You know transit talk is getting serious in Georgia when the AJC's conservative columnist devotes all of his Sunday ink to making streetcars and rapid bus lines sound logical. By now, most of us know the 2015 Peach State legislature could make a "historic commitment" (read: at least a few bucks) to the growth of Atlanta's transit network, as part of $1 billion or more to fix what state leaders term a "growing crisis." The aforementioned columnist, Kyle Wingfield, quotes Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who probably dropped a few jaws with this statement: "We cannot avoid the issue of transit. … I believe very strongly that we have an infrastructure that exists with MARTA that can be capitalized on." Wingfield advocates for fiscal prudency when it comes to transit — if express buses are cheaper and just as effective as trains, use them, he argues — but then he casts out a fairly radical idea: Why not call a spade a spade, and instead of using the term "transit-oriented development," call it "development-oriented transit." The idea risks outcries about lining developers' pockets and social engineering, but as Wingfield expounds, the concept becomes more intriguing.
For a concrete example, Wingfield points to 14th Street in Midtown, a bastion of liberal Millennials that probably makes old men's toes curl in Hiawassee and Valdosta. Wingfiled posits that a 14th Street streetcar or rapid bus line in a dedicated lane would help shuffle people though a corridor with limited space to expand, feeding them into the existing MARTA system. "In short," he writes, "look to add transit in places where people are already flocking, especially where the road infrastructure and room for improving it are limited … We should all want new infrastructure to solve the problems we face today."
A study by the Atlanta Regional Commission last year showed that metro Atlantans do indeed want transit fixes very, very much. Conducted two years after voters crushed the T-SPLOST referendum and its $7.2 billion promises, the ARC report showed those very same Atlantans believe lack of transportation is the city's biggest problem. Twenty-four percent of respondents in the 10-county metro region ranked transportation as their primary concern in the city, beating out the economy, crime, public education, human services, taxes, public health and race relations.
But not everyone shares in Georgia's newfound transit enthusiasm.
True to form, some of the AJC column's many commenters seem to think Atlanta's traffic panacea can be found in driver education, stop-light synchronicity, upped speed limits or the widening of high-volume roads.
· Transit that moves people [AJC]
· Lack of Support for Transportation Begets Regret [Curbed Atlanta]
· Does Talk of Actually Funding Transit Signal a Sea Change? [Curbed]