New international terminal lacking direct MARTA access; future airport master plan should focus on transit, rail

By Maria Saporta

When the new Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal opens on May 16, arriving passengers will no longer have to recheck their bags before they are able to leave the airport.

But if the passengers decide they want to ride MARTA to get to Atlanta, they will have to board a shuttle that will take them along the Loop Road on a 12 to 14 minute ride from the Jackson International terminal to the domestic terminal where they can board MARTA.

One of Atlanta’s greatest conveniences has been that Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is one of the few cities in the nation that has its public transit system provide direct rail service to its airport.

Unfortunately that selling point will be diminished when trying to use MARTA to get to or from the international terminal.

So why was the MARTA rail line not extended to the international terminal?

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who in an ideal world would have loved to have MARTA serve the international terminal, said last week that it would have cost an estimated $300 million or more. There was great pressure to cut the projected costs of the new terminal, and the MARTA extension didn’t make economic sense. The new terminal is a $1.4 billion project.

“It would have been very, very expensive,” said Louis Miller, Hartsfield-Jackson’s general manager, who said that decision was made before he came to Atlanta. “They couldn’t afford to do it.”

Ben DeCosta, who had been the airport general manager for more than a decade, said the airport studied how many international passengers actually use MARTA to get to Atlanta.

“It was too expensive for the projected users,” said DeCosta, who then asked a rhetorical question. “Can you afford it? You can’t.”

That sentiment was a common refrain — among MARTA officials, airport planners and political leaders.

“If all things were perfect and we had the money, of course we would have wanted to have a connection into the international terminal,” Cheryl King, MARTA’s assistant general manager for planning. “But we

are an aging system. Would that be our priority? Personally, I would prefer to spend those dollars elsewhere.”

Long term, people interviewed agree that in the best of all worlds, extending MARTA to the international terminal would be an asset for Atlanta.

Take the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. It has direct rail service from central Paris to two stations at the airport serving both sides of the airport.

The convenience doesn’t stop there. At the Charles de Gaulle train station, one can catch high speed trains that can take you to numerous destinations throughout Europe.

http://www.raileurope.com/europe-travel-guide/france/paris/train-station/charles-de-gaulle-train-station.html

In fact, when one buys an airline ticket from Atlanta to Lyon, France, chances are it will be a plane-train ticket. Europeans have figured out that it makes more sense for passengers to travel on high speed trains than to take an airplane between cities that are only a few hours apart.

So true multi-modalism exists at the Charles de Gaulle. People can easily segway from nearly any airport in the world to any major city in Europe without ever having to get into an automobile. http://www.raileurope.com/europe-travel-guide/france/paris/train-station/charles-de-gaulle-train-station.html

Not only does that kind of transportation flexibility serve the Europe of today, it positions the continent to be more globally competitive when the skies become overcrowded and when the cost of fuel becomes even more expensive.

And most importantly, it encourages the kind of sustainable urban development that make for livable, walkable cities.

Now back to Atlanta and our own reality.

For decades, there’s been talk of building a second airport to accommodate the anticipated growth in air traffic. Building a second airport would require billions upon billions of dollars of investment for a facility that no community wants.

Would the need for a second airport go away if a good portion of Atlanta’s connecting passengers were able to travel by rail? Common sense would say yes.

In planning for the new terminal, airport officials never gave a second thought to building two parking decks for 3,500 cars as well as a whole new road network to serve the new facility.

And that doesn’t take into account all the effort that’s being put into interstate signage to make sure drivers don’t go to the wrong terminal. Given the auto-dependent nature of our society, it’s a given that planners never even question their focus on roads and cars. Planning for transit, however, tends to be an afterthought.

Over the years, there was talk of creating a multimodal facility a bus ride away from the airport to serve trains from around the state.

But those plans have been just as stagnant as the state’s plans to invest in commuter rail, an intra-state passenger rail network (connecting major cities such as Macon, Savannah, Columbus, Augusta and Athens) and a high speed rail network that would connect Atlanta with Charlotte and Chattanooga.

Jim Drinkard, Hartsfield-Jackson’s assistant general manager, told the Urban Land Institute’s Atlanta chapter last week that the airport is working a new master plan for the airport. That master plan will look at what would be involved to build a sixth runway at the airport as well as other long-term issues.

Drinkard said it would make sense to incorporate the issues of MARTA and rail transit access to the Hartsfield-Jackson as part of that master plan.

In a brief interview last week, Mayor Reed said he would welcome any ideas to extend MARTA to the new terminal as well as enhancing rail and transit access to the airport.

Perhaps the airport could partner with Georgia Tech’s architecture and engineering students to have a design competition to come up with creative solutions on how best to incorporate rail and MARTA into the future development of Hartsfield-Jackson.

DeCosta said that in a “master planning effort, you always want to look at all the options.” Planning for rail would prepare Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson for the same kind of vision that our forefathers had when they decided to link MARTA with the airport decades ago.

