This is a blog post that I’ve been meaning to write for some time now, but the spark was re-ignited in me when earlier this week a transit advocacy group (I won’t call anyone out here, but know I was terribly disappointed) posted an anti-streetcar article on their Facebook page. For a while now, transit advocates have been infighting about mode amongst themselves and not only is a waste of our precious time, it’s harmful to everything that we do.
To borrow from another positivity movement here, we need to stop mode shaming.
No one would argue that transit doesn’t already have to fight a constant uphill battle. There are never enough funds to build out the systems of our dreams and certain Republicans are trying to eliminate all transit funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Why then do we feed the critics with ammunition by poo-pooing our own projects and debating the merits of streetcar over BRT over heavy rail over good, old-fashioned buses?
When transit advocates get themselves in a tizzy over pitting the superiority of one mode over another we just give the opposition arguments to use against us. They already latch on to buses as a means of throwing transit a bone, but we all know that while buses are fantastic, there are many instances in which buses aren’t capable of meeting ridership needs. When the transit community declares streetcars or light rail inadequate, we look like the kids crying wolf.
Heavy rail isn’t appropriate for every project and requires significant public investment. Streetcars aren’t appropriate for every project, even if they’re cheaper, adorable, and trendy. Buses suffer from a public perception problem even if they’re the quickest way to boost service and have cheaper initial capital costs. BRT meets buses and streetcars in the middle, but only when done right and we all know that is a big if.
Our problem isn’t mode; it’s ensuring that projects are well-planned, perfectly implemented, and that we educate riders and advocates on the uses and goals of each mode. Heavy rail moves a lot of people a great distance; it’s not to get around town but to town. Streetcars are the last mile circulators to get around town. They are meant to connect neighborhoods and spur development. They do not directly ease traffic congestion but enhance the existing network and by completing the trip, streetcars encourage a global transit use. BRT is, like heavy rail, meant to move a greater number of passengers a greater distance, mimicking heavy rail at a fraction of the cost. And while it an encourage ridership growth and can be converted to rail in the future, it does not solve the last mile segment of the transit equation. Buses serve a multitude of purposes and intersect all of these functions, but they lack the perception of permanence to spur significant economic growth.
Some transit projects are bad, but all modes are good. But not gondolas. Never gondolas.
We have just about as many streets with new names as we do streets with “Peachtree” in them. Why rename?
For the same reason that just yesterday, a certain festival that is held every year in Downtown Atlanta got an earful from residents of the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association over the confusion of the Civic Center and the Civic Center MARTA station. Now, in all fairness, it is easy to confuse the two because: 1. Neither are next to each other. 2. One is used daily and the other isn’t (Give you a quick second to guess which), and 3. The (actual Civic Center) goes by ANOTHER NAME- The Boisfeuillet Jones Civic Center. Why not just call it that? Or the generic name itself? I don’t know. Philadelphia renamed one of its SEPTA stations in an agreement for revenue and cellular service for five years. But the gag is…There’s nothing in the vicinity of the station relating to AT&T, which the station’s named after. Well, I guess if those checks come in for improvements, MARTA could rename North Avenue to AT&T, but since we have so many AT&T offices near MARTA staions, that couldn’t fly.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO THE TOPIC AT HAND!!!
So, if you haven’t heard, Council member C.T. Martin has proposed an ordinance to rename the southern portion of Spring Street (from Whitehall Street near I-20 to West Peachtree near the connector) to Ted Turner Drive. Once again, here’s yet another street rename. Once again, here’s another street with nothing to do with the honoree. I agree the man should be honored. He invested in Atlanta when no one else would and we are now a communications hub, so to speak. But WHYYYY do we always have to honor people by naming a street after them??!!! He has a stadium, and with that said, if he really wanted to keep THAT honor, he would’ve said something to the Cobb Crooks or whatever that team will be named. Atlanta shouldn’t be in the name anymore. Besides the point. We have to stop this vicious cycle of renaming streets. They are confusing to not only the tourists and visitors, but the ITP visitors (yeah you, suburbanites), the parcelowners along Spring who now have to spend money on stationery, business cards, building placards, and I bet dealing with the USPS would be a hassle.
Either way, if you want to gripe against it, the public hearing will be Thursday, April 28th @ 9:30 AM at City Hall. Let’s end this cycle of renaming streets just because we have very important people here, and find alternate ways to honor people. We’re now Hollywood South, but that doesn’t mean Tyler Perry will have a street named after him now. Hopefully, I’m not speaking too soon…
Yesterday I railfaned hard and got up before dawn to ride the first 7000 series train to go in to service in Washington DC. The new space-age trains are stunning, with lots of room and the greatest signage ever. Imagine what MARTA would be like with some new trains rolling down her rails.
Check out my photo essay on the Mobility Lab blog.
***CITY OF ATLANTA RESIDENTS***
You have a referendum to vote on today. I know all of this news came quickly and there hasn’t (and won’t be for some time) explanation of which projects will be selected and executed, but let’s think on a grander scale of where we go from here. Yes, we will still have a LOOOONG laundry list of infrastructure work to do if it passes. No ,not everything put on this list will be fixed immediately. What I can say is that if it doesn’t pass, we can no longer brag on the fact that T-SPLOST passed in the City of Atlanta. Think of this referendum as a mini T-SPLOST. No, it doesn’t have all of the projects for transit or a whole bike network or sidewalks on every street, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s a step just like that new streetcar is a step to a more expansive system. It’s a step to open Downtown buildings to become tech incubators so all those jobs won’t move to Alpharetta. It’s a step to be proud of the way our city looks instead of cracking jokes about how ugly it is.
