Beltline: Is MARTA Really Taking the Public’s Wishes Into Consideration?

Our Sabrina wrote this back in July about her interest in the developing Beltline project. I also have been following the Beltline project, and am enamored of the idea that one day Atlanta’s disparate neighborhoods may be linked by public transit that is affordable, clean, safe, timely, and above all, useful.

My own experience with commuting via public transit was less than satisfying: My office in Buckhead was located a hop, skip, and a jump from a Marta station. Unfortunately, though, my home in East Atlanta was not. I could have taken the not-so-regular bus to the Inman Park station, but I would have had to wake up earlier (over an hour earlier) to ensure that I arrived at work on time. As it was, I compromised, and decided to take my automobile to the Inman Park station, then take the train west to Five Points. Getting off there, I would wait for a northbound train (and not just any northbound train, but the one that goes all the way north to Buckhead, rather than to Doraville). Once up in Buckhead, i would walk to my office. I always enjoyed the ride on the train, being able to read and peoplewatch, and why, oh why! didn’t i have an IPod then? The problem, though, is that it always took me longer to get to work via Marta than it took me to get there in my car, even with morning traffic on the downtown connector. Add in a rainy day and it became a complete hassle. I was beyond relieved when I spent the next four years telecommuting; All the ease of an environmentally-friendly work situation, and none of the hassle. I realize that there are those who don’t have the choice to drive, and that public transportation is their only option. Wouldn’t it be great if both those who wanted to use Marta and those who needed to use Marta found it an appealing option?

Enter the Beltline. I have watched it with interest and with the hope that the solution chosen will meet the needs of the public, and grow with Atlanta as she moves into the future. I often read the blog of a fellow East Atlantan, Larry Johnson, who really follows urban development issues and writes about them on his site. His latest post discusses the most recent developments in the Beltline study, and in particular, points out that it appears to him that while most of the communities through which the Beltline would run prefer the light rail option, it seems that attendees at the meetings feel Marta is attempting to tilt the outcome to favor the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) option.

An interesting development and a good reason to attend one of the informational meetings. There is one tonight:

Thursday, August 10, 2006
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
North Avenue Presbyterian Church (Broyles Auditorium)
607 Peachtree Street, Atlanta
(MARTA rail to North Avenue Station)

More information on the Inner Core Study can be found here.

8 Comments so far

  1. Jonathan Peterson (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 10:53 am

    If buses are cheaper the eternally underfunded MARTA was bound to favor them. The time I’ve spent in Oregon and Toronto make me a big believer in the streetcar/lightrail systems that they have. Something similar would revolutionize Atlanta.

    As for your troubles with actually USING MARTA, there is no solution to switching from E/W to N/W – even with Atlanta traffic, a two-legged trip by mass transit is going to be slower than a straight line.

    But try adding in a bike to replace the bus. MARTA is one of the few mass transit systems that allows bikes on trains during rush hour. You’d have to ride all the way to 5 points but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s faster than your drive/marta version.

  2. Rusty (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 10:54 am

    This would be an excellent event for folks to talk about on Politics is Vocal. You can call 678.389.9441, and leave a message up to ten minutes long with observations, crowd reactions and interviews. We’ll then accumulate messages about the event and post them in a podcast.

  3. Annie (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 11:00 am

    Thanks for the suggestion, Jonathon. I actually don’t commute anymore, so it is not that much of an issue, but even if I did, I don’t know how realistic it would have been for me to bike the route. It is all a roundabout way of getting from East Atlanta to Five Points via bike (I feel a post about lack of bike-friendly options in atlanta coming on!) and since there is no shower option at my old office, that would have presented its own problems too. Overall, I agree that that the light rail seems like the solution for the future though, and I hope that we can figure out a way to pay for something like that. Agreed, though, that it is not likely given the budget issues. [sigh]

  4. seekastar (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

    How can we become more involved outside of attending a meeting? I want to go but already attend to many neighborhood meetings. Is there any plans to send out a survey like the beltline once did?

    There must be a GREEN solution and there really should be more than one beltline path, there should be two sets of track one going N to S and one going S – N to make the light rail more effective. Cant this be done electric or via solar energy?? We have got to make some changes that are better for the environment. With condos popping up to the “nth” exponential power, we have to have better inner city transit that is greener and will decrease the amount of inner city traffic, not increase it to 1-2 per each condo unit being built currently. Sorry, that was a mouthful. Thanks!

  5. Annie (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

    Seekastar – Good points. I found the following information on the MARTA site at:

    “Those who cannot attend one of these meetings but would like to register comments can do so by sending them to:

    6067 Roosevelt Highway
    Union City, Georgia 30291
    770/306-7754 (fax)

  6. Larry Felton Johnson (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

    Hi, Annie. Thanks for the trackback. You have a good blog here, and I’ll start following it.

  7. james (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 10:40 pm

    silly…silly…silly. on every planet in the solar system people prefer trains of any type to buses. of course one of the great things about being the only game in town is that in the end you really can pretty much tell the customer whats going to happen. like it or not.

  8. annie (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 11:26 pm

    Larry – Yikes! As if i can take credit. I am a less-than-stellar poster here, and I don’t run the place, either. Glad you like it, though!

    James, I think you are on to something. Good old capitalist, free-market, dualing rapid transit systems! Fantastic idea!

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