “relieve” the state of its obligations. Excuse me? I thought the point of the regional sales tax was to fund projects important to the region and not to substitute state funding.

Another large pot of money to be considered is $540 million that is supposed to be allocated to Georgia 400 projects. Again, just why should this regional sales tax pay for Georgia 400 projects when a toll already is collecting money for that state highway? Wouldn’t that be double taxation?

Second: the process.

One of the biggest flaws of HB 277 states that the tax last 10 years or when it has raised the estimated amount of dollars. So if the $6.14 billion of Roundtable projects is raised in year seven, the tax would go away.

Given the fact that the region’s transportation needs are so much greater than the $6.14 billion, it would be crazy to not to leave the sales tax in place so as to fund more projects.

Cherokee County Chairman Buzz Ahrens suggested that the second clause of that sunset be removed and just keep the tax in place for 10 years. At Thursday’s executive committee, members endorsed that change. The 21-member Roundtable voted unanimously Monday to recommend that change to the state legislature.

That one change on the sunset would improve HB 277 immensely.

Why? It would help the region come up with two lists — a first tier list of projects and then a second tier. By giving the region flexibility to add projects, it would encourage the state, MARTA and local jurisdictions to keep costs down and seek other sources of funds — be it the state, the federal government or private support.

Knowing the sales tax could go towards a second-tier list of projects would serve as a major incentive for the region to be fiscally conservative.

Mayor Reed said Ahrens’ motion was “appropriate and thoughtful” and that he hoped “the legislature will respond favorably.”

As for the region having the flexibility to seek lower cost options and add more projects to the list as money became available, Reed said he was open to exploring that idea.

“Once we’ve got a list, we have until Oct. 15 to think through other scenarios,” Reed said. “If we come in under budget, it would provide second-tier opportunities.”

(Another helpful fix would be to remove the unfair MARTA restrictions that currently would prevent the new sales tax going to existing MARTA operations).

Last point.

The focus on road and transit projects has seemed to squeeze out bike-ped projects. As of the Aug. 11 meeting, only .4 percent of the funding — $24.1 million — was slated to go to bicycle and pedestrian projects around the region.

If we really want to have a complete transportation system in this region, the investment in bicycle and pedestrian projects should be a multiple of that number.

In short, we have an opportunity to pass a really progressive list of transportation projects that could move this region forward in significant ways.

Let’s try not to blow it.

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.

19 replies
  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “At one point during the executive committee meetings, it sounded as though Todd Long, director of the Georgia Department of Transportation, said that if the Roundtable funded some of the state road projects, it would “relieve” the state of its obligations. Excuse me? I thought the point of the regional sales tax was to fund projects important to the region and not to substitute state funding.”

    It doesn’t surprise me one bit that the GEORGIA Department of TRANSPORTATION does NOT want to be responsible for TRANSPORTATION in the state of GEORGIA, especially given their recent history of wild mismanagement and flaming incompetence. From the standpoint of the state, this regional transportation tax is just a back-door way of gaining more tax revenue that GDOT can mismanage and claim to have “lost”.Report

    Reply
  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “Asked if he was against commuter rail, [Atlanta Mayor Kasim] Reed quickly answered: “No. It’s just not a priority.””

    As mayor of a muncipality that is trying to change his locality over the long-term with a project like the Beltline that is of special and particular interest to the incorporated City of Atlanta, I can KIND OF (not all of the way, but KIND OF or SOMEWHAT) see Mayor Reed’s viewpoint in being more interested in funding MARTA and the Beltline from a very limited pot of tax revenue.

    Unfortunately, there are way too many people over at the state level that feel that commuter rail is NOT a priority and NOT for the same kind of somewhat noble reasons.

