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David Pendered

Poverty grows to Atlanta’s suburbs as researchers show it “taxes the brain”

By David Pendered

Discussion of poverty and the lack of mobility in U.S. suburbs, particularly in Atlanta’s suburbs, seems to be hitting a new high.

Just last week, a speaker from the Brookings Institution named three primary causes of the spike in poverty rates in Atlanta’s close-in suburbs: The foreclosure crisis; shortage of transit to reach jobs; and housing vouchers that facilitated a move from the inner city to communities with smaller safety nets.

Job loss in metro Atlanta. Credit: Georgia Department of Labor; Analysis by David Pendered

Job loss in metro Atlanta. Credit: Georgia Department of Labor; Analysis by David Pendered

For Kim Anderson, the CEO of Families First who was on the panel with Alan Berube, of Brookings, the spread of poverty raises one troubling question: “Are we going to repeat what we did in the urban community in the suburban communities?”

Anderson said during the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum that Families First has already seen the signs of growing troubles:

  • Nine pregnant girls in Clayton County high schools have sought help;
  • Poor families who once could have been in a social safety net now live in private homes in suburban communities, where private landlords aren’t in the business of providing social services;
  • Families want to solve their problems, but don’t have the capacity.

Anderson’s third point is the subject of a report that’s received scant attention but outlines a troubling future as poverty spreads beyond the safety net established over the past 70 years: Being poor contributes to a lack of cognitive ability to address life’s challenges.

The study was reported in Science magazine and picked up by The Atlantic Cities, which summarized the findings in this sentence:

  • “Poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school, or search for a new job, or even remember to pay bills on time.”

The study determined that the overload caused by poverty is comparable to losing 13 IQ points, or roughly the difference between “chronic alcoholics and normal adults,” according to the article in The Atlantic Cities. The study was conducted by researchers at Princeton and Harvard universities, and the University of Warwick.

The great recession clearly has focused attention on income and wealth.

Pew Research Center, just this year, has provided a steady stream of reports on topics including the rise of disadvantaged single fathers; the four-fold increase since 1960 of mothers who are the sole or primary breadwinner; and the growing wealth disparity between rich and poor as stock values rise while housing values remain (generally) flat.

For all the recent attention, job loss – if not actual poverty – has been a fact of life in metro Atlanta since well before the recession.

More than 100,000 jobs have been lost due to business closures or layoffs in the time from Jan. 1, 2000 through Sept. 8, 2013, according to figures kept by the Georgia Department of Labor.

Perhaps the loss of these jobs has simply been under reported. More likely, job loss has made the news when a significant number of jobs are lost all at once and the closure of a factory or a mass layoff is reported. And new jobs have been created around the region.

But the collective impact so far this year includes airlines that have shed more than 700 jobs in Atlanta, and Lockheed Martin Corp., which has cut 500 workers in Marietta, according to the GDOL web site.


David Pendered

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



  1. SteveBrown September 9, 2013 4:03 pm

    This is the first media piece that I have read that gets to the crux of the problems – exporting poverty out of the City of Atlanta.
    Yes, the idea was shifting people out of areas with transit facilities via “housing vouchers that facilitated a move from the inner city to communities with smaller safety nets” and casting them to the suburbs while demanding more transit there at inflated costs without sufficient population density levels.Report

  2. Burroughston Broch September 9, 2013 7:16 pm

    It’s telling that the City exported the poor but not the homeless.Report

  3. SpaceyG September 10, 2013 9:57 am

    But Rene Glover is a “visionary” (not my word, someone else’s, specifically her PR operatives), right? That’s what her people keep telling us. That the disbursement was for the long term, long term visions that generations not be raised, over and over and over, in poverty silos such as housing projects in the inner city. I wish the “vision” had been telegraphed to the (non-existent) support systems, such as transportation, social services, etc., too. But that part of the equation was apparently someone else’s “vision.”Report

  4. SteveBrown September 10, 2013 11:25 am

    Burroughston Broch 
    You cannot get housing vouchers for the homeless, especially those who are mentally ill.Report

  5. SteveBrown September 10, 2013 11:29 am

    Most of our wounds are self-inflicted.  Many of our traffic problems exist because $$$ got in the way of proper planning.  Sad.Report

  6. Sue_Stanton September 10, 2013 4:23 pm

    SteveBrown All of these “Smart Growth” planners wish us to all be impoverished, living in our tiny transit village boxes, with no hope of the American dream of hard work and initiative to lift ourselves.  Step 1 is for the counties to stop accepting federal dollars to provide unnecessary services.Report

  7. Burroughston Broch September 10, 2013 10:44 pm

    SteveBrown You couldn’t get vouchers before the law was changed. If the law were again changed to provide vouchers for the homeless, the City would export them also.Report

  8. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 11, 2013 2:02 pm

    Burroughston Broch SteveBrown You mean that the City of Atlanta would export its homeless problem elsewhere the same way that the City of New York has been exporting (and continues to export) its massive homeless problem to Atlanta…
    …Which means that basically New York’s homeless problem is Atlanta’s homeless problem.Report

