LINK delegation soon will head to Baltimore and Washington D.C. to get ideas for metro Atlanta

By Maria Saporta

On April 18, a group of about 100 influential metro Atlanta leaders will embark on the annual LINK trip — this year to the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metro area.

This will be the 16th annual LINK trip — an annual opportunity to take a look at ourselves while studying another community that’s facing many of the same issues as metro Atlanta. (LINK stands for Leadership, Involvement, Networking and Knowledge).

The comparisons and contrasts between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. are striking.

Chris Leinberger, a developer and urbanist who is a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, put it this way during a recent talk to the Rotary Club of Atlanta.

“Let me give you a few comparisons. You have the same population — exactly 5.7 million,” Leinberger said. “Both are Southern towns that were invaded by Yankees. Both are capitals. Both have a stable economic base. Both received grants to build urban transit systems in the 1970s. Both have been part of the Sun Belt boom, and both have terrible traffic, especially in the suburbs.”

Atlanta's MARTA rail system

But while metro Atlanta quit investing in transit, Washington, D.C. never stopped. And as a result, the two cities have grown up in dramatically different ways. Leinberger said that Washington went from two walkable urban communities to more than 40 — mainly located around the Metrorail stations. Atlanta, on the other hand, has about five walkable urban areas.

The big reason? MARTA’s skeletal rail system is virtually the same as its initial investment. There have been about four or five extensions of existing lines, but the building out of a complete rail transit system has been left on the drawing boards.

But to track the growth of Washington’s Metrorail, Leinberger said it takes 29 computer clicks to see the evolution of the system (in other words, Metrorail has expanding and integrated its rail system 20 different times).

“Today, when I take a look at the D.C. skyline, I count 24 cranes,” he said. Most of the growth is in high-density, mixed-use, walkable communities connected by transit. By comparison, with just a few exceptions such as Midtown which is well served by MARTA, development has come to a standstill. “You are not offering the market what it wants.”

Leinberger will be the closing speaker later Friday afternoon during the LINK trip to Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.'s Metrorail system

But between Wednesday and Friday, the group will hear and learn about several initiatives that are being tried in Baltimore and Washington.

In Baltimore, the mantra for economic development is: eds, meds, feds and beds. “That’s what is driving growth in Baltimore,” said Rob LeBeau, the Atlanta Regional Commission’s interim division chief for local government services who is coordinating the LINK trip. The group will look at how Johns Hopkins University has become a magnet for economic development.

Doug Hooker, executive director for the Atlanta Regional Commission, said a big question will be on how Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia operate as a region.

“We want to find out how they make regional decisions given the complexities of multiple levels of government,” Hooker said.

Education will be a centerpiece of the 2012 LINK trip. One of the main speakers will be Kaya Henderson, chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s Public Schools. She had joined the system as part of reformer Michelle Rhee’s team. She is now seeking to find ways to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship into the public school system.

The LINK delegation also will learn about the concept of “place-making.” The concept is to create places where developers, public officials and residents work collaboratively to create thriving, profitable and sustainable environments to live work and play..

Although the LINK delegation will not be exploring federal policies toward metro regions, there will be a session with Georgia’s two U.S. Senators — Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss. Also Georgia members of the U.S. House have been invited to attend.

It’s also possible that there will be a visit from a couple high-ranking officials from President Barack Obama’s administration, but that has not been confirmed.

On the last full day of programs, the group will head to Virginia’s Fairfax County and explore the relationship between Arlington and Washington, D.C.

A session will explore how the two communities have benefited from good planning and strategic investments — individually and together.

All these are considered key lessons for Atlanta’s regional leaders to bring back home.

Just to mention a handful of those who will be on the trip:

On the elected officials side: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Cherokee Chairman Buzz Ahrens; DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis; Cobb Chairman Tim Lee; Clayton Chairman Eldrin Bell; Rockdale Chairman Richard Oden; House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker; Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd; Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson; Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and Georgia Senator Doug Stoner.

On the civic side: ARC Chairman Tad Leithead; Bill Bolling, founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank; Mike Cassidy, president of the Georgia Research Alliance; Tedra Cheatham, executive director of the Clean Air Campaign; Doug Dillard, chairman of the Council for Quality Growth; Ross King, executive director of the Association County Commissioner of Georgia; Brian Leary, president of the Atlanta BeltLine; John O’Callaghan, president of the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership; Michael Paris, president of the Council for Quality Growth; Paul Radford of the Georgia Municipal Association; MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott; Nathaniel Smith, founder of the Partnership for Southern Equity; Pat Upshaw-Monteith, president of Leadership Atlanta; Trey Ragsdale III, chairman of the Civic League for Regional Atlanta; and Jim Stokes, interim executive director of the Livable Communities Coalition.

On the business side: executives from the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Chamber, the Henry County Chamber, the North Fulton Chamber, the DeKalb Chamber, Central Atlanta Progress, Midtown Alliance, the Buckhead CID, Gwinnett Village CID, the Stone Mountain CID, and the Perimeter CIDs.

Executives of the following companies and firms also will be on the trip: Duke Realty, CH2MHILL, Jacoby Development, Parsons Brinkerhoff, IBM, McKenna, Long & Aldridge, Georgia Power, Greenberg Traurig, Gas South, Hayes Development Corp., the Collaborative Firm, Wells Fargo, Jacobs Engineering, Cushman & Wakefield, Troutman Sanders, Pendleton Group, Lowe Engineers, Morris, Manning & Martin, Futren, Atkins North America, Kimley Horn, H.J. Russell & Co., ARCADIS, Hedgewood Homes, Seven Oaks Co., and HOK.

And here is the chronological history of the cities where the LINK delegation has gone:

Denver – 1997

Seattle – 1998

Dallas – 1999

Cleveland – 2000

San Diego – 2001

Chicago – 2002

San Francisco – 2003

Boston – 2004

Portland – 2005

Miami – 2006

Vancouver – 2007

Denver – 2008

Minneapolis-St. Paul – 2009

Phoenix – 2010

Seattle – 2011

Baltimore/Washington, D.C. — 2012

Note to Readers: I will be filing daily reports during the LINK 2012 trip on SaportaReport, and then I will write a wrap-up of what we learned for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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.

