Wednesday, February 17, 2010
In a blow to Atlanta’s hopes for a rebirth in transportation, the Obama administration has passed over the city’s application for a federal stimulus grant to build a streetcar on Peachtree Street.
In fact, in a two-page list of grant recipients including many in the Southeast, Georgia appears not to have a single project. Atlanta, local business groups and MARTA applied for $298.3 million, the total amount needed to construct the streetcar. The city and the business groups would have shared the cost of operations, helped by ticket fares, advertising revenues, and naming rights. MARTA would have administered the grant. The city also suggested smaller versions of the project that would cost less, but no dice. Streetcars operated in Atlanta until 1949.
The loss for the streetcar is one more drop in the bucket of metro Atlanta's mass transit misery. MARTA, the only public transit system of its size in the U.S. that receives no significant, sustained state funding, according to transit officials, is facing a disaster in the next fiscal year, when it will have to cut more than $100 million out of its operating budget. Clayton, one of the five core metro Atlanta counties, has decided that it can pave roads, but it shouldn't have to fund buses, so it is completely shutting down C-Tran on March 31.
As someone who lives just a couple hours away from Atlanta, we enjoy visiting the city often. One of the nicest things is the fairly expansive availability of fixed rail mass transit (the MARTA system).
Indeed, a case can be made that Atlanta is the only Southeastern U.S. city where a resident could reasonably live without owning a car. There is enough horizontal and vertical mixed use near several of the MARTA stops that living, working, and meeting your daily needs without a car is viable.
It seems quite odd then that the current Administration would fund high speed rail lines between two Florida cities that don't have a great deal of crossover use while neglecting the type of intra-city and intra-region transit that really would reduce the need for vehicular travel.
One final note: for my smart growth seminar this semester, I'm taking the students on a series of "site visit" classes. In March we'll travel to Atlanta where everyone will park their cars at the airport and then travel the city via MARTA while studying legal issues related to pedestrian activity versus vehicular activity--looking especially at how transit-oriented development is and is not affected to land use laws and regulations.
--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.