Archive for August, 2011

Toddlers Are North Druid Hills’ Fastest-Growing Age Group

By Timothy Darnell for the North Druid Hills / Briarcliff Patch

The number of pre-school-aged children in the  North Druid Hills community grew faster than any other age group, according to a  Patch analysis of 2010 U.S. Census Bureau figures.

The number of children 4 and under in the community jumped 68 percent from 2000 to 2010.

That’s in sharp contrast to overall population numbers in the area that were stagnant over the same time period.

The number of school-age kids in the North Druid Hills area was the fourth-fastest growing age group.

North Druid Hills is a Census Designated Place (CDP), which means the  bureau considers it a distinct area and gathers data for the community  even though it is not an incorporated town.

The North Druid Hills CDP is bordered by I-85 and Clairmont Road in  the northwest and Emory University in the south. The western edge ends at the DeKalb/Fulton  county line.

Population growth in the area is a study in  contradictions. The overall population remains virtually unchanged  over the last decade, growing from 18,852 to 18,947. That’s an  increase of 95 people.

Here are some other findings for the North Druid Hills community:

  • The number of pre-school age children grew from 640 to 1,078.
  • The next-fastest growing age groups were 60-69 (a 39 percent increase) and  50-59 (a 25 percent increase).
  • The number of school-aged children, age 5-18, group grew from 1,301 to 1,628. That’s an increase of 25 percent.
  • The number of people age 19-29 fell 14 percent over the last decade. Their numbers dropped from 6,096 to 5,331.
  • The slowest-growing age groups were 30-39 (with 3.6 percent growth) and 40-49 (3.8 percent growth).
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August 31, 2011 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

Atlanta Forward / Another View: A smart regional plan must prioritize transit

By  Burrell Ellis

At 5.5 million people, the Atlanta region makes up the 10th-largest  metropolitan area in the United States. Over the last 20 years, our region  has been one of the fastest-growing urban centers in the country. This is  largely the result of investments in infrastructure that have not only  created new jobs, but which have afforded us access to the global  marketplace. Our transportation investments, in particular, have kept us  economically competitive and enhanced our quality of life.

Traditionally, cities and counties have individually invested local tax  revenues in infrastructure and then leveraged those investments with  matching contributions from the state and federal governments.

As the federal government grapples with the deficit and the state government  deals with its own revenue reduction, the competition for matching funds has  become fierce. It is no longer Atlanta versus Cobb County, or DeKalb versus  Gwinnett.

With fewer federal funds available to disburse, our key competitors are other  metropolitan communities such as Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix and  Seattle. It is those regions that address their needs collaboratively and  smartly that are the most competitive, both in securing federal funds as  well as new industry.

That’s why a smart regional transportation plan … one that addresses the  transportation patterns of the people within the region irrespective of  which city or county they may reside in … is a necessity. A smart regional  plan is vital to our growth, economic prosperity and quality of life.

The most vibrant and sustainable metropolitan areas throughout the world have  regional transit systems. While a 1-cent sales tax cannot fund all of our  region’s transportation needs, a smart plan should prioritize a transit  system that is regionally funded … if that plan is expected to reasonably  reduce traffic congestion and gain the trust of the people it is designed to  serve.

Over the past several months, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable has put together  the framework for such a plan.

Over the next two months, there will be more opportunities for public input  before a final plan is put before the roundtable members for a vote.  Ultimately, the voters within the 10-county region will decide whether they  like the plan and are willing to fund it.

We have a tremendous opportunity to show that Atlanta has grown, not only in  size but also in progress. That will require shared sacrifice and regional  thinking.

 

Burrell Ellis is DeKalb County CEO.

August 20, 2011 at 8:56 pm Leave a comment

Clifton Corridor Residents Worry About Compensation, Quality of Life

By Eden Landow for Virginia-Highland/Druid Hills Patch

Neighborhood groups involved in planning for a MARTA expansion through the Clifton Corridor say residents are worried they might not be adequately compensated for their property or that the right-of-way would extend virtually to their doorsteps and harm their quality of life.

Planning consultant Heather Alhadeff, who has been hired by Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition Inc. to aid in the communication process, discusses the proposals with LLCC board member Rosalie Townsend, former LLCC president Henry Batten and NPU-F chairwoman and LLCC transportation coordinator Jane Rawlings. Credit Eden Landow

The public got another chance Wednesday night to comment on a proposed $1 billion project to expand MARTA rail through the  Clifton corridor and link Lindbergh Center with Emory, the CDC, Decatur  and Avondale.