    Interesting viewpoint though. All Atlanta-area freeways are frequently gridlocked for up to or even more than 20 miles at times into and out of the city during peak hours and “commuter rail is just not a priority”….Very interesting line of thought, indeed…Report

    Reply
  3. Rob Augustine says:

    While one can certainly see having to prioritize things, who in their right mind ever thought that we’d still be discussing the construction of a multimodal passenger terminal some 20 plus years after it was first broached as a desirable element to add to our regional transit system? The necessity of providing commuter rail and easy connections from there to the MARTA transit hub at Five Points is evident to anyone who thinks about how people are going to get around Metro ATL. That is, how they are going to get around if we continue on a path of economic development and prosperity.

    But, hey, if we can’t put something like this into place after decades, just where are we going to wind up? Indeed, where are we now besides stuck in traffic and in a seemingly endless loop of planning without any implementation.

    The idea of Chairman Ahrens to continue collection of funds is a good one and should be obvious to anyone with the commonsense to know that we cannot continue our economic growth (such as it is) without building a proper transit infrastructure for a region of 5 plus million people and more. Of course, commonsense also tells us that we’d better come up with a mechanism to provide funding for transit long into the future. After all, we didn’t get to be the lead city of the southeast by sitting back and not committing our resources for our ongoing development. That we are now in a precarious position and losing the momentum of growth to other cities should cause everyone to focus on how we finally get transportation infrastructure right, especially the funding of it.

    It’s not like the model for this type of funding and implementation doesn’t exist. Everyone but us seems to be doing it. States providing funding to metro systems is the rule, not the exception. When will DOT see that? And when will the Mayor recognze that a downtown Multimodal Passenger Terminal is about as serious as it gets for economic development and the revitalization of a long neglected part of downtown Atlanta? Report

    Reply
  4. Rob Augustine says:

    While one can certainly see having to prioritize things, who in their right mind ever thought that we’d still be discussing the construction of a multimodal passenger terminal some 20 plus years after it was first broached as a desirable element to add to our regional transit system? The necessity of providing commuter rail and easy connections from there to the MARTA transit hub at Five Points is evident to anyone who thinks about how people are going to get around Metro ATL. That is, how they are going to get around if we continue on a path of economic development and prosperity.

    But, hey, if we can’t put something like this into place after decades, just where are we going to wind up? Indeed, where are we now besides stuck in traffic and in a seemingly endless loop of planning without any implementation.

    The idea of Chairman Ahrens to continue collection of funds is a good one and should be obvious to anyone with the commonsense to know that we cannot continue our economic growth (such as it is) without building a proper transit infrastructure for a region of 5 plus million people and more. Of course, commonsense also tells us that we’d better come up with a mechanism to provide funding for transit long into the future. After all, we didn’t get to be the lead city of the southeast by sitting back and not committing our resources for our ongoing development. That we are now in a precarious position and losing the momentum of growth to other cities should cause everyone to focus on how we finally get transportation infrastructure right, especially the funding of it.

    It’s not like the model for this type of funding and implementation doesn’t exist. Everyone but us seems to be doing it. States providing funding to metro systems is the rule, not the exception. When will DOT see that? And when will the Mayor recognze that a downtown Multimodal Passenger Terminal is about as serious as it gets for economic development and the revitalization of a long neglected part of downtown Atlanta? Report

    Reply
  5. Rob Augustine says:

    While one can certainly see having to prioritize things, who in their right mind ever thought that we’d still be discussing the construction of a multimodal passenger terminal some 20 plus years after it was first broached as a desirable element to add to our regional transit system? The necessity of providing commuter rail and easy connections from there to the MARTA transit hub at Five Points is evident to anyone who thinks about how people are going to get around Metro ATL. That is, how they are going to get around if we continue on a path of economic development and prosperity.

    But, hey, if we can’t put something like this into place after decades, just where are we going to wind up? Indeed, where are we now besides stuck in traffic and in a seemingly endless loop of planning without any implementation.

    The idea of Chairman Ahrens to continue collection of funds is a good one and should be obvious to anyone with the commonsense to know that we cannot continue our economic growth (such as it is) without building a proper transit infrastructure for a region of 5 plus million people and more. Of course, commonsense also tells us that we’d better come up with a mechanism to provide funding for transit long into the future. After all, we didn’t get to be the lead city of the southeast by sitting back and not committing our resources for our ongoing development. That we are now in a precarious position and losing the momentum of growth to other cities should cause everyone to focus on how we finally get transportation infrastructure right, especially the funding of it.

