MARTA Staff Recommends Light Rail Through Emory/CDC/DeKalb Medical for Clifton Corridor

As the Medlock Park Neighborhood Association blog points out, MARTA has issued its official recommendation for the Clifton Corridor transit, after months and months of open houses and discussion with the surrounding communities.

Light Rail Option 1 would run transit from Lindbergh Center all the way to the Avondale MARTA Station.  As you can see from the map above, there would be 10 above-ground stations, including ones along the way at North Decatur and Clairmont, Suburban Plaza and DeKalb Medical Center.  In the Decatur area, there are also optional stations planned for DeKalb Industrial and at the old DeVry campus on North Arcadia.  A note from MARTA posted on the MANA site, points out that this option “would allow an alternative means of for high-capacity evacuation from the CDC in the event of an emergency situation.”

MANA has posted a more detailed map of Light Rail Option 1 on Google Docs HERE.

According to MARTA’s website, the plan is pending approval from MARTA’s Board of Directors. It will be presented to the MARTA Planning and External Relations Committee on March 26th and to the MARTA Board on April 9th.

And just an FYI: Obviously, the near-future execution of this project is entirely dependent on the outcome of the July T-SPLOST vote.

70 thoughts on “MARTA Staff Recommends Light Rail Through Emory/CDC/DeKalb Medical for Clifton Corridor”

  1. What median are they referring to on Scott Blvd? Do they plan to widen Scott between Clairmont and North Decatur or reduce the number of lanes? The proposals from last fall indicate a reduction of lanes.

    1. They’d have to be reducing lanes, right? There’s not really anywhere to widen unless you’re removing sidewalks. Would City of Decatur have any say at all in that, or is it up to the state because it’s a state road? I have no problem with LRT, I just don’t want it to keep me from walking along that stretch (including getting to an LRT stop).

      1. Damn, sorry Scott. I guess you didn’t get the city’s memo yet. Since your new development doesn’t fit nicely into one of our pre-existing neighborhoods you have been slated for removal. Sidewalk elimination will be the least of your worries after the city offers the entire Brownstones’ property to MARTA through eminent domain. It will be the perfect spot for the Scott Boulevard Transit Station!

        Thankfully we bought an older house on the other side of Clairemont so we are safe…

        1. J_T, it’s perfectly reasonable for people to view the Brownstones with suspicion and not want them included in the existing neighborhood. After all, those houses are “touching each other” in provocative ways.

          1. That’s a good point. Unfortunately, I do not know how to comment further without being duly moderated.

          2. All right, Junderscore & (pre-existing, 1-percenter) Scott (as opposed to sweet little innocent, fresh New Scott)– enough talk about provocative touching! You might bring the humourless out of hiding, with your risque implications & whatnot…

    1. Ha, ha. I wouldn’t worry about evacuating CDC staff. It would take them hours just to get out of their byzantine parking decks. The rest of the Clifton Corridor would be long evacuated by then.

  2. This would be great. When I think of what it would take for my household to go carless on a daily basis, the Emory connection is really the tough one. I love the idea that we’re bringing back some light rail options. I get nostalgic when i see some of the old rails in the road for the old trolley line.

  3. I’m really disappointed it does not go through Decatur, though I can understand the connection to the hospital. Too bad it doesn’t loop around from Avondale to Decatur and reconnect at Clairemont/Scott. Avondale will sure get a development boost from this.

    1. Pssst, there’s already a rail line from the Avondale MARTA station to the downtown Decatur MARTA station…. it’s called – get this – MARTA.

      1. Wow vv, how old are you? Nice attitude.

        My point being that density should drive transit. Decatur has a much higher population to help make transit more successful. With more density there are probably more people that live in Decatur and work somewhere off the proposed transit line…but it becomes much less feasible for riders to go from the Decatur MARTA stop east to Avondale MARTA stop just to switch modes of transit so they can now go west on the new light rail (talk about going around your elbow to get to your ….). If the light rail just came straight into Decatur (where the population density is) it would probably have a higher success rate…or at least looped around from Avondale to Commerce and Clairemont and out again.

