Today marks the one year anniversary that we were one of only a handful of communities in America that said no to improving transportation in 2012. Last August I thought we were taking a massive step backwards as a region, but thankfully North Carolina has allowed Pat McCrory and their state legislature to wreck nearly every major element to the state’s social, race, sex, and education welfare, so fortunately we don’t look so bad. We may be one of the few communities in the country that can’t put together a regional plan for transportation but at least we don’t hate everyone that isn’t an old white man. Thank you North Carolina! You are making us look like progressive pioneers of the South.
But anyways. TSPLOST got office linebackered last year with the intent that we could produce something better in a plan B. Plan B….Plan B….Plan B….searching for that Plan B proposal somewhere. Ah that’s right there is no Plan B. You see Debbie Dooley, Vincent Fort, and the Sierra Club really had no intentions for a Plan B. And even if they did, they were clearly clueless as to how difficult that would be. We haven’t heard much from Debbie Dooley since then, Vincent Fort doesn’t even show up in a Google News search, and the Sierra Club is well still the Sierra Club. While those transportation geniuses were busy “working” on a Plan B us Atlantans have been stuck in traffic, waiting for our transit expansions, and have listened to a new proposal that will turn the Turner Field to Downtown connection into an Disney/Epcot/Las Vegas/Orlando Airport like corridor. Hopefully that Maglev will be zipping right over those driverless cars that are coming or some other super funky transportation idea that will likely be dismantled after a few years. (In case you couldn’t tell I do think the MagLev is pretty much a stupid idea. Need proof; just look for all the failed monorails around the world that cities have attempted to use. And if they haven’t failed they are on life support, or charge a fare so ridiculously high it isnt worth it. You can talk levitation all you want, but it’s basically a monorail.)
So we all got shafted by false promises. That isn’t really something new from a politician; they have a pretty strong record of that. But it is surprising from a group such as the Sierra Club, who touted how they were working so closely with their Tea Party foes to create a glorious unified and passable transportation plan. Except that the Sierra Club forgot to pay attention to the fact that the Tea Party wanted nothing to do with a new tax, and even less to do with supporting anything that didn’t involve a Ford F-150, unlimited gasoline, and a wide open interstate for them to utilize. In fact if you go to the Sierra Club website they have been mum on the issue since one week following the failure of TSPLOST. They did provide a cordial post on how the region is working on a Plan B and somehow found it relevant that while MARTA doesn’t receive state funding that is somehow related to how they don’t have open data. I would respond to that, but I am trying to keep this post short.
As for the other players? Well part of the reason people didn’t vote for TSPLOST was their lack of trust in GDOT to manage and handle their financial portion. So Nathan Deal felt that it would be reasonable to not only announce the tolls would be dead on 400 right before the vote, but immediately declared that we would be building one costly interchange at I-285 and 400. That will help improve the publics’ image of GDOT. Remove a source of revenue while adding a massive new expense. That deafening sound of silence you just heard, that was the Georgia Tea Party and most Conservatives shutting their mouths. “Fiscal Responsibility! Unless it is something that benefits us.” Amazing how those same anti-tax, fiscal responsible citizens have yet to speak up about the waste that will be that new interchange. I guess that whole self preservation thing can get in the way sometimes. And let us not forget their expanded financial commitment to those plush suburban commuter buses. Chip Rodgers? The infamous legislator that said yes to TSPLOST but then changed his mind when he realized his job might be in jeopardy and quickly became the rising Georgia GOP superstar? He abandoned ship not long after to go work for GPB. I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop from that story. Kasim Reed? He is a little busy right now making sure we get that lovely new stadium that we have all been clamoring for, while possibly providing a few churches that are in the way a windfall in their donation plate. Warning, the bake sale might get cancelled this year. (Though as of yesterday it appears the site will be moving a bit north – even further from the nearest transit stations.)
Other than that not much has changed. We did get a new leader at MARTA who seems to understand the intangibles to successful transit and how to navigate the local climate towards it. Thankfully the bill to force the privatization of some MARTA services did not go through, but I think that will turn into another legislation battle in the next session that will need our attention. The streetcar is progressing nicely so the past year hasn’t been a total loss in advancing transit and the push for TOD’s around some of MARTA’s stations has been a good sign. Hopefully providing us with some quality new development around transit.
