Clayton transit fix

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Our recent page devoted to the public transportation mess in Clayton County prompted some thoughtful replies. Today, a former state highway executive says Clayton needs to establish a privately operated bus system, while a local lawyer discusses how longer commutes — those typically endured by low-income residents — can make job applicants less appealing to potential employers because they impact workplace turnover.

Commenting is open.

Clayton County can turn things around

By Bob Dallas

I applaud former state Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam and County Commission Chairman Jeffrey E. Turner for their leadership in seeking to re-create the Clayton County transit system. They correctly observe how destructive it was to citizens and employers when in 2010 transit services were eliminated due to budgetary constraints. This impact not only affects Clayton County but all of metro Atlanta, as needed workers are unable to get to where the jobs are. The impact on jobs, education and health will continue until reasonable transit options are available.

While transportation leaders are working to address regional transit options for the future, the Clayton’s County needs are for today, not just tomorrow. Unfortunately, absent an infusion of substantial federal or state subsidies or additional taxes, such as DeKalb and Fulton counties’ MARTA penny sales tax, sufficient traditional transit funds are not available to re-create a system that addresses the needs of citizens and employers.

But with challenges come opportunity. My recommendation is the Clayton County Commission engage professional transit planners to develop a request for quotes for a privately operated transit system. As Chairman Turner aptly noted, transit in Clayton should initially meet basic needs, not wants, of citizens and employers. I add that it should take into account rider costs to keep it affordable, and take advantage of available grant programs to provide subsidizes where appropriate.

With county commission oversight, the new transit system should be privately operated to ensure effectiveness and efficiency so that it may be sustainable. In other parts of metro Atlanta, we already see private bus operators picking up passengers in selected employment corridors, so we know it’s possible. Clayton’s transit would be similar, but pursuant to a broader countywide and properly coordinated transit plan.

In essence, the new system would follow the private-public partnership model Gov. Deal has championed to provide interstate highway congestion relief. Under that model, new toll lanes are added to increase capacity and reliability. Over 50 percent of new interstate lanes’ construction and maintenance are paid for with public funds; the balance is paid by the private sector and users of the tolled roads.

Instead of the private sector investing in road construction, in Clayton, capital would be used to purchase buses and related infrastructure. Instead of vehicle tolls, passenger fares would cover operational costs. While subsidies would still be required, subsidies are also required to pay for the tolled roads. The advantage of the public-private partnership model is the subsidies are significantly smaller.

As metro Atlanta moves forward developing regional transit, Clayton’s new system will serve as a role model and partner. Clayton’s leaders have the opportunity to create a transit system that works for today with tomorrow in mind. So let’s all get on board with the county’s leaders and support their efforts.

Bob Dallas, former director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, is chairman of the Dunwoody Planning Commission.

Lack of transit leads to unemployment

By Roland Behm

Some 60 percent of American workers earn hourly wages. Of these, about half change jobs each year. The cost to U.S. businesses of worker attrition and lost productivity is $350 billion annually, according to Evolv, a workforce science company.

What do many employers do to address the employee turnover issue? They retain workforce science companies to administer personality tests and analyze applicant data.

Kenexa, an IBM company, in 2011 tested more than 30 million applicants for thousands of clients. Kenexa believes that a lengthy commute raises the risk of attrition in call-center and fast-food jobs. It asks applicants for those jobs to describe their commute by picking options ranging from “less than 10 minutes” to “more than 45 minutes.”

The longer the commute, the lower their recommendation score for these jobs. Applicants also can be asked how many times they have moved; people who move more frequently have a higher likelihood of leaving.

Low-income families tend to move much more frequently than their higher-income neighbors and the general population. A 2011 study showed that a wide range of complex forces appeared to drive residential instability in general: the formation and dissolution of households, an inability to afford one’s housing costs, loss of employment, lack of a safety net, and lack of quality housing or a safer neighborhood.

Painting with the broad brush of distance from work, commute time and moving frequency may result in well-qualified applicants being excluded. (The Kenexa insights are generalized correlations; they say nothing about any particular applicant.)

Are there any groups of people who have longer commutes and move more frequently than others? Yes: lower-income persons who, according to the U.S. Census, are disproportionately black, Hispanic and the mentally ill.

Through the application of these “insights,” many low-income persons are electronically redlined, meaning employers will pass over qualified applicants because they live (or don’t live) in certain areas, or because they have moved. The reasons for moving do not matter — whether it is to find a better school for their children, to escape domestic violence, or as a consequence of job loss due to a company shutdown.

When Clayton County killed its bus system in 2010, it had nearly 9,000 daily riders. Many of those riders used the service to commute to their jobs. The transit shutdown increased commuting times, as persons had to find alternate ways to get to work, and increased housing mobility, as persons relocated in order to be closer to their jobs to mitigate the commuting time. Through no fault of their own, they were made less employable by the many companies who use workforce science companies.

Achieving the American dream is hard enough without being furthered burdened by the “dictatorship of the data” — letting data govern us in ways that may do as much harm as good.

Roland Behm is a lawyer who lives in Sandy Springs.

20 comments Add your comment

[...] Two views on Clayton’s transit mess, or places to walk to (AJC) [...]

Tim Houghtaling

August 27th, 2013
8:33 pm

The Bob Dallas version of Public Private “Partnership” for adding traffic lanes is a bit abbreviated. Those efforts include institution of tolling in which the private companies are guaranteed cost plus profit with authorization to increase rates regularly. A brief review of tolling history provides many instances of both politicians (Governor, Mayors, State Reps) going to jail for paw in cookie pot and citizen uprising at rates and continuation of tolling after the cost of construction was paid off.
There are models of P3 out there that ‘work’ but it isn’t all so simple … and the cost of education is steep.

