For transit expansion, there’s nothing wrong with slow and steady

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How, in a region that’s spent decades expressing skepticism about mass transit, do you move forward with plans to roughly double the distance MARTA’s high-capacity service covers?

As one close observer of transit negotiations under the Gold Dome told me this past week, it’s the same way you go about eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

For some reason, transit advocates seem surprised at the failure, so far, of a bid to raise sales taxes by millions of dollars per year to expand rail and bus rapid transit within Fulton and DeKalb counties. Color me more surprised we’ve come as close to that this year as we have.

This is, after all, the year after lawmakers approved nearly $1 billion in additional, annual transportation funding. Yes, that money is earmarked for roads and bridges, not trains and buses. But dollars are dollars, and even amid low gas prices many lawmakers are wary of the blowback from their constituents for raising the fuel levy (among other taxes).

Keep in mind as well that, although Republicans hold more than two-thirds of the seats in the state Senate and nearly as many in the House, relatively few of them represent Atlanta and its suburbs. Less than one-third of GOP legislators hail from the 10-county metro region, only about a quarter from the five counties in the original MARTA act, just 8 percent from the three counties that have joined. The vast majority of GOP caucus members have to be convinced, or to convince their constituents, that MARTA merits more money.

And even among Republicans who do represent those five counties, or just Fulton and DeKalb, there’s a great deal of disagreement as to the best way to pay for transit expansion. There’s the bus vs. rail debate, the county-by-county vs. regional transit debate, the debate between using broad-based taxes versus revenues drawn from the areas through which the rail or BRT routes would actually pass. Some dissenters may be cynically trying to block transit expansion without appearing to be obstinate, but not all of them are.

But despite all that, much of the friction in this year’s MARTA debate comes down to this: Must all of Fulton and DeKalb move together, in the same way at the same time? Why can’t some move ahead sooner than others?

Remember the elephant. One bite at a time.

If Atlanta is ready to proceed with transit on the Beltline or along the Clifton Corridor toward the Emory University area, let it do so. (I’d hold back on most if not all of the Atlanta Streetcar’s plans, though, which I’m not convinced are ready for prime-time. And don’t discount the political damage done by the troubles incurred in the initial phase of the streetcar, as some transit advocates I know feared when plans for it were first announced.) When DeKalb is ready to move on its share of the Clifton line or the line out to Lithonia, let it do so.

But if MARTA and some lawmakers insist on dragging the rest of Fulton along now kicking and screaming, particularly the mayors of north Fulton cities, who are most at odds about how to proceed, they risk sinking the whole effort. Their insistence on this for so much of the session may have already done so.

Time is running out, but never say never until Sine Die. If there’s a way to let some local governments go ahead while others work things out among themselves, take it.

Reader Comments 0

49 comments
ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

So Kyle what is your feeling on SB 369 the bill they are using to expand MARTA in CoA? Should the OTP crowd allow the ITP crowd local control?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Maybe what would speed up transportation expansion would be requiring those coming north from Atlanta to show their ID to prove they live in those neighborhoods.  Then undesirables won't be able to use the expanded Marta to get home after they commit robberies, thefts, etc.


Special ID cards could be created for maids and other service personnel.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

If you want urban sprawl, push for the big, expensive, tax-raising, regional plan.

lvg
lvg

@Lil_Barry_Bailout So paving the metropolitan area with ever expanding freeways costs  us nothing and contributes nothing to urban sprawl according to the resident  spokesperson for the Stupid Party and going slow and steady while trying to get to work from the burbs is the plan according to Kyle.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@lvg @Lil_Barry_Bailout

You're going to have to show us where I said any of that.

And your party is dominated by people who are so stupid that they require taking part of their neighbors' income to pay for their own housing, food, health care, transportation, contraceptives, and cell phone.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Uh the regional plan is smart planning, something repubs know nothing about. Besides, it's a Fed requirement.

lvg
lvg

@RoadScholar @Lil_Barry_Bailout @lvg Best part is I can name Repub presidents who enacted money transfer schemes or pure socialism for all those non essential basic human needs Lil Barry is so concerned about. That's why Jindal called it the Stupid Party!

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Never underestimate the poorly-educated Democrat's ability to miss the point.

If you want to spread people out even more than they are, enable their tendency toward urban sprawl by running transit out to them.

