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Friday, June 03, 2005

State funding for MARTA

Dear Governor Perdue,

In January, after five years of working from home, I took a job that requires a 10 mile commute from my home. I was dreading the commute, until I realized that I could ride MARTA to work. That decision means that I now enjoy a comfortable, efficient, and productive commute. I am writing to ask that you support state funding for MARTA. It is vital for the citizens of metropolitan Atlanta and for the economic development of Georgia.

Many other cities with substantial transit systems receives significant portions of their operating budget from state funds (Boston - 54%, Philadelphia - 44%, New York - 29%, Chicago - 23%). Atlanta is a leading city in the Southeast, but in order to maintain and improve that position, we need to maintain and improve MARTA. Comprehensive and affordable public transit is vital to growing cities like Atlanta. It services not only the people who ride the MARTA, but also serves all the people of the region. Transit use reduces air pollution and traffic congestion, and provides transportation and a higher quality of life for the people of metropolitan Atlanta, whether or not they ride MARTA.

I agree that MARTA's budget, like that of all government agencies, should be balanced. However, metro-Atlatans and visitors to our region should not be forced to suffer higher fares and reduced services for that to happen. Unfortunately, that will likely be the result unless the State contributes to the MARTA budget.

Atlanta contributes greatly to the Georgia economy, and Atlanta needs the State to contribute to the Atlanta economy, through increased funding to MARTA. State support of MARTA is necessarly to adequately serve Atlanta and all of Georgia. Please consider providing it.


Sincerely,

Karama C. Neal, Ph.D.

6 Comments:

Blogger Karama said...

This letter was sent to Governer Sonny Perdue. When I find out who's on the MARTA legislative committee, I'll send a revised version to them. In addition, this post was forwarded to Citizens for Progressive Transit and Atlanta Jobs with Justice.

For more information, visit the sites below.

MARTA: http://www.itsmarta.com

Atlanta Jobs with Justice: http://www.atlantalaborcouncil.org/jobs_with_justice.htm

Citizens for Progressive Transit: http://cpt-atlanta.org/article.php3?id_article=31

AJC opinion piece: http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/0505/12edmarta.html

MARTA Board Chair response to AJC: http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/0505/12edequal.html

LA Bus Boycott and Bus Riders Union: http://www.thestrategycenter.org/inthenews-art1.html (Organized in part by my friend Rita.)

Federal Transit Administration: http://www.fta.dot.gov/14512_ENG_HTML.htm

Transit funding and other information for all US systems: http://www.ntdprogram.com/NTD/Profiles.nsf/ProfileInformation?OpenForm&2001&All

June 03, 2005  
Blogger Karama said...

Here's a "So what can I do" post on transit and alternative transportation.

June 03, 2005  
Blogger Karama said...

This just in from Governor Purdue. It's interesting that MARTA is not mentioned at all. -

"Dear Dr. Neal:

    Thank you for your message relating to Georgia's budget situation and our ongoing efforts as a state to meet the needs of our citizens.  While I wish my reply to you could be more specific, be assured that I understand your concerns and have taken them under careful consideration.

    After two consecutive years of declining tax collections, Georgia's revenues began to rebound in the spring of 2004.  While I anticipate that Georgia's strong workforce and favorable business climate will help us sustain modest economic growth in the near future, many challenges lie ahead.  Business owners and families still face difficult choices about how to stretch a dollar, what necessities they must fund, and what things they can do without until later.  As stewards of the public treasury, my administration and your elected representatives in the General Assembly face those same decisions from among many good programs and services.

    While the economic skies are clearing, I am not willing to take the risk of spending money now that we hope to have later. We will succeed in maintaining balanced budgets that meet the real human needs of Georgians by doing three simple things:  We must identify and stay focused on our most important priorities - children, education, healthcare and transportation.  We must actively and aggressively seek greater efficiency and effectiveness by changing the way we do business in state government.  I have implemented a performance-based budgeting process that provides greater accountability for the actual results of state programs and gives the highest priority to those programs that have the greatest impact on our citizens.  That is the only way to do more with less. Further, I believe the citizens of Georgia expect us to live within our means.  That means simply no tax increases.

