5/15: Transportation seeks a path

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Author Taras Grescoe writes about the great public transit systems of the world in his new book “Straphanger,” a bullet-train of a read that looks at how the timely integration of subways, buses and rail has put cities on the path to success.

Also, a former Fayette County official adopts the great railroad song “The City of New Orleans” for an anti-T-SPLOST argument: Forget about your father’s magic carpets made of steel; trains don’t pay for themselves and won’t untie Atlanta’s traffic knots, he says.

23 comments Add your comment


May 15th, 2012
7:52 am

Roads will never be the way forward. Georgians have spent untold billions of dollars, augmented by federal billions, and we are right back where we started. Stuck.

As soon as a new road is announced, developers swarm to buy land in the area that the new road will serve, guaranteeing that it will be snarled as soon as it opens. Land speculators and, yes, former governors corrupt where the roads will go. Graft riddles the process from beginning to end.

Cars are expensive, inefficient, pollutant and keep us dependent on foreign oil. The value they offer in privacy and convenience is offset by these negatives, and the scales far farther out of balance with every traffic jam, price increase and/or inversion.

Every city that has an effective transit system would be paralyzed without it. Atlanta’s system is so utterly inadequate and so poorly laid out that it almost doesn’t count as transit at all. Public transit has to be able to get people where they want to go, and Atlanta’s doesn’t come close.

The TSPLOST project list reflects the stubborn politics of roads where it was supposed to fund new thinking about transportation in the region. Only about 40% of the money will go to transit, and that which is funded fails the first transit test – getting people where they want to go. The Beltline is an old-style political payoff to Mayor Reed’s developer cronies who have bought up land along the right of way for this tourist carousel. If only politicians could feel shame, he ought to be contorted with it.

If this region is so backward in transit thinking that the only thing that was supported by the TSPLOST was to be expanded commuter bus lines, I would still think it worth supporting. The pitiful, meretricious transit list makes passing this initiative less than useless – it simply gives politicians and developers another huge slush fund of tax money to manipulate for their own profit.

As a huge transit supporter, I”m voting no.


May 15th, 2012
1:36 am

It has worked? What the hell are you smoking?? MARTA is a complete expensive failure! If you want to solve or at least make a large reduction in the Atlanta traffic situation, build the outer loop proposed in the 80’s with very limited interchanges in order to move traffic around not into the city! Build other direct routes to take traffic not destined for downtown away from the city, similar to the direct North/South bypass proposed by Paulding! Then remove all hov, hot lanes in order to improve traffic flow immediately!

[...] post by Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) and sponsored by Moving [...]

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

May 15th, 2012
12:52 am

There seems to be a misconception, even amongst so-called conservatives in government, that transit needs heavy public subsidies, subsidies that can only be raised through tax increases, primarily sales tax increases, to be built, maintained and operated.

But it is wholly untrue that transit needs heavy tax subsidies to operate, especially if a transit line is well-placed where it will attract the most riders who will continue to make the line both viable sustainable over the long-term.

Transit is very much capable of paying for itself and even making a profit, many times over, if properly and competently administered.

Rather than exploring often contentious, unpopular and politically unviable tax increases to just minimally expand our already inadequate transit options, we should be funding transit upgrades and expansions much more efficiently and practically through the use of fees (parking fees, fees on traffic fines, sin taxes, adequately-priced fares that actually cover most or all of the cost of providing the service) and public-private partnerships with private investors who cover much of the cost of constructing, operating and maintaining the service.

Along with fees and public-private partnerships, transit upgrades can also be paid for with the use of a method called “Tax Increment Financing” where the property tax revenues from all of the future development built along a transit line line after it is built or upgraded helps to pay the cost of constructing, operating and maintaining it.

There are no excuses. Georgia could have long ago paid for the transit upgrades that is needed for its major metropolitan area to continue to function as a viable economic entity without raising taxes.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

May 14th, 2012
11:59 pm

Though, I somewhat disagree that the T-SPLOST is the most effective way to raise the funds necessary to deal with our transportation issues.

If the state wanted to raise more money for road expansion they could have made this effort a referendum to raise the state’s inadequate gas tax.

If the powers-that-be wanted to raise money for transit upgrades and expansion they could have paid for it with a combination of user fees and privatization, like the kind that the state was originally going to use to build and operate the I-75/575 Northwest Corridor HOT lanes.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

May 14th, 2012
11:44 pm


May 14th, 2012
11:08 pm

I agree with your assertion that we need to invest in a good mix of roads and transit to help deal with our struggles with transportation and mobility.

For instance, MARTA-style heavy rail and local bus service isn’t necessarily the best option for outlying counties with a lower-density of development as is the case with virtually every Metro Atlanta county outside of the urban core of Fulton and DeKalb counties.

In those outlying areas the best transit options will be implementing regional commuter rail service on existing freight lines that parallel the severely-congested freeway spokes that radiate out from the more densely-developed urban core into those outlying lower-density suburbs and exurbs.

Continued targeted expansions of express commuter bus service on major routes into and out of the city to and from the suburbs and exurbs where commuter rail service is not possible along with targeted road improvements is the best transportation improvement option for outlying suburban and exurban counties.

In densely-populated Fulton and DeKalb counties, road expansion is impractical and downright impossible for the most part because of the density of existing development and the lack of additional right-of-way available in which to expand the roads. In these two counties of the urban core, transit access is not only of great importance but is a necessity because of the increased density of development and people and the difficulty and impossibility of road expansion in most, but not all, cases.


May 14th, 2012
11:08 pm

As usual, it will take a good mix of both roads and transit to deal with the population and issues we have with transportation. Therefore it is important that we take the first good step in improving both options in July. People need options depending on where they are going and how they want to get there.


May 14th, 2012
9:34 pm

Sad to think that up till the creation of the Interstates, we had as viable rail system the took us all over the country, and streetcars that crisscrossed Atlanta. Amazing that our great-grandparents/grandparents were ahead of their time.


May 14th, 2012
6:56 pm

While trains may take us from point A to B they won’t take us from A to G or G to 5. Like it or not the Atlanta Metropolitan region is the poster child for sprawl. At the end of the day we need solutions that address the way things are not the way some folks wish they were. Some limited transit projects like maybe the train to Emory might make sense, but the biggest impact will come from roadway improvements.

Andy Callaway

May 14th, 2012
6:07 pm

well that former fayette county official is down right stupid. it will untie our traffic knots but getting people off the road and from point A to point B without a car. It’s worked where it is now. let expand it and really untie our traffic knots, not continue to build sprawl inducing roads. Transit is the path to success if we want to be a revolutionary 21st century city