The Livable Communities Coalition

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

Transit: It’s fair and equitable

The task of identifying the region’s transportation priorities is a difficult one. As much as there has been a call for a spirit of regionalism during this process, the looming deadline to develop the draft final project list and the task of creating a vision that will appeal to voters in next year’s referendum challenges that spirit.

Despite those challenges, at Thursday’s Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable meeting, the roundtable executive committee selected in a 3 to 2 vote the following 6 transit projects for final consideration for the final project list:

  1. Clifton Corridor MARTA service at $700 million;
  2. Atlanta Beltline streetcar at $600 million;
  3. Atlanta to Cumberland northwest corridor light rail at $825 million;
  4. MARTA state of good repair at $500 million;
  5. Restore Clayton County bus service at $100 million;
  6. I-85 northeast corridor preliminary study and planning at $100 million.

With the Aug. 15 deadline looming, the politics of this process have begun to emerge. Several roundtable members voiced the concern that the process mandated by the Transportation Investment Act must yield a project list that not only appeals to voters but offers enough of a vision for the region to ensure next year’s referendum passes.

For Nathaniel Smith, founder and convener of Partnership for Social Equity, it is critical that organizations and citizens remain involved to ensure the roundtable process delivers solutions to all parts of the region.

“All communities are not created equal,” Smith says. “There are opportunities for us to strengthen communities that need additional help.

It is transportation that decides who the winners and losers are in the region.”

Even though the task for the day was limited to transit, the conversation strayed into questions about the intent of the Transportation Investment Act and revived debate about the regional good.

The politics of decision-making, as the roundtable approaches the Aug. 15 deadline raises concerns about the ability of the roundtable members to deliver something to their constituencies. At this time, the referendum will be held next summer, when many of the members of the roundtable will also have to survive primary elections.

The stark reality of voter reaction seems to weigh on the minds of roundtable members, especially those who represent areas on the outer edges of the region.

During the public comment period, several interests urged the roundtable to consider other transit projects, such as the Griffin commuter rail line an expanding transit service along Interstate 20.

Transit advocates continue to tout the long-term economic benefits of transit.

State Rep. Roberta Abdul Salaam is encouraged to see Clayton County bus service reon the roundtable’s initial transit list. More important, though, she desires for the roundtable to establish a vision where transit and roads not only peacefully co-exist but also ensure metro Atlanta remains competitive for the next several decades.

“If you are stuck on Georgia Highway 85 for any length of time, you have the same need for an outlet for transportation, public transportation as everybody else does,” Abdul Salaam explains. “The decisions they make now are going to affect the entire state for the next, 15, 20, 25 years or more.”

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