Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No surprise -- Florida most dangerous for pedestrians

Four Florida cities -- Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami -- rated the "Top 4" worst cities for pedestrians. The study by Transportation for America listed the 52 worst metropolitan areas for pedestrian safety, creating a "Pedestrian Danger Index" based upon pedestrian deaths and the percentage of the population that walks to work.  As Florida has boomed during the automobile era, these rankings should not surprise.

Atlanta ranks 11th on the list, which is also not much of a surprise.  Fortunately, Atlanta and its surrounding communities have realized the problem posed by our car-based infrastructure and culture and are taking steps to change our car-dependent ways.  Yesterday a committee of mayors and council members from across the Atlanta region voted unanimously to approve a $6.14 billion list of transportation projects, many of which are for transit projects rather than new roadways.  This is a first step in a long process that will include a voter referendum to raise a 1% sales tax to fund the regional projects, and the list is likely to ultimately change.

However, yesterday's meeting is important in two respects.  First, the Atlanta area has finally realized that the solution to its transportation problems lies in a regional effort with a regional transportation plan.  Yes, some giving and taking will occur, as it did yesterday.  And yes, some projects will not be built in favor of others.  But a comprehensive, regional plan is the only way to ensure that the Atlanta area's transportation network is viewed as a whole rather than on the typical ad-hoc basis it has been handled in the past.

Second, the fact that just slightly more than half of the projects approved yesterday were transit related is a big step, both for Atlanta and the region as a whole.  There are still detractors, but counties outside Fulton and Dekalb seem to have come to the realization that transit is necessary for long-term growth.  Even Cobb County, long a vocal opponent to MARTA's expansion into the county, now actually WANTS transit.

Much work is needed, and the voter approval of a sales tax to fund infrastructure, much of which is in Atlanta, may be a difficult sell.  But yesterday's compromise is a very positive sign.  Hopefully the leaders of the region can continue to work together to craft a vision and a future for transit in Atlanta that will rival those of transit leading cities worldwide.

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