Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth
From Concept 3 to Action Plan 3.0: A New transit Vision for Metro Atlanta
A message from Livable Communities Coalition executive director Ray Christman:
Last week, the vision for metro Atlanta’s future got bigger and brighter.
Working against the clock to beat a midnight deadline, five elected officials from around the region – from as far north as Kennesaw, as far south as Henry County and as far west as Douglas County – voted in late afternoon last Monday to approve a draft list of transportation projects for the 10-county region. That list, which now goes to the full 21-member Regional Transportation Roundtable for its consent, blends $6.14 billion of public transportation and road projects. Observers quickly called last week’s vote a watershed event, nothing that the action by the five-member executive committee of the Roundtable:
- Was unanimous (5-0), the patient result of a deliberate and painstaking effort to work toward regional consensus.
- Endorsed a list of which $3.4 billion, or approximately 55 percent, is directed to transit, marking a major commitment to developing an integrated regional transit system.
The list is noteworthy in several respects.
First, it allocates significant funding to three major new fixed guideway rail lines in the region, indicating what the next set of regional transit construction priorities should be. These include:
- More than $600 million for Atlanta’s BeltLine streetcar network.
- More than $856 million for a rail line from Midtown Atlanta to Cobb County’s Cumberland district.
- $700 million to connect MARTA’s Lindbergh station to the huge Emory University/Centers for Disease Control job center in northwest DeKalb County.
In addition, the list provides $600 million for MARTA capital “state of good repair” projects. This money not only refurbishes the region’s core transit rail system but also protects access to future federal funds for other transit projects by showing good stewardship of existing investments, a key benchmark for new federal funding.
And there’s more, including money to advance rail transit in East DeKalb (the money will pay for express bus service connecting MARTA’s Indian Creek Station to Wesley Chapel Road near I-20 while also paying for environmental studies, design work and initial right of way purchases for the eventual extension of rail service along that corridor); for GRTA express bus services; $100 million to help restore bus service to Clayton County; and $17 million for a regional mobility call center. The call center will serve as a region-wide resource for all citizens, including seniors and the disability community. Citizens will be able to call the center for advice on the quickest, most efficient and/or most cost-effective way to travel between two points within the region. Finally, there are funds allocated to help support initial design, engineering, and related work associated with the construction of a rail line paralleling I-85 in Gwinnett County and the extension of the MARTA 400 North line beyond North Springs to Windward Parkway.
Everyone copied on this note can take pride in being part of those accomplishments. Transit is critical to our region. That’s why the 84 members organizations of the Fair Share for Transit have consistently called for a substantial new investment in transit, which provides a unique blend of benefits that addresses economic growth, commutes, traffic congestion, changing patterns of land use and development, our region’s future population growth and our region’s changing demographics.
That’s why we applaud the great start made by the Roundtable Executive Committee and why we will continue to argue the business case for transit for our region. That’s why we have urged the Roundtable to send a strong signal to businesses, entrepreneurs, young professionals, residents, families and the world that the Atlanta region is serious about building an integrated transportation network. That’s why we have consistently reminded the Roundtable that while the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 offers an alternative funding source for roads, it offers the only funding source for transit.
This week, members of the Fair Share for Transit working committees will convene to discuss next steps in the effort to make sure that transit receives a Fair Share in the final project list to be approved by the full Roundtable on October 15. Look for more from us over the coming weeks via e-mail, Fair Share’s Facebook page, Fair Share’s Twitter account and the Livable Communities Coalition’s blog and website home page.
Together, we can make a difference that will benefit generations to come.
Thank you for your continued support.