Atlanta’s Claims to Fame Leave MARTA Ashamed

In 2014, The Huffington Post put out an article claiming that Atlanta, Georgia is “The Big American City You’ve Been Missing Out On” as many sources would also praise the city.

Atlanta is known for being a booming city of opportunity is looked upon as an international hub for commerce, business, entrepreneurial ventures and social life. Newlyweds flock to the city for prosperity and success in their marriage and families. The city claims to hold many titles as being an accepting and diverse city yet a major flaw in this statement is found within MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. The city tends to keep populations held back through the exclusions of certain neighborhoods and regulations on it’s MARTA transportation. To be a truly successful and thriving city, Atlanta must end its exclusion of populations and additions to MARTA which keep people from truly reaching potential. Atlanta is a great up and coming city but public transportation continues to perpetuate what the civil rights movement was designed to end.

In 1965, under the gold dome of the Georgia State Capital, it was decided by the Georgia General Assembly that Atlanta was in need of a mass transit system which could potentially reverse clogged highways and give rise to the city’s efficiency. This decision led to the creation of MARTA, originally intended to service the City of Atlanta and it’s five surrounding counties. Early on, Cobb County voters struck down the transit system while the other four believed it would be beneficial. When the question: “where the required funds would come from?” was presented and the state proposed property taxes, Clayton and Gwinnett followed the likes of Cobb County. This left the City of Atlanta, Dekalb and Fulton as the only counties still willing to fund and allow MARTA in (Monroe, “Where It All Went Wrong”). Although MARTA received great support from the business community, black voters were not satisfied with the proposed routes because of it’s “greater service to white neighborhoods than to black ones, limited African American representation on the MARTA board, and the board’s refusal to honor requests for minority employment guarantees” (Toon, “MARTA”). White voters did not support MARTA because it would be of no use to them as most already owned cars and gas prices were very affordable. Jornalist Doug Monroe revealed in his work ‘Where It All Went Wrong’ that “the once virtually all-white suburbs that voted against MARTA years ago are today quite diverse” and these suburbs’ diversity will dramatically increase during the next decade.

MARTA’s CEO, Keith Parker, took to social media site Twitter.com recently to state that “18% of jobs are accessible by transit for metro Atlanta residents. 33% for those living in the city.” Although this statement may seem positive, a 2011 article titled “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America” states that Atlanta in in the rankings as least reliable and accessible for citizens trying to reach work by use of the transit system. In the top 100 metro cities, at least 30% of jobs are easily accessible by the transit system, proving that Atlanta is falling behind. Reason for Atlanta’s lack of transit is because the city was built in a suburban style because of its development when the car was already invented (Torner et al).

Atlanta is frequently ranked as one of the worst cities in terms of traffic jams and the inaccessibility of MARTA does not help the situation. Georgia has recently been proven to be the most expensive state to own a car (Ellingboe, 1). This mix of high costs of owning a car and inaccessible transit leads

A Map of MARTA’s Current Rail System

to minorities being out of options pertaining traveling about the Metro Atlanta area. Atlanta is often promoted as a bustling city for diversity and entrepreneurial success but the lack of public transportation issues being solved, these acclimations will not be truly just (“The 10 Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs”.

A reading which analyzes the most productive transit systems found that officials should should collect data to ensure that funds and transit lines works to provide the most beneficial transit options for it’s respective labor market (Torner et al). This does not seem to be applicable to Atlanta’s transit system. MARTA is set up to keep minorities away from certain areas and continues to ratify legislation and proposals which could lead to inclusion. Recently, it was decided that the Atlanta Braves would be moved to a new $673 million stadium in Cobb County due to “lack of consistent mass transit options”, but Cobb County has yet to be made available by MARTA and proposals were turned down.

Architect’s Rendition of the Atlanta Brave’s New Stadium “Sunburst Park”

Atlanta Braves’ Vice President of Sales and Marketing stated to ESPN that “the number one reason fans don’t come to games or as many games is due to transportation access issues” (“Suntrust Park: Atlanta Braves- FAQ”). Opposing this statement: MARTA does not run to Cobb County. GOP Chairman of Cobb, Joe Dendey wrote a letter saying that the team’s move from Atlanta to Cobb is supported but the county is actively working to decrease traffic issues associated with the games and not allow a way for MARTA to access the area (Bluestein & Galloway, 6). But what better way to decrease traffic issues than to allow for the city’s premier mass transit system to the venue?