        It almost makes me feel like Decatur, in this instance, is anti transit. Logically it should continue down Clairemont in my opinion.

        1. Sorry GM, but you’re about 4 years too late with this argument.

          The Clifton Corridor conversation has been going on for at least that long and early on it was made clear by a vocal group of residents in the Clairemont area that they would fight any attempt to bring a light rail line down that road to Decatur station. So MARTA abandoned the idea for a less controversial alternative.

          Density should drive transit, but density also drives, well, more people who care – and have opinions – about an area. And for whatever reason, MARTA chose not to fight it.

          1. And a discussion occurred even earlier in the ?late 1990s? At that time, I think part of the problem was that the memory of the devastation of downtown Decatur by MARTA coming in the late 1970s was still strong and people reacted against any transit in their backyard. A few were saying “But hey, this could be good–we could hop on transit to get to our jobs at CDC or the VA or wherever…” but stronger voices were saying “MARTA = ruin”. More recently, I don’t totally get the opposition. But I also don’t get it when homeowners opt out of sidewalks. I would think that good transit (and that IS a leap of faith) and sidewalks would add value to homes in the long run. I guess folks are more interested in the short run–“I like my yard just the way it is, right now….” Or “It’s going to be real inconvenient for me and they’ll mess it up and take longer than they promise….” That’s why I think we have to continue to keep government entities accountable, even relatively well-functioning ones like our City and School governments. If folks get too disenchanted with local government, they may stop supporting even the useful projects.

          2. DM, I can respect your preference if you don’t want to discuss it or if you don’t want it discussed on your blog.

            But I respectfully ask that you reconsider that “too late” notion. The bypass around the square was actually built. Too late to rethink it? Streetcars got ripped out, so it’s decided then?

            1. Sorry Bobby, I certainly wasn’t saying that it couldn’t be discussed. But it’s hard to believe that after 4 years of outreach, the MARTA committee would go back to the drawing board and consider an option that hasn’t been on the table in three years.

              1. Just to clarify a little bit, the option down Clairemont direct to Decatur Station wasn’t officially removed from consideration until April 2011, and even then it could still have been added back into the plan. At the time, MARTA gave these reasons for eliminating the option:

                1) The options to connect with downtown Decatur have been under discussion with the community for nearly two years (as well as during years of previous studies), and the Decatur Commission has declined to support such an option at this point.
                2) Introduction of a light rail or streetcar system along Clairemont Avenue between Scott Boulevard and downtown Decatur precludes the ability to widen sidewalks and add bike lanes without right-of-way takings within the historic district which was not supported by the surrounding community,
                3) Heavy rail subway construction to the Decatur Station is highly expensive and disruptive and would require reconstruction of the Decatur Station

        2. +1
          Just because it has been fought before does not mean that it should be considered dead. Having rail connect directly to downtown Decatur makes all the sense in the world for our city.

          1. Unless you live on Clairemont (or very nearby) and don’t want a train running just outside your front door. For the record, I do not live on Clairemont, but I certainly understand the objection.

            1. This is something I would like to understand better because I respect both the need of the community at large to have good clean transit available and less polluting traffic but also the need of Clairemont Blvd. homeowners to enjoy the property that they bought, own, maintain, and pay taxes on. What is the real imposition of light rail? Would it be noisier, dirtier, more dangerous than the current vehicle traffic on Clairemont? Either way, people are going to tranport themselves up and down a major thoroughfare like Clairemont. I would think that irresponsible drivers pose a greater noise and safety threat to homeowners, in terms of screeching brakes, squealing tires, occasional crashes onto property, polluting tailpipes, noisy boom boxes, souped up engines, occasional requests to use telephone when broken down etc. Regularly scheduled, properly maintained, light rail seems like less of an imposition on residents.

