4/17: MultiModal Passenger Terminal

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

After years of speculation, the proposed MultiModal Passenger Terminal downtown, slated for the corroded canyon known as the “Gulch,” finally has some life.

Major developers are drawing up a master plan and laying the groundwork for cooperation with the freight rail companies that use existing tracks.

But advocates warn that failure to pass the July 31 referendum on a regional transportation sales tax — even though the terminal is not on the project list — could damage its chances for federal funds.

22 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly D

April 17th, 2012
10:13 am

But advocates warn that failure to pass the July 31 referendum on a regional transportation sales tax — even though the terminal is not on the project list — could damage its chances for federal funds.

Sounds like a deflection because they’re afraid it isn’t going to pass, to me.


April 17th, 2012
11:01 am

Let’s see, didn’t Atlanta have a multimodal passenger hub downtown as recently as 60 years ago? Two railroad stations, interconnected bus and trolley service on Atlanta Transit, and buses directly to the airport.

And this is a solution to our future transportation issues?

Not hardly. I’m 60, and I remember boarding on a train in Union City going to LaGrange. You could take a train to Augusta, Chattanooga, connect in Atlanta and go to Macon.

Sounds exotic and very forward thinking, right?

After generations of hauling Americans from coast to coast, passenger trains disappeared for a reason: they were inefficient, expensive, and did not serve the needs of the public.

Which means, of course that a return to the past with a downtown multimodal hub is a waste of time, taxpayer money, and diverts public attention from real solutions to transportation issues, such as low emission, natural gas powered cars and trucks, stronger work at home policies from employers, and yes, a new road or two.

Sadly, liberals won’t look at those types of alternatives. They want to reduce individual freedom, cram everyone onto a train, and tell each of us precisely when we can move about.

Two inventions helped make this nation great: the automobile and the airplane. Let’s build a better car and take advantage of the progress made in commercial aviation, which is far, far safer and more efficient that any train in the world.

All of which completely negates any need for an antiquated multimodal terminal.


April 17th, 2012
11:28 am

Its high time that Atlanta and Georgia join with other civilized places in Europe, Asia and other cities in the US that we compete with and commit to light and heavy rail as transportation options. Future generations will thank us very much. Rail works very well where it is well established. Our regional economy depends on this and we are currently on our way to losing out to other metropolitan areas, even in the Sun Belt.


April 17th, 2012
11:38 am

Just like the scourge called the beltline, this is useless waste of tax money on a socialist agenda project!!


April 17th, 2012
11:54 am

Hey George, been to Europe lately? Planes there are cheaper – much cheaper – and get you there twice as fast.

We had rail – it worked great for 80 years in this country, but it’s a waste of time and energy now. The infrastructure costs would be unsupportable, and the benefits negligible.

Let’s build better cars and planes…


April 17th, 2012
12:06 pm

Where they are putting this station is right next to the Georgia Dome. You can’t get there using a car or via MARTA. It is not close to the interstate. It is going to be in a lousy section of downtown.
Getting to Philips Arena Georgia Dome CNN Center is a true hassle if you live on the north side. MARTA is totally incompent and poorly run. The traffic lights in the area are not timed or synced.
The Atlanta police are dismal at traffic management & control.

It is only being put there because of the railroad tracks. It is not going to generate many jobs. The Georgia Dome WCC and Philips Arena have done little to spur redevelopment of the area outside of Centennial Olympic Park. Now the Falcons want to move to another stadium 2 blocks away from the dome. How inconvenient is that going to be.

Finally, who owns the land? Use to be owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad. This smells of a big payoff to a politician or their friend(s).

The true multi modal hub is the airport. Build it there and link, air, car, rail, bus, & Marta. And yes, there are railroad tracks there as well. If fact, if possible use the old ford motor plant site.

Commuter rail has its place, but not this place. Street Cars to nowhere. A beltline that helps very few in Fulton County. Not replacing the I-285 / Ga 400 interchange for another 20 years. The funds raised by TSPLOT is just a political slush fund for cronies. The prioritized projects reak with favoritism and not common sense.


VOTE NO on T-SPLOT this summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Charlie Hooper

April 17th, 2012
12:10 pm

We can only take so much of valuable, expensive land off the tax digest for more highway lanes. Los Angeles tried to rely on just more highways before they realized that highways Plus rail transportaion
is essential to avoid completely choking on its own traffic, as is Atlanta. Older cities worldwide have
come to this same conclusion.


April 17th, 2012
12:36 pm

The downtown multi modal hub would have made since 40 years ago when downtown was the center of both commerce and retail. People would come in from all parts of Georgia to shop at Richs, catch a movie at the Loews Grand, Rialto, or foxand the five points area had headquarters for every bank.

