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MARTA, new urbanism and the future of Atlanta

As the buzz from the mind-expanding (Co)Lab conference slowly recedes, I cannot help but think of comments made in the very final session of the day and a half collaborative leadership summit.

They came from the CEO of MARTA.  He said that MARTA was seriously underfunded compared to our peer cities and beginning to fall further and further behind.  His simple and to the point comment flies in the face of basically all the other rhetoric coming from the high brow conference speakers imaging an Atlanta of the future.  Simply put, without a world-class public transportation system, you don’t have a world-class city.

We can talk all we want about new urbanism, “hipsturbia”, walkable cities and the like.  Call it what you want, but without a world-class public transportation system it doesn’t work here in the ATL.

We can talk about attracting millennials who one speaker said would “rather give up their car than their cell phone” but without world-class public transportation, you cannot simply walk all over Atlanta.

We can talk about improving education, decreasing smog and opening up new job possibilities for the disenfranchised, but without mobility and a world-class public transportation system, it is mainly just talk.

It is actions that speak louder than words and I think the excessive focus on the new Falcons stadium sums up some flaws in our thinking.  We have left no stone unturned to convince two historic churches to relocate so the City can contribute, according to Jay Bookman in the AJC, not just $200 million, but really close to $1 billion in public money, to build a stationary stadium used a few dozen times a year.

I wonder what the amplifying effect would be if we took this passion, our city money and used the $1 billion dollars to lead an expansion, improvement and upgrading of MARTA.  What would do more to make Atlanta a world-class city?

It is all about priorities, leadership and wise investment.  And the irony that we have to build the new stadium on the more expensive and disruptive “South” location primarily because it is near a MARTA stop shouldn’t be lost on any of us.

5 Responses to MARTA, new urbanism and the future of Atlanta

  1. Traffic we are famous for…but it is getting worse….soon to be critical and to quote a couple of Buffett songs, ‘I can’t take it anymore!’ , and ‘I shot six holes in my freezer’. People eventually get fatigued.

    We need a Mayor that is mandated to fix serious issues like this. No one will enjoy to live here if you can’t get TO a job, drive in a reasonable amount of time to hot yoga or for a pitcher of Pabst at Moe’s and Joes, or even try to leave town on Friday simply because traffic won’t allow you to get there. Then you do become another Detroit…for similar and unique reasons. (Google ‘is Atlanta the next Detroit’).

    Yesterday, a ill friend being transported (without lights and sirens) only 4.7 miles to the ER at Piedmont Hospital arrived with the EMT’s themselves aghast… took 50 minutes. Really? We can tolerate that? Public transportation has many advantages. Stay on it Bob!!

  2. Jim Beaty says:

    Dear Bob,

    Thank you again for your reasoning. We begged you years ago to run for Mayor. Add Ferris Wheels and streetcars named disaster to the stadium fiasco and you have the perfect storm. Love you, jim beaty

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