    The Amended Fiscal Year 2005 and Fiscal Year 2006 budgets required tough choices, as demands continue to outstrip our means.  My budget recommendations are based on a thorough review of the agencies' proposals, as well as on feedback from the people of Georgia.  I believe the recommendations are wise, provide good stewardship of our state finances and meet those principles and priorities I have outlined above.

    Thank you again for letting me know what matters to you.  It is essential that you also share your opinion with your state legislators, as the General Assembly plays a vital role in the allocation of our state's limited resources."

June 15, 2005  
Blogger Doug said...

Good for you, Karama. I wasn't blessed with an easy MARTA commute when I lived in Atlanta but sure wished to see in expanded instead of the other way around.

Thanks for leaving the clue about Word-of-the-day and Ambrose Bierce. The reason they're doing that, presumably, is that his birthday is tomorrow.

June 23, 2005  
Blogger Doug said...

Oh, and "Governor Perdue" still creeps me out to see in print.

June 23, 2005  
Blogger kwakara2 said...

Check this out:

Copyright 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

August 8, 2005 Monday Home Edition

Horizon; Pg. 1E; 1209 words

Study targets Emory traffic; Corridor plan recommends mass transit

JULIE B. HAIRSTON

In more than 30 years of commuting from Snellville to her job at Emory University, Kathy Maher has tried just about everything to make the journey more pleasant.

Maher, 58, has tried alternate routes and riding in a van pool with fellow Emory employees. But her unconventional hours made the van pool impractical, and in recent years, even side streets became so clogged her entry to the Emory area takes as much time as the stretch from Snellville to Atlanta.

"It's got to be adding a lot of pollution," Maher said. "You just sit and sit and sit."

Every working day, more than 45,000 workers compete with local traffic and students for road space in the Clifton Road corridor around Emory University. That's the equivalent of taking the entire employment base of Cherokee County and cramming it into a 6-square-mile area.

Top officials from the area's major employers, including Emory, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the American Cancer Society, among others, have heard Maher's story thousands of times.

On Friday, they responded formally to those commuters' anguish.

Results were released from an 18-month study that included recommendations for a dramatic infusion of mass transit, such as commuter rail running along existing freight rail lines from Atlantic Station in Midtown to Emory and east to Tucker. The plan also calls for circulating streetcars throughout the Emory area.

The Clifton Corridor recommendations were submitted to DeKalb County's planning office last week.

Michael Mandl, Emory's executive vice president for finance and administration, said leaders throughout the area are committed to making it easier to get into and around the corridor.

"I am convinced that the ultimate solution to the issue of access to transportation in the corridor is multifaceted and requires a series of partnerships and a series of solutions," Mandl said. "There's no silver bullet in this," he said. "It requires a range of things, and all of them need to be done."

Michael Meyer, Georgia Tech professor and transportation consultant, said the Emory study mirrors the efforts of several private groups around metro Atlanta, such as the Perimeter Community Improvement District, the Midtown Alliance and Central Atlanta Progress, that are paying millions of dollars to come up with their own solutions for gridlock.

"This is symptomatic of what's happening in this region," Meyer said. "You've got these groups all over the place taking this on because government isn't."

Resentment levels among Clifton area commuters have already reached a boiling point.

In response to an e-mail query, Emory doctoral student Benjamin Stewart said he was initially excited about living within walking distance of the campus when he and his family moved to Atlanta two years ago. But area traffic congestion quickly dampened his enthusiasm.

"Ironically, I worry about my health when I walk," Stewart said in his reply. "I breathe in, at exercise pace, the fumes of rush hour vehicle exhaust from the four lanes of heavy traffic on North Decatur Road. On the way home, I often outpace the drivers who are frequently idling beside me. And they sometimes look enviously at my walking 'speed.'"

