Passenger trains essential to plans for downtown multimodal terminal station

By Maria Saporta

To those who want to start writing an obituary on plans to bring passenger trains to the heart of downtown Atlanta — not so fast.

The naysayers were quick to declare the inevitable death to the long-planned Multimodal Passenger Terminal that’s to be built in “the Gulch” — an area that encompasses several blocks south of Five Points.

The Norfolk-Southern railroad sent a letter to the Georgia Department of Transportation in early May saying that because of anticipated growth in freight traffic, it does not expect to have sufficient capacity on its rail lines to accommodate passenger rail to serve the MMPT.

First of all, let me express my disappointment in the tone of the letter that Norfolk-Southern sent to the Georgia DOT. The letter makes it sound as though it has closed the door to passenger rail serving downtown Atlanta.

It is quite a departure for Norfolk-Southern, which has been negotiating with the state of Georgia for more than a decade about selling or leasing what it had said was a surplus rail line going from Atlanta to Lovejoy and on to Macon.

Actually that’s been part of the problem. The state has been dragging its feet for so long that it’s no wonder Norfolk-Southern has become frustrated.

Meanwhile, Norfolk-Southern and its top competitor, CSX, are closely watching the proposed deepening of the Savannah Port, which is expected to significantly increase the shipment of containers in and out of the Georgia port.

So now the railroads want to reserve as much capacity as they can for possible lucrative freight business rather than being bogged down by having to give priority to passenger trains on their tracks.

Still Norfolk-Southern could have behaved as a much better corporate citizen if it had told Georgia transportation officials that they were anticipating a tight squeeze. Then they could have asked the community at large to help come up with solutions to meet everyone’s needs.

First of all, it is in Georgia’s interest to move as much freight on rails as possible. Why? More rail means fewer trucks on our already congested highways lowering safety concerns and pollution. It also means having less wear and tear on our highways — thereby requiring fewer dollars to maintain them. Plus, it is much more energy-efficient to move people and freight by rail.

But we should not have to choose between freight or passengers when it comes to rail. Quite the contrary. All the benefits that exist in moving cargo by rail also exist in moving people.

What if the federal, state, local and private entities could work with Norfolk-Southern and other railroads to upgrade their tracks to improve their efficiency (or even build new rail) so that they could handle more freight traffic and offer passenger service?

Under such a scenario, everyone wins.

The problem is that Georgia currently has no financial mechanism to invest in its rail infrastructure — despite how much sense it makes.

Federal dollars are available for states willing to provide a local match, according to Gordon Kenna, CEO of Georgians for Passenger Rail. That’s why some states, like North Carolina, continue to invest in passenger rail.

“The federal money is there for those who help themselves,” Kenna said. “The state needs to put some skin in the game. They need that to be credible with the feds, and they need that to be credible with the railroads.”

Meanwhile, we can’t forget that site where the MMPT is proposed used to have two major railroad stations that were served by more than 100 passenger trains a day in addition to freight trains. In light of that fact, Norfolk-Southern’s position sounds a bit hollow.

A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress who has been advocating for the development of the multimodal station for years, is convinced downtown can be served by both passenger and freight trains.

“Absolutely, even if we have to build new rail,” he said. “The MMPT project itself is progressing. The developers are talking to people all over the country.”

Kenna agreed passenger rail is needed downtown.

“There’s no question we should have passenger rail serving downtown Atlanta,” he said. “The idea of the Multimodal Passenger Terminal is exactly what it should be. It needs to be in downtown Atlanta, and it needs to have rail service.”

When pressed about their “no passenger rail service downtown” position, Norfolk-Southern officials softened their tone.

“We are happy to work creatively with the state to help find alternate routes into the city and to discuss possible routes on Norfolk-Southern  lines outside the perimeter,” Richard Harris, a spokesman with the railroad, wrote in an email. “We have a good working relationship with state MMPT planners and want to help facilitate a solution that would be of mutual benefit for freight and passenger rail.”

Robinson said Norfolk-Southern has a significant interest in the MMPT project — owning both the tracks and the land, and that it makes sense for the railroad to want to protect its interests when it comes to negotiating with the state.

But it is also important to not lose sight of the big picture and what the MMPT project can mean for Atlanta and the state.

“This is a huge opportunity for the community to push us forward in a way that’s on par with the Olympics, the airport, the BeltLine and the new stadium,” Robinson said. “We are not going to give up.”