  9. SteveBrown September 11, 2013 2:36 pm

    Someone sent me this:)Report

  10. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 11, 2013 3:13 pm

    The Brookings Institution may be overplaying somewhat the impact of housing vouchers on the rise in poverty rates in the suburbs of Metro Atlanta.
    There’s no denying that the housing voucher program has had a noticeable impact on poverty rates in nearby surrounding suburbs as many poor and impoverished residents have moved out (or have been forced out) of the City of Atlanta into surrounding nearby close-in suburban areas.
    But one thing that seems to be overlooked in these ongoing discussions about the astronomical rise in poverty rates in Atlanta’s close-in suburbs is that Metro Atlanta is a MAJOR DRAW for transplants from other states and immigrants (both documented and undocumented) from other countries, many of whom are impoverished.
    The rise in poverty rates in Atlanta’s close-in suburbs is not just being caused only by local factors, like poor residents moving in large numbers from closed and demolished housing projects in the City of Atlanta to declining multi-family housing complexes in surrounding suburban counties.
    But the rise in poverty rates in Atlanta’s close-in suburbs is being fueled even more heavily by external factors at both the national and international levels.
    The rise in poverty rates in Atlanta’s close-in suburbs is being fueled extremely-heavily by the very-large amount of transplants who move to Metro Atlanta from other parts of the U.S., like from the West Coast (California), Texas, Florida, and ESPECIALLY from the Upper Midwest (particularly from the economically-struggling Detroit area) and the Northeast (particularly from the New York-New Jersey, Philadelphia and Baltimore-Washington DC areas).
    The rise in poverty rates in Atlanta’s close-in suburbs is also being fueled extremely-heavily by the very-large amount of immigrants who move to Metro Atlanta from places around the world, like from Latin America (Mexico and Central and South America), Asia (East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent and South Asia) and Africa.
    Virtually all of those transplants and immigrants, many of which are impoverished, move directly into Atlanta’s close-in suburban counties (South Fulton, Clayton, DeKalb, North Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett counties) where the schools have a reputation of being really good historically and where there is an overabundance of relatively cheap housing (both multi-family and single-family homes) as a result of Metro Atlanta’s notorious past overbuilding and overdevelopment booms.
    Virtually all of those transplants and immigrants also move directly into Atlanta’s suburbs simply because there is so much more of suburban Atlanta to move into then there is of Atlanta proper, which makes up not even 10% of the land area of Greater Metro Atlanta.
    With so many external factors from other regions of the nation and the world heavily influencing poverty rates in Atlanta’s suburbs, and with Metro Atlanta’s historically high rates of population growth, overbuilding and overdevelopment helping to import both prosperity and poverty from other places on the both continent and the planet, it is virtually completely impossible to keep poverty rates under control in suburban counties like Fulton, Clayton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett.
    Poverty rates would likely be a substantial concern with just the housing voucher program forcing so many impoverished residents to move to the suburbs from the City of Atlanta alone.
    But with the external factors of poverty being imported to Metro Atlanta from other parts of the U.S. and the world, the rise in poverty rates in Atlanta’s suburbs seems almost overwhelming.Report

  11. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 11, 2013 3:17 pm

    Burroughston Broch The City of Atlanta would likely export its homeless problem away, too, if it could.   It’s just that the City of Atlanta has not figured out how to do so yet.Report

  12. Burroughston Broch September 11, 2013 3:36 pm

    The Last Democrat in Georgia  SteveBrown 
    No, the City of Atlanta would export its homeless problem just outside the City limits, ala Section 8 housing. Sending some back to NYC would be an interesting touch.Report

  13. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 11, 2013 4:25 pm

    SteveBrown Many of the suburban areas in question (particularly North Fulton, South Fulton, Clayton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett counties) have population (and development) density levels that are more than sufficient for transit service to be sustainable and even prosperous (particularly with regards to areas where there are large clusters of high-density multi-family housing, like along GA 139 Riverdale Road in North Clayton County; in Marietta, Smyrna and Vinings in Southeast Cobb County; and in Norcross, Peachtree Corners and Duluth in Gwinnett County; and of course in North Fulton, South Fulton and DeKalb counties where MARTA already operates).
    The biggest problem in regards to the lack of transit options in close-in suburban areas where poverty rates are on a steep rise (and even in more urban areas where transit already operates) is not necessarily a lack of population density.
    The biggest problem in regards to the lack of transit options in close-in suburban areas with rising poverty rates is that we as a society don’t operate and fund transit (and transportation in general) correctly.
    The way that we incorrectly and poorly operate transit is particularly the case here in Metro Atlanta where, despite our overwhelming traffic problems, transit is still viewed by many as a mode of transportation of last resort for those who cannot afford to own vehicles instead of being viewed as a way to relieve to traffic issues for those can afford to own vehicles in a metro region with a severely-limited road network.
    The way that we as a society incorrectly and poorly fund transit is also readily apparently in the Atlanta region where we only utilize and are overly-dependent upon extremely-limited public tax subsidies (the 1% sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb counties and property taxes in Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties) to fund transit instead of fully-utilizing revenue streams from user fees (distance-based fares), private financing (for-profit leases with private operators) and real estate investment (for-profit leasing-out of transit-owned real estate, land and properties).
    Operating transit as a last option for the poorest of the poor instead of as a first option for commuters of all socioeconomic statuses and not fully utilizing all of our possible revenue streams has left us with a transit (and transportation) system that has been designed to fail commuters of all socioeconomic statuses (rich, poor and in-between).
    The poorest-of-the-poor (and those who are struggling financially) benefit when transit systems are designed to be more than just a mode of transport of last resort that is targeted at the poorest-of-the-poor.Report

  14. moliere September 13, 2013 12:44 pm

    SteveBrown And why should the city of Atlanta be responsible for a heavily disproportionate share of poor people in the metro area? What is the goal, to stash all the homeless and poor in Atlanta while the high income people, businesses, jobs, tax base etc. stays in the suburbs? How is that in Atlanta’s benefit? Atlanta wants jobs, businesses, families, high income professionals etc. just like everyone else.
    It would be one thing if the suburbs were actually willing to work with Atlanta. The opposite is true. The suburbs are adamantly opposed to that – as the TSPLOST failure showed, as does the unwillingness to expand MARTA for decades has – and if anything has been willing to attract high incomes and tax bases at Atlanta’s expense by marketing itself as “the non-corrupt, competently run, low tax area of Atlanta without too many of THOSE PEOPLE either as residents or in leadership positions.” Sorry, but let the affluent suburban counties do their part by taking on poor people, and let Atlanta chase jobs and development instead of being the region’s welfare state (even if that is what the suburbanites are always going to refer to it as such anyway  no matter how many jobs, professionals and new development Atlanta succeeds in attracting).Report