Fast forward to now and most people do not feel comfortable downtown even in the day time and the business center has shifted to the north side of 285 and points northward. None of their planning reflects this. Traffic from I-20 to GA 400 is a nightmare every rush hour. Marta should have had either a rail line or dedicated bus lanes along the northern 285 northern arc years ago. Instead the are concentrating on downtown. We on the Southside are strongly opposed to the T-Splost referendum as well as we in South Dekalb will see no benefit. The referendum seems to fund deferred maintenance items in the city and MARTA. We are not going to pay two cents (one cent for MARTA) in transportation taxes and see no improvements although some 285 exit ramps south of I-20 back up almost daily onto the travel lanes of 285.


April 17th, 2012
1:43 pm

Sounds like a lot of short-sighted and narrow-minded views. Have y’all ever been anywhere over in Europe and visited a train station there?

That’s the idea of a multi-modal hub: having a main station that ties together the inter-city/commuter trains with the city transit network (MARTA/light rail/trolleys). Something with that level of people transitioning/moving in and out naturally lends itself to high density development, which is why that area of town, in addition to the pre-existing rail lines, makes complete sense.

If you want to watch Atlanta wither on the vine and continue to be choked off by traffic as companies leave the city for greener pastures, be my guest and vote against T-Splost.

The ballot doesn’t have everyone’s desired transit project; true. But the whole idea with this is to address some basic projects, get the discussion going on a near 20 year delay on ANY progress w MARTA, and line ourselves up for Federal transit dollars. Maybe if Atlanta transit makes progress, it’ll be the last major US city to get ZERO state funding for its public transit network.


April 17th, 2012
2:52 pm

@MT: Awesome commentary, simply awesome!!

@Ray: I don’t know why you would say most people don’t feel comfortable downtown, because that’s where Philips Arena, the Dome, and the Streetcar are. This is 2012, not 1988.

@Charlie: You are so right! I totally agree.

I would strongly suggest to those who are so against mass transit solutions to realize that $3.50+/gallon gas is the NORM from here on out. Transit is cheaper for us ALL in the long run. Imagine not having to even own a car… no insurance, no ad valorem, no gas, no car payments, cleaner environment, more family time. Transit is really the way to go.


April 17th, 2012
2:57 pm

@ED: Multimodal at the airport doesn’t make sense. Five Points/Downtown is CENTRAL to the metro area. Voting no to TIA 2012 is not going to help us dig out of the mess we are in. it is not perfect, but it is placing us on the right path to do something about the traffic that chokes this city — and its business opportunities.

Everything you mentioned can be solved over time. It’s not supposed to be car friendly necessarily, and I don’t think it should be. It’s supposed to move people, not cars, so you have a wide variety of MARTA stations and park-and-ride lots to choose from, you don’t have to drive there.



April 17th, 2012
3:05 pm

yes sir, Smarta, I want the brain trust at Marta to control my every move.

The answer is better automotive technology, not massive federal boondoggles. We can make a clear air, 50-mpg car that runs on natural gas from the good ‘ol USA. It’s time we did it.

Your idea that 5Points/Downtown is central to the metro area is wrong. For example, even 10 years ago, there were double the number of jobs on the I-285 arc between I-75 and and I-85 on the Northside as they were downtown. And since then, the city has shifted even further North.

“Build it, and they will come…” isn’t great logic for spending untold billions of taxpayer dollars borrowed from China.


April 17th, 2012
3:11 pm

Still can’t get over the idea that 100-year-old rail technolgy is the answer to 21st century issues. Let’s throw in some stables as well, and make horses and buggies part of this magic new solution too.

Also, smarta, when you give up your car, what you give up in ’savings’ is more than offset by costs to the government. There is no free lunch. Those costs exist, it’s just a question of how they’re paid for – by the individual using them, or by the gorvernment.

Oh, and one more thing give up your car, and you also give up your freedom. You’re bound by a rigid, fixed transporation system that can literally track your every move.

Not me.Never.


April 17th, 2012
3:20 pm

“After generations of hauling Americans from coast to coast, passenger trains disappeared for a reason: they were inefficient, expensive, and did not serve the needs of the public.”

The fact the big three auto makers colluded to kill public transportation in the 40s & 50s had a lot to do with it.


April 17th, 2012
3:25 pm

@Allen: The “answer” to what is better automotive technology? More efficient cars will not resolve the simple truth that you can more efficiently move more people from point A to point B, with less net capital infrastructure, using transit versus cars. It’s a lot easier to add extra capacity on a transit system (an extra car, tighter arrivals per station) versus adding an additional lane of traffic to an Interstate.

Plus, look at the 75-85 merged stretch; it has reached its physical capacity (and then some) during rush hour; how are we supposed to get more people to/from work?

While more of the city population is North versus South Atlanta, and the true ‘center’ is probably Sandy Springs/Buckhead, the area is already well-developed, with pretty high density, and with prohibitive land costs. And we haven’t talked about political opposition there.

