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Lee May raises some reasonable points in mailer

November 1, 2011 2 comments

I got an e-mail recently from Lee May’s office concerning the lack of rail service into South DeKalb. What was nice to see was his lack of enthusiasm for an additional penny to fund transportation improvements in the metro. Here are a few excerpts. Though he has not come out against it, it seems the tone of this e-mail suggests that we should take a long, hard critical look at what is being asked of us versus what we are getting in return.

First his argument against “Bus Centers”

It is also noted that one of the residents, though disappointed about the rail projects not being funded was quoted as saying “…I think it would have been much more beneficial than premium bus service because it’s already harder to provide an incentive to get people on a bus than it is with a rail line.” This has been one of the many reason for supporting funding for the I-20 East Rail project. Bus service, albeit, bus rapid transit service, is still buses —- which equates to still sitting in traffic.

The promise of rail decades ago

  Proponents of the project list will say that DeKalb residents are getting $1.6 Billion from the total $6 Billion allocated for the region.  On the surface this might sound like a great deal:  for a mere additional one cent tax you get $1.6 Billion in roadway projects (minus the $700M for the Clifton Corridor project) — but no rail.  You will receive Bike/Pedestrian improvements.  But no Rail.  And you will receive bus rapid transit — but again, no rail.  Over thirty years ago, an agreement was made with the taxpayers of DeKalb and that agreement was in short, “pay the one percent sales tax and rail will be constructed throughout DeKalb.”  Thus far no new rail projects in 20+ years have been constructed in Central and South DeKalb — Central and South DeKalb have been left alongside the road.

His question to residents

Review the list. Yes, there are roadway improvement projects in Central and South DeKalb but the crux of the issue is: does Central and South DeKalb continue to pay a one percent tax and not get rail?

His Conclusion

Road improvement projects, in effect, are road widening projects and intersection improvements are to accommodate more traffic.  South and Central DeKalb will have great roads that will continue to be clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic.  South and Central DeKalb will not be in a position to get people out of their cars and on to rail for another 40 years

These seem like reasonable grievances to me. Buses must be complimented by other forms of transportation including light or heavy rail. Buses are at the mercy of traffic conditions like any other road vehicle. Unless the buses have an exclusive right of way that no other traffic can enter into, then it is not a solution. I don’t need to speak about the promise of rail. If rail (light or heavy) goes out into Cobb or Gwinnett, we are truly being shafted. And to me that what this penny boils down to. Are we getting our money’s worth?

See the full text here of the May’s mailer

 

 

 

I will not vote to have my tax dollars redistributed to Cobb, Gwinnett

October 18, 2011 2 comments

CrossRoadsNews – No rail for I 20 in final transportation projects for referendum.

Why am I not surprised by this?  This was DOA and anyone with half a brain knew it. No one on that roundtable was interested in helping marginal folks in South DeKalb. Whats worse is that the member we had who was suppose to look out for our interest caved. CEO Ellis made a bold statement wanting to yank funding from the GA400/I285 area, but I bet he knew that was going nowhere and can hide behind the fact that he did offer up an alternative. It pisses me off that I have to live North of the Stone Mountain Freeway to get decent schools, decent roads, clean streets and transportation alternatives. We are a marginalized people who are being asked to give 1 cent of every dollar spent here to citizens in Cobb who don’t even want rail and have historically been downright hostile to it.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is just redistribution in the other direction. Take our tax dollars and spend them on projects that people don’t want just because they can.  If they rely on my vote to help pass it, then we all we be stuck in 20th century transportation options.