49 replies
  1. Mason Hicks says:

    Maria,
    I don’t know if you’ve seen this video that was created by David Emory (…I am a big fan of David, BTW…) for CfPT and the Sierra Club’s Rail Committee. I think it was produced in 2008:

    I believe it is a real good jumping off point in the discussion of MARTA’s development as compared to other cities that were largely developed “post-auto”, including DC… I look forward to reading about the LINK trip as it unfolds… Report

    Reply
    • Maria
      Maria says:

       @Mason Hicks Mason, that is one of my favorite “moving picture” descriptions of how we have fallen so far behind.  I only wish that David had also included Washington, D.C and San Francisco in that video link.  Both D.C. and San Fran received their federal transit funding at the same time as Atlanta, which would give folks a comparative perspective that would be as equally depressing. MariaReport

      Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

         @Mason Hicks
        “Both D.C. and San Fran received their federal transit funding at the same time as Atlanta, which would give folks a comparative perspective that would be as equally depressing. Maria”
         
        That’s okay.  When the going gets tough, the tough finds them a major trainmaker to buy-off and bribe a few dozen incompetent key lawmakers to help advance the cause of mass transit in a state with a legislature that seems to either have gone or is in the active process of going completely off-the-rails, so-to-speak.Report

        Reply
  2. jeremy garlington says:

    Will someone from this delegation please report on specific projects adopted from previous LINK trips to show how the amount of time and money invested in consultation has made a specific difference in metro Atlanta’s traffic flow? Any discerning follower of these issues will grant you the “N” for networking and “I” for information. The “L” or Leadership and how the “K” or knowledge has been applied remain to be seen.Report

    Reply
    • inatl says:

      Ha, can’t say I disagree.  I mean what have we to show?  Still no regional transit governance since the bill proposed by the gov would have unfairly gutted the voice of those inside or near 285.
       
      New transit? No
      Reduced transit? Yes
      Removal of the bus shoulders that improved bus service on 400 so that cars can use it? Yes
      And the funding proposal?  the TIA?  a regressive sales tax that taxes someone who drives only 3 miles a day the same as someone who drives 30 miles a day and thus uses less of the infrastructure?  Really? 
      And the TIA is largely a roads project.  around 20% of the transit funds are for a last minute replacement transit project for Cobb that has no definition.  And without eminent domain how do we know MARTA can get the ROW at a reasonable rate for the Clifton/Emory line?  Do we expect DeKalb to exercise their eminent domain powers for MARTA?  Ha! good luck with that.Report

      Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

         @inatl
        “around 20% of the transit funds are for a last minute replacement transit project for Cobb that has no definition.”
         
        There have been unofficial reports that the state is trying to get their hands on at least part, if not most or all, of the estimated $700-$900 million of the money designated for that undefined replacement transit project in Cobb so that they can fund the I-75/I-575 Northwest HOT Lane Project without using the state’s entire yearly roadbuilding budget is which how the project is tentatively proposed to be funded at present.
         
        In Cobb, much of the uproar has been the proposal to build a light rail line between the Arts Center MARTA Station in Midtown and the Cumberland Mall/Galleria area, which is admittedly NOT the best use of such limited potential funds and NOT necessarily the best proposal for a rail transit extension that would eventually serve the Northwest Suburbs as that line is now proposed to run in the I-75 Northwest right-of-way between Midtown and the Cumberland Mall, would eventually run in the right-of-way of US Hwy 41/Cobb Parkway right-of-way between Cumberland Mall and Marietta and would eventually run in the right-of-way of I-75 & I-575 between Marietta and Canton. 
         
        A much better, heck, the BEST, rail transit proposal that would be the most viable and help to change commuting and land-use patterns for the better over the long-term to serve that Northwest Metro Corridor would be to implement high-frequency commuter rail service on the existing CSX/W&A freight rail line that runs through the heart of Cobb County and the walkable, historic town centers of its principal cities where there is increasing demand for high-density urban/new suburban living (Vinings, Cumberland Mall/Galleria area, Downtown Smyrna, Downtown Marietta, Downtown Kennesaw, Downtown Acworth, Emerson, Downtown Cartersville up to Calhoun and possibly even Dalton and Chattanooga) as well as implementing high-frequency commuter rail service on the existing GNRR (Georgia Northeastern Railroad) freight rail line that runs branches off of the CSX/W&A and runs parallel to the often daily peak-hour gridlocked I-575/GA 515 Corridor directly through the heart of Downtown Woodstock, Downtown Holly Springs, Downtown Canton, Ball Ground, Jasper, Ellijay and on into the North Georgia Mountains.
         Report

        Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

         @inatl
        “around 20% of the transit funds are for a last minute replacement transit project for Cobb that has no definition.”
         
        There have been unofficial reports that the state is trying to get their hands on at least part, if not most or all, of the estimated $700-$900 million of the money designated for that undefined replacement transit project in Cobb so that they can fund the I-75/I-575 Northwest HOT Lane Project without using the state’s entire yearly roadbuilding budget is which how the project is tentatively proposed to be funded at present.
         
        In Cobb, much of the uproar has been the proposal to build a light rail line between the Arts Center MARTA Station in Midtown and the Cumberland Mall/Galleria area, which is admittedly NOT the best use of such limited potential funds and NOT necessarily the best proposal for a rail transit extension that would eventually serve the Northwest Suburbs as that line is now proposed to run in the I-75 Northwest right-of-way between Midtown and the Cumberland Mall, would eventually run in the right-of-way of US Hwy 41/Cobb Parkway right-of-way between Cumberland Mall and Marietta and would eventually run in the right-of-way of I-75 & I-575 between Marietta and Canton.
         
        A much better, heck, the BEST, rail transit proposal, that would be the most viable and help to change commuting and land-use patterns for the better over the long-term, to serve that Northwest Metro Corridor would be to implement high-frequency commuter rail service on the existing CSX/W&A freight rail line that runs through the heart of Cobb County and the walkable, historic town centers of its principal cities where there is increasing demand for high-density urban/new suburban living (Vinings, Cumberland Mall/Galleria area, Downtown Smyrna, Downtown Marietta, Downtown Kennesaw, Downtown Acworth, Emerson, Downtown Cartersville up to Calhoun and possibly even Dalton and Chattanooga) as well as implementing high-frequency commuter rail service on the existing GNRR (Georgia Northeastern Railroad) freight rail line that runs branches off of the CSX/W&A and runs parallel to the often daily peak-hour gridlocked I-575/GA 515 Corridor directly through the heart of Downtown Woodstock, Downtown Holly Springs, Downtown Canton, Ball Ground, Jasper, Ellijay and on into the North Georgia Mountains.
         Report

        Reply
        • inatl says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia “so that they can fund the I-75/I-575 Northwest HOT Lane Project without using the state’s entire yearly roadbuilding budget is which how the project is tentatively proposed to be funded at present.”
           