    It’s not like the model for this type of funding and implementation doesn’t exist. Everyone but us seems to be doing it. States providing funding to metro systems is the rule, not the exception. When will DOT see that? And when will the Mayor recognze that a downtown Multimodal Passenger Terminal is about as serious as it gets for economic development and the revitalization of a long neglected part of downtown Atlanta? Report

    Reply
  6. RobertGrunwald says:

    @ This a great aritcle on what need to be done in Georgia. What not great Store was the Bar Code in the AJC. This what i think of the Bar opinion. You are the reason Georgia is stuck in the 70s and 80’s mode build more road this will solve problems, This why Denver,Charloote, Dallas, Houston and Arizona are big bussines to come thier states. Please his ariticle here http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-blog/2011/08/17/costly-rail-project-boondoggles-still-fascinate-politicians/ And Jim wooten http://blogs.ajc.com/thinking-right/2011/08/18/my-nits-with-the-transportation-sales-tax-vote/?cxntfid=blogs_thinking_right Report

    Reply
  7. Mason Hicks says:

    I’m sorry that I left on vacation the day this post appeared, so I’m late in responding…

    I am a huge fan of light rail. I’ve seen what the promise, and the later implementation of Charlotte’s Lynx Blue Line has meant to the redevelopment of the area where I spent my early childhood years. Lynx Blue Line has become Smart Growth America’s Center for Transit Oriented Development’s showcase project.

    However, if commuter rail was to be properly funded and implemented would become the catalyst towards people starting to think, behave, and vote regionally like nothing else could, at least on transportation issues… Commuter rail and intercity rail projects are unique in that they are the ONLY formats that can effectively do that. This is because they will directly affect the lives and transport habits of those on the metro periphery and. I agree that the Beltline is vital for Atlanta’s growth and cohesion. It would in effect push the frontier of the metro-rural mindset further out, thereby making those who now see no benefit in supporting Metro-Atlanta transportation initiatives benefitting stake-holders in the game.

    Case in point: I recently read in the ‘Marietta Daily Journal’, several Cobb County leaders voicing their concerns that if the Cobb County light rail project were to stop in Cumberland/Cobb Galleria as planned, that it would be of no benefit to the vast majority of Cobb County… Of course, we, the already convinced fully understand that the Cobb project should be read in the context of it being extended to Kennesaw State University in a subsequent phase… The leaders being quoted were suddenly exclaiming the merits of commuter rail, and how running a commuter rail line along the CSX line would be much cheaper to construct and would be far more beneficial to the residence of Cobb than light rail along Cobb Parkway. As a means of having more bang for the buck, I would tend to agree, but where was their longing for Cobb County commuter rail when such a project was actually being proposed in the mid-nineties as the GDOT Division of Intermodal was evaluating a statewide commuter rail plan. Of course, all work on this effectively died as soon as Sonny Perdue became our Governor.Report

    Reply
  8. UrbanTraveler says:

    @Mason Hicks Great Points all. Right now we have neither commuter rail nor light rail/streetcar in Georgia. Georgians have no experience of the benefits that both would add to the mix of transportation choices they have. If we can get the first of each built and make sure the initial segments connect to the infrastructure we already have, then there will be a demand for extensions and additions to both these technologies as well as expansion of MARTA.

    Soon construction will begin on the “tourist loop” streetcar circulating through downtown Atlanta. Portland, Oregon started its famed streetcar with just a mile of track, and the demand grew once people could take a ride and see the benefits.Report

    Reply
  9. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    I’ve heard through the grapevine of the new and increased investment that the new light rail line has sparked along South Boulevard in Charlotte which rightfully should serve as an example of the positive impact that a properly-thought out, well-planned and well-placed transit line can have on a community.

