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.

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A new Amtrak station for Atlantic Station?

The Georgia DOT has applied for a $22.5 million grant for the construction of a new Amtrak station at  the intersection of 17th Street and Northside Drive, near Atlantic Station.

Creative Loafing reported that the estimated cost of building the new facility would be approximately $39 million. Georgia DOT and Amtrak would provide the remaining funds in cash and the value of the land.

The Amtrak station in Brookwood opened in 1918 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately a building doesn’t make it to that age without showing some wear. The parking lot in front of the building was closed to cars last month because GDOT  determined that the structure supporting it wasn’t sound enough to safely handle the weight load any more.

Although a new multi-modal transit station is planned for downtown near MARTA’s Five Points Station, completion of that project is likely to be at least a decade away. In the meantime, the state says that the small Brookwood station has already seen a 16 percent increase in passengers since 2009.

What do you think? Should the DOT, if possible hold onto any grant money they’re awarded to use for the construction of the MMPT, or to fix the existing station? Or is a new Amtrak facility important enough to make the investment now?

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Now open: Fourth Ward Park, Phase I

Have you been to Historic Fourth Ward Park yet?

When I moved away a few years ago Dallas Street consisted of an industrial building at one end, David Daniels Design at the other and a few houses that looked like they might not survive a storm in between. Beyond that was perhaps the most kudzu amassed in one place on earth.

Now it’s chockablock with new apartments and this:

How to get there:

Transit:  I took the Route 2 MARTA bus going east from North Avenue Station. Get off at Ponce and Glen Iris – right in front of Cactus Car Wash – then walk two blocks to Dallas Street and Glen Iris and turn left. Dallas Street leads right to the west entrance to the park.

Walking: The foot bridge over Freedom Parkway from the Freedom Park PATH Trail leads to the park.

Driving: These directions are untested, just cobbled together from looking at the map and what I observed from inside the park. Travelling east on North Avenue, turn right on North Angier Avenue, which is just past the Masquerade. Follow that street south and turn right on Morgan Street. There’s also some on-street parking on Dallas Street. (Someone correct me if I have that all wrong.)


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.

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Study ranks Atlanta fourth most literate city

Stack of fiction and non-fiction hardbacks

Photo by author

I just came across a USA Today story on a study that ranks Atlanta the fourth “most literate” among the country’s 75 largest cities. (The study’s author uses the term “literate” to refer to whether people do read, not just to whether they can read.)

Atlanta placed highest among cities in the Southeast. Raleigh, N.C. was the next-highest ranking Southeastern city at 13th.

2010 was the eighth year for the study, which was conducted by Central Connecticut State University. The city has seen a steady climb through the rankings for the past four years after falling from a tie with Washington, D.C. for third place in 2006 to eighth place in 2007.

The author formulated the results by comparing cities with a population of at least 250,000 based on six criteria:

  • Internet resources to access books and newspapers
  • The number of bookstores per 10,000 residents
  • Education level
  • Library staffing, holdings and rate of utilization relative to the population size
  • Newspaper circulation
  • Magazine and journal circulation numbers relative to the population size

“It’s a surprise to me, ” Chantal, a member of the staff at A Capella Books in Little Five Points, said of the study’s conclusions. Chantal declined to give her last name, but said that she’s lived in Raleigh and that she was surprised that it landed so much lower in the study’s rankings than Atlanta.

“Raleigh seems like a more literate city to me than Atlanta,” she said. Independent bookstores are more plentiful there and “People seem more into literary culture, ” she said.

Edward VanHorn, executive director of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, hesitated to render an opinion on the accuracy of the study results as he wasn’t familiar with the data the author used. SNPA concerns itself more with promoting literacy as it relates to the skill of reading, VanHorn said.

He did say that it was “fascinating” that Atlanta came out so near the top of the list, given that he doesn’t often see people reading books or walking around with a newspaper tucked under one arm.

If you’re interested in the study’s methodology that’s here. Data sources are here.

What do you think? Is Atlanta lower, higher, or just where it should be in the results? Or is this another one for the “grain of salt” file?


Coming in March: Phoenix Flies

Is this thing on? I think we’re back up and running, so here goes.

Phoenix Flies logo

Phoenix Flies logo by APC

The Atlanta Preservation Center’s seventh annual Phoenix Flies tours will run March 5 to March 20 this year.

Phoenix Flies, which APC describes as “city-wide celebration of Atlanta’s vibrant living landmarks,” features tours of historic landmark buildings and neighborhoods all over the city.

I’ve been meaning to go this “Unseen Underground” tour for years, and I’ll admit to not even being completely sure where Castleberry Hill is, so I probably ought to get to that one too.

Most appear to be walking tours, but there’s also a roughly three-hour bicycle tour of downtown historic districts on March 5. All the events are free, but some require reservations.