“I think you will find a trend in the United States towards intermodalism at our airports in the next 25 years,” DeCosta said. “My intuition tells me that we should be looking across the nation to connect regions by trains. It would make the United States more competitive.”

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.

36 replies
  1. writes_of_weigh says:

    Maria, to paraphrase, this train has left the station…….as WSB TV(and possibly other ATL centric media) reported last week, a privately funded high speed rail group(nameless to date) has proposed constructing and operating, adjacent to or in the midst of I-75, a route between Macon and Atlanta. One would presume that the vision had an eye on connecting Macon to Atlanta’s airport, and v-v. One also presumes that if this “vision” included consultation with the SEHSR group(which had members who were quite comfortable with present inter-city(read Amtrak) service linking Atlanta to Jacksonville)VIA a short jaunt( over two nights) to Washington, D.C.), despite the fact that via 59 m.p.h, present rail operational logistics the same trip could be made directly(as the crow flies) in about five to seven hours. Hopefully these “visioneers” proposing the new route, are part of the new group either operating new rail passenger services(near Saratoga, N.Y.) or proposing duplicative (but more luxurious service) on a route be Chicago and New Orleans(the old City of New Orleans route), or perhaps have realrail world HSR operational experience, maybe in France or Germany. One can hope. Report

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  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    MARTA made provisions for a future Hapeville station, connecting to the main line south of East Point station. That line could have been built to connect to the new International Terminal. Here is a weblink in which you can find details: http://world.nycsubway.org/us/atlanta/marta-provisions.html.
     
    Also, the MARTA tracks are stubbed out on the south side of the Airport Station to be extended. The airport at one time planned another terminal on the west side, between the 4th and 5th runways.
     
    MARTA complains so bitterly about having to retain half of each tax dollar for capital expansions. Pardon me, but when was the last time they made one? It has been 12 years since they opened a station, so the capital expansion fund should have a hefty balance. Perhaps over $300million?Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

       @Burroughston Broch
       I still maintain that MARTA’s fares are way-too-low for the kind of impact on notoriously heavy traffic and transportation in the regional core that they are being expected to (eventually) make in this legendarily transportation mobility-challenged town.  I could live with the 50 cents of each dollar required to be set aside for capital improvements being lowered SLIGHTLY so that there’s more money for operations from existing revenues (I say SLIGHTLY because I don’t want to see a situation where wheels are falling off of rail cars and what not like has happened within some other transit systems because not enough money is being set aside for capital expenditures), but with the one-percent sales tax in place in Fulton and DeKalb Counties, operational revenue could be more than made up through a much more adequate pricing structure, a pricing structure that included zone pricing in a fare structure that included a range of $3.00-$11.00 one-way as opposed to the current $2.50 one-way fares that are obviously beyond inadequate for what the clearly underdeveloped current MARTA transit rail infrastructure is expected to do.  Transportation to and from the airport in any major city is a premium service in both the public and private realms of the ground transportation industry and with the crushing traffic congestion on the freeway system and surface road network, Atlanta is no different as riders can pay as much as $11.00 one-way for a peak-hour ride to the airport.  This mindset that transportation can be provided for dirt cheap when mobility is at a premium is (but one of the common misconceptions that is) killing this town.  Report

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      • Burroughston Broch says:

         @The Last Democrat in Georgia  @Burroughston Broch If you want to see what MARTA would be like were the 50% capital improvement restriction removed, go to Philadelphia and ride SEPTA from the airport to downtown. The equipment is falling apart, but they have a lot of staff on board – a driver, a ticket seller for each car, and a supervisor. On a 5 car train they have 7 staff, versus one on MARTA. That is because SEPTA is first and foremost a jobs program with transportation second. MARTA would be exactly the same if the restriction were removed.Report

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  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    God bless you, Maria, you have been a shining light in the abject darkness that Georgia Politics have totally degenerated into as of late.  But with the dysfunctional incompetence (and virtulent rampant corruption as I’m sure that you’ve seen the report that Georgia ranks dead last in corruption laws in government) that has increasingly plagued our governmental agencies and institutions as of late, we’re all very lucky that they were competent enough to be able to lay down some asphalt at the very least.  After three million new residents in the last 20 years or so, commuter rail and comprehensive transit service should have been a reality years and years and years ago (hint: before the Olympics), but yet here we are after three decades of crushing growth with what is basically the same road network that we had in 19-freakin-90, THREE MILLION NEW RESIDENTS AGO.
    The Atlanta Region has added the entire population of Greater Denver over the past 20 years and yet we are stil having these conversations about critically-needed transportation improvements that are still very far-off in the distant future.  How very disconcerting, pathetic and sickening that we have a government structure that at the moment appears to be as completely “useless as t*ts on a boar hog” as my friends from Texas would say.Report

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  4. 11 says:

    I’m as big a believer in rail transit in the ATL area as anyone, but c’mon, there are far better uses in the MARTA network than a $300M extension to serve what remains a very small group of people.  International O&D traffic in ATL is still very small – only about 10% of all O&D traffic in ATL is international, according to latest USDOT statistics.  It would be insane to pour $300M into serving this segment, when there are much bettter uses and far greater needs for this money.  How many transit advocates would consider this one stop extension more important than one of the Beltline quadrants, the Peachtree Streetcar, or the Emory-Clifton corridor?  I sure wouldn’t.  Not even close.
     
