There and Back Again

I’m not writing a post about Bilbo Baggins’ memoir but about a great article from The New Yorker that hit the web this week: There and Back Again.

The essay tackles some great (or likely not-so-great) themes concerning long commutes and the commuters who make them and focuses a good bit on Atlanta.

Here are some choice blockquotes, but you really ought to check it out. And I say this as someone who lives OTP (Smyrna) with a 1 hour round-trip daily commute who works in Midtown.

Decades ago, residents of two counties surrounding the city voted down an extension of the MARTA system. Ninety-four per cent of Atlantans commute by car, and the city has the highest annual per-capita gasoline costs in the country. According to the last census, the travel time in Atlanta grew faster in the nineties than in any other American city, and it’s getting worse. Travelling ten miles can take forty-five minutes.


I had talked to one Atlanta commuter who smokes a cigar to stay awake on his drive home each day, and to another who plays harmonica. One commuter began trying a meditation technique–breathe in one nostril and out the other–and got pulled over for speeding. Scruggs favored a more traditional approach. “The key is to eat a light lunch,” he said.


“I wouldn’t have moved if I could’ve taken public transportation. I could read a book or talk to somebody.” He slipped in through a side door and into his office; it was a little like going into a motel. There was no one around to greet him or to make small talk.


4 Comments so far

  1. RobH (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

    From the way I see it, Atlanta loves traffic. In a perverse way, they take pride in having to battle it every day.

    Why do I say this? Because the region isn’t doing much to improve traffic flow or give commuters alternative choices.

    MARTA is woefully underfunded, and there is little public support to expand it. The public hated the Northern Arc, which isn’t going anywhere. There are more examples.

    And people in Atlanta seem happy to move further and further out. I’m always amazed at the vehicles sitting on I-85 waiting to get into Gwinnet County every evening.

    While some people have moved Intown in response to the traffic situation, many others continue to move to the fringe and commute.

    I can only assume that with the uncontrolled sprawl and the region’s inability to work together to solve the region’s traffic problems, that the people in Metro Atlanta really don’t mind the congestion.

  2. d.ortiz (unregistered) on April 20th, 2007 @ 9:22 am

    Whatever. I just hope I don’t hit too much traffic when I drive my Hummer in from Gwinnett for Earth Day.

  3. jack (unregistered) on April 21st, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

    People should ride MARTA more. The black folks who take it aren’t going to kill ya.

  4. BPJ (unregistered) on April 23rd, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

    Please contact your state Senator and state Representative and tell them you want a first rate transit system and are willing to pay for it. If they seem opposed to transit (or just indifferent), tell them you will not vote for them (and that you will go looking for another candidate to support) unless they make it a priority. Posting on blogs does not move legislators; you have to make sure they hear from you!

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