But while all those that assisted in the pummeling of TSPLOST have been “busy” working on our Plan B, you and I have been standing on the platform waiting on that next train. Only it seems like the headway is getting longer and longer.
It seems like Downtown Atlanta is starting to gain back its momentum of being the center of the universe again. With the SkyView opening next to Centennial Olympic Park, the Streetcar expediting construction, the humanitarian spirit of Georgia State University, and the new attractions next to the World of Coke, everyone will be flocking back to the core of Terminus. Now let’s think outside the box for a minute… What could make a Downtown even more accessible and eye-popping at the same time? The answer is in levitation…
There are plans according to the City of Atlanta on alternative modes of transportation to Turner Field (as if buses just weren’t enough). Our options are light rail (formerly approached by MARTA but axed as a Locally Preferred Alternative) and a new form of rail not approached in the South known as Maglev. If you don’t know, think of the MARTA rail, but operated by magnetic levitation on an axle, rather than wheels and tracks.
The Maglev track between Five Points and Turner Field would be wonderful for Braves Commuters and Summerpeoples Park (it’s a real place) residents alike. But wait! There’s more!!! Why stop there? The Streetcar will only go so far now, so why doesn’t Maglev pick up where it leaves? It would serve as a great last-minute connectivity trail for Georgia State, Federal and local employees, tourists to the Zoo and Peachtree Center, and that coveted new stadium…(MARTA problem solved.)
MARTA and the City of Atlanta should definitely hop on this. Maybe I can suggest calling the “Georgia Entrepreneur” who took his talents to build a maglev system between the Orlando Airport and Disney World?
See this beauty? It’s a 1998 Plymouth Neon. I restored it myself. Not really, I just got a new paint job. It took me all over Atlanta three years ago and I was proud to rid myself of it when it failed to conquer Mt. Wilkinson in Cobb County and shot its radiator.
So I got a request from a reader to comment on the recent AJC article that asks is young adults are dumping their vehicles for good. Do I believe this trend is happening?
I have never been one to believe an article without visual statistics, but I honestly don’t even see it. Prime example: I’ve been to almost every transportation forum and planning meeting concerning new transit plans and how Atlanta plans to conquer its traffic issues and I see a sea of energized young people in the audience. Afterwards, they all jump in their 4-door Subarus and drive off into the night. Did I miss something??? I am the only one waiting at the bus stop feeling like Gandhi waiting for my messiah to follow me to the promised land. But all I could expect was a sheepish, “Do you need a ride?”
Yes, Millennials do wish for a world where transit was the mainstream and biking and walking around is “the thing” to do, but sadly when we live in a city your time is precious and where your transportation network is managed by the Dukes of Hazzard, a car seems smartest, right? Millennials are just as stingy as their older counterparts when it comes to their vehicles. Take it away or give them restrictions, and they wet their pants, cry and get into a tizzy. Look at the first week the HOT lanes started charging people to cruise down the HOV lane.
And no it is CERTAINLY NOT an economic thing, either. I absolutely despise when someone uses the so-called “recession” or “the economy” as an excuse for not doing something, which the second moderator tried to pull out as a statistic for the decrease in vehicle miles traveled by Millennials. No. Just…no. People in general will ALWAYS complain about how high gas will be. But, you know what? They will keep pumping the tank with the petrol and drive along as if the world will never come to a stop. Young people think that way as well. Case in point: I know only one person, other than me, who lives life car-less, but has professed his vision to take MARTA, bike, walk, and influence others to do the same. One. Not ten, but a mere soul. I need to hang out with Jessica and we can all take over this town.
Now, there’s a lot more reasons to why I do not believe that Millennials are getting rid of vehicles, but that’s for a video blog (coming soon on TheATLPlanner’s blogsite! Yay!). Until I can see younger people instinctively ridding themselves of vehicles altogether, I would call that assumption that they are rubbish. I love living without a car even though the world thinks I’m insane, but in the end, they’ll see I’m doing the world a favor. To those who doesn’t think this is possible, just try it. Don’t drive to the movies and maybe take a walk to the pub. Baby steps are the key. This world is not going to alleviate traffic through policy or by force, but it depends on us. We have to change ourselves.