          Hmmm, though the state’s entire yearly roadbuilding budget proposed for it now doesn’t even cover the costs.   As i understand it they have 300 million representing the annual roadbuilding budget plus low interest loans from the feds but the project costs 1 billion dollars to put the HOT lanes in.
           
          Technically its enhanced bus service if they keep the HOT lanes uncongested, but really I wouldn’t call it a “transit” project.  And I thought the description of the project said it would go down highway 41 not 75? or am I wrong about that.
           
          Either way, just goes to show though TIA has a list, what kind of list is it.Report

          Reply
        • inatl says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia Oh my!  just went to the interactive map, which this last minute switch is laughable as graphically as they are reduced to drawing an elongated squiggly circle around the NW Corridor.  
           
          Anyway i’m wrong it could be along I-75 per the latest descriptions.  Yup, its HOT Lanes with perhaps funding for the buses and a couple of park and ride lots? Ugh.  So its not a 50/50 list anymore.
           
          http://www.atlantaregionalroundtable.com/map/tia.html
          “Project Description: This project will implement enhanced premium transit service along the Northwest Corridor between Acworth/Kennesaw/Town Center and the MARTA Arts Center Station, including express commuter service in northern Cobb County and Cherokee County. Premium transit service benefits residents of the Region by improving access between CCT and MARTA, and alleviating traffic congestion on major corridors. Contingent upon additional funding, this project may also provide a fixed guideway rail service along a route generally parallel to I-75/US 41. Specific details will be further determined in an Alternatives Analysis Study, which is currently underway. The total cost of the project is $695,000,000, of which $689,000,000 will be funded under TIA and the remaining $6,000,000 covered by local funds.”Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           “Hmmm, though the state’s entire yearly roadbuilding budget proposed for it now doesn’t even cover the costs.   As i understand it they have 300 million representing the annual roadbuilding budget plus low interest loans from the feds but the project costs 1 billion dollars to put the HOT lanes in.”
           
          You’re right, even GDOT’s entire 300 million dollar annual roadbuilding budget doesn’t come close to covering the costs of the project.
           
          But if they can get their hands on the close to 700 million from Cobb County’s share of the TIA/T-SPLOST that are designed for “Enhanced Premium Bus/Transit Service” in the I-75/US 41 Corridor and throw in what would roughly be a $200 million low interest loan from the Feds, they would suddenly have the more than a billion dollars needed to pay for the project that Governor Deal so desperately wants (and needs, politically) as if left to their own devices, GDOT would NEVER be able to get anywhere close to turning ground on the project on their own.
           
           Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           “Hmmm, though the state’s entire yearly roadbuilding budget proposed for it now doesn’t even cover the costs.   As i understand it they have 300 million representing the annual roadbuilding budget plus low interest loans from the feds but the project costs 1 billion dollars to put the HOT lanes in.”
           
          You’re right, even GDOT’s entire 300 million dollar annual roadbuilding budget doesn’t come close to covering the costs of the project.
           
          But if they can get their hands on the close to $700 million from Cobb County’s share of the TIA/T-SPLOST funds that are designed for “Enhanced Premium Bus/Transit Service” in the I-75/US 41 Corridor and throw in what would roughly be a $200 million low interest loan from the Feds, they would suddenly have the more than a billion dollars needed to pay for the project that Governor Deal so desperately wants (and needs, politically) as if left to their own devices, GDOT would NEVER be able to get anywhere close to turning ground on the project on their own.Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           Though in Governor Deal’s defense, it’s not his fault that the state has had plans on the GDOT books for high-frequency commuter rail service on the CSX/W&A and GNRR freight rail lines for close to or about 20 years and has failed to act in even the slightest way to move these plans forward, plans to enact commuter rail that becomes more-and-more of a necessity with each passing year as the I-75/Hwy 41 NW Corridor has grown so much as to become almost completely impassable at times during morning and evening rush hours.
           
          Figuring heavily into Governor Deal’s political calculus for his administration’s pressing need to get something, anything, built as quickly as possible in that corridor is the fact that while he won the election, he lost the vote to Karen Handel in that crucial political corridor in the 2010 GOP Gubernatorial Primary.  “Looking busy” by constructing and completing a (severely-needed, though limited) roadway expansion in the  severely-congested I-75 NW Corridor  that GDOT would be least likely to screw-up before he comes up for re-election is one way to curry favor with a bloc of loyally-conservative voters who are still somewhat skeptical about Deal’s conservative and ethical bonafides even after one-and-a-half years into his term 
           
          Also figuring into his political calculations and the logistical future of Metro Atlanta is the looming expansion of the fast-growing Port of Savannah after larger ships are permitted through the Panama Canal in 2014-15, a development which could possibly flood the I-75 South, I-285 West, I-20 West & I-75 North corridors with tons more of already very-heavy truck freight traffic.
           
           Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
          Also to the Governor’s credit is the fact that he pulled the plug on a public-private partnership that would have severely hampered the state’s ability to make critically-needed improvements without substantial financial penalty to rights-of-way that run parallel to the I-75 NW right-of-way that is slated for the addition of the reversible HOT lanes.
           
          While it may be unbelievable to most, the addition of tolled, reversible carpool lanes will actually help to benefit, and complement quite nicely, future commuter rail service on the CSX/W&A and GNRR existing freight rail rights-of-way and possible future light rail/heavy rail service as opposed to a traditional untolled road widening of I-75 for which the true increasing cost of road construction and maintenance would be “hidden” from commuters and not be reflected as it is in tolls. 
           Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           To their credit, the state’s (often bumbling) pursuit of using HOT Lanes as a strategy to expand capacity on limited-access roadways reflects a big sea-change in the traditional philosophy of limitless and seemingly unending road widenings of expressways in years and decades past.
           
          Expanding major roadways by adding only a couple of reversible tolled carpool lanes, lanes whose tolls increase during peak times, instead of widening roads by adding multiple untolled general-purpose lanes as has been the common practice until recently in Georgia and in most places in the U.S., signals that the end of the era of the practice of using traditional road widenings to attempt to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow has arrived.
           
          If you’re a hard-core transit advocate, this should be very heartening to you as transit will likely be the primary means to expand de-facto freeway capacity for regional trips from here on out as we have reached the point where it is much, much more physically, financially and politically difficult to improve traffic flow just through traditional freeway expansions alone. 
           
