Decatur Average Commute Time is 20-30 Minutes According to U.S. Census

commute map

There are few things that make us more excited than transportation maps!  And HERE’S an apt, good one.

The U.S. Census has mapped the self-reported commute times of respondents from its 2013 American Community survey.  Above is a look at the Atlanta metro with a skew to the east side of the city.

Decatur averages between a 20-30 minute commute throughout all the census districts.

Downtown Atlanta, parts of Midtown and Buckhead have average commutes below 20 minutes.   If you zoom in closer, you may also note that Druid Hills also registers an average commute below 20 minutes, likely due to the very close proximity to Emory.

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In the Atlanta metro area, only Fulton and Clayton have average commute times below 30 minutes. (The whole of Clarke County, where Athens, GA and UGA is located, has an average community below 20 minutes.)

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And just for kicks, above is the average Atlanta commute times way back in 1990. 🙂

Take a look and tell us what interesting trends you noticed!

MARTA is Getting 18 Articulated Buses!

marta articulated

Transport wonks and kids under six years old, do I have news for you!

MARTA just announced that it will be adding 18 articulated buses to its fleet in 2016!  A bit of background from the ol’ FB

New Flyer brought one of their XN60 Xcelsior CNG articulated buses to Atlanta so MARTA could take them for test runs on various routes to check for turning, etc. and make sure they fit into our station bus loops. The final decision on which routes and stations will receive the 18 new buses will be announced at a later date. The buses will begin arriving in early 2016 and will be put into service later next year.

I wonder if you’ll be able to rent them out for children’s birthday parties.

MARTA To Make Pitch For $8 Billion in Projects


Always a favorite topic here: MARTA’s plans for the future!

And in this case, the plans are very large according to a Sunday piece on the AJC.  Here’s the gist of it…

The future of metro Atlanta could become startlingly linear — a single file of major economic development up and down what is now Georgia 400, built along a rail line that would link Alpharetta with downtown Atlanta and its airport beyond.

The biggest public works package in decades would have other elements as well. In DeKalb County, there would be a rail link to Emory University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plus another line shooting eastward along I-20. Within the city of Atlanta, the Beltline awaits.

Wow, that’s a big project.

The AJC describes that northern expansion as a rail line “thrust between Cobb and Gwinnett counties”, who we know have resisted MARTA since it’s inception.

So that’s the basic plan.  How will we pay for it?

Basically, MARTA is trying to tweak the 1/2 cent sales tax that County’s could levy for transportation projects that was approved during the last legislative session. They just need the legislature to remove the five-set sunset currently attached to the sales tax bill and the additional $175-$200 million in new revenue could translate into $4 billion in loans.

And if you’re still a MARTA doubter, this quote in the article from MARTA’s Chairman of the Board, Robert Ashe, is perhaps worth considering…

“Corporations are increasingly demanding immediate proximity to transit stations. State Farm did it when they came here. Mercedes did it. Worldpay did it when it relocated. Kaiser is going to be located two blocks from here because of the Arts Center Station,” Ashe said. The trend will only continue.

Atlanta Voters Approve $250 Million Bond By 9-to-1 Margin

Wowza.  From the AJC

Only a fraction of the city’s voters turned out on Tuesday, but they sent a big message: yes to two separate bonds that will chip away at the city’s billion-dollar infrastructure backlog. With all the votes counted, the bond initiative passed by a nearly 9-to-1 margin.

The first bond, worth $188 million, will be spent on transportation projects, such as bike lanes and street improvements. The second bond, about $64 million, will fund municipal buildings and recreation centers.

As reported previously, two big transportation items of the current list of projects – removing DeKalb Avenue’s reversible lane and making it more bike/pedestrian friendly, and also syncing traffic lights around the city.

Photo courtesy of Google Streetview

Atlanta Bike Share Program Launching Later This Year

Atlanta announced yesterday that the city’s long talked about bike share program will be up and running later this year.  It will feature 500 bikes at up to 50 different stations around the city, according to Creative Loafing.  Here are a few more details supplied by CL…

The city’s planning department is currently determining where to install the bike share stations. The bike share operation will use Social Bicycles’ smart-bike system to equip each bike with a GPS-enabled locking device. That system will allow a rider to park the bike at any public bike rack or rental station. Officials also plan to set up a website and mobile app to allow riders to find and rent available bicycles.