If transit is as attractive as Democrats pretend, concentrate it in a more efficient, more compact system within the perimeter or other population centers.  If you build it, they will come, right?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @RoadScholar Because you infer that if costly...and needing additional revenue...it is the wrong thing to do! It should depend on our needs, no matter the cost...and then pared down to be able to be implemented...even with a tax increase.

Tpgolf
Tpgolf

Any expansion to MARTA needs to be a regional solution and paid on a regional basis.. Other counties should not be able to tie into the MARTA system without contributing significant dollars. Fare exchanges are not equitable and do not compensate MARTA for the capital investment that has been made.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

Who remembers the then rural legislators who prevented the Northern/Southern arch that would have allowed transient traffic to bypass I-285, but put in I-475 and I-675?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@TheCentrist Gov Sonny Perdue killed the OP. He killed it just before the EIS was to be approved by FHWA.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

Is it true that Georgia: 1. is the only state does not fund a rapid transit system?  2. that the folks in Houston just expanded their system, and the folks further out who were against the measure are now upset that they do not have ready access to the system?  3. that Georgia's rapid transit system has less than 50% of rails that other States that started systems around the same time? 4. self-serving rural legislators have done a great job of building roads and bridges to nowhere, but little forward thinking to address transportation issues in the urban areas?

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@TheCentrist 1.  Not really.  Texas just barely funds it.  2.  No.  3.  Not relevant even if true.  What matters is the last 20-25 years in which nothing much has been done while the population doubled.  4.  No.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

The blog title is correct, "Slow and Steady."  That is exactly what the traffic is and will continue to be in the outlying counties.  The transportation difference between North Fulton and the other core communities is that the core has alternative street routes and MARTA as options.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

" Less than one-third of GOP legislators hail from the 10-county metro region, only about a quarter from the five counties in the original MARTA act, just 8 percent from the three counties that have joined. The vast majority of GOP caucus members have to be convinced, or to convince their constituents, that MARTA merits more money."

So vote to let DeKalb, COA and Fulton Counties to hold a referendum! Wait! Repubs are against local control? Kyle have you read any of the past MARTA studies and public involvement results for the SR400 corridor? I bet not. Did you participate? I bet not.


Are we to wait on the I75/575 corridor managed lane project to be completed and operated for a period to see any benefits from managed lanes? Ridden I 85 NE? It hasn't done squat for the masses.


ARC estimates another 4.5 million people (and cars) in the next 20 years. Do you want to wait until then?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar "So vote to let DeKalb, COA and Fulton Counties to hold a referendum!"

Actually, that is what they are talking about doing. The point is that North Fulton doesn't have a consensus about how to proceed, so why not let the others proceed rather than making them wait for North Fulton to decide among themselves what to do.

"Kyle have you read any of the past MARTA studies and public involvement results for the SR400 corridor? I bet not. Did you participate? I bet not."

I have read the studies. I did not participate in the public comment because I don't live, and rarely travel, north of the North Springs station.

"Ridden I 85 NE? It hasn't done squat for the masses."

The last data I heard is that more cars are using the HOT (toll) lane than were using the HOV lane when it was free. So explain how that doesn't help the people in the other lanes.

"ARC estimates another 4.5 million people (and cars) in the next 20 years. Do you want to wait until then?"

No one is talking about waiting 20 years. We're probably talking about next year. But just in case, and to reiterate, why hold others back if North Fulton does want to wait?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Kyle_Wingfield @RoadScholar "The last data I heard is that more cars are using the HOT (toll) lane than were using the HOV lane when it was free." Uh they set the fee/toll to provide a LOS C or D, not the LOS F- that would be there w/o a toll. So the operating speeds and perhaps the vehicle throughput is higher than sitting in traffic, which the traffic in the general purpose lanes  traffic is doing...a parking lot.


Now imagine a train operating in or nearby....going 60 mph....and when it gets crowded...you add another rail car versus another lane!


When was the first study done? 1990's...20 years!

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@RoadScholar @Kyle_Wingfield The I-85 HOV lane works fine.  It would be better if it were separated by more than a double stripe.  And a train does virtually nothing for anyone whose destination is not near a station-in other words, most of the people using the HOV lane.

SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

When you began speaking honestly about Trump, I started reading your column and now I've decided that you're going to be a regular for me when it comes to the conservative voice (because ,right now, like lots of folks, I live in an echo tunnel of just my own outlook).


