Building on metro Atlanta’s landmark transportation initiatives

The successful passage of two transportation funding initiatives will allow Atlanta to invest in projects like new rail lines, enhanced bus service, and improvements to transit stations to help counter the city’s notoriously bad traffic. (© iStock)

Atlanta has been synonymous with sprawl for decades, but the city’s notorious traffic reputation may finally be changing for the better. On November 8th, voters approved two referenda that will result in a transformative investment in the City of Atlanta’s transportation infrastructure and the most significant expansion of MARTA since the mass transit system was initially built in the 1970s.

For years, investment in MARTA has not kept pace with Atlanta’s growth, resulting in a city with few transportation options outside of cars and congested roads. As recently as 2013, Atlanta ranked at the bottom of U.S. cities in per-capita transit spending.

This year’s successful MARTA referendum signals a shift away from underfunding and comes two years after Clayton County became the first new county to join the transit system in decades.

All three of these transportation measures passed with more than two-thirds of voters support.

This strong support for a more diverse transportation system and more robust non-driving options contrasts starkly with a previous transportation proposal in 2012, which offered a mix of transit and road projects and was soundly rejected by voters.

In addition to strong backing from the voters, Atlanta business leaders are also increasingly embracing transit in the region. Companies like NCR, Worldpay, State Farm, athenahealth and PulteGroup have all cited proximity of office locations to transit as a key factor in attracting and retaining employees who want reduced commute times and options other than driving.

Noting economic development around existing MARTA stations, interest from the business community, and the strong support for transit in recent referenda, leaders in other counties—Fulton, DeKalb, and Gwinnett—must address the need for similar transit investments in their jurisdictions.

While securing long-term funding is a critical step forward, successfully planning and implementing the transit expansion will be important for the region to address its continued growth. Metro Atlanta’s population rose to more than 5.7 million residents in 2015, while the number of people living in Fulton County passed the 1 million mark, and projections by the Atlanta Regional Commission estimate the region will add another 2.5 million people by 2040.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented shift from building new roads as the top solution to overwhelming support for more transit,” said SELC Senior Attorney Brian Gist. “Other counties in Atlanta and other cities in the Southeast will be looking at this MARTA expansion as a model of how to expand transportation options. This referendum affords us the opportunity to lead by example by getting public input and efficiently delivering the most effective transit projects.”

More News

Suit filed to immediately stop ongoing GenX pollution from N.C. facility

North Carolina state officials have the authority to immediately stop the water and air pollution from a chemical manufacturing plant north of Wi...

Court tosses outdated dam license on Alabama’s Coosa River

A federal court has unanimously ruled in favor of conservation groups by throwing out a harmful, antiquated license issued to Alabama Power for o...

New multimedia series explores red wolf viewpoints during critical public comment period

WildSides—an independent nonprofit dedicated to investigating and documenting controversies involving wildlife—has launched Red Wolf Conflict Unt...

SELC: Defenders of Justice

SELC is honored to be named a Defender of Justice in the litigation category for 2018 by the North Carolina Justice Center. Each year, the North...

Suit voluntarily dismissed after timber sale cancelled by Cherokee National Forest

Earlier today, SELC, on behalf of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, with Knoxville attorney Shelby Ward, on behalf of Heartwood and Tenne...

Virginia officials quietly weakened pipeline standards protecting water

Amid all the hearings, protests, meetings, and headlines bringing attention to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, one aspect of the plans was k...

More Stories