It’s now or never for MARTA rail in South DeKalb

October 3, 2011 1 comment

I must commend Commissioner Larry Johnson. He has taken the rail for South DeKalb issue and brought it front and center. The AJC which tends to only report about crime, corruption and the horrible schools in South DeKalb has had no less than three stories in the last month or so that talks directly about the rail issue in South DeKalb.( here, here and here) I think this is a testament to the power that South DeKalb wields in the upcoming vote for a penny sales tax to cover various transportation projects around the metro. It is a common belief that without Atlanta, Fulton and Dekalb this thing is dead on arrival. If South DeKalb feels it is getting slighted in all of this, which would not be surprising, then you might see a backlash with few voters willing to pay an additional penny on top of the one we already pay. For many of us in South DeKalb, it is a slap in the face to ask us to pay another penny in sales tax only to see other areas get transportation options and we remain gridlocked with 20th century options. I have previously written in support of the 1 cent, mainly because it was my belief that transit options would come to South DeKalb. Now I have become a fence sitter. I still believe the penny will help push transportation options for hundreds of thousands of residents all over metro Atlanta, but what disturbs me is that of those hundreds of thousands, few will live near or south of I-20. I fear that my lack of political influence and lack of money will ultimately have me paying an extra cent for goods and services and that money will go straight to Cobb or Gwinnett or one of the other far flung areas that do not have any of my interests at heart.

 

With all of that said, I must respectfully disagree with how some want to fund a rail line to South DeKalb. CEO Burrell Ellis, who sits on the roundtable that will decide the fate of rail in South DeKlab, wants to yank money from a GA 400 project. That idea won’t fly. GA 400 is a main artery between the wealthy and powerful North Fulton suburbs and the city of Atlanta. Polticians and business leaders who saturate that area will never allow that to happen. And a proposal by Lee May to strip some funding from the Clifton Corridor line is less likely to happen though it is more feasible than the GA 400 idea. I don’t like this idea because it would hurt residents throughout DeKalb. A third option floated by Decatur mayor and roundtable member Bill Floyd is to make the Clifton rail and South DeKalb rail one big project. This is less likely to happen given the price tag, but it has merits. If the Clifton segment is built to hook into the Avoondale station, and the blues line is extendided to Wesley Chapel, you would not have to travel all the way downtown to go to Sandy Springs or Dunwoody. That would make the Wesley Chapel idea much more attractive than one that only sends you to downtown.

 

So where does that leave South DeKalb? Well I think it leaves us in a sticky situation. If we vote for the tax without rail to South DeKalb it is highly likely that South DeKalb will be paying for improvements in transportation that will not directly improve our transit options. In fact we could be one of only a handful of geographic regions in the 10 county area to get little or no improvements for the 1 cent sales tax. On the other hand, I fear that if the referendum fails not only will we not get anything now or in the future, those areas that are clamoring for road inprovements and wider freeways will eventually get what they want through some other means. It’s the old classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The only win for South DeKalb would be a sales tax approved and a rail line.

 

Blame elected officials for lack of transit in South DeKalb

August 10, 2011 2 comments

I am a big supporter of public transportation. When I was in my early teens growing up in Indiana, my mother bought me a pass for our local bus system. I was the only one of my friends who knew how to catch the bus. When we moved to Georgia, the first thing I did was buy a MARTA card. I learned more about this city riding transit than most locals knew who had lived here all their lives. When we bought our house several years ago, one of our desires was it be close to mass transit. It all was a matter of choices. Unfortunately in South DeKalb, public transportation choices will be limited to buses. No rail of any sort for those of us who have been supporting MARTA for decades. The roundtable, that is deciding what projects to include in next years tax referendum, scrapped any idea of a train system running into South DeKalb. Instead they chose to link Emory with the Lindbergh area, and extend MARTA up to Cumberland in Cobb county. I am in agreement with the roundtable that the Emory/Clifton corridor needs more than  buses, but to extend rail to Cobb is really a slap in the face for us long time riders and supporters of MARTA. Cobb, along with Gwinnett, and Clayton, decide decades ago that they did not want public transportation. Only recently have they embraced the idea that some public transport is needed. Now Cobb residents get to enjoy the spoils of an already in place system that was paid for by Dekalb and Fulton residents. But what is even more distressing is that one of the two elected leader that repesents the county on this roundtable was rather dismissive of any sort of transit choices in South DeKalb. Here is what CEO Ellis had to say:

