What is next stop for metro Atlanta’s transportation?

Now what? With legislation finally passed on a proposed funding plan for regional transportation, what’s going to happen between now and the critical vote in 2012?

Chick Krautler

Chick Krautler

When will you and other members of the public be asked for input into the estimated $7 billion project list that will be created for the referendum on the 1 percent sales tax?

To get some answers, I talked with two people who have a combined 55 years of experience in transportation planning – Chick Krautler, director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, and Tom Weyandt, the ARC’s director of comprehensive planning.

The ARC will be facilitating the decision-making process – and the stakes could not be higher. I have not talked with a business or political leader who could even fathom the notion that voters would reject the regional sales tax.

“With the public, we only get one shot at this deal,” Krautler said, adding that the process has to be done right. “A bad taste [in voters’ mouths] is not an option.”

That’s partly because “the next 2 million [people] the region will have are not like the last 2 million,” Weyandt said. One in five will be over 60 years of age, compared with one in 10 now. The aging population has huge implications for congestion, economic development and our overall quality of life.

So practically speaking, what are the key events leading up to the Aug. 21, 2012 vote, Messrs. Krautler and Weyandt?

Tom Weyandt

Tom Weyandt

There are two preliminary events: The governor needs to sign the legislation and then the state’s director of planning will need to develop criteria that will be used to make decisions on what types of projects can make the regional list.

Then what happens?

A “roundtable” composed of elected leaders in the 10-county region can approve or change the criteria for the projects. But before that happens, probably by October, you and other voters will be engaged in the process, Krautler and Weyandt said. Engagement will include public meetings and opportunities to comment on a Web site, they said.

Then after the criteria is adopted, the hard work really begins – defining the transportation projects worthy of making the cut. Krautler and Weyandt said there might be two, three or four competing project lists that would be narrowed down over time – partly through more public meetings and Web opportunities. This process is likely to extend for about a year, beginning in the fall.

They caution that the key to the process will be a spirit of cooperation. Every county may not get a project financed. We’re not going to see an extension of MARTA’s subway line. But there will be enough money to consider projects, such as light rail from Cobb to DeKalb, more express buses and HOV lanes, and unclogging bottlenecks at key interstates and arterial roads.

Hopefully, they said, this will be just the “first phase” of future project lists and installments of money. An estimated $ 7 billion over 10 years is nowhere near the $100 billion in projects the metro area needs, they said.

But it’s a good start – and a lot rides on how smoothly this process goes.

“This is an airplane that is being created in flight,” Weyandt said.

We all hope it lands safely.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

22 comments Add your comment


June 1st, 2010
8:21 am

Zero funding should be allocated for roads until the Marta trains are extended into all 15 surrounding metro counties. As someone who lived in New York the lack of light rail into the suburbs is absurd. More roads, HOV and HOT lanes are not the answer for the region. Neither are the disconnected county transportation systems like the paltry Gwinnnet County busses.

Opposition to the trains is completely absurd. There is no better way to relieve congestion on the roads than to simply remove the cars off the road.


June 1st, 2010
8:26 am

Marta has not done it right and either has Gwinnett or the counties around Atlanta. The buses are empty because its not convienent for riders. There are no rest rooms anywhere that are clean and it takes forever to get from one stop to another.

Light rail is a good idea but you have to plan it to be productive. If you have to go into a train station and then take 6 different buses to hit your destination then you mine as well drive it yourself. I drive into Norcross every day. I would take the bus BUT after driving 1 hour to get near a bus park and ride, I can just drive the extra 5 minutes into work.

There ya have it.

Road Scholar

June 1st, 2010
9:07 am

1. Require and fund the interconnection of all the traffic signal systems in the region, esp for arterials and major connectors. Make the respective County responsible, with fines, for not studying, updating, and maintaining the system with regularly scheduled retiming. Have interactive monitors in/above the pavement that provide continuous data back to the contrllers so that the system can adjust itself. Get rid of pretimed signals, esp those that change servicing no traffic.

2. Require all counties and municipalities to define and approve a local transpotation plan, and hold to it. They must also provide funding with reasonable goals and projects.

3. Extend MARTA rail/light rail to the activity centers, not just up the existing Interstates/SR 400 corridors. Build it where people want to go, where they go now and where, based on the regional, county, and municipal land use plans, where the areas can handle growth and the public will allow growth.

4. Address updating the design of interchanges and intersections based on today’/tommorrow’s traffic. This has drastically changed since they were originally built. Add adequate turn lanes and lengths.

5. When widening roads , require medians, access controls, interparcel access, etc.

The above will exhaust any funds available.