  15. moliere September 13, 2013 12:58 pm

    More accurately Sue_Stanton smart growth planners are trying to avoid the high concentrations of poor people that results in poverty, crime, bad schools, family breakdown, negative economic activity, retrograde cultural trends etc. that trap large areas for generations. It is particularly important because the “bad areas” don’t just stay contained where they are but spread. And the result is that to get away from the bad areas, people move further and further out, creating even more economic and social problems. The best example of this is our own Atlanta metro area. The trouble spots left Atlanta for first DeKalb, then Clayton, now wide swaths of Cobb and Gwinnett (where the “white flight’ from Atlanta first headed to just a few decades ago) have them. And folks are leaving Cobb and Gwinnett for Forsyth, Cherokee, Hall, Bartow, Paulding etc. Pretty soon it will reach the Tennessee and Carolina borders.
    That’s why stuff like building rail and other transportation lines are useful. Conservatives see it as paying off Democratic constituencies, subsidizing services that they don’t need/use, transferring wealth etc. but in reality it gives low income/working poor folks in those areas a way to get to work and school that don’t exist otherwise. The alternative is to have them cluster in suburban areas on Section 8 so folks in those suburbs will keep moving to the exurbs to get away from them. I don’t blame them for doing that, but we have to look at the policies that make it necessary.
    People complaining about Section 8, smart growth etc. seem to forget that the first approach was to put all the poor people in the same place, in public housing projects. After that resulted in an economic, social and crime fiasco crisis, the response was to demolish those projects and spread the people out. And to a great degree that has worked. Eliminating the warehousing people in public housing projects philosophy has reduced the number of people on welfare, the length of time that they stay on welfare, and contributed mightily to the drop in crime rates from their astronomical highs in the 1970s and 1980s. And the areas where there used to be these projects are now being replaced with businesses and single family homes. 
    Dismantling the Atlanta housing projects that used to have such high violent crime rates that one of them was called “Little Viet Nam” (because being in it was akin to living in a war zone) was a very good thing that made the city more livable and improved its reputation. But those people on public assistance have to go somewhere, and that was the point to my reply to Steve Brown above.Report

  16. SteveBrown September 13, 2013 6:14 pm

    Moliere,  I think you miss the point.  A multi-billion investment was made to transport the working poor in the City of Atlanta and other points.  The problem is now everyone is crying for another multi-billion dollar investment to reach them in the suburbs with densities to light to justify the cost.
    Don’t you wish some forethought had been given before droves of City of Atlanta’s working poor were dispatched to Clayton County, for example, that had no transit options?Report

  17. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 14, 2013 12:13 am

    SteveBrown {{{“Don’t you wish some forethought had been given before droves of City of Atlanta’s working poor were dispatched to Clayton County, for example, that had no transit options?”}}}
    …Good point, but the City of Atlanta didn’t care where its poverty and crime problem went, just as long as it went somewhere else outside of the City of Atlanta.
    Just like the City of New York doesn’t care where its homelessness problem goes when it tells homeless people that they cannot stay in NYC and gives them Greyhound bus tickets to the coerced destination of their choice.
    NYC doesn’t care that most of the homeless people that it forces out of the city end up in Atlanta, just as long as those homeless people go somewhere else other than NYC.
    It’s very much a similar dynamic with the City of Atlanta exporting its poverty and crime problem by tearing down its notorious housing projects and forcing the residents of those projects to go elsewhere.
    The City of Atlanta doesn’t care where those public housing project residents go, just as long as they leave the City of Atlanta and become someone else’s problem.Report

  18. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 14, 2013 4:45 am

    SteveBrown {{{“A multi-billion investment was made to transport the working poor in the City of Atlanta and other points.  The problem is now everyone is crying for another multi-billion dollar investment to reach them in the suburbs with densities to light to justify the cost.”}}}
    Therein lies a major part of the problem…that the multi-billion dollar investment of public tax subsidies that has been made in transit in Fulton and DeKalb counties has been largely primarily targeted at the poor and the homeless.
    No transit agency can survive, much less prosper, by targeting its service only at the poor and the homeless, just like no business can prosper or survive by targeting customers who cannot pay for its service.
    Any business (transit and otherwise) must have a very-large clientele of customers who want to use the service that the business is providing if that business is to be successful.
    No business can be successful by only targeting customers who cannot pay for the full cost of service and who would gladly use another service at the very first opportunity they get.
    …Like no transit agency can be successful or even survive by only targeting poor and homeless commuters who cannot pay the full cost of fares and many of whom will go and buy a vehicle at the first opportunity they get, even if they cannot necessarily completely afford the full cost of operating and maintaining a personal vehicle.
    A transit agency like MARTA must target and aim to serve (and actually competently serve) middle and high-income commuters if it is to survive, prosper and be successful and provide a way for lower-income commuters to get around without the use of a vehicle as needed.
    The densities of population and development, and most importantly, the DEMAND for alternatives to automobile commuting certainly exists in many (but not all) suburban areas outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties where MARTA already struggles to operate a minimal level of service. 
    The problem is that some factions (not everyone) are seemingly aiming only to reach the poor in the suburbs and not the middle-class and affluent commuters in both the city and the suburbs who can actually pay the cost of operating the transit service at the farebox.Report