The latest configuration proposes heavy rail, including some  underground tracks, from Lindbergh Center to the intersection of  Clairmont and North Decatur roads and then light rail or bus rapid to  the Avondale MARTA station. Three possibilities were detailed among the  presentations up for comment.

Jason Morgan, MARTA

Jason Morgan, regional planner for MARTA and project manager for the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative, said Wednesday night’s Station Area Planning and Alignment Workshop, held at Torah Day School of Atlanta, concludes the public meetings that will be held during the Alternative Analysis phase of the project development process.

“It’s important that people’s concerns are documented at this stage   so they can be flagged for inclusion in the environmental process and   then we can be ready to mitigate them,” Morgan said.

Three previous formal public-input meetings were held, including this one, two last year and one in May. In addition, several community meetings have been held, including one called by the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition on July 12 that was attended by more than 200 people.

Neighborhood groups involved in the Clifton Corridor transit development process, so far, have included Morningside/Lenox Park Neighbhorhood Association, Lindridge/Martin Manor Neighborhood Association and Woodland Hills Neighborhood Association.

Planners had explored at-grade options including light rail and bus rapid transit and to utilize the CSX right-of-way, but neighborhood concerns, development density and refusal by CSX to share their space, open up the possibility for subterranean tracks.

Rather than blasting, Morgan said, builders would use a tunnel-boring machine.

“We want to avoid the ‘cut-and-cover’ method, which involves a lot of disruption, which is what we’re trying to avoid,” he said.

LLCC and Lenox Park/Morningside have hired consultant Perkins+Will’s Urban Design practice and their senior transportation planner, Heather Alhadeff, to assist them in getting their concerns heard.

“I am here to coordinate, advise and manage the dialogue between MARTA and their partner, CCTMA, and the neighborhoods,” said Aldaheff, “to communicate things in a meaningful, understandable and productive way, in both directions.”

MARTA and CCTMA boards are expected to vote in November on the proposal, which would send the process to the environmental stage, during which historic and ecological studies would be made, as well as impact studies on what effect would be felt by property owners. Once the environmental stage is cleared, the process moves on to preliminary engineering and then the final design stage.

All four stages of the development process must include public input as well as local and federal approval, Morgan said.

On Thursday, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable’s executive committee meets to adopt a list of transit priorities in the Atlanta region, which will be reviewed and approved by the full roundtable before going to voters as part of the statewide referendum in July or November called the Transportation Investment Act.

“We are trying to position the project so that it will qualify for any federal funds that might be available,” Morgan said, “regardless of what happens with TIA.”

This part of MARTA’s planning process began in 2009. Construction is likely to take upwards of 10 years, unless TIA passes, in which case, Morgan said, the process would speed up by a year or even two.

On one side of the room were posters and flipcharts for community comments on MARTA proposals for heavy rail from Lindbergh Center, through the Emory campus to the intersection of North Decatur and Clairmont roads, then bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail (LRT) along Scott Boulevard and then to the Avondale MARTA station. Linking to the Decatur MARTA station, for the moment, appeared to be off the table.

Also off the table seemed to be utilizing the right-of-way held by CSX railroad, though one of the planners at the meeting speculated that, once funding is identified and the project moves closer to being a reality, that the company might be willing to discuss the possibility.

On the other side of the room were placards describing how the stations might be designed for optimal entrance and access and amenities.

“We’re trying to find the right balance between having stations placed far enough apart that the trains can move faster, yet making sure we have enough stations so that people can get where they need to go,” Morgan said.

Ridership estimates were included on the posters, indicating that in 2030 about 27,000 “boardings,” or the number of people getting on the train at any given station along the way, each would be expected for heavy rail, about 17,000 for light rail and about 11,000 for bus rapid transit.

“None of the expansion projects could be done the way things are structured now,” said MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris. “Federal funds require that operating funds be available. The current ’50-50′ funding structure probably needs to be revisited.”

Also attending the meeting was DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader, who said he did not feel he had a direct role in this portion of the process but that these types of improvements could substantially reduce automobile traffic in his district and the impact of the traffic.

Later, he said, the DeKalb Commission would likely weigh in on land use and development proposals along the corridor.

“I haven’t heard anyone here say that we don’t need transit,” Rader said. “It’s just a matter of how we can get there.”