As for those envious drivers, they complained pointedly about seemingly endless waits at traffic signals, a lack of turn lanes and coping with road rage. Jean Pruitt, an Emory clinical coordinator, said her daily commute from Canton takes between 90 minutes and two hours. If it rains, she said, she "might as well pull over and go to sleep."

For many like Pruitt, the study's recommendations could come as a great relief.

Right away, according to Mandl, Clifton officials will be working with the county's transportation department to retime the signals along major traffic arteries. Mandl said the Clifton study showed this could improve traffic flow as much as 10 percent .

"We spent a little time measuring this to see how bad it was --- and it's really bad," Mandl said. Emory even has offered to help pay for the work, according to Mandl.

Other short-term recommendations will include an expanded campus bicycle path network, the addition of shower and changing facilities for walkers or bikers, and new parking policies.

"We need to ensure that our parking policies and pricing are aligned with our values and [prompt] the right behaviors," Mandl said. "We shouldn't build parking to meet an insatiable appetite."

Policy changes designed to encourage car-reduction commuting habits are also being considered, as well as cutting-edge land use plans for future Emory development.

The study sees transit as an essential long-term aspect of improving Clifton Corridor access. Although MARTA was rebuffed by area residents in 1997, Mandl said the transit recommended by the study has been well received by neighbors.

Goizueta Business School assistant professor Jeff Busse, 41, said improved transit would be a welcome relief for his commute from Brookhaven. Moving from New York to Atlanta was a letdown for Busse, who tried taking MARTA buses to Emory at first, but ultimately gave up. The buses took too long and couldn't accommodate a varied work schedule.

"For me, my most stressful part of the day is driving to work. From here to where I live is only seven miles, but it takes half an hour, and that's just crazy," Busse said. "I think a lot of people would prefer [transit]."

Public transportation already provides a welcome escape for Emory administrator Karama Neal, 33. Neal drives from her home in Stone Mountain to MARTA's Kensington or Indian Creek stations. Sometimes she takes the train to Decatur, where a Clifton Corridor shuttle waits to drive her to campus. Other times, MARTA's Blue Flyer service takes her straight to Emory.

En route, Neal said, she reads, chats with fellow commuters, even naps sometimes.

"I've always encouraged people to try it and I'm amazed at how few do," Neal said.


But getting commuter rail and streetcars into the Clifton Corridor will take far more than lines on paper. Mandl said Clifton Corridor officials have already met with Georgia Department of Transportation and railroad officials about mixing freight rail lines with the recommended passenger service.

Craig Camuso, regional vice president for corporate communications at CSX, said the Clifton commuter rail proposal will be evaluated in a study of freight rail capacity now under way.The study will look at how the line would address questions of safety, liability, operational cost and balance with the volume of freight traffic.

"Their recommendation will be treated no different than anything else," Camuso said.

Getting transit on the ground also will require significant investment. Mandl said several sources of potential funding, including county, state and federal programs, have already been identified. Clifton area officials will be continuing their efforts to form alliances that will help their projects compete for limited public resources.

"This is an employment and economic center that has great societal benefit," Mandl said. "I honestly believe that if we don't do this, we are constraining that benefit."




JOEY IVANSCO / Staff Emory employee Kathy Maher battles traffic during her commute home from the university to Snellville. In recent years, even side streets became so clogged her entry to the Emory area takes as much time as the stretch from Snellville to Atlanta. WALTER CUMMING / Staff PROPOSED TRANSIT FOR CLIFTON CORRIDOR Recommendations from an 18-month study about how to improve traffic flow in the Clifton Corridor around Emory University includes a proposal for a commuter line stretching from Atlantic Station to Tucker using existing rail lines. Map locates route of proposed commuter rail line and streetcar service. Source: Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association Inset map shows area of detail as it relates to Atlanta.

August 8, 2005

August 18, 2005  

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