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.

32 replies
  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Excellent points, Ms. Saporta!
    Though with the continuing expansion at the fast-growing international seaport at the Port of Savannah and with Atlanta being a major freight railroad hub both CSX and particularly Norfolk Southern (who has one of the largest intermodal freight rail yards in the world located in Austell, GA just west of Atlanta), one can certainly understand the extremely deep and intense concerns of freight rail carriers like Norfolk Southern and CSX over having available the trackage that will be needed to accommodate the expected dramatic increases in freight rail traffic after the Port of Savannah is deepened.
    As Ms. Saporta alluded to, this episode with Norfolk Southern underscores the need for the State of Georgia to develop a financial mechanism to invest in the much-needed expansion of both the state’s freight and passenger rail infrastructures.
    If we are going to have a central location like the site of the proposed Multimodal Passenger Terminal handling the movements of possibly hundreds of passenger trains daily in a region that already handles the movements of hundreds of freight trains daily we are going to have to come up with the money to invest in a substantial expansion of trackage for both passenger trains and freight trains so that the movements and operations of passenger trains and freight trains do not conflict with each other in a region where the operations of both are so critically-needed.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      This means that we are going to have get out of this rather destructive and misguided mindset that we can operate and maintain a viable multimodal transportation infrastructure on the cheap.
      Because we don’t want to pay what it actually costs to ride on a high-quality transit service and drive on high-quality roads, over the past couple of decades we have increasingly tried to maintain a bare-bones multimodal transportation infrastructure at the lowest possible cost, and look where it has gotten us:  A fast-growing metro region of 6 million people that has become overdependent on a road network that was designed for use by a population of not more than 3 million people with shamefully-little transit infrastructure.Report

      Reply
  2. Wish for MIlton County says:

    “NO Question Passenger Rail Service SHOULD be Downtown”.  OK, let me get this straight.  We have a multi billion dollar airport south of downtown.  It has railroads running just across I-85 from it.  But the MMPT should be downtown, where you can’t get to it by car, or MARTA, etc…  AM I THE ONLY ONE MISSING SOMETHING!
    The MMPT (Multi Modal Passenger Terminal) should be near the airport.  Future planning should have trains running from cities like Columbus, Macon, Athens, Dalton / Rome to the airport.  These trains can stop / continue downtown, for those who want to go downtown.  I envision a person in Columbus Georgia buying a airline ticket and the 1st leg in on a passenger train to the Atlanta Airport.  Their luggage is screened and securly transfered, just like they were changing planes in Atlanta.
    Example – I live in Athens.  Need to go to Houston.  Currently I drive (most likely) from Athens to the airport.  With MMPT downtown, I take train to downtown Atlanta.  Have to haul my luggage to Five Points and wait for the MARTA train.  Take the train to airport, catch flight.
    With MMPT at airport – Take train from Athens to MMPT at airport.  Haul my luggage to airport, catch flight.  Or better yet, I have already check my luggage to its destination in Athens.  I also eliminate a change of trains.
    Conversely, reverse the route.  Eliminate one change of trains.  The changing of trains is what has killed usage of MARTA at North Springs.  Having to change trains is a hassle.  MARTA many times does not have trains on time, etc…
    If you make this billion dollar MMPT hard to access for Metro Atlantans, we will not use it in large enough numbers.  Plus, they are now talking about a long walkway from MARTA to the MMPT.  OK, Five Points is not a station anyone wants to stay at very long.  Then having passengers humping their luggage from MARTA to MMPT is not CONVIENENT.  Third, having a huge MMPT downtown will allow it to become another FIVE POINTS and the 3rd World Bizarre that surround it.  
    ONCE again, Metro Atlantans will not use this facility because it IS NOT CONVIENENT, NOT SAFE (real or preceived), EASIER to AVOID by using a car.
    Why does everyone in government focus on downtown Atlanta.  How about focusing on what we already have and how to make it better.  They want to spend a billion dollars on another facility downtown, that most Atlantans will not use.  WHY IS THAT!!  Because once again Atlanta wants something for nothing.  Easy to build something with other peoples money. Especially those who have no say vote wise.
    Is not the point of passenger rail service to eliminate car travel to a “more efficient mode”.  We want people to use the rail service, right.  THEN WHY ARE YOU MAKING IT DIFFICULT TO USE?????  We arlready subsidize MARTA, GRTA buses, AMTRAK, etc…  Why would we want another thing to subsidize!
    BEFORE WE WASTE ANY MORE TAXPAYER MONEY ON THE MMPT, PUT IT TO A VOTE.  Let’s see what the voters think of a BILLION DOLLARS being THROWN DOWN A HOLE CALLED the GULCH!!!!Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Excellent points, Wish for Milton County!
      Regional passenger trains from points north of I-20 should run THROUGH the proposed MMPT at Five Points to terminate at a multimodal station at the site of the world’s busiest passenger airport at the Atlanta Airport.
      I’ve also long maintained that regional passenger trains from points south of I-20 should also run THROUGH the proposed MMPT to service and terminate at major employment centers on the Northside of the metro area.
      That means that regional passenger trains that originate from points above I-20 and run into the proposed MMPT from the north (along with the passenger rail line from Greensboro/Augusta which will run into the proposed MMPT from the east) from points like Anniston, AL; Rome, GA; Chattanooga, TN; Blue Ridge, GA; Gainesville, GA; Athens, GA; Augusta, GA should run THROUGH the MMPT and terminate at the Atlanta Airport.
      That also means that regional passenger trains that originate from points below I-20 from points like Columbus, Macon and Warner Robins should run through the proposed MMPT at Five Points and terminate at major employment centers in Kennesaw, Alpharetta and Norcross.
      Hartsfield-Jackson is to Atlanta and planes what Grand Central Station is to trains and given that the Atlanta Airport and the site of the proposed MMPT are directly connected by the same set of train tracks, it also makes since that all regional passenger train lines should serve the major international logistical center of activity that is the world’s busiest passenger airport.
      Giving all of the aforementioned outlying areas a direct passenger rail link to the world’s busiest passenger airport at Hartsfield-Jackson also makes those areas more desirable places to live, work, play and do business.Report