  19. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 14, 2013 5:32 am

    Sue_Stanton{{{“All of these “Smart Growth” planners wish us to all be impoverished, living in our tiny transit village boxes, with no hope of the American dream of hard work and initiative to lift ourselves.”}}} 
    I wouldn’t necessarily say that “Smart Growth” planners wish everyone to be impoverished, though you do kind of make a good point that many “Smart Growth” planners do focus in on attempting to push higher-density development concentrated on alternative modes of transportation (pedestrian paths, transit and bike trails, etc) over lower-density development served solely by automobiles.
    Though, it should be noted that the best transit networks (and overall transportation networks) serve BOTH high-density and low-density types of development.
    …Like heavy rail, light rail and local bus transit best serves higher-density areas at the urbanized core of large metro regions.
    But park-and-ride commuter rail transit, park-and-ride commuter bus transit, and park-and-ride express bus transit (in conjunction with a robust road network) best serves lower-density areas at the outer-suburban and exurban periphery of large metro regions.
    {{{“Step 1 is for the counties to stop accepting federal dollars to provide unnecessary services.”}}}
    …It might be unrealistic at this time for state and local governments to stop being so over-dependent on federal dollars to provide both necessary and unnecessary services as most state and local governments seem to be addicted to federal dollars.
    Though, you do make a really good point that both state and local governments do need to stop being so overly-dependent upon federal funds to deliver services.
    The overwhelming overdependence of states and local governments on the federal government for funding of state and local services is most evident when it comes to funding transportation.
    Take for instance here in Georgia (and in many other states).
    …Instead of actively funding our own transportation improvements with user fees and private investment, we choose to keep begging a virtually bankrupt federal government to pay for our long-past due state and local transportation improvements which we could easily pay for on our own, something which makes absolutely no sense.Report

  20. ScottNAtlanta September 14, 2013 1:54 pm

    The Last Democrat in Georgia SteveBrown  I dont see many impoverished riders on the line to North Springs or to Doraville for that matter, and not many impoverished people are taking MARTA to the airport to catch flights.  So, the generalizations dont really work.  Clayton Co.  which has long past Fulton as the most dysfunctional, had transit when these people moved there.  If they were allowed to join MARTA as 70% of the residents voted they wanted to do.  They would have transit there now.  I’m sorry to have to continue to drive this point, but if a private solution was there, it would be operating now.  Two years is more than enough time to get it off the ground if it was viable.  We call it PUBLIC transit for a reason…its for the public.  The objective is not to generate a profit.  Its to provide a service to residents.  Private solutions goals are profit, and nothing else.  They are there to make money.  That may conflict with the public good.  What is the point of having transit if the people that need it most are priced out?Report

  21. ScottNAtlanta September 14, 2013 2:05 pm

    SteveBrown I wish that people made smarter decisions when it comes to zoning as is being played out with the Glenwood development.  Sometimes you have to make zoning laws that work with the community, but not even that is being demonized (UN conspiracy…need I say more).  The city needs more density, and in fact, thats what many younger people want.
    As for working poor transport.  Steve, thats even a bit much of a generalization dont you think, even for you.  That mulch-billion dollar INVESTMENT has paid off multiple times in development and the taxes that development generates.  Do you think Lindbergh, or many of the North line developments would have been possible without MARTA rail?  The fact is, transit by and large returns 1.7  dollars for every dollar spent.  I wish I could get that kind of return on my investments.  Making it poor vs middle class gets us nowhere…especially when this “facts be damned” mentality reins supreme.Report

  22. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 14, 2013 2:36 pm

    ScottNAtlanta The Last Democrat in Georgia SteveBrown {{{“I dont see many impoverished riders on the line to North Springs or to Doraville for that matter, and not many impoverished people are taking MARTA to the airport to catch flights.  So, the generalizations dont really work.”}}}
    …That’s a good point that despite the transit agency’s well-documented managerial and operational issues and the agency’s continued hemorrhaging of customers (ridership is still falling sharply amidst new MARTA CEO Keith Parker’s attempts to take the agency in a new direction), unimpoverished riders and commuters still use MARTA in relatively large numbers.
    But unimpoverished riders and commuters would likely use MARTA in even larger numbers if the agency had a fare structure in place that (along with money from private investment) actually helped to much more fully fund the cost of operations, maintenance, security and expansion.
    By intentionally depressing its fare structure as a poor and misguided attempt to accommodate the poorest of the poor, MARTA has (most often intentionally) targeted its service at impoverished commuters rather than making a concerted effort to keep the service appealing for higher-income riders who with their patronage can help pay the way for both themselves and lower-income riders who may be dependent upon the service.
    When a transit agency like MARTA collects the proper amount of fare revenue from higher income and affluent riders (who will actually ride transit if its appealing, dependable and convenient to ride), lower-income and special-group riders (like the elderly, students, children, the disabled, those receiving public assistance, those who are experiencing financial hardships, etc) who may not be able to afford the full cost of fares can receive discounts so that they don’t have to pay the full cost of fares.Report