Legislators and voters of Cobb County have long resisted Fulton County’s move towards urban prowess might make other counties more likely to allow for a MARTA expansion into their county. Local residents who beg for MARTA in surrounding counties claim that having to transfer from bus to bus and train to train only makes a commute to work more extensive. Phil Hudson of the Atlanta Business Chronicle finds that out of all of the cities in the United States, Atlantans have the longest commute on average, which is a result of the intense traffic. Citizens of the surrounding counties travel 12.8 miles on average to work daily. To minimize traffic, he suggests the use of major transit systems but people are swayed towards driving as the local neighborhoods only have park and ride systems. These park and ride systems drop commuters to a stop where they have to transfer from their local transit system to MARTA and the complexity of it all is what discourages riders (Hudson, “Atlantans Have the Longest Commute in Entire U.S.”).

cct
Commuters Lined Up to Board the Cobb County Transit Bus

MARTA has recently decided that the next major project to tackle is park-and-ride stations in suburbs of Atlanta. Because many commuters are discouraged by transferring trains and buses, they lose business. In 2015 MARTA proposed an $8 Billion expansion pushing towards a sales tax increase of one cent to fund rail lines further into the suburbs. Atlanta’s surrounding counties showed mixed support. A resident told WSBTV, “I don’t want to sit on 400 in my car.  I’d rather be reading my newspaper on MARTA” (Geary, 11), while others stated that the local transit systems are sufficient enough. Meanwhile a resident of Cobb County says that for most citizens it’s a 4 to 5 mile walk to the nearest Cobb County Transit station. Most lower income families do not have means to drive the distance to the CCT and therefore resort to work in the area. If MARTA were allowed into Cobb it would allow lower income residents to access higher quality employment opportunities in the city. State Representative Earl Ehrhart in 2007 stated that “The idea that Cobb voters are racist because of their lack of approval for [MARTA] is invalid. It goes north, south and east and west, and it doesn’t go anywhere Cobb citizens live nor does it go anywhere that they commute” (MDJ). The Representative’s statement coincides itself because MARTA doesn’t run anywhere near Cobb citizens’ residences because Cobb voters repeatedly struck down expansion proposals. While Cobb seems to be the only local area not in support of MARTA, citizens of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs have believed that MARTA’s expansion into their territory would lead to fallen property values, increased crime, and collapse in public order (Jaffe, 7). Studies by Duke have found that public transportation “has had no noticeable effect on the total amount or distribution of crime near its route” (Willoughby, “Effect of Public Transportation on Crime”), proving that the social stigma of transit system stations in suburbs bringing crime into the area is invalid.

In any metropolitan area it is dire that the city have a reliable mass transit system to counteract traffic issues and environmental harm. MARTA was put in place to connect the citizens of Atlanta to its many neighborhoods yet it excludes key areas and populations. For MARTA to become a widely-supported transit system, and for Atlanta to become the diverse and prosperous city it advertises itself as, MARTA it is necessary for MARTA to become fully inclusive ith their areas of service.

Works Cited

Bluestein, Greg, and Jim Galloway. “Your Daily Jolt: The Threats on Both Sides of The…” AJC. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/political-insider/2013/nov/12/your-daily-jolt-threats-both-sides-atlanta-braves-/>.

Ellingboe, Kirsten. “Georgia Is the Most Expensive Place to Own a Car.” Atlanta Magazine. Emmis Publishing, 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. <http://www.atlantamagazine.com/news-culture-articles/study-georgia-is-the-most-expensive-place-to-own-a-car/>.

Geary, Lori. “MARTA Pushing for Largest Expansion in History.” WSBTV. Cox Media Group, 20 July 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/marta-pushing-largest-expansion-history/33423497>.

Hudson, Phil W. “Atlantans Have the Longest Commute in Entire U.S.” Atlanta Business Chronicle. American City Business Journals, 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. <http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2015/03/25/atlantans-have-the-longest-commute-in-entire-u-s.html>.

Jaffe, Eric. “The Myth That Mass Transit Attracts Crime Is Alive in Atlanta.” CityLab. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. <http://www.citylab.com/crime/2014/12/the-myth-that-mass-transit-attracts-crime-persists-in-atlanta/383609/>.

Monroe, Doug. “Where It All Went Wrong.” Atlanta Magazine 52.4 (2012): 86. EBSCO Host. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

“Suntrust Park: Atlanta Braves- FAQ.” Atlanta Braves. MLB Advanced Media, 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/atl/ballpark/suntrust-park/overview/faq/>.http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9959440/atlanta-braves-leaving-turner-field-relocating-cobb-county-2017

“The 10 Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. <http://www.forbes.com/pictures/lml45eeklm/no-3-atlanta-georgia/>.

Toon, John D. “Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. Georgia Humanities Council, 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 09 April 2016. <http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/business-economy/metropolitan-atlanta-rapid-transit-authority-marta>.

Torner, Adie, Elizabeth Kneebone, Robert Puentes, and Alan Barube. “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metro America.” The Brookings Institution. The Brookings Institution, 12 May 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. <http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2011/05/12-jobs-and-transit>.

Willoughby, Jack. “The Effect of Public Transportation on Crime.” Urban Economics RSS. Duke University, 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <http://sites.duke.edu/urbaneconomics/?p=1215>.

 

 

 

 

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