              Here’s the vehicle noises that impose on our household:
              – Particularly loud train whistles
              – Cars with noisy, racing engines, squealing tires, and screeching brakes
              – Emergency vehicle sirens
              – Helicopters
              – Garbage trucks

              If light rail replaced some of the noisy engines/tires, brakes, I think our noise levels would drop. And the drivers of the noisy cars are scarier to me than the ridership of light rail. And light rail could be more attractive than a lot of the private vehicles using Clairemont.

              I genuinely want to understand the pluses and minuses of light rail to property owners.

              1. AHID, those are all valid points. But, it may come down to something as simple as “Would you want it in front of your house”? I, for one, would not, and I don’t know that any amount of evidence to the contrary would change my mind (although I try to be open minded).

                Also, the light rail will not replace the vehicle traffic and all of the associated noise. The light rail will be added to the traffic, and thus, bringing with it a whole new set of noises, logistical issues, etc.

                1. Re idea of light rail replacing vs. adding to traffic: I know that plenty of vehicle traffic would still exist but wouldn’t a measurable proportion be replaced by light rail if it were truly implemented with a useful, frequent schedule (vs. the inconvenient schedule that MARTA is forced to use for buses because of funding)? That would be a key question. Right now, from my non-thoroughfare household location, I never hear bus noise. But I sure do hear lots of private vehicle screeching, squealing, slamming of brakes, roaring of motors. I find loud unpredictable bursts of noise much worse than the hum of a regularly scheduled train. Hence, MARTA train noises in the night don’t bother me, I’m so accustomed to them. But RR train whistles, which seem random and sometimes ear-splitting, are intrusive.

                  Re “just don’t want it in front of my house”: Reminds of “The Little House” children’s book by Virginia Burton. The little house just sat there stoically as first a village, then a town, then a city, then a metropolis grew up around it. Eventually, the little house had won it’s battle but was isolated and falling apart in a dirty, noisy, unsafe, neighborhood. Only when it was rescued and taken out to the country was it happy again.

                  1. There are undoubtedly people who would ride MARTA if this route existed, but I guess I see it the opposite way. I think that any reduction in cars would be more than offset by the reduction of lanes, and the net result would be an increase in traffic, which would lead to more screeching tires, horns, etc. This line would help, but as a whole, Atlanta is laid out in such a way where most us still would need our cars.

                    1. That seems to be a key question for residents: Would the reduction in car use due to light rail be enough to offset the reduction in lanes and whatever noise and inconvenience light rail entails or, instead, would the reduction in lanes cause a net increase in traffic jams and noise?

                      How does one answer that question? I guess I keep assuming that smart people are paid to do good estimates and modelling and get good answers. But not if it’s the same consultants who told CSD that enrollment was declining! You cannot compare our situation to a noisy, congested city like NYC because that city has no choice–an all car model would cause instant gridlock. It’s Option 1 is noisy, but so are Options 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. Portland, Oregon?

                      Even though my gut tells me that well-done light rail could be a delightful option for Decatur–“walk, ride, roll, or rail!”, I cannot blame folks who do not trust MARTA, DOT, Regional Whatever, to do the right thing. If City of Decatur were totally in charge, I think folks would be more comfortable.

                2. Comments such as “Would you want it in front of your house”? are very problematic. Clairemont is not the property of the people that own homes that front the street. If light rail on Clairemont would benefit the majority of the citizens of Decatur and the region, then it should be up to the majority of the citizens to decide whether or not they want it. This light rail issue should not have been decided by a small, but vocal group of people. Public property should be used for the greater good.

                  1. So what do you tell the people who own homes near me that are literally under a bluesquare that indicates a proposed station on the MARTA documents?

                    1. I’m late to the Clairemont light rail discussion, so I ‘m sure that I’m missing a lot of details. But, it sounded that home owners on Clairemont did not/do not want light rail on the street in front their houses. I never heard that homes on Clairemont would be eliminated for light rail. I imagine that some land immediately adjacent to the street would get taken, but I never heard that houses would be destroyed.

