If there is one thing that brings Atlantans together it is our hatred of traffic. Whether you live off Ponce or near the Perimeter, traffic on highways and side streets is a defining part of our daily life.
But an interesting mix of new legislation and misfortunate infrastructure meltdowns this past week is putting public transportation options like MARTA and Xpress on the map as viable and necessary parts of our city’s proper vision for the future.
In the aftermath of the I-85 bridge collapse, MARTA studies suggest that ridership increased by over 50% on Monday alone. This comes on the heels of an increased sales tax rate to pave the way for building up the transportation system we so desperately need.
Changes to ATLproper’s transportation system:
1. New funding from taxes: As of April 1 the city’s sales tax is now 8.9% (up from 8.5%) in order to fund $300 million in transportation initiatives. This is an implementation of last November’s T-SPLOST vote for a 4/10 penny transportation sales tax increase.
2. New TOD (Transit Oriented Developments) building projects: Updates to the Edgewood-Candler Park MARTA station has spurred the construction of 273 new residential spaces and mixed-use retail spots. In addition, Place Properties and J.H. Russell & Company are taking over the King Memorial TOD from Walton Communities (awarded the project in early 2014) to develop 400 apartment units and a 10,000 square feet of retail space…the project will be breaking ground later this year.
3. New safety measures: MARTA just finished installing over 10,000 additional security cameras in stations across the city.
4. A more secure Breeze Cards that can be reloaded online.
5. An updated, mobile-responsive website that includes trip planning and historical trip ideas.
6. An open-source repository of their transportation data on GitHub for those who want to create their own research initiatives. Go crazy, data nerds of Atlanta!
What isn’t changing for MARTA anytime soon:
1. An expansion into Emory/CDC: The Georgia General Assembly voted down a ½ penny tax increase to fund the expansion of MARTA services throughout DeKalb County and the Clifton Corridor. The Assembly’s down vote means citizens of DeKalb County don’t even have a chance to vote on their own transportation future.
2. Driver Commute times: The new T-SPLOST project list will take years to tackle the mobility and access issues plaguing the current system. For commute times to decrease in any significant way, rail and bus expansion will need an additional $6 billion in funding ($3 billion expected to come from the Federal Government). Even with the new tax in place, it will take five years to implement plans.