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    • Rees Cramer says:

      Wish for MIlton County  The state provides no funding for Marta.  You do live in Fulton county so yes you do provide some support, you pay much more for your other form of transport.  If it had been built out as it was planned it would be used to near capacity.  I have been on it 4 or 5 times in the last few weeks and every time I gave up my seat because it was standing room only.  I am a 43 year old man who can reach the bars, the rest of you guys had better not be sitting when there is a lady or a senior present.  The system of heavy rail was actually designed for expansion into the burbs and would be much more effective if it went farther out than Doraville to the NE or someplace to the NW or Stone Mountain to the east. As for the streetcars and the Beltline, you don’t get it, and that is ok.  We city folk want a better life and we should not have to build your freeways and not get the improvements we need.  All over the nation people are riding transit because they just don’t want to sit in traffic anymore.  Many cities are responding and Atlanta will do the same with or without the rest of Georgia.Report

      Reply
  3. DougAlexander says:

    There needs to be a station at the airport, no doubt about it, but there also needs to be one in downtown that can connect directly with MARTA.  The original plans made by the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority and GDOT include both.
    That being said, castigating NS for not playing nice on the MMPT is akin to punishing a dog for digging holes.  Railroads have almost no altruistic bones in their corporate bodies.  Doing something for the common good is a non-starter unless it also benefits the railroads, preferably in a financial way. 
    There ARE ways for passenger trains to access downtown on NS’s rails.  It’s just that there will be a price for that access.  NS has sat in on the MMPT discussions, just as it sat in on the working group that found a way for GDOT to release it’s claim on the Decatur Street Belt Line.  In both cases, however, NS was totally non-committal.  No one who has had the opportunity to work with any of the big Class-1 railroads on such projects expects anything more, or less.  And who can blame them?  We study and study and study, and meanwhile the world moves on.
    The state had the opportunity to purchase the old Central of Georgia line from Atlanta to Macon twice.  It would have been a lot cheaper the first time.  The second offer, during the first years of the Perdue administration, would have taken every cent available then for passenger rail.  That would have been fine for Sonny and Co., but they ultimately let the opportunity pass.  Since then, NS has been investing in that route, to the point that nearly all of it’s priority freight trains use the line.
    The moral of this story is that if you want to talk turkey with the railroads, you’d better come with cash money.  And for the foreseeable future, this state and the feds are not going to commit any funds to a project like this.  If the people of Georgia want commuter and intercity rail for themselves, they are going to have to do it themselves, at the county and city levels.  I believe that funding from local sources could actually pay to build and operate commuter rail in Georgia — and it would have the added benefit of avoiding years of delay and useless spending on studies because with local funds you don’t have to abide by NEPA — but for it to work, the state will have to step out of the way.  Sadly, I don’t know if it has the guts to actually do that.Report