          This change in direction by the transportation powers-that-be seems all-the-more like a dramatic sea-change in philosophy when one figures that the state would be very much within their right to add at least a couple of lanes in each direction on often peak hour-congested outer suburban and exurban spur roads like I-575 North off of I-75 up to Canton and I-985 off of I-85 up to Gainesville.  Report

          Reply
        • inatl says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia Though the state should be able to get significant FHWA dollars for the corridor in addition to the low interest loans.  I thought highway projects generally got an 80% match.Report

          Reply
        • inatl says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia  Yea, HOT lanes are better than just adding unrestricted lanes since we’ve proven that’s a vicious circle.  Its also a way to improve bus service to the suburbs until commuter rail is built.   Though they are going to need to have two hot lanes in each direction on the downtown connector.  right now the HOV lane backs up whenever the general purpose lanes do.Report

          Reply
        • inatl says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia Oh and paying with a HOT lane toll, just like paying with a gas tax, is far superior than paying with a sales tax on essential groceries and my lunch!
           Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           “Technically its enhanced bus service if they keep the HOT lanes uncongested, but really I wouldn’t call it a “transit” project.  And I thought the description of the project said it would go down highway 41 not 75? or am I wrong about that.”
           
          Ahhh, funny that you ask that…As is a common occurance here in Metro Atlanta, there are multiple competing factions sometimes within the same government organizations each backing mulitple routes of their own backing.
           
          The Atlanta Regional Commission and the Cumberland CID back a light rail line that runs within the I-75 right-of-way (over, under, etc) between Midtown and Cumberland Mall, runs in the US 41/Cobb Parkway right-of-way between Cumberland Mall and North Marietta Parkway and then turns briefly along N. Marietta Pkwy and runs up within the right-of-way of I-75 and I-575 up to Canton.
           
          As I mentioned before, Governor Deal and one faction of GDOT support HOT lanes in within the I-75 & I-575 right-of-ways with commuter bus service in the HOT lanes as a way to look like something is being done to combat congestion to a constituency of voters that the Governor so desperately needs to guarantee victory in the next GOP primary during his bid for re-election in 2014 in which he could likely face a stiff challenge from the either or both the right-wing and Tea Party wings of the GOP.
           
          There is another, though less vocal and less influential, faction of state government that wants to see high-frequency commuter rail on the CSX/W&A  and GNRR existing freight rail lines as a way to both relieve and provide an alternative option to severe daily congestion on I-75 NW OTP.
           
          There is also a faction of Cobb residents and state and federal legislators that wants to build a Maglev-type elevated rail either in the right-of-ways of I-75 or US 41.
           
          And there is yet another faction of Cobb residents and legislators that wants to see a light rail or heavy rail line in the US 41/Cobb Parkway corridor that would originate in Marietta near N. Marietta Pkwy and run down US 41 south to the Cumberland Mall area where it would turn to the east and run along I-285 as the light rail/heavy rail transit subway line that would along the Top End Perimeter in light of the relative inability to further expand and widen the I-285 roadway outside of the proposed I-285/GA 400 interchange reconstruction that will eliminate the deadly left-hand merges at that congested junction.Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           You may be correct, though I don’t know if that may necessarily be the case as the planned project is a de-facto toll road and to my knowledge toll roads are not necessarily eligible for the 80% match that traditional untolled sections of Interstate Highways may be eligible for (which is the reason that tolls have been removed from some sections of I-95 in the Northeast and some sections of the New Jersey Turnpike don’t have the I-95 designation, despite running the same exact parallel route that the unbuilt section of I-95 would follow if it were built).
           
          Though that needs to be researched and clearly defined as the federal rules governing toll road and toll lane funding are not always uniformly applied as there are some sections of tollway (like the Pennsylvania Turnpike which carries I-70 & I-76 and the Eastern Toll Complex which includes I-80 & I-90 on the same roadway through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, etc) that do carry Interstate designations.
           
          The HOT/HOV-3 lane that was converted from an HOV-2 lane on I-85 in DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties was funded with a $110 million grant in which Georgia was awarded the money over dozens of other competing states and projects.Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
          “Though they are going to need to have two hot lanes in each direction on the downtown connector.  right now the HOV lane backs up whenever the general purpose lanes do.”
           
           You actually hit the nail right-on-the-head with that statement as the state actually has long-term plans to convert the existing HOV-2 lanes and the far-left general purpose lane in each direction to HOT/HOV-3 lanes so that there will be two HOT lanes in each direction of the Downtown Connector as part of a larger $16.2 billion proposal to place HOT lanes on all major sections of freeway in the Atlanta Region except for I-85 South, GA 166, US 78/Stone Mountain Freeway and I-985 North.
           
          There are also seemingly-improbable long-term plans to convert as many as two more lanes on each direction of I-85 to HOT lanes as part of a still relatively little-known plan to “motivate” (pressure) single-occupant vehicle commuters to both become consistent carpoolers and use future rail transit lines that have not yet been built (MARTA extension into Gwinnett, commuter rail line between Atlanta and Gainesville, Brain Train line between ATL and Athens). 
           
          These plans for a massively-expanded HOT Lane network across North Georgia that the state has downplayed significantly since the wild and highly-flawed startup of the HOT lanes on I-85 Northeast that sparked much outrage amongst commuters in Northeast Metro Atlanta.Report

          Reply
        • inatl says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia easiest way to fix the left hand merge from 285 west to 400 north and in the process relieve a bottleneck on 285 is to just narrow 400 down to 2 through lanes from 3, I mean you have significant 285 traffic getting off this the 3 lane 400 so going down to 2 would be doable.   
           
          And you aren’t eliminating the a lane.  Because by going down to 2 you then have a dedicated lane for the 285 traffic to merge via the left hand merge.  This allows them to enter the highway at a higher speed and with out the immediate need to merge.    Eliminating the immediate need to merge then allows the 2 remaining lanes to operate more efficiently.     They did that on the south side, narrowing 85 to give 400 a dedicated merge lane.  But they’ve ignored the suggestion at 285.
           Report

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        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           I see what you are saying, but taking away a lane of traffic on 400 northbound through the I-285 interchange may not be the best public relations move for an agency in GDOT that is already understandably held in exceptionally low regard amongst most Georgians as narrowing 400 NB to only two lanes through that interchange would surely cause a new bottleneck and backup traffic back down 400 NB south likely back to the toll plaza and maybe further.
           