MARTA also is in the alternatives analysis phase of an expansion plan for an I-20 East Corridor to serve south DeKalb.

August 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

Perkins+Will Hired to Provide Technical & Strategic Expertise

By Jane P. Rawlings, LLCC Transportation Coordinator

 

Heather Alhadeff, Senior Transportation Planner

The Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition is pleased to once again engage the services of Perkins+Will’s Urban Design practice and their Senior Transportation Planner, Heather Alhadeff. Ms. Alhadeff is uniquely positioned to offer expert, independent analysis on the current Clifton Corridor proposals. This consulting work will begin immediately, and continue on a contractual basis.

Our Board of Directors has committed the necessary initial funding, while also reaching out to other impacted parties in order to help offset the costs involved. We’re seeking assistance, and would be pleased for you to consider making your own special contribution at this time of $10, $50, or $100.

Donations are 100% tax deductible, and can be made online through our PayPal secure website by clicking here.

Donate Now

Don’t have a PayPal account? Look for this wording on the left side of the donation page, “Use your credit card or bank account,” and click Continue.

August 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm 1 comment

Regional transportation tax panel puts off projects vote

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Dave Williams, Staff Writer

A subcommittee of local elected officials is delaying its decision on which transportation improvements should be funded by a proposed regional sales tax right up to a state-imposed deadline.

The Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable’s executive committee had been expected to vote Thursday on a list of highway and transit projects to be built with $6.14 billion that would be available regionally if voters in the 10-county metro area approve the tax next year.

But the five-member panel is still trying to whittle down a $6.56 billion list of projects unveiled late Wednesday by the Atlanta Regional Commission staff. That’s as far as ARC staff members could get in cutting a project list that started with nearly $23 billion in requests from Atlanta-area cities, counties and transportation agencies.

The list the executive committee is working from includes partial funding for the Atlanta Beltline project and extensions of MARTA rail service along the Clifton Corridor, north to Holcomb Bridge Road in Fulton County and east to Wesley Chapel Road in DeKalb County.

It also incorporates a planned light rail line connecting MARTA’s Arts Center station with the Cumberland Mall area of Cobb County.

But it doesn’t include funds for a commuter rail line linking downtown Atlanta with Griffin, Ga., an omission that drew protests from political and business leaders from the south side of metro Atlanta and from commuter rail advocates.

Of about $3.5 billion in transit projects on the list as proposed, less than 3 percent would go to the area south of Interstate 20, said Gordon Kenna, CEO of Georgians for Passenger Rail.

“We are about to do the biggest thing we’ve ever done as a region, and you are completely ignoring half of the region,” Kay Pippin, president of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, told the executive committee. “You’re going to have to open the door and let us come in.”

The executive committee will meet on Monday – its deadline under legislation passed by the General Assembly last year – to finalize the project list it will recommend to the full roundtable. The 21-member roundtable then will have until Oct. 15 to submit the projects voters will asked to approve next year.

August 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

Community Input Sought at Clifton Corridor MARTA Workshop

By Margarita Delapaz for the North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch

The Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative Project continues to be worked out in partnership with MARTA. As part of a requirement to receive federal funding, an analysis was presented to the community for input.

Residents gathered at the Torah Day School of Atlanta Wednesday night to express concerns and get clarification on the proposed Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative project.

The project is a partnership with MARTA and the Clifton Corridor Transit Management Association which would bring new transportation options linking the Centers for Disease Control, Emory University and DeKalb Medical to Atlanta’s regional mass transit system.

After a brief introduction, participants were asked to go around the displays asking questions, examining their options and voicing their opinions about the project.

Jeremy Freeman said he lives off Lenox Circle where he fears a light rail may be the choice for the area behind his house.

“First and foremost they should be talking to residents because they’re concerned and don’t know what’s happening in their neighborhood,” he said.

There are three proposed options with different track locations. Heavy rail operates underground like current MARTA trains. Bus rapid transit would operate similar to the design of express buses in New York City. Designated lanes, high speeds and pre-paid fare speed up the process. Finally, the option Freeman fears, a light rail, would operate similar to a streetcar, above ground.

“They’re not telling you that this has to be 100 feet from CSX lines,” Freeman said.

Because CSX owns and operates freight trains along the existing tracks in the neighborhood, the proposed rail transit option may not use those same lines. In addition, new rail lines may not even be in close proximity to existing lines per federal regulations. This distance may mean the difference between having a train in your backyard or not.