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  4. writes_of_weigh says:

    Perhaps both federally funded MMPTs in Georgia(Athens has one, too, next door to The Classic Center) shall suffer the same fate of having sets of moribund railroad tracks adjacent(Spring track in the “gulch” in Atlanta, Athens Line, LLC (former NS Lula – Macon mainline now severed near Bishop, GA)) tracks next door to the Athens MMPT). Did the feds actually fund two MMPTs in this state just presuming that the railroads would literally “bend over” to run passenger trains into/through/from them? Or were they aware that if the railroads failed to provide the necessary track connections, that Federal Surface Transportation Law(Title 49 U.S.C.) would “force” such connectivity, in order for a more perfect union, and to preserve “essential” transport capability? Just random thoughts……Report

    Reply
  5. DavidWelden says:

    If heavy passenger rail service with a MMPT in downtown Atlanta is such a good idea, why isn’t the private investment community engaged in making it happen? It seems the only folks interested in the scheme are developers and those who want to live, work, play in downtown Atlanta. That’s not a majority of Georgia’s taxpayers who will ultimately get stuck with paying for it and subsidizing it for the rest of their natural lives.
    A new and more novel approach might be to define a practical need for the service before trying to decide where to place it.Report

    Reply
  6. health_impact says:

    Maybe we need to modernize rail operations? Many european countries operate hundreds of daily freight and passenger trains on about the same amount of track as we have around here (two or three parallel lines), but they can do so because they keep to tight schedules. What would it take for the US to be as efficient?
    To DavidWeldon – stop subsidizing highways and then let’s talk. Gas taxes pay just a fraction of the total roadway costs, taxpayers bear the rest. Remember, railroads used to be some of the most successful corporations, and streetcars were operated privately by developers and utilities. It wasn’t the invention of the car that changed this, it was the national highway act and government takeover of the transportation system.Report

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  7. Quad7 says:

    “Meanwhile, we can’t forget that site where the MMPT is proposed used to
    have two major railroad stations that were served by more than 100
    passenger trains a day in addition to freight trains. In light of that
    fact, Norfolk-Southern’s position sounds a bit hollow.”
    Bzzzt, wrong.  Operating conditions during your “100 passenger trains a day” were considerably different than today.  
     First,
    during those times there was no Hours Of Service law, where train crews
    can only work 12 continuous hours before being relieved.  That means
    many trains are “short of time” when arriving in Atlanta and are parked
    around the terminal core waiting for an outbound crew.  That can take
    hours and takes a track out of service.
    Secondly, during those
    “100 passenger train days” freight trains were much shorter and
    lighter.  NS coal trains going to Plant Scherer are 125 cars long and
    weigh 18,000 tons.  Double stack intermodal trains moving to and from
    Florida can be in excess of 10,000 feet long.  These are not the trains
    of the “100 passenger trains a day”.
    CP (…Control
    Point)-“SPRING” is the literal neck of the hourglass for rail traffic in
    Atlanta.  NS has three main tracks there changing into two to East
    Point and two towards Stockbridge.  CSX owns one of the mains to East
    Point and moves considerable traffic via this route.  It all passes
    through “SPRING” and most inbound traffic is running short of Hours Of
    Service time.  Passenger trains arriving and departing from this
    proposed terminal would have to execute several crossover moves, takes
    one or more mains out of service in the process.  Now, imagine one of
    these Scherer trains struggling to depart Atlanta, where southbound is
    an ascending grade, having to stop and wait.  Restarting 18,000 tons on a
    grade is no picnic, even with AC power in a DPU configuration.
    It
    would be far more practical to run these commuter trains onto the MARTA
    system as they approach Atlanta.  MARTA has double track with dual
    crossovers that could easily handle these additional trains.  You
    eliminate the terminal core problems and the need for a new station.  At
    the very least simply incorporate cross platform interchange to allow
    commuters to change to MARTA trains for their trip further downtown.
    The
    railroads are right to resist this operational burden.  Too many ill
    informed people are thinking this is Los Angeles, Chicago, or NYC and
    commuter trains can just be overlaid with no problems.  That is most
    certainly not the case for Atlanta.Report