                    2. I would wish them good luck on getting a fair price for their property. Eminent domain is a well-established principle.

                    3. Pretty coldhearted, brianc. You are OK with people’s home being taken so you can have a light rail which, although you think you will take benefit of the new route and can finally give up your car, you will ride maybe once a year, if ever. What street do you live on? I am gonna call MARTA and suggest they put a station where your house sits. Hope you are adequately compensated…

                      For the record, I am not stating that eminent domain is improper or should not be used, or that it might not be proper in this case. My problem is with the callousness and the “better them than me” selfish attitude and complete disregard for the extremely reasonable and legitimate concerns of the impacted homeowners. Do you honestly believe you wouldn’t object if you lived there? If so, pinch yourself and wake up.

                  2. There is nothing problematic at all about acting in one’s self interest and preserving/protecting your property or home. What is problematic is someone who lives on the other side of town demanding light rail down Clairement while completely discounting the objections of the howeowners who would be negatively affected. It is very easy to support such a proposal if you live in, for ex., Oakhurst. You get all the benefit and none of the costs. Sorry, but the homeowners who will be directly burdened don’t automatically have to “take one for the team”, and their opinions/concerns should be given a great deal of weight.

                    BTW, the public property is being used for the “greater good” as it is a road.

              2. Good points! I understand that the construction could be bothersome, but not nearly as bothersome as if they had decided on heavy rail. Light rail does not seem to be worse, if any, than buses or cars.

                But just think of the benefits for our downtown. Think of all the people that would use it as a stop to get to one of the largest employment centers in the region.

              3. The key for me, if I lived there, would be if I thought fewer cars would be on the road as a result, and if the drop in auto traffic would be enough to compensate for the additional noise, etc. If somehow car traffic could be dramtically reduced there, I would definitely prefer the light rail if I were a resident.

                1. Oh, in that last post, I’m only talking about what my personal preferences would be if I lived on Clairmont, not implying that those personal preferences should rule the day.

          2. I wasn’t privy to any of the back-and-forth that must have occurred before MARTA decided to drop the Clairemont option, but the fact that it did go so quietly probably points to the fact that Decatur believes it still would benefit greatly from the Avondale station connection.

            The two most obvious benefits are it would have the potential to regenerate the stalled Avondale LCI – which essentially was a plan to build mixed use on that huge south-of-College Ave parking lot. Also, the idea of a potential stop outside of the vacant, recently annexed DeVry property is probably also very appealing.

            I’m not arguing the potential benefits of connecting to Decatur, just trying to give a bit more dimension to the alternative.

    2. The City of Decatur homeowners on N Decatur Rd would beg to differ. The proposed route would indeed go from unincorporated DeKalb through Decatur to unincorporated DeKalb.

      1. Not to mention the COD homeowners along Scott Blvd. but I believe the original post was talking about downtown Decatur.

  4. Great! One small question: any idea why they used the year 2030 for estimates and not a year that’s, say, in this decade at least? Or at least compare to 2030 estimates.

  5. Does anyone have the links to the concept drawings that were floating around that showed the lanes on Scott Blvd. and some of the stations?

  6. Couple of comments from the peanut gallery.

    1. I assume by ‘optional stops’ they mean that they just havent decided where on Emory campus to put a stop. It makes no sense to run right by the campus, yet have no stop closer than Lullwater Park or where Dusty’s/that good Chinese restaurant used to be.

    2. Not sure how I feel about the plan for no stop at Superior/Scott intersection. Some appeal to having it right at my Great Lakes backdoor, but I figure if I can walk to downtown Decatur, I can walk to a closer station…

      1. There are a few. 🙂 (And wasn’t it obvious which one I was using.)

        I suppose it doesn’t matter since it wouldn’t be built for 15-20 years, likely never. The T-SPLOST portion wouldn’t make it beyond North Decatur Road – even that’s assuming that majority funding will be secured from a second source. Then again, the T-SPLOST should fail; we should not be bullied.

