An opinion piece today in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution considers the issue facing Gwinnett County voters -- whether to approve a one cent sales tax to finance an extension of the MARTA rail line from Dekalb to Gwinnett County. The piece hits on the primary issue facing transportion throughout the Atlanta area, that is the need for a regional transportation plan addressing all forms of transportation throughout the metro Atlanta area.
Atlanta has long been a model of sprawl, but recent infill, mixed-use projects have brought many more residents back into town. That is a positive step, and it allows people like me to live, work and play all within walking distance (I live next door to my office building in Buckhead). But, a more comprehensive plan is required to address the region's growth and struggling transportation infrastructure. MARTA has suffered throughout its existence from a combination of poor planning, poor perception and NIMBY-ism. Counties like Cobb and Gwinnett blocked attempts to extend the rail line into their communities for fear of attracting lower-income, urban commuters. This short-sighted thinking has resulted in more, larger highways to transport residents of Cobb and Gwinnett into the areas of Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown for work. Those residents have few mass transit options and are forced to drive into the city core. The problem has worsened with $4 a gallon gas.
Solutions such as a comprehensive, region-wide transportation plan involving MARTA rail and bus, GDOT and other stakeholders can alleviate some of this problem. But, the problem won't be addressed on a piecemeal basis. Extensions of the MARTA line won't be built overnight; in the meantime, gas prices will continue to increase. The time is now for comprehensive planning on transportation in the entire metro Atlanta region.