Going simply by the requests of public officials in the Atlanta metropolitan area, the idea of more widespread mass transit isn’t just a yuppie-duppie, ITP sorta pipe-dream anymore.
Based on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s compiled Atlanta metro wish-list of projects to be paid by a Transportation Sales Tax, mass transit is a top priority, not just for old hats like Fulton and DeKalb, but also for many of the most populous counties outside I-285.
The AJC’s summary of the 436 project list shows that the 12 county region asked for over $13 billion in mass transit and $8.5 billion in road improvements. (You can view the full project list yourself, HERE) These numbers mean next to nothing, since local governments weren’t asked to prioritize projects and those reticent of mass transit would use that larger number to argue its outrageous expense just as quickly as supporters would use it to demonstrate its need.
However, a closer look at individual county projects shows that once-hesitant mass transit counties, like Cobb and Gwinnett, are now more than ready to get into the train game. Cobb’s most expensive requested project is a mass transit line from the Arts Center MARTA station in Midtown to Town Center/Acworth/KSU. Gwinnett would like $1.1 billion to build a light-rail line from Doraville to Gwinnett Arena.
So what has changed?
The obviousness of the answer makes the question almost rhetorical. Cobb and Gwinnett are very different counties today than they were in the 1970s. Atlanta’s growth has subsumed them, MARTA or no MARTA. Populations have soared and traffic has gotten appreciably worse as a result. And as is so often the case – boring as it may be – need tends to trump ideology most days of the week.
Now, I’ve surely gotten ahead of myself. This list is only representative of the wishful thinking of public officials, and not necessarily the voting population. But based on this initial sign from Atlanta’s outer-boroughs, mass-transit is really less about Left or Right as it is about need.
And with gas approaching $4/gallon and cars providing flexible but slow commutes during rush-hour, the need for faster, cheaper alternatives might finally win out in a few counties where such options were once quite unnecessary.