        1. How, Bobby, does the T-SPLOST = bullied. I, for one, am willing to pay it just to make this Clifton Corridor LRT happen. It will be a huge benefit to us in this area. And in addition, the entire region, including us, will benefit from the rest of the projects.

          1. Hmmm….
            Lindbergh to Avondale.
            Avondale to East Point (or Airport)
            East Point to Hamilton Holmes.
            Hamilton Holmes to Lindbergh.

              1. Just pondering aloud what a LRT ring around the inner-region might look like. It’s a configuration common to other public transit systems, after all. Of course, that’s kind of what the Beltline will (hopefully) be like when it’s completed.

          2. I don’t like that DeKalb and Fulton will effectively be paying twice for MARTA, but I’m leaning toward a yes vote just to get the other counties to pay something for public transit.

            1. So, your objection is to the fact that the only counties in which MARTA is located pay for the lion’s share of its costs?

          3. on being bullied,
            fear – “There is no Plan B.”
            intimidation – pay up or lose family time, lose jobs, etc.
            threat – load up on new roads or never get new transit dollars
            threat – come along or be penalized (48-8-244(d))

        2. Bobby, the corridor may never be built if the T-SPLOST does not pass. However if it does this is the timeline. (Info from presentation I saw on the Clifton Corridor).

          1 – 1 1/2 years of environmental study
          2 -4 years for planning
          2 – 4 yerars for construction.

          Also the T-SPLOST pays to North Decatur road only IF it was heavy rail. It pays all the way to Avondale if it’s light rail (much cheaper).

          So figure that the tax goes into effect in the beginning of 2013, you could see the project finished between 2018 – 2022.

  7. Where MARTA is “located” is not the only factor in who uses the system. Ever been to the Chamblee or Doraville stations? And even if no one from the other counties used the system, it has a regional benefit (like state parks, that I never use) and should have more than local funding.

  8. I never said all funding should be local. Those “non-resident” users pay fees to ride MARTA, so they are contributing. But, as the local residents receive the vast majority of the benefits of MARTA, shouldn’t they also bear most of the costs?

  9. Well, I would prefer state funding, so the costs are spread over a much bigger group. But I wasn’t necessarily saying that the other counties should be paying only for MARTA as currently configured, but for public transit in general. I would not expect Gwinnett, for example, to pay additional sales tax dedicated to MARTA and not get some extension of service within its borders.

    1. Regarding state funding, despite the regional benefits, public transportation should primarliy be a local issue. This isn’t just about Gwinnett County and the rest of metro Atlanta. If you lived in Valdosta or Albany or Rome, how would you react if you were forced to pay for MARTA, especially when you are already funding the local transportation for your community? Why should the costs be spread over a larger group when the benefits are not?

      Albeit oversimplified, your argument will be perceived as this, especially as you get further away from Atlanta: (1) I want a better MARTA. (2) I can’t afford a better MARTA. (3) I will make the rest of the state pay for it and justify it with some references to vague and unquantifiable “regional benefits”.

      1. Simply put, there are lots of thing that we all have to pay for whether we directly benefit from it or not (or even agree with at all). Not everything in society can follow a consumer pays, for profit model. I’m sure you agree with that, it’s just that I clearly think more things should not follow that model than you do.

        As for places in the state far from Atlanta, why, using your logic, should I pay for anything in their communities (which I do, via state taxes) when I never set foot there? Those places are net users of state tax dollars compared to Atlanta, and without Atlanta this state would be even closer to the bottom of almost every quality of life ranking out there.

        1. Agreed.

          Isn’t MARTA one of the very few major city pubilc transit systems that’s NOT given state money? I know in PA, the state helps to fund both Pittsburgh (PAT) and Philly (SEPTA).