June 1st, 2010
9:38 am

Walter, your sense is correct, but there’s a different dynamic here. While more than 110 years ago (in the 1890s) the 5 boroughs had the good sense to join hands to become NYC and begin comprehensive transportation planning for the entire region, there’s was comparable wisdom here when conditions finally gravitated in a direction that should have suggested a similar course. The widespread use of the personal motor car, cheap petrol, and a federal emphasis on highways and suburbanization was not yet all the rage during NYC’s formative transportation planning years.

Down here our major transition from farms to city lagged NYC by more than 70 years, not to mention that we’ve never had the immigration influx that was such a driver in making the boroughs the melting pots they became. Septic tanks, the widespread use of low down payment and ‘affordable’ monthly terms to purchase motor cars, cheap petrol, in-window air conditioning units, and federal support of highway development and encouragement of suburbanization did far more to push us toward the sprawling go-it-alone suburbanization that still has us very resistant to the regionalism that has characterized the boroughs for more than a century.

What’s that saying about teaching an old dog new tricks?


June 1st, 2010
9:38 am

I agree with the mass transit sentiment, the need for bus-HOV, and toll roads. Missing is the solution to one of the biggest problems: we must double deck Northside 285, I-85, I-75, and 400 outside the perimeter. Tolls will also be necessary to help pay for this. Transit is needed, but so are more roads where they are most needed.

The suggestion for coordinated light timing technology is also key. Sandy Springs has this, and it is phenomenal to see.


June 1st, 2010
9:39 am

Sorry, should have said there was NOT comparable wisdom here.


June 1st, 2010
9:43 am

If MARTA is operated correctly, expansion of the rail lines will pay for itself with increased ridership throughout the system. However, when MARTA execs tell us they want to discontinue the Braves Shuttle to save money, I can tell you the system isn’t being operated correctly. Anybody who rides that shuttle knows the buses and the trains are packed with fare-paying Braves fans. If they can’t make money off of that, the entire leadership of MARTA needs to be replaced with people who know what they’re doing.


June 1st, 2010
10:04 am

I dont think taxes should be used to help pay any of martas expenses.If they cant operate on their income raise their prces.Thats what private companys do. I have never used marta, but i have to pay the tax that goes to marta when i shop in atlanta, that is an fair tax to me


June 1st, 2010
10:06 am

There can’t be any more roads. Sonny Purdue used his Fast Forward program to build roads all across rural Georgia and spent all of our road money FOR THE NEXT THIRTY YEARS. That’s right, for the next thirty years all of the road money we are scheduled to get from the federal government and all of the gas tax money is going to go to paying off the bonds issued for the roads we have now. Not for new roads. Not for a single new bridge or turn lane. It will all be for paying the massive debt on what we already have.

If we want more roads, huge property and gas tax increases are going to be required and you know that’ll never happen. That’s why they want a new sales tax. Sure they’ll throw a few dollars toward another broken transit system that is designed from the beginning to fail but the main reason is to get more money for roads that don’t have a prayer of ever coming close to paying for themselves.

The reason why Georgia is so in love the idea of BRT is so that transit funds can be used to build more road lanes. Face it folks, Georgia is insane. We keep doing to same stupid thing over and over again, digging a bigger hole. It is obvious to anyone who studies the issue that it’ll be decades before the political class wakes up and tries to turn the ship around. By then though it will be too late. Our competitor cities have already seen the light and will be half a century ahead of us.

If you want sane transportation, there is only one thing to do: MOVE! Take your tax dollars, spending money and job skills elsewhere. Take them to a metro in a state that isn’t riding off the last bits of momentum created by previous generations. As soon as the real estate market recovers enough, sell you house and leave! Wait too long and you’ll be stuck in the rustbelt of the South. At least now the world outside of Georgia hasn’t quite caught on yet about our transportation system being a road leading to a brick wall. Sell and let some sucker take your place in the coming disaster.

To the business community, sorry but you’re going to suffer. Your skilled workers are going away. They have a choice and will be attracted to those communities that have done the work to improve the quality of life. Georgia is going to be left with those who don’t have the economic means to make a choice. And you deserve it! For the longest time the business community was anti-tax of any sort to pay for transportation, especially transit. While business leaders in other metros looked at the long term, you all looked at saving a few dollars to prop up the next quarter’s balance sheet. Now that this has become obvious to you all, you want what the other metros have but aren’t willing to put in the dollars or expend the political pressure to make it happen. Maybe if you’re lucky one of your competitors in a state that gets it will buy you out. But really for most, you’re just going to go under and they’ll buy up your assets for pennies on the dollar and take over what little business there is left to conduct in Georgia. Enjoy the bed you made for yourselves!

It’s too late for Georgia. If you want to stay in the South, North Carolina seems to have a clue and Texas of all places is starting to come around.


