Archive for the ‘Traffic/Commuting’ Category

Like night and day: How commuters change population numbers

75/85 under Ralph McGillEver wonder where all the other people stop-and-going around you during your commute are on their way to? Or how many people are in town during the week versus on the weekends? No? Well, just go with me on this.

Suburb-to-suburb commuters outnumber city-to-suburb commuters in the U.S., but in a sprawling metro area like Atlanta’s, there’s a good chance your fellow commuters are on their way not just to another town, but to another county.

For their June “regional snapshot” (PDF) the ARC used 2010 census data to find out how the morning and afternoon flow of commuters affect the population of each of the 10 core metro counties by comparing daytime populations to resident populations.

“Daytime population,” by the Census Bureau’s definition, incluldes “the number of people who are present in an area during normal business hours, including workers. This is in contrast to the ‘resident’ population present during the evening and nighttime hours.”

The tricky element of that calculation is that the estimates are based on trips made only by workers, so they don’t include people coming into an area for anything other than work, like shopping, conventions, tourism or even those on business trips.

The largest daytime change occurs in Fulton Co, where the population increases by more than 32, percent to almost 1.2 million. Clayton County’s daytime population is boosted by 12.8 percent, thanks in part to the 58,000 people who work in and around the airport. Daytime population increases in Cobb and DeKalb counties are 2.3 and 0.2 percent, respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum, Paulding County’s population decreases by 25 percent during the day, and Cherokee County’s by more than 20 percent. Barrow County’s population falls by nearly 18 percent during the day, while Henry and Coweta County’s both fall by 15.7 percent.

Although it has the second largest percentage increase in daytime population for work, Clayton County also has the higest percentage of people leaving during the day for all trips combined, work and non-work. More than 51 percent of daytime trips that originate in Clayton County end somewhere else. Rockdale County was next, with about 47 precent of all daytime trips going outside the county, then DeKalb County at nearly 44 percent.

No huge surprises here, but it’s interesting to see some numbers put to the daily migrations.

Getting what we pay for

Speaking of the transportation tax, there’s a brief transportation priorities survey on the Atlanta Regional Roundtable’s site, available to take until May 15. (If that link doesn’t work, there’s another one at the top of the front page of the ARR site)

The Atlanta Regional Roundtable is the group of 21 officials from the 10-county Atlanta region that will choose the roster of transportation projects to be funded by the one percent sales tax we’ll vote on next year. Since the tax will be voted up or down based at least partially on the content of the list of projects, the Roundtable wants to assemble a list that reflects things that people really care about seeing get built.

So, when you have a spare five minutes, take the survey, and then check out the interactive map that can tell you the cost, time frame, purpose and requesting agency for prospective transportation projects in your neighborhood.

MARTA fares to rise in fall

MARTA is planning a 25 percent fare hike for the fall.  The increase would push the one-way base fare from $2 to $2.50. The more painful change would be in the price of regular monthly passes from $68 to $95 -  an increase of almost 40 percent. The latest fare hike comes just two years after the last one, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2009. MARTA fares had held steady for eight years before that.

MARTA train crossing I-75/85

Flickr photo by Willamor Media

MARTA’s board Chairman Jim Durrett told the AJC that the fare hike might be implemented in stages – 25 cents now and another 25 cents later – rather than all at once, but it sounds like some fare increase is a done deal.

The agency has already resorted to service cuts, staff reductions and borrowing from its capital reserves to slow its fiscal bleeding in the last few years. But with the capital reserves expected to be tapped out in just two years and the price of fuel creeping up, we’re probably going to keep paying more for less until the transportation tax kicks in.

If you’d like to have a word with MARTA about the proposed increase, there will be public hearings on May 16 and May 17.

Public hearings at MARTA, GDOT and ARC

MARTA

Tomorrow, March 24, MARTA is holding three public hearings   – two in Atlanta and one in Decatur – to gather input on bus route changes as well as tenative plans to revive the Braves Shuttle. The shuttle, which usually runs from Five Points Station to Turner Field on Atlanta Braves game days, was axed during last fall’s service cuts. Bus routes affected by the proposed changes are:

  • Route 2 – Ponce de Leon Avenue/Moreland Avenue
  • Route 87 – Roswell Road/Morgan Falls
  • Route 99 – Boulevard/Monroe Drive
  • Route 181 – Buffington Road/South Fulton Park & Ride

Here’s a map (PDF) detailing the proposed changes to routes 2 and 99. Here’s one for routes 87 and 181. The service changes, if they’re adopted will go into effect June 18.