    Reply
    • writes_of_weigh says:

      Quad7 The operational “challenges” you suggest for Norfolk Southern’s “position” on denying passenger trains access to the Atlanta MMPT, are the usual line they toss out to Amtrak passengers aboard the Crescent, when NS find’s it “too hard” to work on their rights-of-way during routine maintenance programs AND run even one passenger train: RIDE THE BUS, INSTEAD! To be fair, CSX has started to use the same line as well, during some of it’s r-o-w work windows. Somehow, during much harder times, perhaps like when there was an ongoing world war, and when troops and machines of war, plus the regular daily interruption of hundreds of both freight and passenger trains, NS predecessor roads managed so that the goods and people moved. As for the “hours of service” laws, they have been adjusted several times over the last eight decades, and presumably, need so again. The 18,000 ton Southern coal trains, can easily be uncoupled to form two or even three, easy to handle mini-coal trains. The locomotives are already in the consist! Imagine how THAT would help the employment numbers! It is implausible to switch a heavy rail commuter train onto tracks of a subway system. Let it suffice to say that the results could be “shocking”, at best, due to the “third rail.” The railroads “rights” are what is paramount in this conundrum. Some readers of this column might be pondering to whom those “rights” have been “granted” – and to what avail? Rest assured  – NS might not be amused to find out that those “rights” can be granted to others for “essential” public utility purposes. CSX, BNSF, FEC. Any other rail operators interested? One wonders?Report

      Reply
  8. mariasaporta says:

    Folks, I’m posting this comment on behalf of Dick Hodges. Maria
    Maria had a great column on the on-going  passenger rail challenges facing Atlanta and Georgia.  Her  column prompted me to try to “post” a comment which I spent a bit of time composing. When it got to the “posting” stage, I discovered once again that the challenge to do so was beyond my admittedly limited computer skills.  In that effort, I ended up losing the effort completely.  Some day, perhaps this process will be explained to those of us who admire Maria and the Report, but like the proverbial “old dogs” find it hard to learn new tricks.  Nevertheless, all SaportaReport  contributors are to be complimented for providing information and opinions that need to be considered by citizens interested in the future of our area and nation.  My missing message was to remind that a successful democratic  republic needs visionary, responsible leaders, not “followers” who seem to go “with the flow” and polls of voters who may well be uninformed, misinformed or uninterested in the issues. That “pure” democratic approach is sometimes just a step away from mobocracy.   Better education across the board and responsible news and opinion media, such as SaportaReport, are probably the best way for Georgia and Atlanta to get on board true  transportation progress, which involves passenger rail in more than a few congested traffic corridors in our state.. All the best. Richard E. (Dick) HodgesReport

    Reply
  9. DavidWelden says:

    Mr. Hodges offers some excellent points, especially regarding a successful democratic republic needing visionary, responsible leaders.  The Saporta Report provides an excellent forum for thought and expression of opinions, ingredients required for responsible leaders to competently envision the future. Responsible leaders should take advantage of the forum with the knowledge that many of the writings come from folks who have spent years studying and involved with the subjects at hand (in this case, “transportation”).
    As far as Mr. Hodges’ contention that true transportation progress necessarily involves passenger rail, I would beg to differ with him and would welcome an opportunity to debate the subject sometime. That is not to suggest passenger rail cannot be an important part of Georgia’s transportation future. Rather, it is probably not as comprehensive a solution as Mr. Hodges believes.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Those are some great points, though in all fairness, Mr. Hodges did not necessarily say that passenger rail was the only comprehensive solution to all of Georgia’s traffic problems nor did Mr. Hodges necessarily say that passenger rail was the be-all, end-all solution to our transportation problems that should be applied in every transportation corridor in our state.
      Mr. Hodges just merely stated that “true transportation progress involves passenger rail in more than a few congested traffic corridors in our state.”
      I completely agree with your point that passenger rail is the comprehensive solution to Georgia’s transportation and mobility problems, but in a metro region of 6 million people with a wholly-inadequate road network that is severely-restricted, both physically and politically, there’s no denying that passenger rail transit, along with bus transit and widespread targeted road improvements, must play a key role in helping this region and this state overcome its substantial transportation and mobility challenges.
      Investments in either all rail transit, or all bus transit or all roads alone is not going to get this region to the much better place it is trying to and must get to transportation-wise, but investments in all three together (a truly multimodal transportation network) on a large-scale will help get us where we need to go as a region.Report