It’s obvious what my vote was, but here’s my other point. The naysayers will always vote down initiatives like this until something perfect comes along. That’s never going to happen. Point blank period. Atlanta is too old for a brand new, perfectly planned out referendum where everyone gets what they want. So if you vote no on this, you most likely voted no for T-SPLOST because of the management. You picked your councilmembers the same way you pick your greens because Kroger got theirs from a truck off of a truck of a truck. You don’t have control over this infrastructure but you do have a say in investing in it. If you didn’t like this plan, vote them out of office. Don’t sacrifice the progress over bitterness towards the administration. If you feel that strongly about Atlanta, leave.
So with that being said, you have a couple of hours left. No excuses. Also, don’t hit any potholes on your way to the polls.
I was going to discuss the month of streetcar service, but this is more pressing. It’s time for Metro Atlanta to stop playing Chicken Little.
So it’s Week 2 of this Winter Weather Warning Wackiness, and yet the usual suspects got snow. Everyone else halted just because their commute MIGHT be affected. I still find it hilarious that we have a melting pot of Northern transplants who want to cry wolf when this white stuff falls, but now it’s really sad that the people farther South in this region wants to play hooky while they’ve seen more of this in their lifetime than the duration they’ve actually lived here.
I currently work in Buckhead, go to school at Georgia Tech and live Downtown. School was cancelled today (Amazing) but my work was not. However, all city, Fulton County offices, and school districts were shut down due to “weather advisories”; the true keyword for all cancellations south of the Top End Perimeter. What did we end up getting today?
A MIXTURE OF STUFF THAT MELTED AS SOON AS IT FELL.
Not enough to stick, and not cold enough to freeze anything. As a matter of fact, this isn’t the coldest period we’ve had, which is why we in the Metro aren’t seeing any of this accumulation like those closer to God northern suburbs!
So what does this have to do with transit?
I theorize that the no show for snow crowds in the Metro are cancelling because they truly don’t know where their employees are coming from, so since they mostly drive, it’s just better to cancel to avoid lawsuits. I mean, come on, the State of Georgia halted an execution waaaaaaay south of here due to the weather. But if we has our commuter rail system that could run no matter the conditions, I’d bet we wouldn’t shut down so many services. But the current legislature still don’t see that possible to explore in this day and age. That and gay marriage.
C’mon, Georgia. It’s time to grow up and learn how to travel in this stuff. Maybe that should’ve been a conversation piece in HB 170.
(P.S. If you want a good hearty laugh, look up “Gwinnett” on Twitter and look at how Gwinnett County Public Schools have gotten almost three undeserved snow days)
Just like Christmas, the Transportation Research Board is now over and done with. While the conference was as conferences go, my eyes dazzled around the metropolis known as Washington.
So I left Atlanta last last Thursday for Washington D.C for the annual Transportation Research Board Conference, which for the non-transport types is held every year in the nation’s capitol for professionals and up-and-coming publishers to discuss their findings in the transportation field. I went because as a student, I was advised that you must go at least once in your career. Much of the topics were very interesting, and some I’ve really heard time and time again…
But let’s get to the setting of the conference.
Now I’ve never been to the great megalopolis of BosWash (the continuation of cities and suburbs from Washington D.C. to Boston), so I was just all eyes and ears as my Megabus pulled into Union Station Friday morning. I rode the metro, which after I decided that Atlanta gets points for having a simpler fare structure. (A week unlimited pass in D.C. was the same as a month unlimited university pass in Atlanta). Oh yeah, I don’t think D.C. has replaced their trains since their inception, as the trains needed a good power wash and some Febreeze…but this transit nerd wasn’t bothered one bit! As long as I got from point A to point B (which in this case was Potomac Yard), I didn’t care. I also rode the new silver line to the Tysons Corner area which was kind of exciting. It takes forever, so what possesses people to live waaaay out there in Northern Virginia and still pay an arm and a leg, is beyond me. Other than that, the trains came quick, the stations are nice and compact, and the trains actually go everywhere. Oh yeah, single-tracking is an even bigger nightmare here. Humble yourself, Atlanta.
I loooooved the different neighborhoods in and out of the District, with my favorites being: Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Virginia Square, Clarendon, Del Ray, Old Town Alexandria, Chinatown, Crystal City, H Street, Shaw and U Street, and Silver Spring. I know that sounds like a lot, but they all exemplify the dense, urban atmosphere that other cities yearn for.
The Capital Bikeshare was also the best way to see the city. The Pennsylvania Avenue Cycle Track is a must to bike down. Luckily, it wasn’t too cold out to bike around as I whizzed past all of the traffic in my own bike lane.
I also took the MARC Commuter Rail to Baltimore. Nice town
Shoutout to CCTGirl for the hospitality and to all of the readers a joyous year of the transit!
The Atlanta Streetcar will officially open for passenger service on Tuesday, December 30th, 2014.
In a press release from the office of Mayor Kasim Reed, it has JUST been announced that the long-waited, constantly-delayed, but well-worth-the-wait light rail vehicle will now commence passenger service next Tuesday, just in time for New Year’s and the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Or whatever it’s called nowadays.
It was only yesterday when onlookers were giddy as the four vehicles were pulled by tow trucks and then they learned to walk on their own. Now Father Federal Transit Administration has decided to let the young bull roam free into the wild concrete jungle known as Downtown Atlanta.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!!!
Mayor Reed is also holding a grand opening celebration at the Woodruff Park stop “Where Peachtree meets Auburn”. Come out and celebrate one of Atlanta’s new milestones.