  23. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 14, 2013 3:25 pm

    ScottNAtlanta The Last Democrat in Georgia SteveBrown {{{” I’m sorry to have to continue to drive this point, but if a private solution was there, it would be operating now.  Two years is more than enough time to get it off the ground if it was viable.”}}}
    …Private solutions to Metro Atlanta’s transit and transportation issues have been available for many years and even decades.
    It’s just that the powers-that-be inside of the MARTA organization and in Fulton and DeKalb counties did not want any parts of a private solution because it likely would have interfered with their political control over MARTA.
    A private solution (particularly a comprehensive private solution) would have likely interfered with the Fulton and DeKalb powers-that-be use of MARTA as a jobs program and reward tool for political supporters and allies.
    One of MARTA’s main problems is that the primary objective of the organization has not been providing transit service but has been to provide family, friends, and political allies with paid jobs and positions as a reward for their support.
    {{{“We call it PUBLIC transit for a reason…its for the public.”}}}
    …Public transit is still PUBLIC when private investment is utilized, its just that private investment and industry is being used to deliver a service to the public for which either there might not be enough public money available to deliver it or the public service likely would not be delivered otherwise.
    {{{“The objective is not to generate a profit.  Its to provide a service to residents.  Private solutions goals are profit, and nothing else.  They are there to make money.  That may conflict with the public good.  What is the point of having transit if the people that need it most are priced out?”}}}
    …I agree that the only objective of a public transit agency like MARTA should not be to generate a profit.
    But one of the MAIN objectives of a public transit agency like MARTA should absolutely be to generate a profit so that the agency and the service remains financially viable and financially sustainable so that the agency can operate, grow and expand as needed, something which has not been possible over the last several years as Metro Atlanta’s population and traffic problems have grown exponentially while MARTA has been shrinking, cutting operations, and hemorrhaging customers and revenue.
    In a regime in which a transit service like MARTA actually aims to make a profit and remain financially and operationally viable, making money actually benefits the public good by providing the transit agency with enough money to operate and provide service at a high-level in a very-large and fast-growing metro region that actually needs an extensive transit service that operates at a high-enough level to provide a viable and appealing alternative to severely-crowded rush-hour and peak-hour roadways.
    In a regime in which a transit service like MARTA actually aims to make a profit and keep itself financially viable and operationally functional by collecting enough revenue to operate at a high level from various revenue streams (a distance-based fare structure, private investment, real estate investment, etc), the people who need transit the most (the working poor, the impoverished, the transit-dependent, etc) are not “priced out” of the transit system but are “priced-in” with discounts in the form of hardship fares and fares for special groups and the economically-disadvantaged.
    A business (public or private) cannot survive if it does not collect enough revenue to cover the cost of the service or good that it provides.
    A business (public or private) also cannot survive if it prices its service incorrectly like MARTA does by charging too much for short-distance trips and not enough for longer-distance trips with its flat-rate fare structure that charges $2.50 one-way no matter how short or long the trip.Report

  24. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 14, 2013 5:50 pm

    ScottNAtlanta  {{{“Clayton Co.  which has long past Fulton as the most dysfunctional, had transit when these people moved there.  If they were allowed to join MARTA as 70% of the residents voted they wanted to do, they would have transit there now.”}}}
    …This is a key point.
    The 30% of the residents of Clayton County that may not support MARTA or any kind of transit operating in Clayton County are the residents who currently have the most power in Clayton County politics.
    Those 30% of residents that have the most power in Clayton County politics don’t want public transportation in the county (MARTA or otherwise), because they view public transportation as being a major cause of the county’s decline.
    The thinking of that 30% of politically-dominant residents who do not support public transportation in Clayton County is that eliminating public transportation in the county is a major first step to improving the county’s quality-of-life and reputation.Report

  25. Burroughston Broch September 14, 2013 8:36 pm

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Please identify the 30% politically dominant residents of Clayton County. If you are speaking of the whites who controlled Clayton prior to the black diaspora from the City of Atlanta, they have long since moved to other counties. In Clayton, the inmates are in charge of the asylum.Report

  26. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 14, 2013 9:05 pm

    Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia There are still a few whites that live in Clayton County, not many in relation to how many used to live in the county before the mid 1990’s, but there are still a FEW whites that live in Clayton County as just under 15% of the county’s population is white.
    Those numbers are compared to 1990 when 71% of the county’s population was white, and 1980 when over 90% of the county’s population was white (…only about 39,000 whites live in Clayton County today compared to 1990 when almost 130,000 whites lived in Clayton County and compared to 1980 when nearly 137,000 whites lived in Clayton County).
    You do make a good point that most of the 30% of those politically-dominant residents who do not want public transportation in Clayton County are of the black middle-class.Report

  27. SteveBrown September 15, 2013 8:29 pm

    The Last Democrat in Georgia ScottNAtlanta SteveBrown 
    My point has been the working poor were shown the door to the suburbs and told the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.  Unfortunately, the other side did not include transit (the likes of which billions of $$$ were spent to accommodate them in City of Atlanta).
    You “don’t see many impoverished riders on the line to North Springs or to Doraville.”  City of Atlanta did not send most of their working poor to those areas.  Most importantly, you don’t see enough riders period to justify the expansion of heavy rail or the creation of light rail.Report

  28. SteveBrown September 15, 2013 8:33 pm

    ScottNAtlanta SteveBrown 
    Scott, I can agree to disagree with you.
    None of those developments were dependent upon transit.  In fact, most who use the surrounding developments do not use the transit, a trend found all over the country.
    The model for TOD is incredibly backwards and mostly ineffective.  I ran a piece on TOD in the American Planning Association Linked In section and many planners agreed.Report

  29. Bill30097 September 15, 2013 10:48 pm

    moliere SteveBrown Sorry, pal the suburbs are not responsible for the mess the voters of the city of Atlanta created.Keep your riff raff – we don’t need them.Report

  30. Bill30097 September 15, 2013 11:11 pm

    The Last Democrat in Georgia SteveBrown ” large clusters of high-density multi-family housing -Duluth in Gwinnett County??????????????? I live in Duluth and none such exists.Report

  31. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 15, 2013 11:25 pm

    SteveBrown ScottNAtlanta {{{“None of those developments were dependent upon transit.”}}}
    …This is a key point…that none of those developments were dependent upon transit to be built and could have easily been built without a transit link.
    If anything, instead of transit-oriented developments being dependent upon transit to be built and exist, it’s more likely the other way around…that transit is (and should be) more dependent upon transit-oriented development to exist as the revenues from nearby transit-oriented development (for-profit real estate leases of transit entity-owned properties out to private parties; value capture, tax increment financing, etc) can cover the costs of operating transit lines that revenues from public tax subsidies and fares may not be able to cover alone.
    {{{“In fact, most who use the surrounding developments do not use the transit,”}}}
    …Hence, the large parking garages that are a necessary part of a transit-oriented development like Lindbergh.Report