So that being said, this is an intriguing look at MARTA.  I'm pro light rail/subways/trains/sidewalks as I've lived in cities where public transportation is very popular.  But you could be right that the northern Fulton county mayors will *never* get on-board and why should we spend all of the time fighting it.  Perhaps public transit should become more of an in-the-beltway move.  People and companies are moving intown in droves and focusing the energy there would make the most sense.


Thank you for a fresh view. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@SouthernHope5 Uh the DRI studies done for N Fulton explain the traffic congestion coming in future years. They included a MARTA component. So these studies are now trash? Maybe NO dollars should be spent on N Fulton traffic to see how it goes?

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@SouthernHope5 Kyle isn't the Lib as is Bookman, but his last piece on Trump draws question to his Conservative beliefs.

The Republican elite/donor class, as has Rubio, Cruz and Kasich, has played right into the hands of the Left.

Unfortunately, Kyle is right in there with them.

The Soros funded Moveon organization organizes a protest to disrupt the Trump rally.

Instead of our side calling out the Left for interfering with 1st amendment rights of Trump and his supporters, they put forth the narrative of the Left that its all Trump's fault.

Exactly what the Left wanted.

SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

@RoadScholar @SouthernHope5 It's not that they're trash...they're very valid studies.  But i'm coming to the realization that the Georgia Legislature is not going to vote for public transit. It's just not in their DNA. They (and their constituents) are comfortable mostly with asphalt...its what they know.


That said, i am beginning to believe that the dollars and energy should go into beltway transit projects....as more companies move intown, this becomes a system that is used more and more. 

Here's_to_Blue
Here's_to_Blue

@JohnnyReb @SouthernHope5 From your comments here and at Jay's site, I can't help concluding that you must be bile-consumed and miserable.  I hope your one-trick-pony vitriol can be attributed to actual physical pain that infects your outlook on life and not your natural disposition.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Here's_to_Blue @JohnnyReb @SouthernHope5 You should seriously compare his opinion based comment with your personal attack on him.  It does not come out favorable for the person doing the Donald Trump imitation.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@xxxzzz @RoadScholar @SouthernHope5 Why they were done by locals with overview and review by the state of Georgia. Local control and planning aren't your cup of tea?

Any enviro document will need to be done for transit expansion, and, if fed funds are used, then they must then conform to fed guidelines and laws.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@RoadScholar @xxxzzz @SouthernHope5 They've been doing the same studies for decades and wasted millions upon millions of dollars.  All of that engineering and all the public hearings have to be re-done to reflect the current situation. 

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

Kyle


The first question is whether the Gold Domers will even allow progress on the areas already onboard. Second let's not pretend that some of the constituency of these north Fulton mayors that are "at odds" don't utilize the park and ride lots up and down 400 already. Asking the citizens to vote up or down shouldn't be that contentious. Finally what does slow and steady actually mean? Is there a metric that can be measured on? Do a "study" and then do another one for kicks and giggles? Are you honestly going to tell us that a line further up 400 will not attract ridership? If the rest of the region does not want MARTA or mass transit I don't have an issue with that as much as I have an issue with interfering with the areas that do want it.


RaindroidWillBoy
RaindroidWillBoy

Kyle are there any estimates about how many cars expansion would take off the road?

dhjm
dhjm

It's doing nothing that's the problem. This was giving us an opportunity to decide whether we wanted to pay a tax to improve the infrastructure for a generation. This is "going slowly," it's doing nothing to solve a problem that should have been addressed more than a decade ago.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

If you think the streetcar is bad, just wait until you see the Clifton Corridor streetcar.  It would completely strangle an area already struggling for breath from traffic.  Just absolutely ridiculous to use LRT in the streets instead of grade separated HRT, especially considering the long segments that already will be subway.

lvg
lvg

Whites only on Marta trains that run North of 285? Will the clowns under the Gold Dome go for that? 

Allowing Fulton, Dekalb and Clayton voters to vote on a 1% transit tax with no state funding is undemocratic?


Oh and I guess that very expensive "rich only" highway project to take toll paying cars at rush hour through Cobb to Cherokee County now under construction will solve Cobb's transportation problems? I like how it dumps cars into already overcrowded I-  285 at &5 junction.Was that these clowns efforts to keep the high end folks satisfied ?

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Ivg,

That's a long overpass. I can,only imagine thr headaches with black ice or an accident.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

But if MARTA and some lawmakers insist on dragging the rest of Fulton along now kicking and screaming, particularly the mayors of north Fulton cities, who are most at odds about how to proceed, they risk sinking the whole effort.

Shotgun weddings never work out.