Have you taken any of these tours? How was it?


atl hipsters dropping the ball

Krog tunnel news source hasn’t been updated since November 27. Not sure if they’re scared of Rodney again or what, but I don’t know what to do with my weekend! What’s going on with you?


Underground Atlanta: What to throw away, what to keep

It’s the time of year when people start to organize and cull their stuff (again). The time of year when they finally acknowledge that they’re not going to spend “twenty minutes a day, three days a week” on that exercise gadget and put it in the box to go to Goodwill. Out go the fondue pots, the graphing calculator from college, the too-small shorts and the “What is that thing, anyway?”

So, what are we going to do with this?Underground sign - northeast corner

It’s not rare to hear the opinion that Underground Atlanta has outlived its usefulness, but we can’t just put it on a truck, drive it up Marietta Street and leave it at the Salvation Army across from Georgia Tech. Besides, it’s not as if it’s not serving any purpose at all. The streets right around Five Points and Underground are very active during the day and the stores and restaurants there are managing to stay afloat because people do go there.

The problem is that not many of those people are downtown residents (who would keep the streets active at night) or tourists or business travelers (who tend to spend a lot of money). By about 6 p.m. the students, office workers and shoppers are gone and the place is mostly dead, left for a variety of unofficial uses.

The attempt to turn Underground into a nightlife destination to replace Buckhead Village was less than a blazing success and the leaseholders’ proposal to create a hotel and casino complex there isn’t likely to rise from the dead. Maybe what’s needed there isn’t necessarily something unique, but just something that will work. By “work” I mean it will get people of varying ages and backgrounds down there at least 12 hours per day and that it will be appealing to people who live, work and go to school downtown, and to people who are just passing through. If it attracts people from other parts of the city and even outside the city, so much the better, but that might be expecting too much.

If you had unlimited money but only about two years to do it, how would you turn Underground around?


Sunday Paper folds

Atlanta Progressive news reported Monday that newsweekly The Sunday Paper is no more – at least in its current form.

The Sunday Paper’s site has been taken down and in its place is this message:

“SundayPaper.com will re-launch

SP will be back on January 7, 2011 as the complete source for coupons, deals, fun and culture in Atlanta.”

Sounds a bit like another Access Atlanta or Atlanta Insite. Does anyone really think we’re short on sources of “fun” around here? I’ve heard that some people think that knowing what’s going on in our city is fun. Could be just a rumor, though.

APN quoted an email from former editor Stephanie Ramage that read, in part  ”Patrick Best, our publisher, informed me that The Sunday Paper would no longer be doing news.  Patrick was as nice as he could be; the decision, he explained, was merely the product of today’s business environment.”

Talk about bad news.

Maybe one of us will win the lottery and we can start another paper. Or maybe just buy a mall.

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Ah goody, statistics and politics

On Tuesday the first numbers from the census were released, outlining which states are gaining congressional seats and which lose them. No big surprise, Georgia gained a seat. We saw an 18% increase in population over the last 10 years, and though the state hasn’t quite broken the 10 million mark, we’re close. Check the complete state stats here, but for our fair state and city:

Previous districting, blue and red, spread out over population segments of ~630k (thanks, Washington Post)

Georgia

8,186,453: population, 2000

9,687,653: population, 2010

18.3% increase

Atlanta

416,474: population, 2000

540,922: population, 2009 (details of the 2010 census will be released in the next few months)

23% increase

So Georgia (Atlanta, really) earned a 14th congressional seat based on population gains, which will probably be in the northern suburbs, which will most likely mean another republican congressperson. In the summer Governor Deal will call a special session to redraw districts for state House, state Senate, and the new congressional seats based on population changes. I’m sure based solely on the population changes. Surely gerrymandering was just a vocab word from middle school. I assume everyone will behave like gentlemen and women.

Just for some more fun with numbers, congressmen in the 113th Congress will be representing an additional 63,520 citizens (going from 631,306 citizens per congressman in 2000 to 694,826 citizens per congressman in 2010).

The Peach Pundit update has more discussion than I care to follow, much less recap, but has information worth sharing…

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City of Atlanta water contains probable cancer causing chemical

An environmental group that tested drinking water in the city of Atlanta found it contains hexavalent chromium, a chemical that the National Institutes of Health has described as a “probable carcinogen.”

The Washington-based Environmental Working Group said in a study released Monday that the level of the chemical in Atlanta’s water ranks 13th-highest among water systems it tested last spring in 35 U.S cities.

But water officials in Atlanta and metro Atlanta said Monday that the level of the chemical found in the city’s drinking water, .20 parts per billion, is well below the 100 parts per billion of “total chromium” in the water that the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe to drink.

Read mo’ from the AJC

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No worries. Just drink Coke instead! This is Atlanta, after all.


