Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

Atlanta transit system gets mixed report card

A national blog has given Atlanta’s transit system a mixed report card.

Streetsblog reports on transportation policy issues nationally and in selected cities and “aims to change the cars-first status quo on their cities’ streets.” In recent months it has begun a series on “getting transit right,” which looks at lessons learned from transit systems across the country. The first city under its microscope: Atlanta.

In recent articles, Streetsblog has graded Atlanta’s transit infrastructure in four areas:

*Service quality: C-minus . The blog says “the MARTA system has a strong backbone, but it’s showing its age,” and hasn’t kept up with population growth.

*Land use: D-plus . Streetsblog says Atlanta’s “legacy of low-density sprawl works against transit, with most growth still happening far from MARTA stations.” But it sees promise in Atlanta’s efforts to revise its zoning code and MARTA’s transit-oriented developments.

*Recent expansion: C. The blog is encouraged by the 2014 approval of a MARTA expansion into Clayton County. But it says funding for the Atlanta Streetcar is “wasted on slow, unreliable service.”

“Everyone I spoke with for this series agreed the street car line is not a model for future investment,” the blog says. “No one wants to spend millions of dollars on projects that don’t work.” Ouch.

*Future plans: B-plus. Streetsblog praises Atlanta for having “’clear goals on delivering fast transit, serving the city equitably and spurring walkable development.” But it suggests Atlanta rethink its priorities for the voter-approved $2.5 billion MARTA expansion. “Some projects at the front of the line for funding, like the Beltline, won’t connect as many people and jobs as other projects with less name recognition.”

You can read the full series here.

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About the Author

David Wickert covers transportation issues for the Enterprise team. He joined the AJC in 2010 and has also covered local government in Gwinnett and Fulton counties.