Way back in 2000, when the overhyped horrors of a Y2K meltdown were fading, about 195,000 people called the northern reaches of Fulton County home, up beyond the Chattahoochee River. About 75,000 housing units stood in that part of the county. Back then, those numbers led MARTA officials to conclude North Fulton was not dense enough to support a heavy rail extension beyond its recently completed Sandys Springs and North Springs stations. Times have changed. The conversation is turning back toward the possibility of branching mass transit — be it heavy rail, light rail or bus rapid transit — almost 12 miles up Ga. Highway 400, to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta, the Atlanta Business Chronicle has reported. Should the transit system be fleshed out, will Fortune 500 companies be far behind? Should Midtown and Buckhead be worried that a transit-connected Alpharetta might steal their high-end office space mojo?
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported last month that MARTA was considering extending transit service 11.9 miles from the North Springs station in Dunwoody to Alpharetta, with up to six new stations along the way. A public meeting, where officials hope to gather input about which mode of transit is preferable, is scheduled for Sept. 26. Either way, as the newspaper notes, paying for the extension with public money just ain't going to happen, so it's likely MARTA will be looking to partner with private investors.
The newspaper cited a recent market overview report by Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. that shows pretty staggering data about the growth of North Fulton since 2000. The population has swelled 27 percent and housing units by 30 percent. Still, are those numbers sufficient to justify a MARTA expansion and support the system when/if it's built? Or will fears of crime spikes and shady transit bureaucracies kill the project before it gains steam?