          Heck, the last couple-of-times that the state tried to take away a lane with the best of intentions haven’t gone very well (the I-85 HOT Lane debacle in 2011 and back in summer 2006 when GDOT changed the traffic pattern leading in the exit from I-85 NB to GA 400 NB which created huge traffic jams that were worse than usual and caused huge delays on the Downtown Connector) and have inspired prolonged angry backlashes by the public against a seemingly inept GDOT and the wholly incompetent state government that “controls” it. Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           “Eliminating the immediate need to merge then allows the 2 remaining lanes to operate more efficiently.     They did that on the south side, narrowing 85 to give 400 a dedicated merge lane.  But they’ve ignored the suggestion at 285.”
           
          That merge of 400 SB to I-85 SB is also the site of one of the absolute worst peak-hour bottlenecks in the Atlanta Region and the entire nation as three lanes of southbound 400 traffic attempt to squeeze down into to two lanes before the Sidney Marcus Blvd exit (where the right lane turns into an exit only lane for Sidney Marcus) and backs-up 400 SB traffic all-the-way into Buckhead during the morning rush hour and sometimes during the evening rush hour and sometimes during other times of the day during holiday rush periods.
           
          The effect of basically taking what is three lanes worth of 400 southbound traffic squeezed into two and five or more lanes of I-85 southbound traffic is devastating on both roadways leading into the 85/400 SB merge and the five-lane roadway south of the merge as those sections of roadway are basically impassable during peak hours, vividly illustrating and underscoring the severe and pressing need for increased mass transit options through the center of town where road capacity is at even more of a premium than it is in the metro area as a whole.Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           Also keep-in-mind that the pending reconstruction of the I-285/GA 400 North interchange is not only to eliminate those dangerous left-hand merges from I-285 EB to GA 400 NB and from I-285 WB to GA 400 SB (which lower-speed traffic merging directly into the high-speed left lane is a really bad idea on any freeway), but also to modify the cloverleaf/loop ramp from 400 NB to I-285 WB and to completely replace the cloverleaf loop ramp from 400 SB to I-285 EB with a high-speed flyover ramp. Report

          Reply
        • inatl says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia  understood on the other improvements.  Note though that 285 Westbound to 400 SB left hand merge is a dedicated lane.  400 at that point has its farthest right lane going into the 285 east and this left hand merge lane becomes the new 3rd lane.     In other words the previous fast or left hand lane becomes the middle lane.  
           
          As to NB 400 going to 2 lanes, I don’t think it would back up. 400 Northbound inside 285 only backs up when 400 north of 285 backs up from the 285 traffic and abernathy traffic joins in.  Plus with so many cars leaving the 400 for 285 you don’t need all three lanes until the 285 traffic joins, thus merely shifting that 3rd lane to a dedicated lane for 285 eastbound to merge to 400 NB shouldn’t create a bottleneck because you really aren’t taking a lane away, you are just moving the deck chairs on our SS Overdependence on Asphalt.
           Report

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        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           “Plus with so many cars leaving the 400 for 285 you don’t need all three lanes until the 285 traffic joins, thus merely shifting that 3rd lane to a dedicated lane for 285 eastbound to merge to 400 NB shouldn’t create a bottleneck because you really aren’t taking a lane away, you are just moving the deck chairs on our SS Overdependence on Asphalt.”
           
          Nah, the pending reconstruction of I-285 & GA 400 is nothing more than a routine safety upgrade and the relief of a major choke point that should have been completed about two decades ago when GA 400 opened through Buckhead as the state’s first, and only, toll road.
           
          Even with a substantial upgrade to GA 400 and the Top End of I-285, the fact will not change that the Atlanta Region is the largest metro area east of the Mississippi River with no commuter rail service that remains in dire need of massive transit upgrades and expansion to provide more of its car-bound citizens more transportation options other than just the single-occupant vehicle.
           
          With a population of just under six million people, Atlanta is a large market in which there is more than enough demand for increased mass transit options, it’s just that those increased transit options don’t necessarily exist to the extent that they should in a very large metro area of six million people, mostly due to increasing political incompetence.
           
          With Metro Atlanta having an exceptionally large transient population, there many people who move here from other parts of the nation, continent and even world where utilizing comprehensive transit systems are a way-of-life who remark at the shocking lack of mass transit options for a community that proclaims to be a major international city, yet provides few commuting and mobility options beyond just sitting in massive traffic jams on an inadequate road network for much of the day and sometimes well into the night.
           
          Despite a nagging and patently false and blatantly incorrect assumption that Atlantans will not ride transit when there is significant and overwhelming proof to the contrary in other cities around the planet and right here in Atlanta to the contrary, the truth is that Metro Atlantans are absolutely YEARNING for increased transit options as even the few souls who might refuse to use transit under any circumstances know that having increased transit options available to the majority of Metro Atlantans who would and want to use transit could only improve the commutes of those who won’t and can’t use transit (all the people who use transit leave their cars and ride trains and buses making way for improved commutes for those who still drive during peak hours).Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl
           Also, don’t forget that both the TIA/T-SPLOST for North Fulton County and the pending Revive285 project (of which the I-285/400 improvements are apart of) include what are relatively substantial transit components to them.
           
          The North Fulton County T-SPLOST list includes plans to expand the MARTA North heavy rail transit line to the GA 400/Holcomb Bridge Road interchange in Roswell while the Revive285 project includes a subway (either light rail or heavy rail) line that is a key component of the project.Report

          Reply
  3. RebeccaS says:

    We’ve connected the organizers with DC’s automated bike share program, Capital BikeShare (www.capitalbikeshare.com) and hope participants will check out the shiny red bikes gracing DC’s bikeable, walkable streets! Capi, as it’s known locally, reached 1 MILLION trips by bike on its first anniversary and is a best practices model for bike sharing in US cities. ABC’s bike share feasibility study should be complete this summer, and regionally, Chattanooga just launched a 300 bike program. Report

    Reply
  4. guest says:

    I’m obviously aware of the potential streetcars that could come with the Beltline, but are there any plans to expand MARTA (Heavy Rail) within the city?  For example, like a crosstown train from the Westside to VaHi that would have stops at Atlantic Station, Ansley Park, etc.  I feel like MARTA should make a concerted effort to make the actual city, transit oriented/walkable first and then focus on creating these “extension” transit lines for the folks in the suburbs.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “I’m obviously aware of the potential streetcars that could come with the Beltline, but are there any plans to expand MARTA (Heavy Rail) within the city?”
       