    I very much agree with you on the importance of investing in regional commuter rail network and on the positive impact on regional relations that investment could potentially have on the Atlanta Region.

    I do agree with you on the irony of Cobb County political leaders suddenly coming out as being big advocates for commuter rail after many years of neglect, derision and even outright hostility towards the concept.

    However, I do very much disagree on using the TSPLOST funds (if approved by voters, and that is a very big fat IF) to fund the construction of the light rail line that would connect the Arts Center MARTA Station with Cumberland Mall.

    I can very much understand the consternation of Cobb taxpayers of seeing over $856 million of their hard-earned money go to construct a light rail line that would initially run only one mile into Cobb County and would likely not be extended for many years when there are so many more badly-needed upgrades that could be made to the county road network that could be implemented much more quickly and at much less cost than the one light rail line that would not advance beyond Cumberland Mall for many years after its initial construction to that point.

    I agree that it is critically important to start making investments in transit as soon as possible because transit is where the future of transportation is headed in this country, but something that transit advocates frequently fail to recognize, despite the anti-road rhetoric, is that it is just as important to continue to invest in the road network as well, not just so that commuters can move better, but also that commerce, goods and services can move and be delivered better as well and just as the State of Georgia has invested nothing in transit since the Olympic era, the State of Georgia has also invested next to nothing in its road network, especially its surface arterial network in the same time period, especially when compared to our main economic competitors in Texas, Florida and North Carolina which all have invested substantially more in BOTH roads and transit in recent years.

    Spending $856 million of a very limited pot of funds to build one mile of a rail line that would take more than 15 years to construct and would likely not advance past that point for decades while being proposed to be extended up through an aging corridor of automobile-oriented development up Cobb Parkway to supplement a car-dependent lifestyle that is showing some clear signs of decline is NOT a good idea at all and is a very poor use of those limited funds, ESPECIALLY, when there are two existing freight rail lines in the CSX and Georgia Northeastern Railroad lines that run through several cities and neighborhoods with historic downtowns and town centers in Cobb and Northwest Georgia looking to foster and expand on the walkable developments that they already have with future commuter rail lines that could come on line on existing tracks much easier than the proposed light rail lines.

    Those proposed commuter rail lines could also not only serve Cumberland Mall, but also Vinings, Smyrna, Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth, Emerson, Cartersville, Calhoun, Dalton and up to Chattanooga on the CSX line and could serve Woodstock, Holly Springs, Canton, Ball Ground, Jasper, Ellijay, Blue Ridge, Mineral Bluff and other assorted locations in and along the 575/515 Corridor all the way up into extreme Southwestern North Carolina (Murphy, NC and eventually beyond, possibly to Asheville).

    The two proposed commuter rail lines that run through the center of Cobb into Northwest Georgia and the two proposed commuter rail lines that run through extreme South Cobb into West Georgia, Eastern Alabama and extreme NW Georgia have infinitely so much more potential upside than the proposed misguided token light rail line.

    The proposed commuter rail lines on existing rail beds have the potential to make an exceptionally tremendous positively overwhelming impact not only on gridlocked regional traffic, but also on residential and commercial land use patterns, economic development and real estate values while the proposed light rail line only seems to expand on a failing and outdated transit model/philosophy in present-day MARTA, a model with numerous shortcomings that urgently needs to be overhauled before becoming the core urban centerpiece of a larger regional mass transit network.

    The proposed light rail line up Cobb Parkway just seems to be nothing more than a shortsighted attempt to desperately prop up an aging and outdated model of post-World War II-era auto-dependent suburban sprawl in noticeable decline while the commuter rail lines have the immense potential to overwhelmingly popularize transit and density and and make them much more attractive market choices to conservative Georgians with a strong individualistic libertarian streak. Report

    Reply
  10. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    I also think that the one percent of the gas tax/fuel sales tax that currently goes to the State of Georgia general fund should be directed become a base level of funding for badly-needed transit upgrades while 100 % of the proposed TSPLOST revenues should go to making badly-needed road improvements.

