OPINION: Transit expansion in Atlanta has left the station

The debate over transit expansion in Atlanta has left the station.

The City of Atlanta is moving full speed ahead on providing the world-class transportation options that its residents and businesses continue to support, and demand, in overwhelming fashion.

Last November, the sales-tax referendum on a $2.6 billion MARTA expansion passed with 71 percent approval. The accompanying T-SPLOST, which will raise an estimated $300 million for infrastructure projects, won a 68 percent majority.

Those are landslide margins. City residents are voting with their pocketbooks and businesses are voting with their feet in order to improve their lives and bottom lines by locating near transit.

The message is clear: Atlanta wants to be in the future business.

NCR, Honeywell, GE Digital, UPS, EquiFax and Anthem are moving into Atlanta or expanding their presence here. They all want convenient access to MARTA.

So does State Farm in Dunwoody and Mercedes-Benz in Sandy Springs.

For decades now, Atlanta’s investment in transportation infrastructure has set the city above our regional competitors. Our landmark decisions to invest in MARTA and Hartsfield-Jackson airport have been critical factors in building Metro Atlanta into the dominant economic and cultural engine of the Southeast.

In the last two years, Atlanta taxpayers have doubled down on that investment, beginning in March 2015 with approval of the Renew Atlanta Infrastructure Bond program, which is already delivering $250 million in infrastructure improvements in a timely and efficient manner.

We are fixing roads and bridges; engineering more than 30 miles of Complete Streets projects, including bicycle lanes; and synchronizing traffic signals.

Thanks to the city’s robust AA+ credit rating – its highest in 50 years — we are funding these improvements at historically low rates.

MARTA’s expansion means the potential is very real for new light-rail transit and flexible bus service that will connect with existing heavy rail and the Atlanta Streetcar.

Anti-transit voices often advocate for short-term fixes over long-term projects, like Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) over heavy or light rail. We recognize that BRT is part of the solution. But there’s no question that our investments in rail have been a driving force in our region’s growing economy.

Yes, the Streetcar has had setbacks, but it’s also a new start-up system operating at 97 percent on-time efficiency.

The Streetcar’s proven ability to connect previously isolated corridors to economic opportunity should excite anyone hoping for positive outcomes in our city.

Since the Streetcar opened, it has served 1.3 million riders. More than $2.5 billion in economic activity has occurred within a five-minute walk of the line. This includes the $96 million Post Centennial Park, the first new residential property downtown for families and young professionals in 20 years.

The Streetcar’s eventual expansion will provide a link from downtown to the Atlanta Beltline for the 50 million annual visitors who make Atlanta the fourth most-visited city in America.

Detractors say the Streetcar doesn’t go far enough fast enough. That’s hardly a convincing argument for the future. The current 2.7-mile Streetcar loop is the first stake in the ground for a system that will connect more businesses and neighborhoods to a world-class transportation ecosystem.

Imagine if Atlanta leaders a half-century ago had ignored investments in transit and our airport because their reach seemed limited. What if they had hedged on our future and relied only on roads and the interstate highways for mobility?

The bottom line is that Georgia’s thriving capital city — known for such outrageous ideas as hosting the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games and building the Atlanta Beltline — has a track record for delivering. We know how to turn the most daring dreams into transformative reality.

Watch us go.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: The real Down syndrome ‘problem’

Iceland must be pleased that it is close to success in its program of genocide, but before congratulating that nation on its final solution to the Down syndrome problem, perhaps it might answer a question: What is this problem? To help understand why some people might ask this question, keep in mind two children while reading today’s column....
Opinion: In defense of cultural appropriation

I’m here to defend cultural appropriation. “Cross-cultural influence,” would be the less pejorative phrase. But the term above, with its connotations of grand-theft culture, is the one favored by some African-American activists who’ve had it up to here with nonblack performers borrowing the soul and style of Michael, Marvin...

Liberal columnist stumbles on his own hypocrisy Paul Krugman addressed a variety of issues in a recent column (Opinion, March 5). While I am not a big fan of his ultra-liberal views and opinions, I did found this column interesting while agreeing with many of his points. However, when I got to the last point that our electoral college system &ldquo...
Opinion: Medicaid work requirements are sound policy

Following up on an important policy change to reorient safety net programs toward work, the Trump administration has just approved the third state request to implement work requirements in Medicaid. At least seven other state applications to do the same are still pending. Critics have warned of catastrophe, and threatened litigation, to stop them....
Opinion: For voters, GOP tax cut means nada

Even though they control every lever of the federal government, Republicans can so far claim only one solitary accomplishment of any significance, the passage of a massive tax cut. This week, in the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, they gave that singular accomplishment a test drive as a campaign issue, and it didn&rsquo...
More Stories