    A better solution would be to allow ATL-bound passengers using the international terminal to board the airport people mover – which has been extended to concourse F – to traverse back to the main terminal and connect to MARTA this way.  This would be basically a $0 solution. 
     
    MARTA’s greatest need is a web of infill lines, which the Beltline and other initiatives in this year’s RTP start to create.  Let’s keep the transit discussion focused on this priority, and not sidetracked on inconsequential matters.  What makes Paris’ transit system world-class isn’t dual stations at CDG, but being able to get from virtually any point in the city to any other point with a web of rail lines. Report

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    • Burroughston Broch says:

       @11  I agree about using the airport people mover, but I suspect that the airport and TSA didn’t think about it and didn’t want to do it. I suspect that the $300million cost was a blame deflector.
      The major complaint on the present international Concourse E is that inbound passengers with Atlanta is their final destination must be screened and recheck their luggage before they can get onto the people mover. If the new terminal had the same restriction, what’s gained? The people mover is secure space.
      Perhaps in their future planning, the planners will consider having MARTA make a loop around the airport or perhaps have a light rail connection between the terimals.Report

      Reply
  5. guest says:

    Maria, how many people flying into Atlanta are actually destined for a location on the MARTA line? I’m guessing not many.  They will be getting itno a car at some point anyway. 
     
    Take a look at the MARTA cars coming into or heading out of the airport today – they are filled by and large with local travelers and people who work at the airport, NOT the international travelers that will populate the new terminal.
     
    And did you really just use the word “Segway” instead of “segue”?Report

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    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “And did you really just use the word “Segway” instead of “segue”?”
       
      Did you really just misspell the word “into” by spelling it “itno”? (“They will be getting itno a car at some point anyway.”)
       
      Everyone who types or posts at some point makes innocent or unintentional grammatically eras (yeah, I purposely said “eras” instead of “errors”, just to prove a point in a roundabout way), including yourself.
       
      People in glass houses shouldn’t throw boulders.  Maybe you should make sure your own grammar and spelling is okay before you try to point out the innocent mistakes of others, especially those of the highly-esteemed Ms. Saporta who is a very well-respected journalistic writer who has forgotten more about PROFESSIONAL writing than you, me and everyone else on this board can possibly ever even fathom.
       
      And besides, you knew good and well what Ms. Saporta meant when she wrote that, you just wanted to use that as an opportunity to be a pr*ck. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and show some freakin’ respect, will ya? Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Outside of your unnecessary pr*ckliness, I understand your point, but RESPECTFULLY somewhat, but not completely, disagree with your claim that many people flying into Atlanta are not necessarily destined for a location on the MARTA line.
      Many people that visit Atlanta either will stay in one of the major hotels in Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead or even the Perimeter Center/Dunwoody area, all densely-populated areas, when in town on business.  Since those areas are densely-populated they have all MARTA stations that are often in walking distance of where a large portion of residents live in those intown and core metro neighborhoods and if not within immediate walking distance they they are definitely within range via a short cab ride which how many patrons may commute the relatively short, but not necessarily completely walkable, distance between a rail transit station and their homes in other large cities that are much heavier on the transit side than Atlanta (transit-heavy cities like Washington D.C., Chicago and, especially, Toronto, Boston and New York which like Atlanta also have sprawling suburban areas in which local bus transit service may not necessarily be all that viable as a link between a rider’s home and a commuter train station).  Local taxicab service seems to be the crucial element of the conversation that is missing when it comes to conversations on how to improve access to rail transit in the Atlanta Region, but that’s a detailed conversation and discussion for another transportation-oriented blog.  Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Outside of your unnecessary pr*ckliness, I understand your point, but somewhat, but not completely, RESPECTFULLY disagree with your claim that many people flying into Atlanta are not necessarily destined for a location on the MARTA line.
      Many people that visit Atlanta either will stay in one of the major hotels in Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead or even the Perimeter Center/Dunwoody area, all densely-populated areas, when in town on business.  Since those areas are densely-populated they have all MARTA stations that are often in walking distance of where a large portion of residents live in those intown and core metro neighborhoods and if not within immediate walking distance they they are definitely within range via a short cab ride which how many patrons may commute the relatively short, but not necessarily completely walkable, distance between a rail transit station and their homes in other large cities that are much heavier on the transit side than Atlanta (transit-heavy cities like Washington D.C., Chicago and, especially, Toronto, Boston and New York which like Atlanta also have sprawling suburban areas in which local bus transit service may not necessarily be all that viable as a link between a rider’s home and a commuter train station).  Local taxicab service seems to be the crucial element of the conversation that is missing when it comes to conversations on how to improve access to rail transit in the Atlanta Region, but that’s a detailed conversation and discussion for another transportation-oriented blog. Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Many employees of the Atlanta Airport, which is the one of the LARGEST, if not the largest, single employment center in the state of Georgia, use MARTA heavy rail to get to-and-from their jobs at the airport.
      Despite some obvious managerial issues and widespread negative perception of the agency, especially Outside of the I-285 Perimeter, MARTA still averages over 480,000 users per day, which makes one of the top ten utilized transit services in the U.S..  With over 480,000 users, MARTA takes a lot of single-occupant vehicles off of the roads in mobility-challenged Central Atlanta, meaning that if MARTA did not exist, Atlanta’s notorious traffic congestion problems would be even worse than they already are.Report