  32. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 16, 2013 2:47 am

    Bill30097 {{{“” large clusters of high-density multi-family housing -Duluth in Gwinnett County??????????????? I live in Duluth and none such exists.”}}}
    …Then you obviously don’t know the area where you live at (in Duluth) all that well or you are just being outright disingenuous because there is an ABUNDANCE of high-density multi-family housing in the area with a Duluth mailing address (particularly in the 30096 zip code which lies completely within Gwinnett County).
    Apartments, condominiums, townhomes and even extended-stay hotels are high-density, multi-family housing and there is much high-density, multi-family housing (apartments, condominiums and townhomes) found most particularly in the 30096 zip code along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard (between North Berkeley Lake Road and River Green Parkway), along Pleasant Hill Road (at various spots from west of Old Norcross Road to the Chattahoochee River), along Satellite Boulevard south of Steve Reynolds Boulevard, and east of I-85 along Club Drive, Sweetwater, Old Norcross and Boggs roads.
    Also, here is a link to a search results page for an online apartment guide where there are dwellings available for rent at 20 different high-density, multi-family properties (18 apartment complexes and 2 extended-stay motels) with a Duluth mailing address in the 30096 zip code:
    To say that no high-density, multi-family housing exists in Duluth is TOTALLY INCORRECT and COMPLETELY FALSE, especially when there are at-least close to two-dozen different high-density, multi-family developments (apartment complexes) with apartments available for rent and many more high-density, multi-family properties in the area with a Duluth mailing address not even listed on the above link.
    Maybe you should get to know the around where you live in Duluth a little better, because to basically say that there are no apartments or townhomes in Duluth is an astonishing statement, particularly when the Duluth 30096 zip code is home to one of the largest clusters of apartments, condos and townhomes in the entire Metro Atlanta region.Report

  33. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 16, 2013 3:41 am

    Bill30097  Unfortunately it appears as though some suburbs already have a huge mess all of their own to deal with in the form of Latin American drug cartels who have turned Gwinnett County into a major illegal drug distribution hub for the entire Eastern United States.
    From the article: {{{“Rival drug cartels, the same violent groups warring in Mexico for control of routes to lucrative U.S. markets, have established Atlanta as the principal distribution center for the entire eastern U.S., according to the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center.”}}}
    {{{“…(Atlanta U.S. Attorney David) Nahmias calls northeast suburban Gwinnett County, about 30 miles northeast of Atlanta, the “epicenter” of the region’s drug activity.”}}}
    And that doesn’t even include the recent issues that have occurred on the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners with three former county commissioners resigning due to allegations of corruption involving shady land deals (a Gwinnett favorite), with one of those former county commissioners (former DULUTH Mayor Shirley Lasseter) serving time in federal prison for soliciting and accepting bribes from developers, and two others (former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister and former county commissioner Kevin Kenerly) either under investigation or facing charges (Kenerly is facing corruption charges for allegedly accepting $1 million in bribes from a real estate developer).
    With a suburb like Gwinnett County having a well-known reputation as the major East Coast drug distribution hub for Latin American drug cartels, with 3 former county commissioners having resigned their posts because of allegations involving corruption and bribery around shady land deals, and with a suburb like Gwinnett County having a POVERTY RATE (…12.4% of Gwinnett residents have incomes that fall below the poverty line) that has started to rival the poverty rates of more urbanized Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties (which each have poverty rates of 15.9%, 17.4% and 18.4%, respectively), it looks like a suburb like Gwinnett County already has a heck of a lot of “riff raff” of its own without the help of a City of Atlanta.Report

  34. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 16, 2013 6:24 am

    SteveBrown  That other side of the fence in suburban counties that many residents of Atlanta’s housing projects were forced-out to when they were shown the door may not have had as much transit as the place they were coming from inside of the City of Atlanta.
    But one very-key thing that the other side of the fence in those close-in suburban counties did have was an overabundance (and seemingly almost endless supply) of relatively cheap housing in the form of very-affordable apartments, townhomes, and detached single-family homes.
    The seemingly virtually endless supply of affordable housing in closer-in suburban counties like DeKalb, Clayton, North Fulton, South Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett was so abundant that it could easily accommodate virtually all of the residents of Atlanta’s closed housing projects and then some (including lower-income transplants from other states and low-income immigrants from other countries).
    The cost of that relatively cheap housing has continued to remain relatively low because of the overwhelming amount of residential development and overdevelopment that has been built in the aforementioned suburban areas over the last few decades.
    As more new development has been built out further and further away from the urban core for the more affluent to move into, there has been an abundance of lower-demand existing development that has been left behind that dropped in price and made it easier for lower-income residents to move in.
    Sure, lower-income residents are affected most disproportionally by the lack of transit in the suburban areas that many of them were forced into when Atlanta’s housing projects were closed.
    But most lower-income and even impoverished residents in those outlying suburban area own personal vehicles, which is one reason why some of the transit services in those outlying areas may sometimes struggle to maintain a consistent level of ridership, particularly on some of the local bus routes.
    Even though they may not necessarily be able to completely or comfortably afford the cost of owning a vehicle like higher-income and more-affluent residents, lower-income and impoverished residents still own vehicles in very-large numbers.
    Poor people drive in very-large numbers just like their higher-income earning counterparts, hence the reason why it may not necessarily be the wisest thing for transit agencies to target their services mostly at poor and lower-income residents, many of whom will buy a vehicle at the very-first opportunity if they have even the slightest financial means so that they will be able to “escape” having no other option but to take public transportation.Report

  35. Bill30097 September 16, 2013 8:25 am

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Bill30097 True enough. The rot spreads from the core. I saw it moving out from Newark and now from Atlanta. That is why I would not buy in Gwinnett but further out.Report

  36. Bill30097 September 16, 2013 8:27 am

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Bill30097 If you think those are high density areas then you are delusional.Report

