Atlanta Atlas

The Partnership for Southern Equity has released the “Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas,” a comprehensive mapping project for the metro Atlanta region.

 The purpose of the MAEA is to provide regional stakeholders with an up-to-date, easily accessible, data-rich resource capable of informing the larger debate on how to create a more fair and equitable region. In addition to providing a deep collection of maps, and robust analysis, the project will feature profiles of individuals and organizations working every day to make our communities safer, smarter, healthier and more well-connected.

Key topic areas to be covered in the MAEA include: 1) demographics, 2) economic development, 3) education, 4) environment, 5) health, 6) housing, 7) public safety, and 8) transportation.

The Atlas has 35 transportation-related maps, a selection of which are below.

MAEA Average-Commuter-Transit-Time MAEA Daily-VMT-Per-Capita MAEA Housing-Affordable-to-30-of-Income-with-Transit MAEA Public-Transit-Commuting-Time MAEA Public-Transit-Infrastructure

Braves Lanes?

One aspect of the Atlanta Braves’ move to Cobb County that has residents throughout metro Atlanta gnashing their teeth is the transportation impact of the move.  Cobb County and various media outlets have touted the planned toll lanes on I-75 and I-575 as a key strategy for avoiding a potential Carmageddon caused by adding the Braves’ new stadium to the already congested intersection of I-75 and I-285.  There are problems with this theory.

As the AJC recently reported (behind paywall), the Northwest Corridor Managed Lane project is only expect to improve travel conditions for drivers in the tolled lanes.  Those in the untolled lanes are expected to see little, if any, improvement in their drive as a result of the project.  And because the toll lanes have a maximum capacity but the untolled lanes do not, adding Braves drivers to the mix will likely result in higher tolls and more drivers in the untolled lanes.

Looking beyond the project to the I-75 / I-285 interchange, the traffic modeling suggests that building the project (Preferred Alternative) only modestly improves congestion compared to doing nothing (No-Build Alternative). And once again, those  C, D, E, and F grades are without Braves traffic.

Traffic Technical Report 13 7.1 But most importantly, no one mentions the fact that these are REVERSIBLE lanes, flowing southbound in the morning and northbound in the evening.  So unless the Braves start playing games at 7 AM, these lanes will only be carrying traffic away from the new stadium at game time.

One of the lessons from 2012’s TSPLOST failure is the lack of trust in government around transportation planning.  This sentiment was particularly strong in Cobb County, one of the hotbeds of TSPLOST opposition.  Allowing the public to believe that the Northwest Corridor Managed Lanes are the solution to Braves traffic isn’t going restore this faith in government.

Atlanta Speaks

As part of its State of the Region report, ARC has released new polling data on transportation issues in Atlanta.  The strength of support for transit and infill development in Atlanta is surprising (and encouraging). The full report is here.

SOR_2013_Final p14 SOR_2013_Final p142 SOR_2013_Final p15

More Transit Arrivals and Departures

 The Cobb County Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing tomorrow, November 12, on its Connect Cobb Northwest Transit Corridor project from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Cobb Galleria Centre, Ballroom A, Two Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, Georgia 30339.EA2013_v4

The current proposal calls for arterial Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to operate along Cobb Parkway/US-41 and express bus service to operate in the managed lanes on I-75.  The Northwest Corridor is underserved by transit, both for trips within the county and for travel to the rest of metro Atlanta.  Likewise, there are tremendous opportunities along US-41 to connect existing activity centers (KSU, Wellstar Hospital, Dobbins Air Force Base, Southern Polytechnic) and spur transit oriented redevelopment in the interstitial areas.  But these opportunities must be balanced with the realities of the county’s distributed trip patterns and the cost of a project spanning the length of the county (and beyond). The BRT proposal is an attempt reconcile the county’s transit opportunities with the fiscal realities of building such a system.

Home of the Braves' Map of the New Stadium Site

Home of the Braves’ Map of the New Stadium Site

The meeting became significantly more interesting when the Braves announced that they will be moving from Turner Field to a new stadium in Cobb County. The Braves identified “lack of consistent mass transit options” among the shortcomings of Turner Field and the Cobb County site is adjacent to the Connect Cobb project’s alignment on the US-41 corridor.

The Connect Cobb project’s most recent fact sheet is here. A map of the project – including a highlighted area around the potential Braves’ site – is here.

Arrivals and Departures

The Downtown Streetcar project has been in the news a bit over the last couple days.  NPR’s Morning Edition looked at Atlanta’s Streetcar project as part of a larger national trend.  And the Saporta Report has a guest piece by Citizens for Progressive Transit on policies necessary to position the project for success.

Having already invested in building the Streetcar, the piece identifies a number of key policies and decisions to allow the project to succeed.2012atlanta_streetcar_logo-tm2

  • Increase the frequency of service;
  • Provide real-time arrival information;
  • Continue improving walkability and bikeability;
  • Adopt transit-supportive planning and zoning; and
  • Communicate a clear, logical plan for expansion.

These decisions are particularly important for discretionary riders, who will choose between the Streetcar and walking, biking or driving. Research suggests a groundswell of interest in alternatives to driving, particularly among Millenials.  Recent Atlanta-specific polling has shown strong support for transit in the region.  But operational decisions about how the Streetcar is run and how adjacent areas are developed will impact the project’s ridership and its perceived success.  As metro Atlanta’s first rail transit expansion in over a decade and the city’s first experience with streetcars in generations, it is imperative that we get the Downtown Streetcar right.

Atlanta Streetcar Map

Map of Downtown Streetcar Route

In addition to the items bulleted above, the upcoming months must also see investment in the project by the major destinations along the route. The Streetcar track is literally lined with major activity centers: the World Congress Center, the Georgia Aquarium and Phillips Arena to the west; AmericansMart and Georgia State University in the middle; Grady Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the King Memorial Center to the east.  Collectively, these destinations account for tens of millions of visitors, students, and patients every year.  Both the destinations and the project will benefit if the  Streetcar is embraced as part of their business plan.

This investment will differ depending on the nature of each destination.  For AmericasMart and the World Congress Center, adopting the Streetcar may mean informing visitors about where it goes and how to use it.  For Grady Hospital, it might mean redesigning its “front door” to be more pedestrian and transit-friendly.  GSU could rethink its Panther Express routes and “outsource” some of its transit service to the Streetcar.

The Downtown Streetcar has the potential to be a landmark project for the region.  But beyond building it, we must make the policy decisions necessary to allow it to succeed.