      Reply
    • Mason Hicks says:

      When one considers that many, if not most international travelers are coming from places that are well served by transit systems which are interconnected with well-developed intercity and even high-speed rail networks, the idea that such travelers would not use a connected rail network if such a network were readily accessible in Atlanta sounds like the local uninspired logic that has gotten Atlanta into the infrastructure hole that it is currently in… When you consider that Paris is currently designing a privately-funded high speed rail link between Charles de Gaulle airport and its downtown (Gare du Nord); despite the fact that a highly reliable direct commuter rail link is already available for that service and heavily used, and despite the fact that as part of their on-going Greater Paris project, they are developing another fully-automated metro route which will serve a  route largely parallel to their existing route..
      I suppose that despite the extensive research done as to the viability and feasibility of these projects with respect to the ridership forecast, that no-one will rides trains to fly out of France.Report

      Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

         @Mason Hicks
         Sure 482,000 people ride MARTA per day on average, but that’s beside the point as people will never ride trains in Atlanta no matter what. 
        Sure, international travelers frequently ride trains in every major city all over the world without a second thought, including trips to and from major international airports while flying in and out of those world cities, but people who propose these wild hairbrained rail schemes just don’t understand that people will never trains in Atlanta no matter what as people will never abandoned their beloved automobiles in Atlanta because it’s just not in the nature of Southerners to do so, even though Southerners frequently rode intraurban trolleys and streetcars and interurban trains in and throughout the South, including right here in Atlanta until about roughly 1970 when the last of the interurban trains stopped running to make way for the continued advent of the freeway system and an automobile-dominated transportation network.
        Southerners’ inherent natural biological rejection of all things passenger rail (it’s a scientific fact that Southerners are allergic to passenger rail, look-it-up on the Internets) is the reason why, with nearly six million inhabitants, Atlanta is the largest metro area east of the Mississippi without commuter rail service as the gene that makes natural-born Southerners allergic to all things passenger rail is an airborne gene that also infects visitors from other places in the world where local, regional and national passenger rail service is a given, which is why they would never use rail while visiting here in Atlanta, either. 
        Despite the hellishly-long rush hour commutes, increasly miserable traffic jams, steadily climbing gas prices and a general hope of the local populace to be less dependent on the automobile in the face of mounting mobility challenges, passenger rail will never work here in Atlanta, it’s just a well-proven fact that passenger rail works in every other major international city besides extreme mobility-challenged Atlanta.  (Sarcasm intended, btw)Report

        Reply
  6. UrbanTraveler says:

    Maria, thanks for putting the spotlight on what is not exactly a secret but what has been, in the typical boosterism climate of our leadership, a little-publicized fact.  There has been a major failure in leadership, design, and planning at the new Jackson international terminal covered by assertions that providing direct, easy, and seamless access from the new terminal to MARTA and eventually other modes of transit is unaffordable and won’t be used by very many people anyway.  
     
    Do any of the people you interviewed actually ride MARTA to the airport and see who is riding?  I do, and take MARTA almost exclusively for both domestic and international departures, an average of 6-8 times per year.  I don’t think my experience is unusual either: I see many many riders continuing past the College Park Station who are clearly travelers.  And as a group, I believe foreign visitors are more likely to be MARTA users than residents.  They are used to this kind of connectivity almost everywhere else in the modern world.  
     
    Our Mayor Reed is on a mission to Shanghai, China right now to solicit business and investment in Atlanta, following similar visits to Amsterdam and other cities in Europe.  In all of these places the Mayor has visited, travelers enjoy a direct connection by rail to the city center and, in most, as you point out with your example of Paris CDG, a connection to other cities beyond.  Think Macon, Columbus, Athens, Gainesville, Dalton, Chattanooga, Augusta, even Savannah.  The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport is the economic engine to pull this investment to Atlanta, and connecting it to the metro area and beyond by rail is one critical piece in spreading more economic development to the rest of the state.
     