  37. moliere September 16, 2013 9:34 am

    Bill30097 The Last Democrat in Georgia 
    I am sorry but people like you are the problem. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE POOR PEOPLE. It is in your Bible. Please read it. Second, there will especially always be poor people in a nation like the United States where the standard of living is so high that “poverty” to us is considered rather well off and comfortable in places very close to us (i.e. Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico) and even places not so close (i.e. Bulgaria, Poland, Kosovo, Russia). 
    So blaming “the voters of the city of Atlanta” for creating poor people is ignorant, in the true dictionary sense of the word. Those poor people would have inevitably existed anyway. The only difference between Atlanta and anywhere else is that they actually try to provide services to poor people and to lift them out of poverty instead of ignoring them. You can criticize their failures and you can especially blame their ideology and approach, but again the only difference between poor people in Atlanta and poor people in your neck of the woods is that the leaders in Atlanta admit that the issue exists and tries to do something about it while your leaders just ignores it. Look at the GOP primary. The mayor of Dalton is running for governor, calling himself a successful pro-business, job creating leader when Dalton has one of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the state. Pennington’s approach to dealing with them is pretending that they do not exist, as are the folks who are supporting him because they are mad at Governor Deal for being too chummy with Kasim Reed. 
    Also, yeah, keep moving further out. That is what the folks in Fulton and DeKalb did when they moved to Cobb and Gwinnett 20, 15 or even 10 years ago. Wherever you go, the poor folks are going to keep following. Now most of them are honestly looking for more employment opportunities for themselves, less crime and better schools for their kids. In other words, the same thing as you are. But because they will inevitably bring negative cultural trends – as well as hangers on who don’t have their same honorable intentions – with them, the problems will result. So what are you – and people like you – going to do? Keep moving? 
    And like it or not, this issue as a major driver of the traffic problem. People are moving further out to get away from the crime, but the jobs aren’t following them because they need to be at least somewhat centrally located in order to get the talent required to do the work. When you could live in Marietta, Smyrna, Duluth or Norcross and work in Alpharetta or Dunwoody … not that big a deal. But living in Kennesaw, Buford, Woodstock etc. and trying to commute … that is a different story. And like it or not, the GOP voters who live in those areas and are trying to get to work and want their kids to be able to attend college -folks in Lawrenceville whose kids attend Kennesaw State but don’t want to live in dorms for example – are going to want answers, and for them moving to Forsyth, Bartow or wherever isn’t going to be a suitable answer.Report

  38. Bill30097 September 16, 2013 9:39 am

    moliere Bill30097 The Last Democrat in Georgia sorry, I live in the real world and not your fantasy world.Report

  39. moliere September 16, 2013 12:35 pm

    OK, and what would have been the result of this foresight? What would that foresight have accomplished? What county was going to step up and provide transportation for the working poor? Was Atlanta supposed to just sit around and wait, and if so how long and to what negative impact on the city? 
    Recall that the high density of working poor severely harmed the city even during the 1980s and 1990s during the Reagan/Clinton economic booms that saw the suburbs grow like wildfire. Because of the crime, terrible schools, and the city’s bad reputation, employees and highly skilled workers either located in Cobb/Gwinnett or avoided Georgia entirely. Imagine if Atlanta still had all those housing projects – and people in them – during the great recession (which disproportionately impacted the city and the entire metro area)? The city would be teetering into Detroit (bankruptcy) and Saint Louis (schools unaccredited and tens of millions in debt) territory by now, with the suburban and state leaders (both GOP strongholds) more interested in pointing fingers (and using them to pick the pickets of the city relocate or take over what few assets remained i.e. Hartsfield, CNN Center and the Braves/Falcons) than lending a helping hand. 
    Thanks to dismantling the projects and moving the poor residents out, stories about violent crime and drugs no longer dominate the local and national headlines, much of the city is now relatively safe (instead of just Buckhead plus the occasional guarded/gated community like in the past), and the city is experiencing small (but real, about 5% or more) population growth, is adding large employers and attracting new industry (like biotechnology, IT and film/TV production) for the first time in decades. So where the city population had dropped from 497,000 in 1970 to well below 400,000 in the early 90s, it is now over 440,000 people and will reach 500,000 by the next census (and sooner than that if the economy actually does turn around). And while OTP mocks the Beltline, the truth is that the project is actually accomplishing its true intent, which was not so much mass transit as it was to make more areas of the city livable for middle to slightly upper class people (the barely 1% to borrow the Occupy rhetoric) by providing such folk (think recent Georgia Tech/Georgia State/Emory grads as well as transplants from other urban areas) a practical housing alternative to the inner suburbs. Not only did getting rid of the housing projects make that possible, but a lot of the major Beltline points are near where the housing projects used to be (which is why civil rights leaders and other progressives hate the Beltline as much as conservative suburbanites do; just for very different reasons). 
    So while you may call it a lack of foresight, the reality is that Atlanta had to demolish its housing projects and displace the former residents in order to deal with its own very severe economic and social problems. While that was truly regrettable, please remember that Atlanta already does a lot to help the working poor. It pays the 1% MARTA sales tax to help the city’s working poor get to work and school, and it also works to provide more affordable housing options than does the rest of the metro area combined, including even relatively liberal governments like Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton. Doing any more than the city is currently undertaking would have resulted in a continuing decline that would have made it impossible for the city to help anyone, working poor included. So Atlanta had to ship those people out in order to remain a viable city for everyone who remained. Those are the tough decisions that leadership requires. 
    I am not sorry to say that it is past time for the rest of the metro area to do more to provide for their own poor. If they don’t want MARTA in their jurisdiction, fine. They need to come up with something else. Right now, all they are doing is pretending that the growing economic an social problems in their areas doesn’t exist, and are even willing to lose high income people to the exurbs – as well as potential businesses elsewhere – in order to keep from admitting that poverty and other social/economic ills are problems in areas other than liberal Democratic majority/minority Atlanta. I don’t blame them because the few who do, such as Cobb Commissioner Tim Lee, who is working like mad to provide mobility options to the growing numbers of the working poor in his county, face voter revolts. Had Lee’s opposition not split the vote in the initial primary, and then had his runoff opponent not been a real piece of work who left Cobb, proceed to trash Cobb by claiming that he would never return, and then indeed return years later but only because the voters in his new county refused to elect him there, his actually trying to deal with problems like these would have resulted in his defeat. But rest assured, his experiences have made it absolutely certain that none of his fellow commissioners will ever follow his lead in making the tough decisions.Report