    That’s right, take the one percent of the fuel sales tax that goes directly to the general fund and redirect it to fund transit upgrades and use all of the (100%) of the proposed TSPLOST revenues for road upgrades,Report

    Reply
  11. UrbanTraveler says:

    @The Last Democrat in Georgia I personally would vote against the TSPLOST tax if it were yet another way to fund roads alone. We already have a mechanism to fund roads, the motor fuels tax. Maybe it is not enough to fund what we need in Georgia. I agree with you that some of the motor fuels tax should fund mass transit.

    Georgia is so behind the rest of the populous states when it comes to mass transit that we need something to break the back of the roads-only mentality.Report

    Reply
  12. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @UrbanTraveler

    But that’s the thing. The TSPLOST proposal should be part of a package deal with the one percent of the gas tax going into the general fund being redirected to be a permanent source of funding for transit so that BOTH roads and transit get the comprehensive attention that they both need instead of an almost token-like approach that gives short-thrift to both modes of transportation that are critically important to our existence.

    Both hardcore transit and road advocates have got to recognize that it is just as equally and critically important to invest much more in both transit and roads as no major international city can really hope to function for an extended period of time without being MULTIMODAL.

    In addition, the State of Georgia has invested very little in roads and even less in transit while the population of the Atlanta Region grew by over 60 percent in the years between the end of the 1996 Olympics and the start of the current economic downturn in 2008 when the region’s population exploded by more than two million increasing from about 3.5 million in the mid 90’s to about 5.7 million in the late 2000s, adding the ENTIRE population of Metro Charlotte in that relatively brief time frame.

    I urge anyone to take a look around and ask if we have increased our investment in infrastructure by 60 percent to correspond with the explosive population growth? Of course we haven’t as the nearly six million residents of the Atlanta Region are dependent on an obviously inadequate infrastructure that was built to handle not even half of the population of today’s Greater Atlanta with many of the last major improvements being completed nearly 20 years ago when the area’s population was just over three million.Report

    Reply
  13. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Both transit and roads should have newly-dedicated streams of funding to enable Georgia to max-out on transportation infrastructure investments, especially since the Atlanta Region has just recently gone through a period of maximum population growth.Report

    Reply
  14. Mason Hicks says:

    @The Last Democrat in Georgia Last Democrat, I hate to take the matter SO FAR off topic, but talking running the train line through North Georgia and SW North Carolina; I have family towards Asheville. And being the dreamy rail buff that I am, I checked on Google Earth several years ago; I’m afraid that the tracks between Mineral Bluff, GA and Murphy, NC have all been pulled up and in places, developed over… 🙁

    Sad too… with a station along the line at Lake Junaluska, NC, I would’ve had a twenty minute walk to my Aunts house…

    However,I moved my family from Roswell to Paris almost two-years ago. Today, I took my visiting father on a railroad tour of the city, showing him all the major stations, the newest trains, and how real world-class transportation works… Last week, I had the pleasure of taking him on his first ride aboard a TGV…

    Keep the faith sir…Report

    Reply
  15. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Mason Hicks

    You’re not really that far off topic as this is an aged thread where transportation enthusiastists love to come and occasionally blog about everything from improving pedustrian and bike options to bus, trains and road access.

    I saw the gap in that rail line between Mineral Bluff and Murphy that you are talking about, but the removed tracks wouldn’t really that much of an issue as most of the rail bed is still there, the tracks still exist between Murphy and Asheville and the people in those isolated parts of mountainous North Georgia and Western North Carolina would likely jump at the opportunity to be apart of a major transportation project that could only help to improve their perennially depressed local economies and give them more direct geographical connectivity to economic and population centers in Metro Atlanta to the south and Asheville to the northwest and the tourist, vacation and maybe even higher-paying job opportunities that will come with a new interurban commuter rail line.

    As far as moving your family from transportation and infrastructure small-minded Atlanta to Paris should be a real study in contrasts.