June 1st, 2010
10:44 am

ARC is part of the problem not part of the solution.

Northern Songs LTD

June 1st, 2010
10:45 am

by 2012 i’ll be living in the mountains of arizona, so who cares…


June 1st, 2010
10:49 am

The lack of leadership from business leaders and academia is astounding here. Anyone with an IQ over 80 knows that Atlanta’s economic future is tied to dramatic improvements in its infrastructure and its educational system(s). I know the mouth-breathers on conservative talk radio around here get all the suburbanites fired-up in opposition to mass transit, so I would think that fairly regular public rebuttals of that objection by Atlanta’s business leaders would carry some weight.

I don’t care what Sam Massell says….North Carolina is absolutely cleaning Georgia’s clock right now from an economic development standpoint. And Tennessee isn’t all that far behind.

Honky Talkin'

June 1st, 2010
11:00 am

In the early 70’s, Cobb and Gwinnett shot down plans for Marta because the racist rednecks didn’t want minorities in their counties. Now they have the minorities and a pathetic transit system.

Road Scholar

June 1st, 2010
11:36 am

jm: “double deck Interstates…” How do you propose to do that? Where does the existing traffic go during construction? Do you want to drive under the beams as they are hanging on a cable and being set?

bobby: Doesn’t the MARTA ridership remove some of the congestion on our roads? So, why not use tax dollars for MARTA instead of widening the roads?

Base: How, pray tell, is ARC apart of the problem? The collective counties/cities that are members look at transportation (not just roads) as a regional system. So you want a county to widen their road to their county line and not coordinate it, regardless of need, with the adjacent county/city? No coordination and prioritization of addressing our needs?

Brian: The business leaders have been working on the lack of transportation revenue issue for over 6 years, testing scenarios and lobbying the legislature on their dime. So, how are they the problem? Now I will admit that developers may not have paid their fare share in impact fees since government reps justify the negative impacts by looking at the future tax revenues that a development will bring.

I've got an idea

June 1st, 2010
11:39 am

Transportation planning in Atlanta is a waste bc this city has plateaued. Look for Charlotte and Nashville to be the new Atlantas and Dallas,Houston, and Phoenix to leave Atlanta in the dust.


June 1st, 2010
3:10 pm

Idea: If Phoenix leaves ATL in the dust, then ATL has bigger problems than I could have imagined. That place is an absolute mess.

I fully expect Austin, Raleigh, Charlotte, Tampa, Nashville, Denver, Portland and other mid-size cities like them to eclipse the ATL in very short order.

Houston and Dallas never even knew the ATL existed. They’re not our competition.

Roads, the same ‘business leaders’ you’re busy back-slapping were writing large campaign contribution to mouth-breathing idiots like Sonny, Johnny and Saxby, among others. Pretty hard to give them much credit for “working” to improve our infrastructure problems.

Buzz G

June 3rd, 2010
8:04 am

If they sent the illegals aliens home there would be no one on the Gwinnett county buses. Then we could take the money spent on running buses and build some more roads without raising taxes.


June 3rd, 2010
8:26 am

rapid transit is the way, not a stream of busses in the HOV lane. People want to get where they are going but cannt pay $5 a trip. Hate to mention stinky Chicago, but I could get anywhere quickly. I would love to leave Atlanta but I cannt sell my house.


June 3rd, 2010
8:38 am

@ Walter

Coming from the north, I imagine that you have noticed that they are a tad behind the times down here. Even if they decide to expand the rail, which is obviously necessary, it will first be held up by politics, then by budgets, then by workers. An expansion project should be finished by….oh….2038 or so.


June 3rd, 2010
9:17 am

The state has studied and studied and studied rail transit for 25 years, paying rail consultants $25 million in the process through the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority, GRTA, and GDOT. And all that was accomplished was developing a rail transit plan, changing the plan, and updating the plan to get smaller and smaller each time possible funding decreased. The problems are many and the solutions are few. Don’t get your hopes up folks.


June 3rd, 2010
9:18 am

You are absolutely correct Walter. You don’t fight fire with gasoline and you certainly don’t add more cars to already clogged roads. As a native Atlantan I’ve seen this city grow like crazy, but traffic has always been an issue. We should have started on this 30 years ago.


June 3rd, 2010
9:49 am

I will never, ever vote for a bill where a large majority of it goes to BUILDING ROADS. Metro Atlanta is insane if they think building more roads is an option to help lessen congested traffic. We must … MUST …….. invest in bettering public transportation and (most importantly) marketing the improvements and benefits to the public. Metro Atlanta has developed a mentality of driving alone is the option. Carpooling isn’t even a big thing here! ….. We have to market the benefits and individual responsibility of supporting public transportation.