Archive for September, 2009

What do you think of MARTA’s fare increase?

Financially-strapped MARTA is raising fares 25 cents to $2.00 starting Thursday. The monthly pass will increase to $60, from $52.50.

Also, parking fees will rise $1 in lots that charge fees. And MARTA is replacing its age requirement for kids to ride free with a maximum height. Starting Thursday, children under 46 inches tall can ride free.

AJC reporter Ariel Hart writes about more of the details.

Will these changes make a difference in your travel plans?

If you ride MARTA, what has been your experience? Has service improved or gotten worse over the past year?

Finally, only Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb counties help finance MARTA through a 1-cent sales tax. Should other counties contribute?

What about the state? MARTA is the only major transit system in the country that does not receive consistent state funding for its operations. Should legislators change that?

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Economy healing very slowly

Once again, the economic numbers are mildly better than expected. But joblessness continues to represent the major problem going forward.

The recession faded in the spring with U.S. economic activity shrinking at a pace of just 0.7 percent, Associated Press reported today on new government figures. That’s a better-than-expected showing that buttressed beliefs the economy is growing now.

The small dip in gross domestic product for the April-June quarter follows the 6.4 percent annualized drop in the first three months of this year, the worst slide in nearly three decades, AP writes.

The final revision of second-quarter GDP comes on the last day of the third quarter, when many analysts predict the economy started growing again at a pace of about 3 percent.

A main reason for the second-quarter upgrade — businesses didn’t cut back spending on equipment and software nearly as deeply as the government had thought. Consumers also didn’t trim their spending as much.

Still, …

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Power Breakfast: Slight uptick in home prices, hotels, sales-tax holiday, transit

You have to take a little good news anywhere you can find it.

Metro Atlanta home prices continued a mild rebound in July, according to a widely watched national index. But they still remain well below year-ago levels, AJC reporter Michelle Shaw writes.

Prices in the region rose 2 percent from June to July, the second straight month of improvement in the S&P Case-Shiller Index.

Year-over-year average prices were still down 12 percent in July, Shaw reports.

Nationally the 20-city index was up 1 percent from June, with Atlanta and 17 other cities posting gains. Only Las Vegas and Seattle fell.

But the national index was still down 13.3 percent from July 2008.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

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Coke, CCE launching offensive against soda tax

Concerned about the possible imposition of a soda tax to help finance health-care reform, Coca-Cola and its biggest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, are teaming up on a PR offensive.

The two Atlanta-based companies will be launching a print and digital campaign in seven key U.S. markets — Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Miami, CCE Chairman John Brock said in an interview.

“You’re going to see a lot more from us in days to come,” Brock said.

He railed against the notion of a penny-an-ounce tax that has been suggested on sugary sodas as “discriminatory.”

The tax would add significantly to the cost of buying Coke’s sugary soft drinks, which could in turn depress sales. For example, the cost of a 12-pack, Brock said, would rise $1.44 on about a $3 base.

“That’s mind-boggling,” he said.

Coke and CCE will be focusing their message on consumer choice. Brock pointed out that many of their products contain no sugar.

Since Congress will …

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High-tech self-service key to NCR

This column is not “A Bronx Tale.” But it is about two Bronx natives talking about what “digital natives” means for the future of metro Atlanta’s new Fortune 500 company.


Bill Nuti

NCR CEO Bill Nuti, who grew up in a north Bronx housing project not far from my boyhood home, uses terms like “digital immigrants and natives” to refer to the older and younger consumers who will determine the success or failure of his strategy.

I’ve never heard consumer adaptability to technology expressed that way, but I can certainly relate to the “immigrant” characterization. My son is light years more adept with technology than I am. It’s almost as if young people are born with high-tech gadgets as appendages.

But for Nuti (pronounced noo-tee) to succeed in trying to remake NCR into a growth company, he needs both generations – baby boomer and Y. He might as well add X and “The Greatest Generation,” too.

Getting more consumers to use NCR self-service technology in more business arenas is how …

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Power Breakfast: Poverty up, expensive condos down, FEMA, Grady, Delta, Hartsfield

Two stories today show how the Great Recession has affected both sides of the income scale.

Nearly 26,000 metro Atlanta families — with two parents and at least one kid — dropped below the poverty line in 2008, up a chilling 19 percent from the year before, AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes.

And the number of families receiving food stamps and other bare-bones public assistance rose 21 percent in the 20-county metro area, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today.

Meanwhile, developers are cutting condo prices at the high end of the market — those going for $1 million or more, ACJ reporter Michelle Shaw writes.

They are for sale at a time when the economy and battered local housing market have forced potential buyers to pull back from such high-end move-ups, leaving many units empty.

Also in the AJC:

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Power Breakfast: Flood-repair money, teachers, pensions, banking, Social Security

Despite huge fiscal challenges for Georgia, a powerful state legislator pledged to find the money to repair flood-damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

The chairman of the House’s budget-writing committee said Sunday helping Georgians rebuild is a priority, AJC reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin writes.

“I hope we’ll work together and find the match we need and take care of those folks in Atlanta,” said Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Evans), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We can’t expect Georgia to grow if we don’t help.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said nine Georgia counties are now eligible for federal assistance for public recovery projects. But Washington provides only 75 percent of the total cost. The rest must come from the state, or, in some cases, local governments, Sheinin writes.

The counties now eligible for money for infrastructure are Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cobb, Douglas, Gwinnett, Paulding, Stephens and Walker.

Meanwhile, …

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Power Breakfast: VP Biden to see damage, Atlanta unemployment dips, G-20

Vice President Joe Biden will tour storm-ravaged parts of north Georgia today as residents in five flooded counties begin to seek federal help for cleanup and recovery.

Biden, joined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will brief state and local leaders on federal assistance, AJC reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin writes.

His visit comes a day after President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in Carroll, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties.

Other flood stories:

Also in the AJC:

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BBB: Watch out for flood-damaged used cars

The Better Business Bureau serving metro Atlanta is warning used-car buyers to watch out for unscrupulous businesses and individuals who may try to sell flood-damaged cars without revealing the vehicles’ history.

BBB advises consumers to take the following steps:

– Ask to see the title. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped “salvage.” If you are still suspicious, purchase a vehicle history report, which should tell you if a car has ever been tagged as “salvage” or “flood damaged” in any state.

– Carefully check the dashboard. Examine all gauges to make sure they are accurate, and there are no signs of water. Look for indications that the dashboard may have been removed.

– Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become …

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Power Breakfast: Atlanta floods, AIDS experiment, Holyfield

The insured damage from the metro floods is going to be far greater than the insurance companies are liable for.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has estimated about $250 million in damage, with about 80 percent not covered by insurance.

More than 14,000 homeowner claims have been filed so far.

“The insured damage is going to be significantly less than the total damage,” David Colmans, executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service, told AJC reporters Michael Kanell and Ty Tagami.

Other flood stories:

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

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