Transit addresses traffic and belongs where there is the greatest concentration of people,

He should have added on to that “who will actually use it”. MARTA has done the needed studies to for rail service in parts of the I-20 corridor. They have shown that it is a viable project. They have done environmental impact studies, and have presented it to the public. The only thing that stood in the way was funding. Now that there is a possible funding plan, the rug is pulled out from under our feet. All of this is due to a lack of political resolve by the elected officials that represent us. This is just one of many times where our elected representatives have failed us. From quality of life issues to economic development, the county, our state reps and even our congressmen fail us at every turn. They do this because they know there will be few if any repercussions for their inaction.  The rally for rail that Lee May held earlier this week was well intentioned, but a little too late. That should have been done earlier in the process to let the roundtable know exactly where we stood. Much of South DeKalb has been written off as ignorant and unworthy of proper representation. Until we hold our elected representatives to a higher standard, we will continue to get sub-standard representation.

Issues South DeKalb should keep an eye on.

June 7, 2011 1 comment

Congressional District Lines

the redrawing of congressional lines and legislature lines will take center stage this summer. In August, a special session will begin the process of redrawing district lines to accommodate this states increase in population. As it stands the legislature will have 14 districts to draw as oppose to 13. Since republicans control all three branches of state government, you can expect Democrats to fare poorly during this once a decade redrawing. I for one hope the legislature looks at how DeKalb is carved up. DeKalb, with a population around 750 thousand has 4 congressional districts. That’s more than Fulton or Gwinnett. The legislature should bring all of DeKalb that is not in the 6th district or in the city of Atlanta back into the fourth. See a possible district breakdown here. DeKalb is basically an urban county with issues that more align with the central city than with more rural areas like Rockdale, or Henry, or South Fulton county. It is going to be interesting to see how the legislature deals with DeKalb. Aside from the congressional redrawing,  what could have a greater impact on DeKalb is the representation in the statehouse. As the AJC has reported on several occasions, DeKalb, along with Fulton has not kept pace in terms of growth with its exurban counterparts. In the state legislature DeKalb could lose a seat or two, weakening its delegation in the statehouse. That weakening would be a strengthening for a county like Forsyth wich has only a fraction of the population of DeKalb. If DeKalb does lose a seat or two, we all can guess where those seats will come from. If you want more info on the redrawing, check out this Google search

Transportation

In the fall people all across the Metro area will vote whether or not to tax themselves an additional penny to fund transportation infrastructure throughout the region. By late August we should know exactly wich projects voters will be asked to fund. Many projects will affect South DeKalb. Things like mass transit, road improvements and interchange improvements are all on the list for DeKalb. I have stated in a prior post that I am not against a self-imposed tax for better transportation service throughout the metro. What I fear is that DeKalb residents will pay more and receive less. Rail service has been talked about in South DeKalb for decades, but none has materialized. The state DOT has already nixed the idea of rail service to Conyers, and rightfully so. The density of the population that far out just doesn’t warrant it just yet. But some sort of rail service to South DeKalb is long overdue. Two options benefitting South DeKalb could be placed on the final list for voters to approve. One  is rail transit from downtown to Candler Road and the other is  an extension of the Blue Line to Wesley Chapel. The cynic in me says neither will get the needed support from the roundtable that is tasked with providing the final list. If the final list comes out, and all we get in DeKalb are interchange improvements and other areas get more options, I would be inclined to say no to a new tax. But I will keep an open mind about the whole thing.

Policing

A friend of mine had his home broken into recently. The police responded and we started talking about police coverage where he lives. What he told me was astonishing. He said on any given night there are four cars patrolling an area from Moreland Avenue to Wesley Chapel/Flakes Mill Rd south of I-20. Yea that’s a huge area. I was shocked that an area that is so huge would have only four cars. My first instinct was to think the officer was exaggerating, but when a second car showed up, he said the same thing without knowing what we and the previous officer had spoken about. After a little bit of searching, I found this map of the South Precinct. If these divisions represent individual beats within the precinct, then I can see how its possible for only four cars to patrol the area. But even worse is that these same areas are becoming crime-ridden but a surge in police coverage has not kept pace.  It seems to me that the police are in a respond to incidents stage than proactively policing areas that are vulnerable to criminal activity.

