The Livable Communities Coalition

Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth

Monthly Archives: June 2011

Tele town hall puts focus on Fulton County

Fulton County residents recently had the opportunity to talk to their elected officials about the region’s transportation future. The Atlanta Regional Commission hosted a series of tele town halls targeting registered voters in the ten-county area. The process mandated by the Transportation Investment Act calls for the Regional Roundtable to generate a final transportation list by October 15.

DeKalb, others dial-in on transportation

DeKalb County residents recently had the opportunity to talk to their elected official’s about the region’s transportation future. The Atlanta Regional Commission hosted a series of tele town halls targeting registered voters in the ten-county area. The process mandated by the Transportation Investment Act calls for the Regional Roundtable to generate a final transportation list by October 15.

Regional Roundtable dials metro Atlanta residents

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Regional Commission launched a series of tele town halls this week to educate metro residents about the Transportation Investment Act and solicity their thoughts about the region’s transportation priorities.

Monday’s town halls targeted residents of Henry County and Douglas County.

According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, more than 70,000 residents received a phone call Monday night with 9,632 Henry County and 5,600 Douglas County residents actually participating in the hour-long calls.

The full audio from each town hall is available on the Atlanta Regional Roundtable Web site.

“Not everyone can come to a public meeting,” Norcross Mayor and Regional Roundtable Chair Bucky Johnson said. “This technology allows us to come to the public. We encourage everyone who is called to participate in shaping our transportation future.”

The last tele town halls will be held June 22 and will target Fulton and Clayton residents. The Atlanta Regional Commission expects the calls to reach more than one million residents in the 10-county region.

Doing business in north metro suburbs demands transit

COBB GALLERIA CENTRE – There’s a new coalition in town willing to talk about the future in metro Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

A coalition of north metro chambers and county departments of transportation  convened a transportation summit Wednesday morning to talk about the potential impact of the Transportation Investment Act.

The issue of jobs was at the front of most people’s minds.

Presenters suggested that if metro Atlanta does not make smart decisions about the area’s transportation investments, metro Atlanta may become a poorer region for it.

“Over the past 50 years Atlanta’s leaders have always chosen the right fork in the road,” Cobb County Department of Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo said.

Brandon Beach, president of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and a member of the board of the Georgia Department of Transportation, added, “This is about jobs, jobs, jobs … and connecting to job centers.

It is time to have transit in the suburbs.”

Right now, metro Atlanta is in the process of identifying projects of regional significance that will help the region add greater mobility through new transportation investments.

The process has been initiated by passage of the Transportation Investment Act in 2010, which provides an opportunity for voters to either approve or reject a one-cent sales tax to generate the required revenue to build new transportation infrastructure.

Last week, after conducting preliminary analysis, Georgia Department of Transportation Planning Director Todd Long released the unconstrained list to the Regional Roundtable, 21 elected officials who will represent the 10-county area in the process and refine the unconstrained list into a final project list.

The Roundtable must submit their final list by Oct. 15. The referendum is currently scheduled for summer 2012.

Metro Atlanta is not the only region looking at building new transportation infrastructure.

In February, Indianapolis approved a regional transportation plan that included an expressed preference to modernize their transit system by adding rail service. A plan for funding has proved more difficult, though, jeopardizing their transit aspirations.

Last month a group of officials from metro Atlanta visited Seattle for the annual LINK trip, which is designed to help metro Atlanta decision-makers explore best practices related to transportation, economic development and governance in other cities. Seattle passed a transit referendum in 2008.

Closer to home, Charlotte has had demonstrated success in building a new light rail system that now offers 9.6 miles of light rail service, closely integrated with their bus system.

The Northern Crescent coalition invited former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrery (R) to talk about his experience in developing and executing the vision for Charlotte’s new light rail system.

The Charlotte/McCrory model also shows that transit is increasingly becoming a bi-partisan issue with McCrory as a Republican leading a traditionally liberal issue.

In fact, McCrory argues that transit is an investment that helps restore some of the values that made the TV shows The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. so popular. Transit investment is about “long-term quality of life,” where metro areas have vibrant communities that are safe, clean and supportive of a focus on community life.

McCrory also advises that a successful effort in metro Atlanta must overcome some of the regional issues that have stymied cooperation across county or city lines. The process must be built upon a strong vision that goes beyond individual projects; instead, it is a process built upon maintaining and enhancing quality of life.

And, if one looks at the numbers, it becomes clear why there is so much concern about the future in north metro Atlanta.

The most recent census shows that metro Atlanta’s suburbs added one-million new residents since 2000.

The Atlanta Regional Commission forecasts an additional 3 million for all of metro Atlanta by 2040.

The Atlanta Regional Commission also projects that 869,000 new jobs will be created in the core counties of Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett.

Traffic is already bad, but clearly the region is significantly concerned about what all these numbers will mean for creating new jobs, attracting and retaining employers, as well as ensuring access to jobs.

During a panel discussion Cobb Co. commission chairman Tim Lee said that “connectivity is paramount” to the future vitality of the area.

“Transit is the great hope for our region to stay ahead,” Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker (R) said. “I want to see a true regional system.”

Bodker added that the success of the referendum also depends on voters’ ability “to know their lives are going to get better.”

