By Guest Columnist JIM DURRETT, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District and chairman of the MARTA board
This isn’t a bike story, but I have to say that one of the great things about riding my bicycle to work is that I have so many opportunities to say “good morning” along the way. It charges my batteries. I’m just sayin’…
Now to the topic at hand – metro Atlanta’s transportation infrastructure. My good friend, Brian Leary, who developed and ran with a great idea to turn Atlantic Steel into Atlantic Station and who, today, runs Atlanta’s BeltLine efforts, used to crack me up with a single PowerPoint slide.
The slide was filled with nothing but letters that meant everything to people like me who are immersed in the transportation and land planning world, but looked like gobbledygook to the uninitiated masses.
I live and work in a world of acronyms and abbreviations. I run the BCID. Yesterday I attended ARC’s TAQC and RTC meetings as MARTA’s chairman. With me were folks who were members of GRTA, ACCG, GMA, GDOT and others. We want to have an RTP and a TIP that will best serve our MSA, and 2010’s HB277, which became the TIA, gives the RTR the opportunity to begin to implement Concept 3. The results of IT3 should guide us.
E-I-E-I-Oh Boy!?! Please, K-I-S-S (keep it simple, stupid)!
So what does all of that mean in everyday terms?
The Atlanta region is where it is and what it is because of transportation. First, the railroads. Then, the airport. The confluence of the Interstates and major investments in transit in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Transportation is the glue that holds everything together, the pipeline that moves goods and people. It is the lifeblood of our economy.
The Atlanta region we live and work in today had its most explosive growth during the age of the automobile and road-building, so how we grew was inevitably based on the automobile as THE means for getting around. The result is predominantly drivable sub-urbanism and congestion on our roads.
As we have come to better understand the relationship between development patterns and transportation investments, the changes to our region’s demographic mix, transportation’s impact on air quality and the ever-increasing cost of oil, a new appreciation for transportation investment and a balanced approach to transportation has emerged.
What I mean by a balanced approach is an investment in infrastructure that serves many different ways of getting around: cars, buses, trains, on foot and bikes.
Transportation wonks call this “multi-modal transportation.” The right mix depends on where you are –the local context. But whatever that mix is, enhancing our connections and providing more choices is of paramount importance.
To me, the most important investment we can make is in transit. I know I have a bias as chair of the MARTA board. But I also use the system extensively. And what I have come to understand is that SOME of us use transit, but ALL of us need it. Transit keeps tens of thousands of cars off of our region’s roads every day so that people who are driving benefit. Transit gets workers to jobs. Transit moves millions of people a year at a fraction of the air quality impact of the automobiles they would otherwise be taking.
And transit provides us with opportunities to smile and say “good morning,” building the social capital that makes Atlanta truly special. Do me a favor, please. Take the survey at the atlantaregionalroundtable.com and express your feelings about where we should be headed with our transportation investments.
And have a great week!