GDOT

Next week, on March 30, the Georgia Department of Transportation is holding a hearing for public input regarding the Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal (PDF) project that’s planned for the downtown “gulch” area. GDOT announced last week that it had selected a development team led by Cousins Properties to build the potentially transformative transit project, but proposal summaries from all three of the short-listed development teams are still on the GDOT site.

If you can’t make it to the meeting, use the online comment form.

ARC

Still not enough civic engagement for you? The Atlanta Regional Commission is inviting metro Atlantans to an ”online public meeting” to offer opinions on draft transportation recommendations  for “Plan2040,” the agency’s plan to “accommodate economic and population growth sustainability over the next 30 years.”  The online meeting is open until April 30.

Any predictions for pedicabs’ prospects for profitability?

NYC pedicab

Flickr photo by J. Yung

District 2 Councilman Kwanza Hall wants to see pedicabs back on the streets in Atlanta.

The three-wheeled people-pullers disappeared from the city in the 1990s, according to Sunday’s AJC story, after running afoul of the already highly competitive taxi industry.

But with pedicabs now operating in Decatur and Marietta, and a prominent council member behind the effort, things could work out differently this time.

Compact and pollution-free? Yes.

Cheaper than a taxi to go just a few blocks? Almost certainly.

But, will touists or locals take to them? They certainly didn’t seem to have any use for the Circulator bus routes several years ago, despite the effort and expense MARTA went to with buying new redesigning buses and heavily publicizing the new routes.

Horse-drawn carriages still manage to eke out some business, though. Maybe novelty is more of a draw than speed sometimes.

Has anyone lived anywhere that had a long-standing pedicab business? Ever used one? Would you?

Does anyone actually WANT to share the road?

Thanks CL ATL for the photo from Critical Mass a few months ago.

A friend of mine, Jim, posted yesterday about the endless bike versus car debates, sparked by the latest “SUV plows through group of cyclists” news story, this time in Augusta. (Okay, so actually that’s the first time I see a story just like this one, but in fairness, you do read about SUVs hitting single cyclists all the time).

The size of Atlanta’s cycling community apparently jumped 111% in 2009, and according to my personal anecdotal evidence, there are a lot more bikes out there than there ever were.  I see a lot more inexperienced riders flying down the sidewalks or not positioning themselves to be visible to traffic, but I also see a lot more visible, safe, cautious commuters and people just going places.  It’s an exciting time, I think, especially as the weather gets to be a more reasonable temperature for biking and people rediscover how frigging fun just running errands can be.

Jim’s concern (and honestly, the concern of anyone in the country who bikes with any regularity), is the disconnect between humans in automobiles and humans on bicycles. Both are viable means of transportation, but we tend to separate into groups and then villianize each other. As Jake the commenter in Jim’s blog points out, each side sees the worst and most egregious member of the other side as representative. The vegan jerks who blow through red lights and swerve around moving cars, with their Toms shoes and clouds of smug – those are the people I assume everyone’s up in arms about. Oh, them, or the roving bands of goo-eating spandex clad men with their clippy shoes and smooth legs. (To my friends who vaguely fit in one or the other of these categories… sorry, but you know it’s true).  And on the other hand, when I’m on a bike, just to be on the safe side, I assume that every SUV is driven by someone who is late, angry about it, drinking coffee, on the phone, and putting on makeup/shaving, all very small things that put my life in serious danger. What’s really fun is that since these are the representatives that leave comments on every news story, generally the flame wars are loud, angry, stupid, and long-lasting.

I think it’s pretty obvious that people need to show more respect to each other, but I don’t see an obvious solution to Atlanta’s (or the country’s) car-bike faceoff. I assumed it was a simple need for infrastructure – and I do still think dedicated bike lanes would encourage more people to bike, which would create more hybrid bike-car users who recognize both sides of the issues on the streets, but it clearly doesn’t stop there. What else can help?