Special Giveaway: Hawks tickets, for TONIGHT’S GAME!

Dear Loyal Metblog Readers,

Some friends at StubHub (who knew we had friends at StubHub?) have graciously agreed to donate a pair of Hawks tickets for tonight’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats. Seats are in section 108, tipoff is at 7:30 PM.

This appears to be a member of the Hawks basketball team. Photo by Scott Cunningham

As a reward to our long-time readers and quick searchbar users, the tickets will go to the first person to name the player previous author james (successfully) petitioned to stay here in Atlanta. Well, at least the guy signed a four-year contract after james posted an open letter to him here on metblogs, so you draw your own conclusions.

Be the first to leave your comment (make sure to include your email address when you login – it won’t show, but I’ll get it) and I’ll send you the electronic tickets for tonight!


From Sunday sales laws come “shot houses”

A little noticed story was reported by WSBTV Channel 2 last night. Apparently, someone in a College Park neighborhood was selling booze out of their home on Sundays in what the story refers to as a “shot house.” According to police, “Customers could go to the home on Surrey Trail and order a drink, or buy a six pack on Sunday.” Hmmm. So the illegal activity in question is a direct result of the government’s decision to outlaw an activity one day out of the week that it fully supports and collects taxes on the other six days of the week. WEIRD.

These are probably NOT the kinds of drinks they were making at the shot house. I wonder if it had a name.

After receiving reports from neighbors about a line of cars in front of the home on Sundays, police “conducted surveillance, made traffic stops as customers left, and sent in an officer with a hidden camera. They then returned with a warrant and the SWAT team.” Okay, I get it. Something illegal was going on. And it’s the police department’s job to stop it. I understand that the problem here isn’t just selling alcohol on Sundays. Someone was selling out of a home in a residential neighborhood, operating without a license and in a place with children and families. Obviously, the potential exists for some sort of misconduct or violence to spill over. This is all bad. I’m glad the police intervened. 

 BUT. But. The fact that all of this happened – the bar’s existence, the police raid, the arrests, the coming prosecutions – happened because our state allows for the sale of alcohol Mondays through Saturdays. But not Sundays – unless you drink at a bar. On Sunday, it’s illegal. From a policy standpoint, it seems like a problem to require law enforcement to commit precious time, manpower, and resources to shut down shot houses while potential robberies, rapes, and homicides are taking place elsewhere. Can we just allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays already? Is it really too much to ask?


The Latest Street Name Changing Ridiculousness

Atlanta has a pretty serious history of street name-changing ridiculousness. A certain street on the west side of the city has gone through four names (based on some serious Wikipedia-ing, it looks like it went from Bellwood Ave to Bankhead Ave in the 1920s to Bankhead Highway to, most recently, Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. You can’t bounce on DLH. But I guess you don’t get robbed on DLH?).

Other egregious offenses that come to mind are the Lakewood Freeway -> Langford Parkway switch, Stewart -> Metropolitan, our Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and, most ridiculous of all, a  stretch of Memorial Drive has already been switched back to Memorial after a brief stint as Cynthia McKinney Parkway.

The latest round of street name changes is up for a vote this week.  City Council is proposing to change Harris St. downtown to John Portman (the architect behind downtown’s gorgeous atrium hotels who is often partially blamed for the neighborhood’s dearth of welcoming street life), and to change Cone to recognize Xernona Clayton, a well-known civil rights activist and close friend to Coretta Scott King.  Both people are living, both people have made significant contributions to the city, and, I strongly believe, neither street name change is warranted. Creative Loafing has a thoughtful editorial about the issue here – “A surefire way not to be remembered: Note to City Council: Street signs are not chalkboards.” Read more


This burger thing – am I missing something?

Earl burger

Flickr photo by Intrepidation

Every now and then, maybe once every three months, I think about having a burger.  But I don’t. After one disappointing encounter too many, I pretty well gave up.

Too dry or too greasy. Too much glop on it. Too big, too charred, too much bread. Some have the the heft of a brick and taste of absolutely nothing. With so many other things to eat, it didn’t seem worthwhile to keep searching for a passable version of one food. So, I probably haven’t had a hamburger in about five years.

I thought Atlanta’s two-year-old gourmet burger epidemic would have burned itself out by now, but I would have lost money on that bet. Maybe now, when the choices are about as good as they’re likely to get, is the time to give it another try. I live close enough to Grindhouse to walk (not today, lest I freeze my face or who-knows-what else off in the process). I can get to Wonderful World pretty easily (Hmm, their site is down. Anyone know what’s going on with them?) and it wouldn’t be too much trouble to MARTA my way over to Flip or Yeah! Burger. But, once there, would it be worth the time and, more importantly, the money?

Is anyone a new burger convert? Is there really something to all this or is everyone just going because everyone else is going?


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