    What’s not being said is that there was not even an attempt in the design of a brand new state-of-the-art world-class international terminal to integrate the provision for a rail terminal for MARTA and other as-yet unrealized modes of travel.  I can believe that there was not $300 million extra dollars today, but I don’t believe that the planning for an intermodal station could not have occurred right from the get-go.  It’s much more difficult and expensive (not to mention less attractive and user-friendly) to retrofit such huge projects into existing designs than to plan for them fromthe beginning.  Long-time residents may recall that the existing MARTA station at the airport was built with the terminal in the late 70’s and remained an empty shell for years until MARTA could reach the airport in time for the 1996 Olympics.
     
    As other readers point out, maintaining international check-in and maintaining the existing if cumbersome baggage re-check to the domestic terminal is a $0 cost and more convenient option than a 15 minute bus ride to the MARTA station. Extending the Skytrain that serves the MARTA station and the rental car center is also a less expensive and perhaps better short-term  option until MARTA can expand, as it could connect destinations like the airport hotels and  Delta Airlines headquarters to both terminals.  
     
    Mayor Reed has stated he wants Atlanta to become one of the “green” leaders in the country within 10 years of the start of his term.  Bringing transit connectivity to Atlanta’s international gateway is a great opportunity to start.Report

    Reply
  7. writes_of_weigh says:

    Maria – to iterate further on my initial post on this topic, and to clarify goings-on in the realrail world vis-a-vis High Speed Rail development and connectivity/inter-(multi-)modalism issues, a Jacksonville, Florida based railroad announced a couple of days ago that it intended, by 2014. to connect Miami to Orlando with high speed rail (non-Amtrak operated) passenger service, utilizing it’s own rights-of-way between Miami and the Cocoa, Florida area and then additionally constructing about 40 miles of new rail route between Cocoa and greater Orlando. Notice that this approach to Orlando is opposite the recent proposal from Washington wherein a high speed route was to be developed between Tampa and greater Orlando. One may recall that Gov. Scott of Florida nixed those funds, but has apparently, curiously, not said a peep about this new development. It might have something to do with the “vision” thing, as another Florida governor named Bush, who had also once nixed high speed rail development in the sunshine state(recall the FOX debacle), just happens to be board connected to the parent company of the railroad.
    Additionally, none of this high speed rail development, has to do with how tomorrow(‘s passengers) may move, nor much at all to do with CSX corporation. It may, however, soon have connectivity to h-s-r proposals in the peach state, and potentially Atlanta’s airport and greater Atlanta. Report

    Reply
  8. K3nn3th says:

    I’m confused why they could not have figured out how to extend/connect to the existing airport rail system. Or why not run a tram line similar to the one that runs to the stupid car rental facility. MARTA heavy rail is not the only answer.  
     
    More shortsightedness. Report

    Reply
  9. MikeMorgan1 says:

    I dont think the argument that most international travelers will not take the train holds water. Everyone that I know, and I myself, will take the train over a taxi in cities where the train has reasonably good connections. This would include Paris, San Francisco, JFK, Boston, Atlanta (Main Terminal) and others. When going from Atlanta to New York I will try to get to JFK rather than LaGuardia in order to avoid taxis. Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

       @MikeMorgan1
       Only in transportation vision-challenged Atlanta would the argument be made that international travelers who frequently use trains in other international cities where passenger trains exist in much greater availability, not use trains to travel to the airport (or anywhere else) in Atlanta, a transportation mobility-challenged town with crippling peak-hour traffic jams where daytime travel anywhere by car can be extremely difficult at times and the powers-that-be (and many of their most hardcore constituents) stubbornly refuse to invest in critically-needed infrastructure improvement of any kind, especially when it comes to water, rails or roads.
      I know that the focus here is often on expanding much-needed access to passenger rail (and bus) transit, especially in the face of the aforementioned daily crippling traffic jams, but just like it does with regards to passenger rail (with just under six million inhabitants, Atlanta is the largest metropolitan area east of the Mississippi River with no exurban-to-urban core commuter rail service) Georgia does a pretty piss-poor job of investing in its overall road network as well, especially the surface road network in and around Metro Atlanta. Report

      Reply
  10. AtlantaStevelandMorris says:

    So I read alot where people patting themselves on the back for pointing out the obvious, there isn’t support for MARTA, anywhwere. A 10cent tax on international flights would pay for the extention. Additionally, MARTA has got to change its name and image. The history is clear, no one wanted MARTA in there neighborhood and only 2 counties paid for it. You only hear about MARTA when there is bad news. MARTA marketing sucks. Clearly some efforts can change views but they continue to fight for the 50/50 splits. So someone please tell me, given a picture perfect future, what would MARTA be and how would that future affect me. IE: MARTA runs not only East/West and North/South but it actually run around I285, with stop at major highway intersections; extended lines to Six Flag, Fulton County airport; extended to the new International airport; extends to Stone Mountain; connects to the multi-modular facilities and Amtrak; finally, if you want a new image of MARTA, someone please, please, please remake the terminal in town, its aged, an eyesore, has no vision, and tells visitors we really don’t care.
     