MARTA…not necessarily Smarta

Just a reminder…MARTA’s recent cuts go into effect tomorrow, September 25, 2010. Cuts include up to an increase of five minutes in wait time between trains, no more weekend train service before 6 am and the elimination of 2700 bus stops. For more detailed information on the cuts, you can visit the MARTA website here. In addition to these cuts, the token phase-out and pass fare increases will begin in October.

I’ll admit, as an OTPer, I only use MARTA occasionally for sporting events, conferences, etc. But, I still empathize with the thousands of ITPers who will be severely affected by these cuts. What will this do for commuters who use MARTA everyday to get to/from work? Will their jobs work with them?

When will Atlanta realize what all other big cities have? To truly be a big city you need REAL mass transit.

Car Free? Car Lite?

Are you guys “car-free” today?  I thought I saw a few more bikes than usual on the way in this morning!

If you agree to give your car the day off one day this week, Clark Howard will give you a free Chick-fil-A sammich. Just don’t make an extra trip and drive there.

Apparently Atlantans spend an average of nearly $500 a month driving back and forth to work. That is completely nuts when you add in the value of lost time spent in the car, too. And the cumulative stress it generates– it raises the hairs on the back of my neck thinking about sitting in the parking lot of the connector every day. I picture a big black ball of Angry sparking and hovering over Spaghetti Junction.

A good resource for anyone even considering carpooling, MARTA, biking, or other transportation options is the Clean Air Campaign. I “log my commute” with them every week and occasionally win an Amazon gift card, plus get pretty annoyingly smug when I use their online calculators to see how much money I save by biking to work instead of driving. They can pair you up with carpool partners, and you get up to $100 or more just for starting an alternative commute.

Think you could hack it?

Remember when... Thirty metro Atlantans started Zipcar’s Low-Car Diet yesterday. The 30 participants, chosen from 100 local applicants, got a free one-year Zipcar membership in exchange for agreeing to give up using their respective personal vehicles for one month and instead walk, bike, take transit or use Zipcar.

The free Zipcar membership (usually $50) is nice, but I think they could have made it a bit more interesting. Perhaps asking the participants to give up their cars for three months and giving them 10 or 12 hours of Zipcar driving credits each month. This would be the perfect time of year for it. Fall  (is it EVER going to be fall?) and our very mild early winter are about the best time of year for commuting al fresco.

Most of the people quoted in the AJC story sound like city-dwellers who aren’t particularly wedded to driving anyway. How about you? Could you make it for a month without your own car? How well (or badly) do you think you’d do? How would $60 (soon to be $68) per month for an unlimited MARTA pass, plus the cost of a few Zipcar trips per week – $7 to $10.25 per hour – compare with what you’re spending to get around every month now?

Zero Dollars for Biking in Atlanta?

Ah, crap, I’m a little last-minute on this, but this one’s it’s worth ten minutes of your time!  As reported earlier, the transportation legislation this year has divided the state up into 12 regions, and each region will vote (yea or nay) on a list of transportation projects and their accompanying 1% sales tax. TODAY is the last day to submit your comments to the Atlanta Regional Commission, who has developed the first bit of the first bit of this list. See details here, and the criteria for the list here (PDF).

My concern, which is cited more eloquently and with more detail at the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition here and here, is that they’ve set aside a whopping 0-5% to use on non-motorized projects.

Record numbers of Atlantans are hopping on bikes.  25% of our trips are made within a mile of the home and 40% are made within two miles – these are distances that, barring extreme temperatures, we should almost always bike. Or at least they are distances for which we should have the option to safely and comfortably bike.  Each of the 25 or so bicycles locked up outside my office represents one less car, less wear and tear on the roads, less pollution, more vibrant communities, healthier citizens, and less sprawl. I cannot imagine not encouraging this sort of transportation.

The culture is changing, and we need our infrastructure to keep up! All this to say that a 0-5% allocation for bike and ped programs is not acceptable for the Atlanta region to do so. Other cities (with which we are competing for jobs and investment) are adding bike lanes, installing bike racks, and encouraging alternative means of getting to work, and I worry that Georgia is stuck in a paradigm of an unsustainable, auto-focused transportation network. I ask you to check out the criteria the ARC has posted, and consider sending off a quick email to let them know how you feel about the future of transportation in Atlanta.

(I recognize that this may be as simple as “Don’t tax us anymore!”, which is another correct opinion. Make your voice heard!)

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