Well this one’s a fun one. Do you want a list of TOD’s? NYC only has five; they’re called Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island (sorta). The whole damn city is one large urban blob of urbanity. The New York City Subway was top rate; twenty six, twenty four hour high frequency lines. The subway stations consisted of nothing but a staircase and an elevator at the street level providing no obstructions to the surrounding neighborhood.
The central station, however, leaved much to be desired. Penn Station was miserable. The platforms where small and cramped, the layout of the station was over complicated; the station itself was small and shoved under Madison Square Garden arena. The station is decorated with many pictures of the old and majestic Penn Station that was brutally torn down many years ago, as somewhat of a memorial and to taunt the passengers of today with the passenger experience of yesterday. The one plus to Penn station was that it was well signed and easy to find the subway and commuter platforms. A major downfall is that there is almost no bus element. Popular china-town style buses such as Megabus Park on the street outside, others use the port authority bus terminal a couple blocks away. The Amtrak area of Penn Station was, however, relatively easy to navigate. The concourse was located above the platforms and there where escalators down to the trains that where well signed. A large departure board hung in the middle of the space, easy to see and read from everywhere in the Amtrak area. United even had a baggage check area for passengers eventually transferring to air travel at the Newark Airport.
Grand Central Station however was easy to navigate and, well, incredible. I took a tour of the station during my time in the big apple and was surprised by the bits of history that are hidden in plain sight throughout the station. The most surprising bit of history that I learned was that Grand Central itself was built with transit oriented development in mind. Before the modern Grand Central was built the area around it was more or less a collection of railroad yards and vacant industrial land. The hope when building grand central was that it would one day spark development around the station, which it did, we now call this area Midtown Manhattan. In retrospect it seems quite obvious that they would build the terminal with development in mind, however I guess I assumed New York was always a mass of urbanity, all cities start somewhere.
The Layout and design of Grand Central is elegant genius. There are no stairways from the street entrance to the main concourse, despite the fact that you descend a story. This is because the architects used ramps which move more people in a quicker manner than stairs and provide a grand entrance into the station. The main concourse, with its massive vaulted ceiling with the beautiful zodiac mural, was originally built for intercity travel, while the lower level concourse was built for suburban trains. While New York was a disappointment as far as Penn Station is concerned, Grand Central is a phenomenal station; it is a shame that Amtrak does not use it anymore.
Overall I give New York a B-, most of it taken off for a lack of easy inter-modal connectivity.
Some Grand Central Shots..
Well, I am currently on the Coast Starlight heading to LA. Yeah, I’m a little late to get posting. It so happens that traveling the country is busy work. I hope to get daily post of all my stops from here on out but I can’t promise anything. Anyways, here is my report from our glorious capital.
America the beautiful, and this her beautiful capitol. Washington is a very monumental, yet human scaled town. There are no skyscrapers, making for a very pleasant human experience. The train station is located downtown about three or four blocks from the capitol and is a work of art. Union Station has a very beautiful older grand hall with a more modern gate concourse. The platforms are lined up parallel and are perpendicular to the concourse, in said concourse the platforms are marked by “gates” similar to airports. It was very easy to move about the station as a train passenger, however Union station is not strictly a train station, it is an inter-modal hub of transportation, a purpose that it serves well. There is a Metro red line station that is accessible both right outside the main hall and in the food court. The Metro station is not, I should add, signed very well and was only easy to find for me because I knew where it was. Intercity buses and parking are located in the same garage constructed above the platforms. This is a plus for the parking because it provides easy access to the station and does not take up valuable space in the surrounding neighborhood. However considering it is a parking deck; the area for the buses leaves a lot to be desired. It is aesthetically unappealing and it is quite dangerous, in order to get to the bus bays one must cross over the road that the buses use. I witnessed a man wearing headphones almost get backed into by a large coach bus. However in its favor it is easy to get from the buses to the main station area.