      Reply
      • DavidWelden says:

        The Last Democrat in Georgia
        I believe you accidently omitted “not” in your 3rd paragraph. It should read “passenger rail is not the comprehensive solution to Georgia’s transportation and mobility problems,”
        Separately, I agree with the need for careful consideration of all options when considering how to move people under various conditions. Some forms of fixed guideway transit may be appropriate under some conditions, but most of the time we’ll find that other less costly approaches will do a better job. Historically, economic development interests have led the march towards light rail systems without much consideration for actual congestion relief. More pragmatic approaches must become dominant if we are to get anywhere with solutions to the metro problem.Report

        Reply
        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          You are correct, Mr. Welden, I did accidentially omit the word “not” in my third paragraph and I apologize.
          You also make a good point that other less costly approaches may do the job in most corridors, and you make an excellent point that more pragmatic approaches must become dominant if we are to tackle this problem.
          And you also make a good point that economic development interests have led the march towards light rail systems without much consideration for actual congestion relief (one need to look no further than last year’s T-SPLOST debacle for multiple examples of your theorem where multiple proposed light rail lines were geographically placed with little, if any regard for real congestion relief).
          Although, I will add that just as economic development interests have led the march towards light rail systems without much consideration of congestion relief, economic development interests have also built massive amounts of automobile-oriented development not only with very-little intent of congestion relief, but with the virtual intent of CREATING congestion to and from and in the area their commercial developments (Mall of Georgia, Gwinnett Place, Town Center Mall, East-West Connector, etc).
          Just like there should be careful consideration to the placement of roads, there should be very-careful consideration to the placement of rail transit lines, but even moreso because of the additional operating costs of rail transit lines.Report

          Reply
  10. Wish for MIlton County says:

    Some one in this post said we are “restricted politically”.  Which is true!  It is true because people see their hard eaned tax dollars being dumped int projects in DOWNTOWN ATLANTA.  Many of which “WILL NEVER HELP THEM”.  T-SPLOT went down in defeat because the propsed projects list was so tilted toward projects in ATLANTA.  No one was going to vot for it.  Case in point!
    T-SPLOT put the street car project before the I-285 / GA-400 INterchange Project.  WHICH PROJECT would HELP MORE PEOPLE!!!  Common citizens know the answer.  Our government officials & politicians didn’t.  If they did, THEY WOULD KNOW BETTER AND PUT THE INTERCHANGE BEFORE A STREET CAR.
    Now the Atlanta STREET CARS project is underway and getting out of control.  Taxpayers are spending $70 – $90 million dollars on a project that HELPS NOBODY!!!!  Projected ridership of 2400 persons per day!  Correcting I-285 / GA 400 interchange – helps 10s of thousands people per day.  Again common folks know this.  But for ssome reason everyone kisses the ring of ATLANTA.
    How many agencies do we support who can’t find their head to put on a hat?  When are the politicians going to think regionally, metro wide.  Again, ATLANTA has its hand out for others peoples money to DO GREAT THINGS FOR downtown!
    Many of us are tired of carrying ATLANTA.  If ATLANTA wants an MMPT downtown, let them build it, maintain it, staff it.
    Taxpayers want an MMPT that makes sense to them.  One that is geared to their needs, not some politicians pipe dream.  MMPT at the airport makes sense to more folks.  You have the interstate, rail, MARTA, airport, rental cars, parking, bus & limo service, all in one location.  WHY ARE WE TRYING TO REINVENT THE WHEEL!
    Again – common people understand!  Our government bureaucrats & politicians – HAVEN’T A CLUE!!Report

    Reply
  11. Rees Cramer says:

    When we invest half as much in transit as we do in road construction and upkeep then we can compare notes.  Expanding the 285/400 interchange is just going to get people to the next bottleneck faster.  BTW…all of those four lane highways in south Georgia that don’t go anywhere were just a waste of money in some builders pocket.  They are empty.  NS knows that the will sooner or later be compelled to provide this access and they know the will be compensated for it.  They are just marking there territory, men do it all the time.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Rees Cramer
       Excellent points. 
      Though, it should be noted that the proposal for the I-285/GA 400 interchange is not necessarily so much an expansion project as much as it is a reconstruction project to correct a very-dangerous, if not deadly design flaw that dumps traffic merging from I-285 on very-short merge ramps directly into the far-left high-speed lanes of both directions of GA 400.
      The serious design flaw which contributes to very-frequent accidents on both directions of GA 400 at and very-near I-285 is something that the state knew would likely be a very-serious problem before they built the GA 400 Extension between I-285 and I-85 through North Atlanta and Buckhead in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
      But the state refused to fund the much-needed project with the construction of the GA 400 Extension out of political expediency so that they could get the road built and get their roadbuilding, land spectulation and real estate developer cronies a quick paycheck by opening up the heavily-wooded and scenic foothills north of Atlanta to the type of heavy development that we see today along the GA 400 Corridor north of Atlanta up to near the mountains.
      {{“When we invest half as much in transit as we do in road construction and upkeep then we can compare notes.  Expanding the 285/400 interchange is just going to get people to the next bottleneck faster.”}}
      …Good point.
      With the State of Georgia currently projecting construction on the 285/400 interchange to start no earlier than the year 2031, at this rate, by the time the state actually gets around to reconstructing the interchange (an interchange which should have been reconstructed more than 20 years ago when the GA 400 Extension was built) congestion pricing (variable tolls that price excess traffic (most likely Single-Occupant Vehicle or SOV traffic) off of major through roads and through lanes to keep them moving at a speed of at least 40-45 mph during peak hours) will likely play a major role in regulating traffic flow and keeping major roads from becoming totally gridlocked during peak hours in a Metro Atlanta that likely could have a regional population somewhere in the range of 7-8 million by time but with basically the same road network that designed to support the transportation movements of a much-smaller region of no more than 3 million inhabitants.
      The Georgia Department of Transportation recently announced that they are not going to add any more untolled lanes to major through roads because the new lanes they build encourage continued overdependency on automobile travel in a fast-growing metro region quickly running out of road space and seemingly (and in most cases actually do) fill up with traffic soon after they are built.
      GDOT announced that moving forward, the only new through lanes that are likely to be built or added to existing superhighways will be congestion-priced lanes with variable tolls that rise during peak hours to keep traffic moving at a speed of at least 45 mph.
      GDOT has also acknowledged that the Atlanta freeway network is almost, if not nearly completely built-out and will most likely not be expanded much more, if any beyond this point due to the high financial and POLITICAL costs of acquiring right-of-way to expand roads through traditional widenings with untolled lanes in areas of heavy existing development.
      The plans to reconstruct the 285/400 interchange have actually been scaled-back somewhat dramatically over the years from roughly 20 years ago or so when the proposal was reported to rebuild the interchange to be the tallest stack interchange on the Eastern Seaboard with the highest flyover ramps that were projected to be over 100 feet in height and numerous collector-distributor lanes that would have expanded both I-285 and GA 400 to a width that was something in the neighborhood of 20 lanes on the approaches to the interchange from the north, east and west.Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Rees Cramer
      {{“BTW…all of those four lane highways in south Georgia that don’t go anywhere were just a waste of money in some builders pocket.  They are empty. “}}
      …Another excellent observation.
      Most of the 4-lane highways built in rural areas outside of Metro Atlanta are developmental roads in one form or another.
      The Saporta Report had an article a couple of months ago about the very-quiet completion of a large section of the Fall Line Freeway in Middle Georgia, a combination developmental and logistical freeway with at-grade crossings that will connect Columbus with Macon and Augusta and run along the Fall Line (or the Gnat Line) when completed. 
      The State of Georgia intentionally kept the news about the large chunk of this developmental and logistical freeway very-quiet in the Atlanta media so as to avoid angering Metro Atlantans who continue to struggle (often mightily) with long rush hour commutes on a severely-congested and often gridlocked road network that has not been expanded substantially in over 20 years during a time when the Atlanta region’s population has doubled from 2.9 million in 1990 to 6.1 million in 2012.