    And just in case anyone missed the point; technology today will be different tomorrow; I’d like to open my IPAD/Adroid device and know when the next trains arrives at any stops, i’d like to know when and where i can take a bus and know the schedule and the connection to a location or the MARTA station. When riding MARTA, the voice telling you the next stop can be automated; be provided in multiple languages; and visual. I can design these systems in my sleep, why can’t you. Finally, these MARTA stations look like prisons. Aged, rusting, and cold. You don’t need to hang crystal lights but was the purpose to make them so dull that people run to get the heck out of themReport

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “The history is clear, no one wanted MARTA in there neighborhood and only 2 counties paid for it.”
      Very true statement to which I very much agree, though keep-in-mind that the post-Olympic international Metro Atlanta of nearly six million that we know today was a VERY different place when MARTA first came into fruition back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
      When MARTA first came up for a vote in what is now known as the five-county core metro area in 1969, ultra-diverse mega-suburb Gwinnett County had less than one-eleventh of the 810,000 residents that it had today, meaning Gwinnett was basically the sticks with a largely rural population of only 70,000 (there was basically NOTHING in Gwinnett from an urban standpoint compared to today), while Cobb County was basically a distant ultraconservative exurb which had just desegregated its main high school, Marietta High School, only a couple of years before in 1966-67 (think about what Paulding or Cherokee is like today and that’s what Cobb was then, only A LOT more racially segregated and homogeneous), meanwhile, Clayton County was an overwhelmingly predominantly-white suburb populated mainly by airline employees.
      Even DeKalb County was very suburban at that time more than 40 years ago, being more of a hot-and-trendy super-suburb that was more somewhere along the lines of how Gwinnett was in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s than the more urbanized eastside of Atlanta that it is known as today.
      To be frank, there just wasn’t much anyplace to go outside of Fulton and DeKalb Counties from an urban standpoint 40 years ago.  Cobb would remain a bastion of ultraconservative right-wing politics until about the Turn-of-the-Century while Gwinnett didn’t really truly urbanize until after the Olympics (a process of urbanization that was sped-up by the opening of the Mall of Georgia in 1999 which unintentionally marginalized Gwinnett Place and much of the county below the I-85/GA 316 split).
      The mistake that many people make is that they view the decision of those three counties not to accept MARTA through the lens of modern-day mega-Metro Atlanta, but this town was a far different place then and wouldn’t really resemble the Atlanta that we know today until after the Olympics.Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “So someone please tell me, given a picture perfect future, what would MARTA be and how would that future affect me. IE: MARTA runs not only East/West and North/South but it actually run around I285, with stop at major highway intersections; extended lines to Six Flag, Fulton County airport; extended to the new International airport; extends to Stone Mountain; connects to the multi-modular facilities and Amtrak”
       
      I’m personally not aware of any proposals to run a rail transit line, MARTA or otherwise, around the entire perimeter of I-285, though there are tentative plans to run a light rail line along the Top End of the I-285 Perimeter between Cumberland Mall near the I-75/I-285 NW/Cobb Cloverleaf Junction and the old General Motors plant in Doraville near the I-85/I-285 NE/Tom Moreland Interchange (Spaghetti Junction) as part of a larger proposal to reconstruct the dangerous I-285/GA 400 interchange and add HOT lanes to the Top End of the Perimeter between I-75 & I-85.  Though it is somewhat likely that any proposed light rail line would be upgraded to a heavy rail line as any proposal to modify the I-285 Top End Perimeter by expanding the road beyond the current right-of-way through an area of mature existing high-density residential and commercial development, especially by utilizing the wildly-unpopular HOT lane concept, will prove to be very politically unpopular.
       