      There are plans to implement MARTA service to Emory University, which, of course, is a major regional center of higher education and employment. 
       
      Right now the plan is for that new train line to be a light rail line, but with the very important role that Emory plays in the Atlanta Region in terms of employment, higher education and medicine and with the very, VERY limited road network and the severe congestion in that area, it is somewhat likely that line could end up being a heavy rail line when all is said and done.Report

      Reply
      • Mason Hicks says:

         @The Last Democrat in Georgia I can see that possibly happening along the planned alignment to Emory-Clairmont Road… along that part of the route, the proposed alignment follows rail corridors that are quite conducive to heavy rail. Beyond that point, the proposed alignment abandons the rail routes to follow the streets; with several significant twist and turns. This part works only in a light rail or even better in a modern street-car scenario. I see can the service continuing as heavy rail to the northwest, serving Northlake/La Vista and then on to Tucker, with a connecting light rail line starting at Emory/Clairmont and continuing to Avondale as planned, although I don’t think a valid business case can be planned. Light rail can handle the passenger loads of the lindburgh – Emory corridor by ensuring that the platform lengths along that segment are sufficient for double (end-to-end trainsets), where half the trainset pair joins with a trainset returning from Avondale to continue back to Lindbergh while the other half  proceeds to Avondale. This, however requires careful and thoughtful planning, and the political will and savvy to bear higher up-front cost for a system that run more efficiently once in service… I would doubt that both trains of a doubled set would ever need to make the entire route to Avondale, but there maybe surprise in how many riders would want to come to Emory from Decatur/Avondale and points east…
        I would like to have seen a planned alignment as heavy-rail which departs the railroad right-of-way at North Decatur, and follows underneath Clairmont to link directly with Decatur Station. That would involve tunneling under the old court house in downtown Decatur as well as major underground work UNDERNEATH Decatur Station. To me, the cost would more than be made up for with the economic benefits of having a much more efficient connection hub (queue Burroughston Broch…)… This is the type of work we do here in France without batting and eye…Report

        Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @Mason Hicks
           Also keep-in-mind that the existing CSX freight railroad line that runs through the heart of the Emory University campus is a (key) part of the planned alignment of the future “Brain Train” regional passenger rail line between Downtown Atlanta and Athens that will provide high-frequency (we hope) rail transit service to the Northlake/LaVista and Tucker areas that are in severe need of the rail transit service that you mentioned.
           
          Much of the talk about the proposed Brain Train line early-on has been of making it a traditional commuter rail line that only has increased service (15-minute headways)  during morning and evening rush hours with service provided sparingly thoroughout the rest of the day.
           
          But seeing as how the proposed alignment of the Brain Train passenger rail transit line would provide much-needed service to at least five major regional centers of higher education (Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Emory, Georgia Gwinnett College & the University of Georgia) and maybe a sixth (the Atlanta University Center) and the World’s Busiest Passenger Airport in Hartsfield-Jackson and has the potential to be overwhelmingly wildly popular especially with college students who don’t own vehicles at as high of a rate as the rest of the adult population, it might be much more practical to make the line either a commuter rail line or light rail line in which high-frequency rail transit service with low headways between trains stays consistent throughout the day and even into the wee hours of the night.Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @Mason Hicks
           It should also be noted that Emory University is such a majorly important center of higher education, emploment and medicine within the Atlanta Region that the Emory area would more than likely be much better served by having BOTH a very high-frequency MARTA heavy rail connection and very high-frequency commuter rail/light rail connection to the area.Report

          Reply
        • Mason Hicks says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia 
          I am a huge fan of the “Brain Train”. I understand that that name has been abandoned for some reason… Before I left in late 2009, we at CfPT had adopted the idea that what was known as the Brain Train should be considered part of a broader concept in that the Griffin/Lovejoy – Atlanta commuter rail line and the Atlanta – Athens (Brain Train) be considered basically one-in-the-same in that they are both continuations of the same line with Atlanta MMPT as it’s hub in the center… This was in effort to simplify and consolidate the dialogue for what would become the Transportation Investment Act the following year.
          The scenario that I laid out which runs heavy rail from Lindbergh, through Emory, to the rail junction near Clairmont / North Decatur would leave the CSX ROW at the junction and go underground, following underneath Clairmont to the Decatur interchange with the Indian Creek Line… This route would be similar to what MARTA studied earlier as the “C-LOOP” which would use Diesel multiple unit (DMU) trainsets, and would be a good compliment to the Atlanta-Athens commuter rail line. It would create the opportunity for transforming Emory into a  multi-modal transit hub itself, along with a possibility for a second MMPT at Amour Station (a new multi-modal hub, south of Lindbergh, adjacent to the existing MARTA Amour Maintenance facility, where  the MARTA Northand Northeast Lines, the Atlanta Beltline, the Athens-Atlanta-Griffin, the Clifton Corridor line, the existing AMTRAK Crescent Line, the planned Southeast Corridor High Speed Rail, as well as potential commuter rail route to Gainsville would all converge.).
          Also, regarding the development of commuter rail to and through Cobb County, I am completely with you on this. I was on a Stake-holder committee for the Revive 285 plan. and I raised concerns about the plans for terminating the Top-End Perimeter Light Rail Line at Cobb Galleria, along Cobb Parkway. In the process, they had planned to abandon the existing transit exchange hub on the mall’s west perimeter; even though if one looks behind it, over the berm and down the hill, there lies the CSX Main Line; a perfect point for a multi-modal exchange hub and the terminus of the  Top-End Perimeter Light Rail Line.
          Doug Alexander’s work for GDOT in the early years of the last decade, explored this very closely. They found severe resistance from (I forget his name; I believe he was the Mayor of Vinings), who lead a major campaign against any and rail development through Vinings and Smyrna, and I read an op-ed by this guy recently in the Marietta Daily Journal where the same guy seemed to be asking why don’t we first consider commuter rail instead of wasting our money on such a “boondoggle” as light rail which would not solve traffic congestion and would solve only a few Cobb Countians. 
          Listen, I have much more to write on this and many other related topics, but I have to go to work now and design rail stations for people who like trains, understand their value, and are willing to support their future development…
          So later…Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @Mason Hicks
           Oh, isn’t that rich?  The irony that the some of the same people in notoriously anti-rail Cobb County who for many years screamed and shouted in vehement resistance to commuter rail are now screaming and even begging for commuter rail in light of some of the worst traffic congestion on the continent.
           
