Transportation Reform in Georgia
Atlanta traffic woes worsen as other major highways take hits More »
Over the weekend, several Atlanta residents voiced their concerns in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the city’s lack of transportation options in light of the I-85 bridge collapse.
State Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), who proposed legislation in 2016 that would have allowed residents in Fulton and DeKalb counties to approve a half-percent sales tax for investment in transit had it passed, described how the recent events have fortified his dedication to improving transportation infrastructure statewide.
“In light of the recent collapse of one of the state’s main transportation arteries, it is more important now than ever before that we bring together Georgia’s transit authorities and agencies to work as a unified body to develop and execute a plan in order to be prepared for whatever may happen in the future,” Beach wrote.
But just as drivers were adjusting to their new alternative routes this week, several more unexpected problems with Atlanta’s central highways occurred on Monday.
An early morning tractor-trailer accident resulting in a hazardous waste spill on the Downtown Connector brought traffic to a standstill for several hours in the heart of the city during morning rush hour.
Around noon, an underground gas line exploded during maintenance, causing a huge swath of I-20 West to buckle. While the Georgia Department of Transportation was able to repair the road by early Tuesday morning, these incidents have compounded metro Atlanta’s lack of comprehensive transit coverage and lack of a regionally-integrated transit system.
City leaders and elected officials have increasingly called on Atlanta residents to use public transit but, for many, hopping on the bus or subway is not an option.
According to a 2011 report by the Brookings Institution, only 21 percent of jobs in metro Atlanta are accessible within a 90-minute transit trip, and only 37 percent of working age adults have access to transit service. For the majority of Atlantans, taking transit is not realistic because there is no transit service near their homes, their workplaces, or both.
“Without a more robust transit system, we don’t have transportation choices or a viable alternative to driving,” said SELC Senior Attorney Brian Gist. “These events also underscore the need to invest in transit service all the time, not just when a crisis strikes.”
Read the opinion pieces on the I-85 bridge collapse in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Decades of sprawling growth and an auto-centric culture have saddled metro Atlanta with some of the most congested roads, dirtiest air, and longest commutes in the country.
As part of our regional transportation reform work, SELC is working to steer Georgia away from asphalt-centered transportation policies and toward solutions that strengthen communities, reduce air and water pollution, protect sensitive ecosystems, and decrease global warming emissions.
Looking Beyond Toll Lanes
Facing congested roadways and limited transportation funds, metro Atlanta has seen a push toward construction of toll lanes on the region’s interstates. Among other problems, these toll lanes fail to provide a long term transportation solution, provide more space for solo drivers, and because of their price could be less accessible to low income drivers.
To prevent the region from becoming over-reliant on toll lanes as a central mobility strategy, SELC is weighing in on these projects to ensure they are used as a tool to encourage carpooling and transit use.
Supporting Investment in Transit
Residents of metro Atlanta are increasingly demanding alternatives to driving, like increased access to public transit and more walkable communities. Supporting legislative and policy efforts in response to shifting transportation demands, SELC and our partners are working to provide suggestions for additional investments in transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects, safety improvements for drivers and non-drivers, and projects that allow for greater accessibility to job centers and transit stations.
We are also helping to advance projects that create access to a variety of transit choices, such as the expansion of MARTA into Clayton County, increasing MARTA service throughout the City of Atlanta, adding lines to the Atlanta streetcar, and expanding rail options for the Atlanta BeltLine―an urban redevelopment and mobility venture that ties together public parks, multi-use trails, and transit by re-using 22-miles of historic railroad corridors circling downtown neighborhoods.
Successful execution of these projects is helping to chart a new path for metro Atlanta, providing concrete examples of how it can move beyond building more roads. SELC will continue to work with local partner groups, city and state agencies, elected officials, and leaders in the business community to explore other ways to fund such alternatives.
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