      Here is the link to the Revive 285 Top End Prpject that includes utilization of rail mass transit as a key and integral part of the project (utilizing rail as part of a highway reconstruction project is very unusual and is pretty much unheard of until now around these parts in state government):
      http://www.revive285.com/index.htmlReport

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      The reason why there are only plans to run rail transit along the Top End of I-285 and not around the entire Perimeter is because the population and development density exists along that corridor to support a rail transit line while that density is not necessarily all that adequate along the rest of the Perimeter.
      Atlanta is basically a “top-heavy” town meaning that the metro area is much more heavily-populated (and overdeveloped) north of I-20 and in the Northern Suburbs than it is south of I-20.Report

      Reply
  11. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ AtlantaStevelandMorris
    There are about 5 million international passengers/year at ATL, so a $0.10 tax on each would generate $500,000/year. A $300million/30 year bond issue to pay for the expansion would cost about $15.2million/year. The tax would have to be at least $3.00/passenger just to pay for the bond.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

       @Burroughston Broch
       MARTA currently transports in the neighborhood of 482,000 riders on average each day.  Just a simple $3.00 “tax” or “fee” on each passenger would yield somewhere in the neighborhood of $52 million per year which over 30 years is $1.5 billion which is five times the amount that would be needed to pay off a $300 million/30-year bond issue  (I say “simple” because some cities with elaborate and comprehensive transit systems like a Toronto, charge riders at least a $3.00 one-way fare while others, like BART in the Bay Area of Northern California, charge fares that can range as high as $10.90 to ride one-way from one end of the system to the other on one train line).
      The bottom line is that at $2.50 one-way and with no financial help from the state, MARTA charges way-too-little for what it is needed and expected to do to help improve overall transportation mobility in the urban core, despite the recent fare increase.  MARTA cannot sit around and wait for eternity for a hostile and downright incompetent state government to jump on the bandwagon to raise taxes to fund local transit expansion.
      If MARTA charged an average fare of $5.00 one-way with a ridership of 500,000 per day they could raise close to a BILLION dollars per year just in revenues off of fares alone, providing more than enough money for operations, maintenance and expansion, if managed properly, of course.
      Why wait for an unresponsive state government to approve improbable tax increases when you can do it yourself with a proper fare structure, not-to-mention additional revenues that can be pulled in off of parking fees, traffic fines, etc.as is commonly done in road infrastructure-challenged transit-heavy cities?
      Why are we charging dirt-cheap transit fares and then getting mad when we are getting the dirt-cheap, piss-poor transit service that comes along with it?Report

      Reply
      • cwdawg says:

         @The Last Democrat in Georgia I very much agree with you and wish we did this a long time ago. It would even make the Republican legislature happy if they could see MARTA at least come closer to covering their operating expenses through non-tax income.
         
        A few quick points. We have to be somewhat careful, as we increase the cost we will definitly decrease riders.
         
        However, we can use pricing to increase it as well. We should really look for the price points of getting people from various stations based upon profit maximization between those two points. I actually think this would boost overall ridership.
         
        Part of the way to maximize profits, isn’t just raising fares, but lowering them to encourage ridership on short distances or in places where car travel is actually easy to come by.
         
        There might be some people willing to pay 50 cents to take a bus two blocks, but will walk to save $2.50 (of course we need to prioritize bus pricing based on how frequently we wish the bus to stop).
         
        We might find a small but sizable market that will travel between Doraville and Chamblee at 50 cents, but might drive currently. I realize in this example it might be hard to imagine finding too many riders who would do this, however as Chamblee redevlops its “mid-city” and Doraville redevelops the GM site in the decades to come, I can see fare pricing encourage these short travel habits in what can become dense residential transit oriented development nodes.
         
        I just spent a month on a job in Singapore and they have heavily used Metro train more similar to what Atlanta’s is like, than the other older subways in the world. It cost my $0.90SGD ($0.72USD) to go between two suburban stops next to me. It tripled my shopping and dining availability, but I paid about a $2SGD ($1.60USD) fare to go to the financial district. (transit was heavily used and very cheap thanks to the dense development and limited space) Of course it would be twice as expensive for me to travel to the end of another suburban line (or to the airport).
         
        I have also seen several cities charge one way surcharges for leaving the airport on the Metro. Many travelers will still pay a little extra for the convenience. I know they do this on BART in San Francisco. They also do this in Athens, Greece (however they had to construct a fairly expensive and long extension to connect just the airport for the Olympics).
         
        The one thing I would caution if we did this in Atlanta… I would provide away of separating fares between travelers and workers, which heavily use the College Park system. They are two very different customer markets and will respond differently to a airport surcharge. It is important to help those working, as well as keeping their cars away from the airport.
         
        Oh… and one more lesson from Singapore… I know variable fares can be less straight forward and more confusing, especially if you don’t create simplistic fare zones, but Singapores’ ticket kiosk are excellent. They all have a rail system map. When you approach all you have to do is touch the station you want to go to from that station and it automatically tells you the fare and readies for payment… with just one touch of the finger on a map (that isn’t a screen). It makes things very easy to use (especially for those that can’t speak English!).Report

        Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @cwdawg
          “A few quick points. We have to be somewhat careful, as we increase the cost we will definitly decrease riders.”
           
          We won’t necessarily decrease the amount of riders if we raise fares because we would be raising fares to increase and expand the amount of service.
           
          As we increase the amount of service that is available to the community (like, say, decreasing headways between trains from the current 15-20 minutes down to 5-7 minutes and likewise decrease headways on major bus routes and extend service to run 24 hours-a-day) we would automatically gain more riders with the increased convenience of more frequent bus and heavy rail service.
           