MARTA looking to raise fares again

May 11, 2011 Comments off

Here we go again. MARTA has decided it is going to ask riders to pay an additional .50 cents for a single trip on bus or rail. This comes less than a year after the last fare increase in October of 2010. The single ride fare will go up 25% to 2.50. A weekly pass and a monthly pass are both jumping by 40 percent. The weekly will go from $17 to $23.75. A monthly will jump from $68 to $95. These are pretty hefty spikes especially for people who are struggling to meet ends meet. These rates are getting close to the price of gassing up for a month. I get the need to increase fares to help cover operating costs, but this increase like the last will not come with any expanded service. As a regular user of the system, I find it pretty naïve to expect the public to foot another increase in fares with no changes in service or maybe even reduced services. I hope public comments will sway MARTA to shelve this thing for good or at least wait a couple of years before asking riders to pony up 25-50 percent more to ride. See the entire Press release here. Below is the proposed fare increase and the locations and times for public comment.

Proposed Fare Increases for FY2012

Fare Media

Current

Proposed FY2012

Base Fare

$2.00

$2.50

Reduced Fare

$.090

$0.95*

Mobility Base

$3.60

$3.80*

Weekly Pass

$17.00

$23.75

Monthly Pass

$68.00

$95.00

Mobility Pass

$115.00

$122.00*

TMA Discounts

0% to 10%

No Change

Children

Free with Adult

(Height Requirement 46” Max 2)

No Change

Public Hearings

(A community exchange will be held at all public hearings from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.)

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 7 p.m.

Fulton County Government Center

141 Pryor Street

Atlanta, GA  30303

Taking MARTA:  Bus route 49 from the Five Points Rail Station. Special bus shuttle will be provided.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 7 p.m.

DeKalb Maloof Auditorium

1300 Commerce Drive

Decatur, GA  30030

Taking MARTA: Walk one block west of Decatur Rail Station

Transportation wish list has many South DeKalb projects

April 15, 2011 4 comments

Here is a list of road and transit requests that directly affect South DeKalb county. Many of them are just road improvements, but a few are massive projects that cost a lot of cash. As you know, in  2012 we all will vote on whether to impose an additional penny tax on ourselves to pay for improved transportation infrastructure. Right now the list is very long, but it will be pared down in the coming months. By October, a final list will be presented and it will be voted on in 2012. There are a few projects in South DeKalb that have some merit. Improvements to the interchanges at Panoala/I-20 and the 285/Bouldercrest Rd. Interchanges. Anyone who has driven on either of these roads know they are woefully inadequate for the traffic they carry. In terms of mass transit, there are several options on the table that will bring transit alternatives to many areas along the I-20 corridor including the possibility of a heavy rail extension from Indian Creek to Wesley Chapel Road. Here is a list I culled from the AJC. If you want more details and costs for each, check out their database here. If you want more info on the entire project check out the ARC page here.


PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name Bouldercrest Road from I-285 South to Linecrest Road – Widening

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Improve from 2 lanes to 4 divided lanes with landscaped median, sidewalks and bike lanes. Improve traffic flow, relieve congestion, produce safety and operation improvements and improve access to I-285. Linecrest Road to I-285.

 PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name SR 212 (Browns Mill Road) from SR 155 (Snapfinger Road) to Rockdale County Line – Corridor Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Relieve congestion at key intersections and improve traffic flow by adding turn lanes, bike/ped and signalization upgrades. Snapfinger to Rockdale County line.

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name Columbia Drive from US 78 (College Avenue) to I-20 East – Corridor Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Relieve congestion at key intersections, add sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signal upgrades, and resurfacing. I-20 to E College Ave.

 PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name US 278 (Covington Highway) from I-285 East to SR 124 (Turner Hill Road) – Corridor Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Relieve congestion at key intersections, add sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signal upgrades and resurfacing. Evans Hill Rd to SR 124 (Turner Hill Rd), I-285 to Evans Mill Rd.

 PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name SR 155 (Flat Shoals Parkway) from I-285 South to Snapfinger Road – Corridor Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Relieve congestion at key intersections, add sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signal updgrades and resurfacing. SR 155 (Snapfinger) to I-285.

 PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name Glenwood Road from SR 155 (Candler Road) to US 278 (Covington Highway) – Corridor Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Relieve congestion at key intersections, add sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signal updgrades and resurfacing. SR 155 (Candler Rd) to Covington Hwy

 PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name Panola Road from SR 155 (Snapfinger Road) to US 278 (Covington Highway) – Widening and Corridor Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Convert a 2-lane to a 4-lane divided with sidewalks, bike lanes. US 278 (Covington Hwy) to SR 155 (Snapfinger Rd); Covington Hwy to Redan Rd.

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name SR 155 (Snapfinger Road) from Flat Shoals Parkway to River Road – Corridor Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose To relieve congestion at key intersections, add sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signal upgrades, and resurfacing. From Flat Shoals to River Road and intersection improvement.

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name Wesley Chapel Road from SR 155 (Flat Shoals Parkway) to Boring Road – Corridor Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose To relieve congestion at key intersections, add sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signal upgrades, and resurfacing. From Boring Road to Flat Shoals Parkway.

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name I-20 East at Panola Road – Interchange Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Construct interchange upgrades at Panola Road

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name I-285 South at Bouldercrest Road – Interchange Improvements

Agency Dekalb

Project purpose Interchange improvements at Bouldercrest Road, adding turn lanes, improved ramps and bridges.

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name I-20 East Corridor Bus Rapid Transit Improvements – Phase A

Agency MARTA

Project purpose This project is Phase A of the I-20 East Transit initiative to construct and operate high capacity transit in the I-20 East corridor. Phase A will construct a Park & Ride lot and Transfer Center at the Mall at Stonecrest off Mall Parkway asouth of I-20 in Dekalb County. Bus service from this facility will include local and semi-express service to and from the Perimeter Center, Central Atlanta, Cumberland and Airport acitivity centers and the South Dekalb residential area.

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name I-20 East Corridor Bus Rapid Transit Improvements – Phase B

Agency MARTA

Project purpose This project is Phase B of the I-20 East Transit initiative to construct and operate high capacity transit in the I-20 East corridor and assumbes Phase A is fully funded and selected for the Transportation Investment Act investment list. Phase B will construct three Transit Centers with associated needed parking at three locations along I-20 consistent with the I-20 East Transit Initiative scheduled for adoption in July 2011. The most likely locations as of March 30, 2011 at I-20 and Candler Road, I-20 and Wesley Chapel Road and Fairington Road/Dekalb Medical Center Hillandale. Bus service from these facilities will include local and semi-express service to and from the Perimeter Center, Central Atlanta and Cumberland activity centers and the South Dekalb residential areas

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name I-20 East Corridor High Capacity Transit from Central Atlanta to Candler Road

Agency MARTA

Project purpose To provide transit service to South Dekalb County that directly connects to Downtown Atlanta. This segment will achieve the goal of connecting the South Dekalb area and Downtown Atlanta in the shortest length possible. There would be connections to the existing MARTA heavy rail system once reaching central Atlatna. Light rail or bus rapid transit would be the possible technologies utilized.

PROJECT PURPOSE & TYPE

Project name MARTA East Heavy Rail Line Extension from Indian Creek Station to Wesley Chapel Road Near I-20 East

Agency MARTA

Project purpose To provide transit service in the South Dekalb area by implementing a segment of the I-20 East transit project. This segment would be HRT and would connect to the existing MARTA Blue (East) Line. The first phase would begin at Wesley Chapel and travel to Indian Creek. This is about 5.4 miles.