MARTA Rail along I-20 still a longshot
I attended the last of the community meetings that MARTA was having to discuss the I-20 corridor last night, and came away with the following observations
There are three options on the table for better transit in south DeKalb; Heavy rail, Light Rail, and Bus Rapid Transit. I prefer a light rail alternative that will ferry folks within the corridor and connect to an existing MARTA rail station or a yet to be constructed multi-modal terminal in downtown.
There have been three studies that concentrated on the I-20 corridor in the past ten years. All three have been shelved. There have been an additional four studies that involved South DeKalb in one way or another in the last ten years. None have been acted on, and this study, though using some data from previous studies, will basically start over from scratch. I have to wonder whether anything will become of this latest study.
There are nearly 400,000 people in the corridor. In twenty years that number is projected to grow 26%. Sorry folks, but a few buses traveling the main roads is not going to cut it. Also, MARTA rail stations tend to bring positive development to areas in which they are located. You want to see better development opportunities in South DeKalb, improve the transit options.
A lot of the folk in the meeting were quite passionate about transit in the area. Many in attendance wanted better options for travel not only in South DeKalb, but to other areas of the metro. Most favored a light rail system when asked to vote on an option. That tells me people are aware of the realities of bringing rail to south DeKalb. Heavy rail will never come to south DeKalb. So we must look at other options the next best thing is Light rail. It costs less than heavy rail, but can carry more people than BRT systems. Also, it would be nice to see the regions first light rail implemented in South DeKalb.
This study is just that, a study. What many folks do not know is that this study has to make it onto a list of regional transit options that will be funded by an additional 1 cent sales tax on people. The sales tax referendum isn’t scheduled until the 2012 elections. Even if that passes, there is no guarantee that this project gets on the list. In short, the project has to be considered doable to make the list, then funding must be approved via this vote. I am a pessimist and my pessimistic nature tells me not to get my hopes up too high. There are other areas who will be pushing their own transportation projects, and many of those areas are much more politically connected than South DeKalb. If this thing happens I will be pleasantly surprised. It might even add a bit of optimism to my pessimistic outlook on this whole transit thing.
Finally, in addition to MARTA big wigs, there were a couple of surprise faces in the crowd. I was surprised to see School board member Zepora Roberts in attendance. Roberts, who could be ex-board member Roberts next week, was very vocal and passionate about transit in the area. Like many in the audience she was skeptical of the chances that transit will come to I-20 anytime soon. Also in attendance was 4th district candidate Liz Carter. She says she has been to each of the meetings held in the corridor. Since I have only been to one of the meetings, I can’t verify that but Carter has been very visible in South DeKalb during this race. Far More visible than Hank Johnson, or some of our local elected officials. Say what you want about Carter and her party representation, but she seems to have a genuine concern about what goes on in the district