Focusing on the West side, where there is low level density, has a relatively easy access into/out of the rest of the city core, and is just aching for further economic redevelopment… It just makes too much sense. Look at downtown Indianapolis, with the development around Lucas Oil stadium, and how the whole DT area is very walkable and accessible. That’s the model I guarantee you the private developers and the city is looking at


April 17th, 2012
3:41 pm

I agree that the Five Points MARTA station is not the center of transportation in Atlanta. I realize people are much more likely to live in Snellville and work in Dunwoody, so an expensive elaborate central transportation terminal makes little sense at this point.

However, I fail to see what would be so difficult about paving some of the “gulch” area, throwing up a cover to get folks out of the rain/sun and installing a few restrooms. Then all the various buses can drop off folks at the pavilion and they can walk up to the MARTA station and be on their way. If AMTRAK or Greyhound want stations in that area it is up to then to provide the funding.

The problem is that a lot of our leaders want these grand designs when all we need is a place for buses to drop folks off.


April 17th, 2012
3:52 pm

@SAWB: I agree, we don’t need an Atlanta version of Grand Central Station. However, go look at a few of the links in the original piece. My impression is the big expense will be in rerouting tracks to allow the double-stacked freight trains to proceed as well as allowing MARTA to come in and out.

And once you undertake re-routing of tracks to get those two lined up, it makes sense to go ahead and figure out the likely permanent track/ingress/egress needs down the road (imagine tearing out your drywall to fix the plumbing, then having to tear it out again to fix the moldy insulation and the antiquated wiring)


April 17th, 2012
5:09 pm

The car companies did in the railroads? That’s a unique point of view. Americans craved freedom, cars were more reliable than ever, and people bought them. Roads were built to keep pace.

If anything did in the trains, it was the progress created by Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in building jets and ever more efficient planes.

Another example: I-85 and Delta can serve all the daily point to point traffic between Atlanta and Charlotte far more efficiently, with more safety and less environmental distress than any train known to mankind. (There isn’t much point to point traffic, and there never will be; all those people on I-85 are going through Atlanta and through Charlotte to other places and couldn’t care less about a train.)

Look it up. And that’s cheap, low cost technology we have right now, in place, without the billions to build /rebuild a train line.

One more time: low emission natural gas cars, more telecommuting, and more planes, if needed.

You can question the auto idea all you want, but there’s no question that planes beat trains in every way possible.


April 17th, 2012
5:58 pm

@Allen: It doesn’t matter if cars get 100 MPG, they still clog the roads. So what’s your answer to relieve TRAFFIC?

And you can still have a car, but I think car sharing is going to get bigger and bigger in the new world we are building. zipcar anyone?

You want a real solution, that includes more cars on the road? Double-deck all the major highways. Problem solved.

Oh, but wait, the cars have to exit somewhere…and that might lead to a traffic jam…hmmm…

Like it or not, Atlanta — and almost all major cities — will be a version of New York sooner or later. The population numbers practically dictate that they will become that.



April 17th, 2012
7:03 pm

Oh scare the public again “we won’t get anymore funding from the Federal Government” tactic.
This whole “its just a penny” is a scam to funnel money into a few hands.
Do not vote to tax yourself, the governments at all levels have plans to raise our taxes due to massive debt.

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

April 19th, 2012
10:52 am

The gulch is the right area to build this station. This is not just an effort to link all the transportation options under one roof but it is also an opportunity to revitalize that area. This is not just going to be a train station. It will include hotels and condos and bring life back to the area. Yeah, it isn’t going to be easy to drive right up to it but that’s the point. You want to make it walkable and make using MARTA an option, just like going to the airport. You have Phillips, the Dome, and GWCC all right there and with a redeveloped gulch you are now connecting it with the rest of downtown and will spawn new development and jobs. Like it or not downtown is still the largest concentration of jobs. Most cities are putting efforts into making their downtowns what they use to be. How can Atlanta do that by putting a major terminal all the way out in Sandy Springs somewhere? That is just adding to sprawl and traffic because using MARTA now becomes less of an option. On top of that you promote people to have to drive everywhere. No one wants to come and stay in a hotel 20 miles away from everything and then have to find a way to enjoy the things downtown has to offer. People want to be downtown and walk to places to eat and bars and tourist attraction. That life and activity will not only be good for tourism and folks that live downtown, it will make it a destination everyone wants to go to. How many people go to a big city and want to be 30 miles away from the core of the city?

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

April 19th, 2012
10:57 am

And if the t splost is not passed how does anyone think anything is going to get accomplished? Why would the federal government give Atlanta money when the locals don’t even support it? And if folk have been keeping up, MARTA has filed for a request for 3 billion in projects that include the rail extention from Indian Creek to Stonecrest and express BRT service from Wesley Chapel to downtown. I bet south Dekalb won’t get nothing if the tax doesn’t pass. Then you’ll be in the same boat that your in now with nothing being done to change it. Voting down the t splost is voting down Atlanta’s transportaion future.