Why does Jim Wooten hate Atlanta?

I spent last weekend in DC and I can’t tell you how intoxicating it was to be in a city with a public transit system that works and that people want to use.

This is some ranting fueled by Jim Wooten’s editorial in today’s AJC.

I know I delve into Wooten’s columns with a certain amount of pre-existing prejudice, but that doesn’t make him sound like any less of a flappy-headed, suburban yokel. I’ve never heard him speak, but based on his photo, I imagine he sounds like Will Ferrell doing the Harry Caray impression after 5 or 6 Southern Comforts. The reason I resort to these vicious personal attacks is that I am not learned or articulate enough on the subject matter in today’s column to engage in a high-level debate, so I have to get my sucker punches in where I can. I’m sorry, it’s what I do. Now that I’ve sapped all of my credibility, I’ll get to the partisan talking points.

Regarding MARTA, I find Wooten’s hardline fiscal ideals to be, at best, unreasonable, at worst, counter-productive and dangerous to the health of the entire metro area. His notion of strictly holding city and county tax revenue within the locality it is generated is a typical conservative viewpoint, and one to which I am not whole-heartedly opposed. If I lived in Sandy Springs, would I be frustrated as hell? Absolutely. But there are certain public entities that need to transcend the tight confines of local municipalities if only to maintain some sort of quality standard. Education. Public Transportation. Utilities.

Does MARTA have some financial woes that need addressing? Duh. But forcing them to sit in the corner like some sort of unruly 8-year-old until they address their “inability to muster the political will to balance their books,” is asinine and will never work. To assert that MARTA lacks the will to balance their books is ridiculous. Can you think of a single organization with budgetary obligations that doesn’t want to be solvent?

The fact that, of the ten largest metro areas in the country, MARTA is the only one not to receive state funding is extremely important. Several heads of public transportation departments from around the country have gone on record saying that they simply couldn’t do what they do without state-level funding. We’re talking about places like DC and Portland where public transit is crucial to the viability of the city. The argument by a tax payer in Columbus or Macon or Savannah that their tax dollars should not fund something used exclusively by metro Atlanta is valid, but it loses steam when you take into consideration the following statement:

What is good for Atlanta is good for Georgia.

What is good for downtown Atlanta is ultimately good for the metro area. What is good for the metro area is ultimately good for the state. What is good for the states is ultimately good for the nation. Etc.

To survive and ultimately thrive in this time of unprecedented urban growth and renewal, MARTA needs people to need MARTA, and right now, people don’t need MARTA. This is a problem that, if left unchecked, will eventually cause a plateau in Atlanta’s growth and prosperity. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t own a car. MARTA is not adequate enough to handle all of someone’s transportation needs, a situation that is unnacceptable for an urban center growing like Atlanta’s. Do you think the midtown and downtown areas can support at least one vehicle for every single condo currently under construction? Hint: HELL NO. Sure, the entire city has a collective boner for IKEA and Atlantic Station, but I would like everyone to close their eyes and picture for a second the 10th and 14th Street Exit during the days and weeks after IKEA opens. Makes you want to avoid it like the plague, doesn’t it?

The situation that MARTA is in sucks any way you slice it, but it is not one that suburban taxpayers can effect by applying grade school discipline to MARTA. The city, the suburbs, and the state need to take their medicine and put together a huge influx of cash and planning so that Atlanta can grow into the city it wants to be. It’s either that or MARTA will continue to wither until it dies and takes the health of the city with it.

1 Comment so far

  1. Josh (unregistered) on May 24th, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

    When I was like 12, living in Kennesaw, me and my buddies would skate up to KSU (a good hour or so), catch the CCT to Marietta Square, then to Arts Center, train to 5 points station, then to Inman Park, and walk to Little 5… It’s been sometime now but it literally took ALL DAY LONG just to go somewhere cooler than the ‘burbs, to hang out for a couple of hours and get home before the busses stopped running. It was great fun, it was an adventure. Now I’m not as motivated I guess? As much as I hate driving everywhere and the not-so-intuitive design of many roadways, I can’t be spending all day just to go DT to hang out and shop, sight-see, etc… I dunno, I havn’t tried it yet but maybe this weekend I’ll do it… I’ll walk to the bus stop and make my way into Atlanta and back from Buford. Surely the system has improved since my earlier excursions? I’ll report my findings.

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