Public transportation crucial for growth

It is no secret that Atlanta’s infrastructure is falling apart. Look around at the crumbling bridges and roads, a sewer system that is falling in on its self and a transit system that is largely ineffective at transporting Atlantans to desirable locations. If Atlanta is going to continue to be a desirable point for people to live and the Southeast’s largest city and a business hub then we need to make better infrastructure and public transportation a higher priority.

Atlanta can no longer be identified as a post-Olympic city. The city has out grown that phase. In the past 14 years since the Olympics, the city has grown and changed in many ways but the infrastructure has remained largely unchanged. The longer that the transit system, sewers, roads and bridges remain stagnant, the bigger the problems are going to be for the City of Atlanta and the state to fix. The tremendous growth of Atlanta since the Olympics has taxed the infrastructure of the city in ways that it was never designed to be able to handle. Unfortunately, progress in these matters has been worsened by the recent downturn in tax revenue across the state.

While I know that efforts are underway to help mitigate many of these infrastructure problems, more attention and effort should be focused on creating a useful transit system that allows Atlantans to move about the city without having to use their cars as frequently. Not only is the current state of metro Atlanta’s public transportation system disjointed, but it is also viewed as undesirable to use because the service does not expand to many areas of the metro Atlanta area.

The main problem that does not allow Atlanta pedestrians to be able to freely move about the city is the lack of a cohesive transit system. Currently there is no way for a person to move from many different areas of metro Atlanta without having to get on different lines of service. For example, if you work downtown but live in Cobb County, you could take MARTA out of the city to the nearest Cobb County Transit line that could take you to your destination. Processes like these are a hassle for metro commuters and they only contribute to the traffic problems in Atlanta because many people would understandably rather take their car than put up with inefficient transit systems.

The Transit Governance Study Commission was only established this year by the state legislature to look into ways to improve metro Atlanta’s public transit situation. They are basically tasked with finding the best solution to remedying the divided systems that exist and fixing the funding issues that many of the transit authorities have. It is amazing that it took this long for the legislature to establish a committee to look into how to integrate the transit systems that already exist in the state and work to develop ways to help make sure the existing systems stay afloat financially.

Because almost every metro Atlanta transit system is headed to financial ruins, there is no way that each little transit authority located within counties will be able to sustain themselves in the future without a significant pooling of resources and some sort of extra funding. The future of MARTA is also precarious because they have been running on their reserve funding for the last year, and they will likely run out of money next year.

It is clear that there will have to be many sacrifices made across many different levels if lawmakers are serious about providing a system to taxpayers that actually provides consistent and convenient service, and they will have to be inventive and willing to compromise if they want to get such a system funded. The hodgepodge of public transit across the city is not a new problem, commuters willing to take public transit have had to deal with this for many years. What is astonishing is that it has taken the transit authorities across the metro area to become broke or shutdown for the legislature to take notice and work to try and resolve the transit issues.

The perception of Atlanta being an automobile-friendly city has to change if we ever want to be able to grow the city at a sustainable rate. The City of Atlanta and the state needs to work harder at implementing systems that allow pedestrians to feel that they can move about the city just as freely as someone with an automobile.

This will include a significant amount of compromise but if the state of Georgia, the City of Atlanta and surrounding metro counties really care about providing their citizens efficient and reliable public transit they will break through the boundaries of public transportation that have been absurdly established.