      Heck, right here in Metro Atlanta, the State of Georgia has built many developmental roads that were intended not to reduce traffic, but generate traffic to new residential and commercial and even industrial development that would be sparked by the construction and completion of Atlanta region developmental roads like:
      …The aforementioned Georgia 400 which was built in two stages between 1968 and 1981 outside of I-285 and between 1989 and 1993 inside of I-285 to open up to heavy development the Blue Ridge and Appalachian foothills north of Atlanta in North Fulton, Forsyth, Dawson and Lumpkin counties;
      …Georgia 316, a combination logistical and developmental 4-lane roadway built to connect the state’s flagship university in Athens with the state’s largest city and capital in Atlanta by way of I-85 Northeast.  Georgia 316 was also built to open up the area between Lawrenceville and Athens (Gwinnett, Barrow and Oconee counties) for outer-suburban and exurban development;
      …Interstate 575/Georgia 515, a purely developmental 4-lane roadway that was built between Marietta and roughly near Hiawassee in extreme North Georgia to open up to heavy outer-suburban and exurban residential and commercial development the foothills and the mountains north of Atlanta;
      …Interstate 985/Georgia 365, a combination logistical/developmental 4-lane roadway that was built to connect the most-important city in mountainous Northeast Georgia (Gainesville) with the largest and most-important city in the state in the capital at Atlanta by way I-85 North.  I-985/GA 365 was also built to open up the Northeast Georgia foothills and mountains to outer-suburban and exurban development;
      …Georgia 6/Camp Creek Parkway/Thornton Road/C.H. James Parkway, a combination logistical but largely developmental road that was built to connect the growing industrial area along the Chattahoochee River southwest of Atlanta with the Atlanta Airport.  Georgia 6 was also built to spark heavy industrial development west of Atlanta below and above the I-20 which has been the case with Norfolk Southern building what is reported to be the largest intermodal rail yard on the Eastern Seaboard just off of GA Hwy 6 in Austell;
      …South Fulton Parkway, a purely development road that was built to open up Southwest Fulton County to heavy development and provide that heavy development with a nearly-direct major road link to the Atlanta Airport.
      {{“NS knows that they will sooner or later be compelled to provide this access and they know they will be compensated for it.  They are just marking their territory, men do it all the time.”}}
      …I completely agree.
      But when Norfolk Southern is finally compelled (and COMPENSATED) to open up their existing right-of-ways to what is likely to be very-high volumes of passenger trains it is going to cost the state a pretty penny (up into the several billions of dollars) as Norfolk Southern’s existing tracks are functioning near and at and even overcapacity in some cases with the amount of freight rail traffic that is being transported through the Atlanta region.
      Operating much any volume of passenger rail service, much less the likely very-high volume of passenger trains that the Atlanta region will need to function in the not-too-distant future, on the same tracks with the already very-heavy and rising volumes of freight trains that are expected to spike is just simply not feasible, particularly with the continued expansion of the fast-growing international seaport at the Port of Savannah generating increasing amounts of freight rail traffic on severely-constrained tracks in the Atlanta area. 
      If we are going to operate very-high volumes of freight trains and passenger trains at the same times, we are going to have to come up with the billions of dollars that it is going to do so.
      In the meantime, we need to be ramping up our regional bus service to build transit ridership (whether or not a regional passenger rail transit system is ever built in future) and pull traffic off of severely peak hour-congested roads.
      We need to be ramping up our regional bus service to build transit ridership so that in case a regional passenger rail transit system is ever built the high transit ridership will be there to help make the passenger rail service sustainable.
      We also need to be ramping our regional bus service so that in the event that an expanded regional passenger rail transit system is never built we will still have some kind of transit alternative to the automobile.Report

      Reply
      • Rees Cramer says:

        The Last Democrat in Georgia Rees Cramer I had not noticed that you responded like this.  You really know the subject.  I am very torn on staying in Atlanta given the current state of dysfunction.  If you ever want to meet for a coffee I would love to talk to another person who cares.
        I am going to a training class at the beltline on Friday to be a tour guide
        .Report

        Reply
  12. writes_of_weigh says:

    Perhaps a seance…. conjuring the spirit and will of one Cornelius Vanderbilt (Anderson Cooper’s some great Grandfather) might be sufficient…. to interest some railroad company or some future Governor (Carter perhaps? ) to visioneer an intermodal terminal in the “gulch”, with some sorts of passenger trains adrift with humanity, hurrying their loads to and fro, such a new “terminal”…..Perhaps the just announced April 16, 2014 meeting at ARC offices at 40 Courtland St., at 5:00P announced to seek “input” on the state transportation plan to 2040, might be of interest?Report

    Reply
  13. corde tennis says:

    why isn’t the private investment community engaged in making it happen?
    It seems the only folks interested in the scheme are developers and
    those who want to live, work, play in downtown Atlanta.Report

    Reply

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