As McCrory indicated earlier in the program, it is critical to show residents what their lives can look like if they commit to transit.

And, if that doesn’t work, then “show them what it will look like if you do nothing.”

The Cobb Chamber of Commerce has made the Northern Crescent Transportation Summit available in a podcast. To follow developments related to the Transportation Investment Act, fan Fair Share for Transit on Facebook.
 

Audio slideshow of a modern-day commuter’s story

ATLANTA – Like many Cobb residents, every work day presents Josh Roseman a commuting challenge.

On a good day, it will take him about 50 minutes to get home from work. Other days can take easily over an hour.

And like the rest of us, Roseman is too busy to spend that much time in traffic.

Roseman has started to follow the conversation that is taking place right now about transportation in the region.

The Transportation Investment Act presents an opportunity for metro areas in the state to try to redress their transportation problems. The allows the ten counties that make up metro Atlanta to designate transportation projects on a wish list that eventually will be refined by Oct. 15. Residents in the ten-county area will vote in a referendum currently scheduled for 2012 to either pass or reject a one-penny sales tax that would be used to fund the projects on the final transportation list.

Roseman indicates he is inclined to vote in favor of the tax. He also hopes that this process will help bring more transit to the region.

Watch the audio slideshow of Roseman’s commute last Thurs. to learn more about his commuting story and his desire for transportation solutions.

Lind visits Atlanta; makes conservative case for transit

 

ATLANTA – It may surprise some that there is such a thing as a conservative case for transit.

That is the point noted conservative transit advocate Bill Lind made at Friday’s Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable, where he was the featured speaker. Lind is the director of the American Conservative Center of Public Transportation.

The challenge ahead for transit supporters in metro Atlanta is to effectively engage conservatives and use the language that resonates with conservatives. If they do not, Lind assures, the transportation referendum scheduled for summer 2012.

“It is entirely possible to convince conservatives to support public transportation, provided the policies and the projects have been thought-through well,” Lind notes. If you ignore them, if you pretend they do not exist, if you  do not answer the critics…if you write them off or try to talk to them with liberal arguments, you will get so few of their votes there is a very good chance your referendum is going to lose.”

Lind co-authored Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation. The Livable Communities Coalition invited Lind to Atlanta to help transit supporters use the appropriate language in talking to conservatives about transit.

The Livable Communities Coalition has launched the Fair Share for Transit initiative to try to ensure that transit is well-represented in the final transportation list. The Regional Roundtable will now refine the unconstrained list that the Georgia Deparment of Transportation has released to them after their analysis.

The Roundtable must create its final list by Oct. 15.

“As conservatives we know that in a great many ways  what our society once had was a great deal better than what we have now,” Lind says. “And, one of those things was our wonderful streetcar system.”

Guest blog: CfPT president Ashley Robbins

Citizens for Progressive Transit supports the  Livable Communities Coalition’s Fair Share for Transit initiative. Fair Share for Transit seeks to ensure that transit is well-represented in the final project list prior to the summer 2012 referendum. Ashley Robbins, president of CfPT, contributes her education and outreach expertise to the initiative. 

When I moved to Atlanta I had never really lived in a city that offered transit. I grew up on a small farm outside of a town that boasts a whopping population of 6,000. I like to joke that transit to us is a hayride, or piling into the back of a pick up truck. And then I moved to Atlanta.

Except I moved to Smyrna.

I knew there was a bus system in Cobb County, and I knew there was a train in the city.

It couldn’t be that hard, could it? So as I tried to adopt this city-life mentality and an environmentalist approach to my life, I decided to go car light a couple of years ago.

To put this decision into perspective, I lived off of Cobb Parkway, worked nights as a shelter manager in the Stone Mountain area, and worked days at a firm in Marietta. In regards to transit, this meant a commute of epic proportions.

I started my mornings at 7:00, walking three blocks to the nearest bus stop to catch the MARTA 121 at the end of the line to Kensington Station. From Kensington I took the train to Five Points, where I switched to the North line and rode to Arts Center, where my commute got tricky.

If I was having the good morning and a perfect commute, I could hop on the CCT express bus which took me straight to my office just in time for a nine o’clock start to my day. But the last express bus leaves Arts Center at 8:05, so if I ran late, or if MARTA did, I missed that bus and had to take the CCT 10 to the 50 and then hoof it the rest of the way.

A good day was a commute that took me an hour and a half. I loved those commutes; I could read or nap, drink my coffee and have a great start to my day. A bad day resulted in a commute that averaged two hours and fifteen minutes and which sometimes had me waiting an extra twenty minutes or longer out in the cold, but I stuck with that commute because I really did enjoy it.

Most people aren’t as in love with transit as I am, so they would’t choose a commute that at best involves two trains and two buses. Others don’t have a choice and are faced with similar commutes because we lack options as a region. Luckily we have the chance to change that next year with the pending Transportation Investment Act, but we need transit to be strongly represented in the project list. The light rail projects that have been proposed would have huge implications for people like me who face epic commutes as well as folks who are looking to get out of their cars but can’t afford to spend four hours a day just trying to get to work and back. Along with expanded bus options, MARTA extensions and commuter rail we can make a transportation portfolio that will benefit everyone in the region and will help put Atlanta back on the map as a world class city.

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