The Taxi stand was located right outside the front door making for a very easy connection. There is a bicycle storage and bike share facility located directly to the right of the main hallway. On that note the bike share program in D.C. was phenomenal and worked very well for me.
As far as TOD’s and local transit are concerned, D.C. has a lot to offer. Metro is an extensive system, however it was undergoing some track work while I was there that caused such long delays in service that it made Marta look like the New York City Subway. There are a number of great TOD’s one of which was located just one stop north of Union station and was labeled “NoMa.” Noma looks to be mostly new construction, it is built more as a neighborhood with smaller scale stores that suits the need of the residents, not major destination retailers. Other TODs worthy of a visit where Silver Spring, Maryland, Rosyln-Claradin, Virginia, and Navy Yards in the District.
Overall I give D.C. a B+
Train Gate Area
Amtrak Ridership: 5 Million/year
Metro Ridership: 10 Million/ Year
It is here! Happy Dump the Pump Day for all of you who made a conscientious decision to leave your car at home and try transit today! If you have been caught in the whirlwind of Dump the Pump week here in Atlanta, you are probably already aware and have riding transit all week. But today is the National Dump the Pump Day!
For you naysayers and skeptics who still pick fault at MARTA for not being “doable” and complain that “It just wouldn’t work for me”, leave your reservations at the door today, huh? Today is a day to TRY it. You are not signing away your life to continue taking the train to work or riding a bus to your office, but this week encourages you to realize that there are alternatives to driving. No, MARTA isn’t always the best option and it could be better. But we as a society tend to be stuck in the “I wish MARTA was better so I could take it to work” conversation so long that we tend to do more talking than trying. Maybe it’s not MARTA (although I do blame the misguided Afrocentric though process of how they manage themselves), but maybe we don’t care as much. Our heightened apathetic attitude leads MARTA to deteriorate even more and we wonder why it isn’t 24-hours or on time or that it doesn’t go to Gwinnett. I’ve been to too many a MARTA meeting and have seen more MARTA reps there than citizens. We voted down the biggest payday to the system in over 20 years, (see T-SPLOST), and we haven’t taken a stand against the State government in funding the damn thing! It’s not MARTA’s issue. It’s OUR issue. WE must fight for them just like we’re fighting to stop the NSA from watching our every move.
We have a billion-dollar system in our midst, folks. If you think for one second that the government (whomever you think they may be) can magically provide funding to make this system better, you are dead wrong. Someone has to take a stand or else we all fall. Atlanta cannot live without MARTA, and I would not a tourist to ask me why there are empty train tracks running all around town. For once in our life, let’s do something to help the greater good. Below are ways to get started. Happy Dump the Pump Day.
Google Transit: https://www.google.com/transit
MARTA Trip Planner: mycommute.itsmarta.com/
MARTA iTunes App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/marta/id386648039?mt=8
Georgia Regional Transportation Authority: www.grta.org/
Who says you won’t find any interesting things on MARTA?
Saturday, I participated in MARTA and Scavenger Hunt Atlanta’s Dump the Pump DASH, which was a scavenger hunt done using MARTA trains and buses. There were over 40 teams who participated ranging from familes of 8 to commuters and students of 4. All of the teams dashed up and down the MARTA lines to decipher clues, do outrageous tasks (such as get a picture of you getting arrested in a cop car), and collect random items to gain points. The teams with the most points at the end (in this case, 8 PM) would win a grand prize of an Apple iPad Mini for every member of the winning team. My homemade team of previous scavenger hunt winners and walk-ons took third prize, earning us a battery and solar powered charger. Not bad for MARTA, eh?
Overall the event was great. MARTA could have been a little more expeditious in running the event seeing as it was only supposed to run from noon to 4 but tallying results kept some teams there until 8 PM. (Not a great promotional tool). Trains ran every 24 minutes (even though Primerica had an event at the Dome, Hot 107.9 had Birthday Bash and a Block Party at Centennial and there was a Braves Game), which didn’t really work in the teams’ favor, and food was sparse coming down to Fritos and water. Was it worth it and would you participate next year? I certainly will. You should too.