Lack of cohesiveness in the ATL metro area

A few recent ATL metro area traffic-related surveys came out in the past few weeks that are quite telling. In one survey, a majority of folks wish to have more and better public transportation options available to them, but they do not wish to pay for the improvements via taxes. In another survey, scores of respondents say that they prefer to drive solo to work. What’s going on here? Why are so many metro residents wishy-washy on the transportation situation?
Driving solo to work is understandable. Coordinating a carpool can be a hassle for many, but wanting more transportation choice without paying for it is puzzling. Mother always said, “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.” OK, so the public is fickle. Is there a way for leaders to band together to build more roads, bridges, trains, bike paths and streetcars throughout this area?
Since there are no easy answers to metro Atlanta’s transportation dilemma, there is one common denominator to this problem: It seems that no one is on the same page. With our federal and state governments including their myriad of agencies mixed with the plethora of county and city governments, there is a great deal of bureaucracy with little to no cohesiveness. From our perches, it seems like folks are not talking with each other to create a unified transportation plan.
Since there’s little to no cohesiveness between all these levels of government in the metro area, each jurisdiction operates within its own bubble which spells disaster from time to time. One need not look further than the tragedy that struck Sandy Springs on January 22. On that Thursday morning, a woman was struck by several vehicles on the top end of I-285. While scores of questions remain in this tragic case, there are many unsettling facts. Some folks who are familiar with the accident say that there was some complication between the city of Sandy Springs and the local county to get the medical examiner to the scene in an overall efficient manner. It should be noted that once the county received the information to dispatch the M.E., the ball was quickly rolling. Since there was a slowdown in the total required process, I-285 and many connecting roads were jammed for hours. The traffic nightmare was so bad, subsequent accidents occurred.
On a side note to January 22nd’s tragedy, is this a region that’s too busy to notice and/or report a human body being hit several times on an interstate? Indeed it was dark that morning, but no one saw the obvious? One could only shudder at the thought of this scene where the medical examiner along with our HERO units, police, fire and rescue personnel had to conduct an investigation during the traffic mayhem. These are professionals who experience so much in their daily jobs. Of course, hats off to them.
January 22nd’s tragedy underscores the fact that the metro area needs better coordination and overall, there needs to be transportation choice, but how can it happen?
Currently, there is little transportation choice in metro Atlanta. Companies would love to move to the metro area, but they wish to provide their employees with solid, dependable transportation. Certainly there are success stories like MARTA going up 400 to serve Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and a tad more to the north at the Northridge corridor. These success stories are few.
Look to the future where there are some promising transportation developments including Doraville where there will be a live-work-play area near their MARTA rail station. Things are looking good in Clayton County where MARTA rail will one day serve Clayton State and Jonesboro. Still, those projects should have already happened. Rail should be serving all of our counties, not just two out of the 10 counties in the region. Furthermore, there is a massive transportation funding package that is being hammered out in the Georgia General Assembly which will provide some relief. But, leaders cannot “Monday morning quarterback” the transportation situation, but they can learn from them by being ambitious about setting up an action plan. Overall, we are in sorry shape for a metro area this size which touts its world-class vision.
There are ‘tough choices’ for today’s leaders throughout this multi-county metro region. Do we wish to remain an auto-clogged town with a sub-par road system or do we invest in that “all of the above strategy” featuring expanded rail, light rail, improved and more roads, bigger and better bike lanes and dare we say: more streetcars? That list is part of an ambitious agenda, but maybe that’s a path for all leaders to consider as we travel on that “Bridge to 2020.”


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