        2. I am not suggesting an all or nothing approach to distribution of tax dollars in relation to MARTA or anything else. We all pay for services, infrastructure, etc. that we do not directly benefit from at every level of government, and the for-profit model doesn’t work particularly well in many (most) of these areas. In this case, as the locals receive the vast majority of the benefit, it may not be appropriate to shift the costs of improvements we can’t afford ourselves to others, especially those who will get nothing out of it.

      2. Ok then lets stop sending the Gas Tax dollars DeKalb and Fulton folks inside or near 285 pay which largely gets shipped to other parts of the region and state.

        While we are at it, lets not share the income tax revenues the State generates from Metro Atlanta which it uses to support the rest of the state.

        Metro Atlanta basically carries the state.

  10. Is this line really going to be built even if the horribly regressive 1% tax largely for roads passes?
    DeKalb has a horrible track record for securing Right of Way in this corridor (they have eminent domain not MARTA) and they and thusly MARTA have bowed to pressure in the past. Does Going around Downtown Decatur avoid all of that?

    Emory to Lindberg is a link that’s been known since the 80’s or 90’s yet has DeKalb ever done a thing to protect a Right of Way like GDOT has been doing along I-285 for its expanded Collector Distributor system they envision for all of 285? Nope.

    Basically right now the only thing the TIA has a good chance of funding is the Beltline, which is a good project but the minimal amount of funding going to it can be found other places and doesn’t justify this expensive and regressive tax.

    If they can show they can quickly get the ROW and past neighborhood objections then I might change my mind on the TIA. Problem is I don’t see how they can do that. Which is the other problem with the TIA 10 year structure, GDOT has eminent domain and projects ready to build, they can easily build all their projects in the 10 year window. And GRTA manages the transit TIA funds, which presents other obstacles to this getting built.

  11. Apparently TIA only pays for the emory to Lindberg Section, raising the question how likely it will be that this gets built the rest of the way.

    Just doing the lindberg to emory route really serves the folks in the north of 285, and unfortunately doesn’t help the areas in south and east metro Atlanta.

    I’m not as big a fan of the project if its just Emory to Lindberg

    1. I also would not credit the project to DeKalb, not even half. Maybe we’re supposed to believe in that future extension.

      According to the Final Investment List, Clifton Corridor Transit is in Implement
      ation Band 3 (2020-2022). It goes no further than North Decatur Road – quite possibly
      no further than Clifton Road. Allocated dollars represent 9%-11% of TIA spending. (Details, including total cost, are uncertain.)

      1. Yea even just going to Emory the TIA dollars cover at most 50%, its not clear who covers the operating costs, believe there is some in the TIA number, though I ‘m not certain if that’s true or if it is does, then does it even cover half of the build out cost if some of the TIA dollars are operating.

        Its also unclear if the Republicans in DC will be successful at slashing transit dollars available from the Feds. Even if it stays at current levels getting federal funds isn’t a cakewalk especially when we are also asking for funds for the Beltline and Cobb lines.

        1. The final report indicates O&M is included. The project request was changed when our officials decided they could bend the law and only partially fund transit projects, but we can probably guess the split.

          The submission for TIA-M-028 specified Transit Operations at $200 million for 10 years. The $700 million allocated probably includes that amount, leaving enough Transit Capital to apply for New Starts with the recommended 50% local match (and an adjusted O&M calculation).

          The DeKalb east line would also pray for matching. Meanwhile GDOT was able to pledge over $800 million in federal funds, largely to big road projects – which seemed necessary to keep the scheme true to purpose.

          If we had honest referendums, this one might say:
          Shall _______ County be authorized to collect a 1 percent sales and use tax; except on sales of gasoline/diesel/AVgas and other exemptions, not including food and beverage; and capped at $50 per motor vehicle; in order to assure a full pipeline of big contracts for beloved road builders for a period of ten years? (lasting congestion relief not included)

  12. A plan like this is would be a good reason for Selig to reconsider their plans for Suburban Plaza. Reconfiguring that site to match the transportation plan — rather than just building an auto-centric Wal-Mart — would make a lot of sense.

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