          I guess that sitting in massive rush hour traffic jams, traffic jams that seem to worsen with each day, day-after-day-after-day for the last decade-and-a-half on the I-75, I-285, I-20, GA 280, US 41, Windy Hill, East-West Connector, US 278, GA 6 (you get the picture how widespread the traffic congestion problem is in historically anti-rail Cobb County) has a way of bringing priorities into focus making commuter rail not seem like all that bad of an option.
           
          After all these years, commuter rail and transit expansion is looking like an even more attractive option, especially after GDOT has stated that the only lanes that will be added to the freeway system from this point on will be toll lanes, reflecting the TRUE cost of highway maintenance and road construction. 
           
           Report

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        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @Mason Hicks
           I really like the idea of having more than just one MMPT Downtown at Five Points.
           
          I myself really like the idea of having all of the commuter rail lines that originate north of I-20 RUN THROUGH the planned MMPT Downtown and terminate at the Atlanta Airport as well as having all of the commuter rail lines that originate from south of I-20 run through the MMPT at Five Points and terminate at key points on the Northside (Emory, Buckhead, etc).Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @Mason Hicks
          “Listen, I have much more to write on this and many other related topics, but I have to go to work now and design rail stations for people who like trains, understand their value, and are willing to support their future development…”
           
          I wouldn’t worry about the supposed lag in popularity in rail transit in Metro Atlanta (often its been the NIMBYs and the relatively few anti-rail, anti-everything people screaming the loudest at what we all see has been at great expense to the many) as the public at large is much, much, MUCH more appreciative of the potential of rail and multimodal rail options after having sitting in some of the worst traffic on the continent for the last decade-and-a-half (you know traffic is bad when people in historically anti-rail Cobb County are BEGGING for commuter rail like people in hell beg for ice water).
           
          Heck, there are towns in Cobb and Cherokee Counties that have based their current development around future commuter rail stations that haven’t even been built yet (Smyrna and Woodstock), while there are other towns in that part of the metro area that are planning most, if not all, of their future growth to occur around future commuter rail stations (Acworth, Kennesaw, Holly Springs, Canton).
           Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @Mason Hicks
           There’s a growing contingent of people in Cobb County, including some state and federal legislators, that are lobbying to have the plans for the proposed light rail changed so that the light rail line that is proposed to eventually run down Cobb Parkway will turn east at the Cumberland Mall area, connect to and run along the heavily-congested I-285 Top End Perimeter instead of continuing down I-75 to Midtown, seeing as though the morning delays on the Top End of I-285 often cause traffic to backup all the way up I-75 to Acworth.Report

          Reply
        • inatl says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia  @Mason Hicks  It makes more sense to take the train to Arts Center since that is far less out of the way for Perimeter Center folks than going to the Perimeter Center is for folks going to buckhead, midtown and downtown.   Why?  Well Perimeter Center is actually a decent amount North  of 75/85 as at that point the highway is going north east, not just east.Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl  @Mason Hicks
           I agree that there needs to be some type of direct transit connection from the Cumberland Mall/I-75/I-285 NW Cobb Cloverleaf area.
           
          But the reasoning in Cobb County for wanting the proposed Cobb Pkwy rail transit line to curve east to directly connect into the proposed I-285 Top End rail transit subway is that for I-75 NW OTP commuters, the (outdated) I-285/GA 400 Jct is the source of most of their delays, while traffic on Southbound I-75 moves much more smoothly until reaching the I-75/85 Jct in Midtown during morning rush hour.
           
          There had also been plans on the books for many years to extend a MARTA heavy rail line into Cobb County from either Midtown or West Atlanta (which, in addition to heavy lobbying by Cumberland Mall area officials for a direct transit connection to Midtown/Downtown Atlanta, is where the idea for the proposed light rail line comes from) though I assume that those plans have evolved into the plans for the light rail line connecting Cumberland Mall and Midtown.
           
          If there was a way to both extend the Top End Perimeter rail transit line up Cobb Parkway and establish a direct rail transit connection between Cumberland and Midtown, I would be all for it.
           
          Though with commuting patterns indicating very heavy travel between the I-75/I-575 Junction in Cobb County and the I-285/GA 400 Junction, the idea to extend the Top End Perimeter transit line up into Cobb County seems like it could be a very viable idea. Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @inatl  @Mason Hicks
           Come to think of it, since the state already has a very important multimodal passenger station proposed to be built at Atlantic Station in Midtown (Amtrak, bus, bike, commuter rail, etc), maybe it might be a slightly better idea to have a future light rail or heavy rail transit line connection between Midtown and the Cumberland Mall area follow the path of future commuter rail lines from the Arts Center Station in Midtown to the proposed MMPT station in Atlantic Station and then follow the route of the proposed Atlanta-Canton, Atlanta-Cartersville commuter rail lines along the existing CSX/W&A freight rail corridor (either above ground, below ground or elevated) up to Cumberland Mall instead of utilizing the I-75 right-of-way/corridor.Report

          Reply
        • Mason Hicks says:

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia  @inatl 
          “Inatl”,I am by no means against the light rail link from Arts Center to Cobb County … I had a discussion with Charles Brown, one of the principle developers of Atlantic Station several years back about the plans for light rail service along Seventeenth Street. The Seventeenth Street Bridge and all of parking deck structure is specifically designed to accommodate light rail. While I was working at Perkins+Will, I  would thread-out the possible alignments between the 17th Street Bridge and a terminus at Arts Center. I think that that may prove to be more of a challenge than perhaps anticipated; at least not without wholesale demolition along the way… I remember making it work, taking full advantage of existing parking lots, but it was still very tight…Main Line; which could just as easily be served by Cobb County Commuter Rail trains, connect and could equally serve the Armour MMPT for connection to MARTA rail to Buckhead, Dunwoody, or Doraville. A sophisticated and elaborate rail network would have trains operating alternatively to multiple multi-modal destinations.
           