          As we increase and expand routes to serve more people, we gain more riders and gain more revenues from each of the new riders we picked up by making it more convenient to ride our buses and trains.   
           Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @cwdawg
          “Part of the way to maximize profits, isn’t just raising fares, but lowering them to encourage ridership on short distances or in places where car travel is actually easy to come by………….There might be some people willing to pay 50 cents to take a bus two blocks, but will walk to save $2.50 (of course we need to prioritize bus pricing based on how frequently we wish the bus to stop)……………We might find a small but sizable market that will travel between Doraville and Chamblee at 50 cents, but might drive currently. I realize in this example it might be hard to imagine finding too many riders who would do this, however as Chamblee redevlops its “mid-city” and Doraville redevelops the GM site in the decades to come, I can see fare pricing encourage these short travel habits in what can become dense residential transit oriented development nodes.”
           
          I TOTALLY agree, very good points and very good examples!
           Report

          Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

           @cwdawg
           Now that’s what I’m talking about:  ZONE PRICING!!!!!!!!!!!!
           
          As you so deftly stated, PAY LESS for SHORT TRIPS!  PAY MORE for LONGER TRIPS!!!!!!  With certain high-volume stations and stops being priced higher.
           
          Like the Foggy Bottom D.C. Metrorail station which is highest-priced station in the system because it is the most-used and most-important station in the system as George Washington University, the U.S. State Department, the Lincoln Memorial and Georgetown (via bus or long walk) all are served by that station. Report

          Reply
    • AtlantaStevelandMorris says:

       atlantastevelandmorris I don’t doubt your numbers I only question why that simple leg to the international airport cost $300M. Lets say 10-15% covers the administrative overhead (waste), another 15% is a reflection that nothing is ever done ontime or on budget, another 10% is related to fighting lawsuits from contract litigation, environmental issues, etc. Up to 40% is waste. I go back to my original statement, someone with a marketing and branding background should run MARTA. Will MARTA sponsor a MARTA 2030 contest and tell us what would bring suburbia to use it. Increase ridership = higher revenues. If MARTA wants to lead, then add solar panels to the major stops, add wind generators, add clever/automated advertisement based on the stop, imagine getting information about whats playing at the Fox, the Alliance, as you get to that stop; add multi-language automation. I got a list, anyone listening.Report

      Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

         @AtlantaStevelandMorris  atlantastevelandmorris
         Please do share your list of suggestions as they are greatly needed.Report

        Reply
  12. cwdawg says:

    I write this acknowledging that any amount spent connecting the terminal will be a direct benefit to me. My self-employed job is 100% outside of Atlanta and 100% international travel.  From the very early plans released from the airport years ago this has been a great concern of mine.
     
    The problem I have is rather than a costly investment in the MARTA rail side, I feel the investment would be cheaper and more effective on the airport side.
    One idea, which others have also brought up, would be to extend the people mover that goes to the rental car center.
    I mention this, because we need to remember this is the final destination of many out-of-town visitors, especially business travelers. We need to remember, while encouraging and reinforcing transit usage is important, many businesses are still located  throughout the metro area (and state). It is just as important to connect the rental car center, the other wide variety of ground transportation offerings, as well as MARTA.
     
    My initial thoughts when I first heard about this problem a year or two back was to extent the existing underground people-mover system two extra stations, however these would be unsecured stations with separate train cars that would not stop at the secured-side stations. I know this brings up more elaborate TSA procedures to further insure security, but it can be done and similar things are also done in other airports where the train is just a two station system that separates those departing and arriving. It would take 5-10 minutes, but it would be relatively comfortable, little walking, and straight forward. You wouldn’t even have to leave the airport (building). Frequent long-distance travelers are use to these things, as long as they are straight forward and easy to use.
     
    I would expect this to be far cheaper than $300million.
     
    However, my reason for this does not stop there. I’m also concerned about the train offerings when I arrive at the MARTA station. In short… I’d rather put all our eggs in one basket at the airport. I don’t want to split the north and northeast line up and I wouldn’t want to lower the train frequency at the main station.
     
    I also think the money would be better spent creating passing tracks at stations along the north line to Five Points (and perhaps to Arts Center and Lindbergh as well). It isn’t uncommon to see cities with express train options and they always fetch higher fares from travelers willing to speed up their commute, but still save a good bit by not taking a taxi. After a long overseas trip, I’d gladly put down $5-10 for an express option to the Perimeter area across town, provided the specialized cars had more luggage space.  It could also serve as an express route between regions and business districts for those willing to pay more.
     
    While I fully admit this is a pipe dream, I always ask myself… how could we best spend $300million instead. I’d do it by putting my eggs in one basket (one main airport station) and see how far it could fun an express train.Report

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