Jack ®

August 27th, 2013
3:31 pm

If we are going to build new stadiums, trolley cars and what-all, we may as well run MARTA to Clayton.

Wishing For MIlton County

August 27th, 2013
3:26 pm

Clayton County – Wasn’t your transit system shutdown becaue of constantly running in the RED.

Wishing for MARTA is like wishing for a cold. Yes the buses run. Yes people are fleeing its service in record numbers. NO WE CAN”T GET RID OF IT!!!

Everyone wan’t subsidized transit. Noone wants to pay the real cost to ride a public bus or train. WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT SOMEONE ELSE TO PAY.

The problem with public transit is the persons running it could care less about the “public” much less the “TAXPAYER”.

Clayton County is a basket case politically and now economically. Why did this happen? Becasue the people elected care only about lining the pockets, not the community. One party rule. No real opposition. No public discourse of ideas! Many wanting a hand out, not a hand up!

Look around Clayton County – Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely!!!


August 27th, 2013
3:16 pm

Only a privately run system that creates itself from the ground up through the free market, open and free competition, and without the intrusion and meddling of government will ever have a chance at being sustainable in the county. Sadly there are too many vested interests looking to profit from the corruption that runs rampant in the county for real competitors who value the customer to ever be allowed a chance. Relying on the county government (one that has shown itself to be among the most morally bankrupt in the nation) is a recipe for disaster. Next to garbage collection, transit is the most corrupt “business” that government has its hands on and in both, the people suffer the ill effects.

Declare Clayton County a government-free transit zone and watch the entrepreneurs flock. Set a moratorium of 20 years on any government involvement and stand back because Clayton County will become a model for every county in America.

When your corrupt school board and your criminal sheriff make the national news on a regular basis it should be very clear that the problems in your county can be traced directly back to your government. Get them out of the way and let the private sector do what it does best – please the customer.


August 27th, 2013
3:02 pm

Let us all Hope and Pray that the next Clayton transit system does not load and drop off thousands of riders who are not flying in or out of Atlanta and unnecessarily dropped off and picked up at Hartsfield-Jackson Atalanta Airport.


August 27th, 2013
12:52 pm

Ummm, excuse me people. Those of us who live in Clayton County on November 2, 2010 voted on a non-binding agreement to JOIN MARTA.. Ergo, even though we don’t pay the 1% tax that Fulton and DeKalb residents do, we do pay that tax when we shop in those counties (because there are NO real stores, with the decline of the malls, to shop at).

Where is the MARTA line to Hapeville, Forest Park, and further south (Jonesboro) that was proposed waaaaay back in….1970? When MARTA speaks of expansion, their focus is mostly for residents NORTH of I-20…while those of us on the southside are given little, if any consideration.

I would propose an expansion of MARTA, first with rail lines on GA-85, ending at Point South Parkway, and on U.S. 41, ending in Lovejoy, with feeder routes on the major streets running east to west between the two. Some of us would LOVE to be able to take public transit to an event in Atlanta Metro and avoid heavy traffic. But the so-called leadership in this county could care less about the actual needs of the tax payers; they have already proven they don’t have the qualifications to run a transit system, much less lead a Boy Scout Troop.

Make MARTA live up to its promise for a METRO transit system to INCLUDE the southside metro areas SOUTH of the Airport, and have them STOP IGNORING our needs. In the meantime, those of us here in Clayton County for growth and positive change, will attempt to educate the voters and elect some qualified and intelligent leadership.

Dumb and Dumber

August 27th, 2013
12:10 pm

Mr. Dallas writes: “While transportation leaders are working to address regional transit options for the future…”

What? Don’t swing that nose at me Pinochio — you’ll put someone’s eye out. The ARC may give a little lip service to the problem, but discussions by the people in power and can control funding: the Governor, legislature, GDOT and GRTA are not happening. There will be no “regional transit options” coming from the Georgia Executive or Legislative branches, or GDOT or GRTA for the next 25 years.

What we have now is the high-water mark for transit in the suburbs. Poor as it may be. If you want to ride transit, move to Fulton or DeKalb where MARTA, such as it is, provides service.

What, you don’t want to move there? Then enjoy your car.

What, don’t have a car? You are not a REAL American so who cares about you anyway?

For those of you who don’t understand satire, look it up.


August 27th, 2013
11:26 am

Clayton County is beset with many problems. The recent acquital of the sheriff in the face of a mountain of evidence pointing to his guilt higlighted their inabilty to manage themselves, let alone a transit system. Some outside entity, private or government, will have to do it for them.


August 27th, 2013
10:42 am

“A 2011 study showed that a wide range of complex forces appeared to drive residential instability in general: the formation and dissolution of households, an inability to afford one’s housing costs, loss of employment, lack of a safety net, and lack of quality housing or a safer neighborhood.”

And of course, no mention at all of the biggest reason for this instability – the lack of desire that so many folks have to 1) show up on time, 2) stay and WORK a full day, 3) Be polite, even when the client is being a jerk, etc. The rest of this is smoke screen and rounding error. The real reason for the instability is getting fired, due to lack of performance and value.

But personal responsibility is so old school – and we can’t hurt anyone’s feelings by pointing out that they alone have the ability to once and for all fix their situation – not Obama, not the evil rich…just they themselves.