  40. moliere September 16, 2013 12:46 pm

    Bill30097 moliere The Last Democrat in Georgia 

    You are funny. In your fantasy world, the middle class and small businesses have been driven out of Atlanta. In reality, Atlanta has been adding middle and upper class residents and businesses for going on 20 years. Atlanta’s population decline stopped in the early 90s, and even during this horrible recession has been growing by at least 5% a year. When the recession ends both population and economic growth will really pick up, and Atlanta will have its largest ever population by the next census. So who is living in a fantasy world and having a comprehension problem?
    And you are certainly one to talk, as you yourself blame everything on Atlanta WHILE REFUSING TO LIVE IN GWINNETT. And you contradict yourself. You claim to only be blaming Atlanta’s voters and leaders for driving out businesses and middle class people when you earlier claimed that Atlanta was the source of all the riff-raff. Which is it? My point was that this “riff-raff” was going to inevitably exist no matter the voters or the leadership, and proof of this was your passing up a Gwinnett County led top to bottom by pro-business Republicans. Yet to this you respond “the rot spreads from the core”, meaning that you are still blaming Atlanta (population 443,000 and growing) rather than Gwinnett County (population 842,000 and growing at a much slower rate than is Atlanta thanks to people like you) leadership. So again, who is living in the fantasy world? The Atlanta leaders who are dealing with its poor population (using one means or another) or the Gwinnett leaders who are pretending that they do not exist?Report

  41. Burroughston Broch September 16, 2013 8:55 pm

    You are preaching selective statistics and they are rubbish. Let’s look at the real numbers:
    1970 Census 496,473 residents 2% gain since 1960
    1980 Census 425,022 residents 14.5% drop since 1970
    1990 Census 394,017 residents 7.3% drop since 1980
    2000 Census 416,475 residents 5.7% gain since 1990
    2010 Census 420,003 residents 0.8% gain since 2000

    Net result is a drop of 76,970 residents (15.4%) in the 40 years since 1970. The City was much more populous in the 1960s when Ivan Allen was Mayor.

    As far as your prediction that the City will have its largest ever population in the 2020 Census, let’s not forget that the City was projecting 500,000 residents for the 2010 Census. It didn’t happen, did it? Hizzoner the Mayor huffed and he puffed and he threatened to sue the Census Bureau. Heard anything about that threat lately? No? That’s because it was all political posturing and hot air. 

    If the City wants to really increase its population by 2020, then reclaim all of the thousands of poor folks kicked out of the housing projects into Section 8 housing in the suburban counties. But, that wouldn’t fit the progressive image, would it?Report

  42. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 16, 2013 11:12 pm

    Bill30097 The Last Democrat in Georgia Because apartment complexes and townhomes contain multiple buildings with multiple family living units/dwellings (family living units being 2 or more bedrooms) located immediately next to and often on top of each other (particularly in apartment buildings with 2 or more stories), apartment complexes (which the Duluth 30096 zip code has roughly close to two-dozen of) are by definition high-density multi-family developments.
    With those multi-family apartment and rowhouse townhome complexes generating so much more traffic with their much-higher densities of population (as one multi-family development of apartments and/or townhomes has more families, often each with at-least one vehicle, living in them than a traditional suburban housing development containing one single-family home on one large lot…developments which generate enough of their own large amounts of traffic), transit must be apart of the conversation, not necessarily just to serve the impoverished (most of whom have access to vehicular transportation), but mainly to take congestion pressure off of severely-congested major roads in a metro region with a severely-limited road network.
    Major roads in and through the Duluth area (like Pleasant Hill Road which is often gridlocked during rush hours in many spots between the Chattahoochee River and Club Drive; and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard which is often severely-congested during rush hour near and through the major intersection with Pleasant Hill Road; and I-85 which often bottlenecks severely during morning rush hour south of Pleasant Hill Road where roughly 10 lanes of southbound traffic on I-85 narrow down to 6 southbound lanes).
    With Duluth area roads like Pleasant Hill Road, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and I-85 being parking lots during rush hour, the need for some type of transit is obvious, particularly in an area where the road network seems to have reached build-out status where the roads can no longer be expanded due to the very high amount of existing development and likely political pushback from the public against large-scale road-expansion proposals, not-to-mention the astronomical financial (and political) costs of acquiring new right-of-way to expand roads in heavily-developed areas.Report

  43. Bill30097 September 17, 2013 8:38 am

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Bill30097 Not when the apartments are widely seperated. If you had ever been in Duluth you would know that the Duluth area roads become rush hour parking lots because of all the business employees leaving the area to go elsewhere where they live.Report

  44. The Last Democrat in Georgia September 18, 2013 1:29 am

    Bill30097 The Last Democrat in Georgia Duluth area roads don’t just become parking lots in the afternoons and evenings from all of the employees leaving businesses in the area to commute to homes elsewhere, but Duluth area roads also back-up with very-heavy traffic because of area residents who commute from businesses elsewhere in Metro Atlanta to high-density multi-family homes, high-density/medium-density detached single-family homes and low-density detached single-family homes in the Duluth area.
    It is the combination of employees leaving area businesses and residents arriving home at the same time that makes afternoon rush hour traffic so intense as one must keep in mind that at one time Duluth was one of Atlanta’s most-popular commuter suburbs/bedroom communities, particularly after the opening of the once-very popular Gwinnett Place Mall in 1984.Report


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