You may recall that when word of a Atlanta bike share program was first announced back in 2013, Decatur was thinking about collaborating with Atlanta on the transportation project.   However, we learned last March that Decatur dropped plans to operate a similar bike share in conjunction with Atlanta due to its expense.

More info on Atlanta’s bike share program HERE.

UPDATED: Transportation Bill Approved Again, With Some Concessions to Local Governments

The Georgia Legislature’s Transportation Committee has approved a new version of its transportation bill, which now heads to the Rules Committee.

Here are some highlights from various articles as to what’s changed and what’s stayed the same in this version of the bill.

  • Local SPLOST and HOST funding won’t come from gas tax, but rate increases – From the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “…in a tradeoff aimed at addressing complaints from local governments, the bill would increase some of the hodgepodge of sales taxes charged at the local level – including Atlanta’s sales tax financing the city’s ongoing sewer system overhaul – from the current 1 percent to 1.25 percent. The increase would help offset the financial impact of a provision in the bill prohibiting local governments from collecting sales taxes on gasoline.”
  • Specifics on the “hodgepodge” referenced above from the AJC ” HB 170 would leave alone SPLOSTs and similar taxes levied by school districts but require any revenue raised from motor fuel go to a wide variety of transportation uses. Any municipal option sales tax or local option sales tax used to roll back property taxes, however, would no longer apply to motor fuel and the rate would increase from 1 percent to 1.25 percent. The bill would still abolish existing state sales taxes on motor fuel and implement a new excise tax of 29.2 cents per gallon of gasoline and 33 cents per gallon of diesel fuel.”
  • $5000 Electric car state income tax credit axed –  From the AJC – The bill would “also would end the state’s $5,000 income tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles and create a new annual registration fee for electric cars. The fee would be $200 for personal vehicles and $300 for commercial cars, trucks, vans and buses.”
  • Airline tax break on gas eliminated – The bill “strips Delta and other airlines of a tax break on the purchase of jet fuel.”  The airline industry has benefited from the tax break for over a decade according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
  • Gas tax to increase 20 cents a gallon – A WABE article adds that the original and revised bill increase the state tax on gas by 20 cents a gallon.

Back in late January, we spoke with City Manager Peggy Merriss about the potential impact of lower revenue from HOST.  Here’s her thoughts on what it would mean for Decatur…

If the HOST sales tax is reduced by redirection to a state excise tax, we would either have to do fewer HOST projects, use more property tax revenues or repave fewer local streets.  And the local projects that are funded by sales tax revenue will not be funded by the state excise tax, as that will go to state projects.  There is no win for local governments in this equation.

We’ve followed up with the City Manager for her thoughts on the recently revised bill, which increases the tax rate from 1% to 1.25% to offset the loss of gas taxes.  We will update this post when we receive a reply.

UPDATE: Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss says that based on their rough estimates, the new proposal to exempt motor vehicle fuel, but up the % levied from 1% to 1.25% should be a “revenue neutral proposition”.

Photo courtesy of Chad

The Future of MARTA: Mixed-Use, New Routes, Art and Smartphones

A new article on Atlantic’s CityLab site titled “The Remarkable Turnaround of Atlanta Public Transit“, is an interview with MARTA CEO Keith Parker looking back at how the agency got its house in order in 2014 and what lies ahead.

We’ve discussed MARTA’s money troubles for years around here, so the continuing struggle MARTA faces with its unique sales tax funding model shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.  However many of the potential concepts on the horizon sound pretty interesting.  They include…

  1. The Development of Avondale and other MARTA park-and-ride stations into mixed-use developments.  Check out the new-to-me Avondale development rendering above!  (Read CL’s recent profile of Amanda Rhein: “MARTA’s Parking Lot Nemesis”)
  2. “Blowing up the bus routes” – CEO Keith Parker tells the Atlantic, “We have a study underway called the Comprehensive Operations Analysis—COA for short—that reexamines every single route in the service. The goal is to come up with a bus network that’s faster, that requires fewer transfers, and that’s more commonsense. So that people can get from Point A to Point B in a much more customer-friendly manner than now.”
  3. Potential system expansion along GA 400 and the Clifton Corridor 
  4. A push for public art at MARTA Stations
  5. Going “all in on the smartphone” with WiFi access and mobile fare payment.  – Wifi access is a big deal for Decatur Station train riders.  If you’ve ever tried to use a smartphone at Decatur Station, you know what I’m talking about.

Avondale MARTA Station rendering courtesy of MARTA via CityLab