    I can’t get too down on Atlanta, though. Atlanta is extremely new at this big international city thing, being considered a major world city for less than two decades while a city like Paris has been a major international center for centuries.

    I’m seeing positive signs that the populace is starting to slowly and steadily come around to the fact that it is a big city that has no choice but to invest tons more in its across-the-board infrastructure from transportation to water to education.

    The ironic instance that you cited in your earlier post of ultraconservatives in once suburban, but now rapidly urbanizing Cobb County now suddenly touting the benefits of commuter rail after having shunned anything even remotely mass transit for decades is an example of a dramatic change in the way people are thinking about transportation options, at least in suburban Metro Atlanta.

    I guess that there’s nothing like sitting in rush hour gridlock on a 15-lane “freeway” for years on end to make people change their thinking about what urban transportation options should REALLY be in a fast-growing metro area of nearly six million people.

    The state of Georgia’s failure to act on transportation over the last decade or so may turn out to be a good thing in the long run as when sitting in one of our many frequent massive traffic jams, commuters have had and continue to have LOTS of time to sit and stew and think to themselves and ask why aren’t there more and better transportation options in a major “international” metro of nearly six million inhabitants like their are in other metro areas on this very continent that don’t even have half the population that the Atlanta Region has. Report

    Reply
  16. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Mason Hicks

    “Today, I took my visiting father on a railroad tour of the city, showing him all the major stations, the newest trains, and how real world-class transportation works…”

    What? Having no other options but to sit parked on a 20-lane freeway in total gridlock for a couple of hours each weekday and weeknight while having to be totally dependent on your car for EVERY local trip isn’t world-class?Report

    Reply
  17. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Mason Hicks

    Speaking of getting a little off topic, I remember reading an article in the AJC about 10 years ago that was one of a special series about Atlanta’s relatively new status as very large major metro and the uncontrolled sprawl that led to it before writers at the AJC were ordered to stop using and drop all references to the word “sprawl” in their articles in deference to the affluent suburban readers in North Metro Atlanta that the newspaper was trying make apart of their key audience of subscribers.

    One of the people featured in the article was an auto worker who would commute by pickup truck over two-and-a-half each way every workday between his home in Murphy, North Carolina and his job at the erstwhile General Motors auto assembly plant in Doraville.

    In his feature the gentleman remarked that for over 30 years he had commuted back-and-forth about 230 miles round trip daily between his home in extreme Southwestern NC and his high-paying manufacting job at the GM plant in Metro Atlanta. The gentleman remarked that over the 30-plus years of his commuting back-and-forth everyday between Murphy, NC and Doraville that he had seen the bulldozers signaling future commercial and residential construction and development gradually creep up the I-75, I-575 and GA 515 corridors from the Marietta/Smyrna areas in the late 1960’s when he first started and eventually make their way up to Ellijay and Gilmer County which is about 75 miles north of Downtown Atlanta.

    For those who are extremely skeptical about the usefulness of commuter rail and who like to say that virtually no one commutes into the urban core from places out that far like Macon, Athens, Rome, Columbus, the auto worker from Murphy, NC which is over 115 miles away from Atlanta, is a prime example of people who DO commute into the city from that far on a daily basis because of the limited job opportunities in outlying smaller cities and towns.

    Commuter rail is a WIN-WIN for both the urban core of Atlanta and surrounding and outlying areas both nearer and farther when it comes to promoting high-quality economic development and high-quality, high-paying job opportunities.Report

    Reply
  18. Thomas Palmer says:

    It is simply amazing that so many folks who have no risk in these projects can forecast how wonderful the light rail construction will be for the Atlanta region. They are proclaiming to have answers to any circumstance not yet on the horizon. WOW ! maybe I can tap into their boundless knowledge about how to invest my next $50,000 when my CD matures later in October. This is one giant, and I mean GIANT windfall for those politically connected…..at the expense of the lowly peasants. If those opposed to the TIA do not contact their legislators about this fiasco, then you deserve the unintended consequences.Report

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.