          “Last Democrat”, I see at least three major MMPT points, perhaps more… The one downtown will of course be principle, but I believe that Amour Station will have to be developed very soon in the process, if for no other reason than to offer reasonable service point for the AMTRAK Crescent, since coming into town simply doesn’t work under near-term foreseeable scenarios… Once we start to develop an intercity rail network then the airport becomes a major connection point; but here I see multiple points of connection… The first occurring as a stop on the griffin-Atlanta- Athens Commuter Line, which eventually is extended to Macon, and from there Savannah and Brunswick… I believe to most sensible location would be as part of a Transit Oriented Development at the old Hapeville Ford Assembly Plant site, currently owned I believe by Jacoby Development, (Atlantic Station), where I just read today that Porsche North America plans to relocate from Alpharetta to be closer to the airport. This site could become the terminus for a Hapeville branch of the MARTA South Line that has been mentioned several times lately in this blog. I also see this site becoming a major station on the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor. I have a different vision for high speed rail in America than most. I believe that many of the American high-speed train-sets will be wearing many different sets of colors; including the colors of Delta, Southwest; as well as those of FedEx, UPS, in addition to AMTRAK. Likewise, I believe the airports having direct connections to the airports will be vital. Also, like here in Europe, a train that has traveled to Atlanta via a dedicate high speed rail line, say running directly parallel to I-85 and I-95 for most of the journey from Charlotte and Washington, DC should be able to continue on normal but compatible (suggesting electrified) trackage to Savannah. It is routine, here in France, to see TGVs operating on normal tracks at speeds comparable to normal traffic…
          This is now getting into another recent report and discussion on Maria’s blog, but I see another commuter/intercity rail line being developed running southwest, serving Union City, Peachtree City, Coweta County, and on to Lagrange, Columbus, and to Montgomery, and points southwest. This line runs parallel to I-85 along the northern airport boundary. Here also, is the “Atlanta Skytrain”, the automated airport people mover system that links airport passengers outside airport security to the Georgia International Convention Center, the hotels that are springing up around it, and also the CONRAC combined rental car facility… I would place a new rail station just northeast of the CONRAC, directly tied to a corresponding new stop on the “Skytrain” line.
          Back at the Hapeville Ford plant MMPT/HSR station site. I believe Jacoby and the Airport Authority will be compelled to build a third people mover line to link with the new Maynard Jackson Terminal. I would hope that they build it to be compatible with the “Atlanta Skytrain” because I see them ultimately being linked. Perhaps it could be run underground, under the taxiways to the south, but don’t think that that would be really workable… I also do not think that a routing outside the fifth runway and back is workable either. My solution is dramatic (which also implies expensive) but would make a real statement and become an icon for Atlanta… Consider the Gatwick Sky Bridge  (see photo, posted on Flickr.com at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bridge_to_Pier_6,_Gatwick_North_Terminal_-_geograph.org.uk_-_74055.jpg) and imagine a series of these spanning between each terminal in a continuous APM viaduct which links the existing Skytrain airport terminus with the Jackson International Terminal and would therefore also link two rail stations with both ends of the airport. It would be configured to be on axis with the tower and directly parallel with the runways so that air controllers’ lines of sight to the runways and to planes in flight are not obstructed, and would be self contained so that its passengers can cross the airport while being outside the airport security zone… I’ve been thinking about this for years; and at some point, I need to draw it…
           Report

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        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @Mason Hicks  @The Last Democrat in Georgia  @inatl
           Those are VERY good ideas, Mr. Hicks.
           
          I especially like the the idea of implementing commuter rail service down the old Atlanta & West Point freight rail line down to Union City, Newnan, LaGrange and, especially, Auburn, AL, which is home to Auburn University.
           
          There is a famous commuter rail line like that outside of Chicago, the South Shore Commuter Rail that runs from Union Station in Downtown Chicago along the South Shore of Lake Michigan parallel to the I-90 Chicago Skyway to South Bend in Northern Indiana, which despite being 95 miles away from Downtown Chicago is considered an exurb of Chicago.
           
          The very popular South Shore Line, which averages over 10,100 riders per day and provides high-frequency commuter rail service between Chicago and South Bend, IN helps give Chicagoland and Northwest and Northern Indiana commuters an alternative to having to sit in extremely-heavy traffic on the I-80/90 Indiana Toll Road and I-94.
           
          The South Shore also provides dependable passenger rail service between Chicago and the University of Notre Dame on football weekends and is a very popular way for Chicagoans and Chicagolanders to get and and from Notre Dame Fighting Irish football games on football Saturdays, a special-event commuter rail service that likely would become extremely popular if was implemented on existing rail right-of-ways between Atlanta and Athens (Brain Train to/from University of Georgia), Auburn, AL (I-85 SW/CSX/A&WP rail line to/from Auburn University) and Clemson, SC (Norfolk Southern/Amtrak line to/from Clemson University) on football Saturdays here in the football-crazed Southeastern U.S.Report

          Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “For example, like a crosstown train from the Westside to VaHi that would have stops at Atlantic Station, Ansley Park, etc”
       
      While there are no plans for the type of crosstown heavy rail service that you speak of as the population density and the ridership just likely wouldn’t exist to support such a rail transit route at this time, there are tenative plans to construct a commuter rail/high-speed rail transit station at Atlantic Station that would help provide commuter rail and possibly high-speed rail access to the Atlantic Station/Midtown Atlanta community from the current Amtrak Crescent long-distance train line, future high-speed rail service between Atlanta and New York and high-frequency regional commuter rail service between Atlanta and Gainesville and Northeast Georgia. Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “I feel like MARTA should make a concerted effort to make the actual city, transit oriented/walkable first and then focus on creating these “extension” transit lines for the folks in the suburbs.”
       
      I fully agree that MARTA should concentrate on improving service within its current service area before expanding heavy rail or light rail service into the suburbs.
       
      But keep-in-mind that it is not necessarily MARTA that wants to expand out into the suburbs as much as it is these particular suburbs that want MARTA to expand its lines out to them.
       
      In what could be considered a complete 180 in attitudes from years past, there has been heavy lobbying by Gwinnett County interests to extend the Northeast Line out to the City of Norcross’ historic downtown and the Gwinnett County Civic Center (Gwinnett Arena and Convention Center), while there has been even heavier lobbying by some Cobb County interests to extend a MARTA line out to the Cumberland Mall/Galleria Area. 
       
      Though, the heaviest lobbying effort of all has been by South DeKalb interests seeking to have MARTA expand a heavy rail line from the Eastside Perimeter out the I-20 East to Stonecrest Mall in Southeast DeKalb County.
       
      Despite the best lobbying efforts of officials in Gwinnett County, Cobb County and OTP South DeKalb County to bring MARTA rail transit extensions to their corner of the Metro area, those OTP suburban areas would be much better served with high-frequency commuter rail service on existing freight rail lines and commuter bus service than they would expensive extensions of MARTA rail transit, especially heavy rail transit, which can be impractical unless it is operated in a high-density corridor that can make it viable over the long-term with consistent ridership numbers.Report

      Reply

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