Business owner John Cyphers said the proposal would have a train on top of his business which he feels would affect traffic flow.

“They’re going to take over my property,” he said.

After clarification and further examination of the proposal, it was shown that plans actually hope to utilize heavy rail in the option. This would mean an underground alternative that would not cut through Cyphers’ lot.

This discussion was the ultimate goal of the meeting, said Jason Morgan, a regional planner for MARTA.

“Those that live next to CSX are worried about their property and those a couple of blocks away are worried about access,” Morgan said.

Although the project would not break ground for at least six years, the ultimate goal of the analysis is to get comment and feedback for route options.

“This is Stage 1,” he said. “We don’t know the kind of technology yet or how to position the stations.”

If all goes as planned, Morgan said the lines may be available to commuters as early as eight years from now.

August 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm 2 comments

When it comes to transit funding, the State of Georgia is missing in action

Posted in Maria’s Metro for the SaportaReport

Through all the chatter over what should be included on the Atlanta region’s transportation projects list, a loud vacuum can’t be ignored.

The vacuum? The State of Georgia.

Just what role, if any, will the State of Georgia play in contributing to metro Atlanta’s transit systems? And what role will the State of Georgia play in controlling the future of our region’s transit governance?

Consider this. The one-penny regional transportation sales that will go before voters next year will be raised (and invested) in the 10-county Atlanta region. If passed, this is money that metro Atlantans will contribute and invest in their own region’s future.

But exactly how much will the State of Georgia contribute to building and maintaining the Atlanta region’s transit systems — from MARTA, the Xpress buses, Cobb County Transit, Gwinnett transit, Clayton County’s buses to commuter rail between Atlanta and Griffin?

Unfortunately, the answer so far appears to be more of the status quo — virtually nothing.

The State of Georgia does not appear willing to step up to the plate to sustain and expand metro Atlanta’s transit infrastructure — despite the fact that the Atlanta region is the engine that drives the state’s economy.

For those who ask why should the state contribute to metro Atlanta transit systems, the answer is simple. Metro Atlanta contributes billions of dollars to the state’s coffers through the 4-cent sales tax and the 7.5-cent motor fuel tax.

The state has a vested interest in helping metro Atlanta thrive,  and that means having a healthy regional transit system.

Unfortunately, the agonizing process of developing a $6.1 billion list of transit and road projects has made it painfully obvious that there’s just not enough money to pay for metro Atlanta’s near-term transportation needs.

One key way to bridge the gap between metro Atlanta’s needs and ability to pay for them is for the State of Georgia to become a full partner in supporting the region’s transit systems.

But at the meeting of the executive committee of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable on Aug. 4 when it was prioritizing the possible transit projects, financial participation on the part of the state seemed doubtful at best.

Todd Long, director of planning for the Georgia Department of Transportation (who has been orchestrating much of the formulation of the project lists across the state), told Roundtable members not to expect any support from the state.

Here was the context. Members of the Roundtable had not included $180 million to provide funding to maintain the Xpress buses over the next 10 years as part of its top priorities.

Now remember, the Xpress buses are under the control of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority — a state entity that is completely governed by members appointed by the governor.

“As state planning director, you need to include the Xpress buses,” Long told the Roundtable members. “The state is not going to pick up the cost of Xpress. They will shut down Xpress. They don’t have the money in their budget to keep going.”

An interesting aside, Long — a DOT guy — was standing up for a GRTA expense, but was totally silent on whether money should be included to finance a commuter train between Atlanta and Griffin, as well as its sister project — a Multimodal Passenger Terminal in downtown Atlanta — a DOT project.

In fact, the overwhelming number of public comments at the end of the meeting was in support of the commuter rail project. And the Roundtable already had decided to include the commuter rail line as part of its second tier of transit projects.

Now consider a well-known fact. The largest transit agency in the state — MARTA — receives no regular operating support from the State of Georgia. In fact, MARTA is the largest transit agency in the country (the ninth largest) to receive no operating support from its state government.

As a result, MARTA (the backbone for all the region’s transit systems) has been operating on a starvation budget. It has had to cut back its rail and bus services, and it has had to approve a fare increase that will go into effect later this year.

To add insult to injury, the any money raised with regional transportation sales tax can not go towards supporting existing MARTA operations. Without a doubt, the most cost-effective use of transit dollars would go towards MARTA operations — to increase the frequency of its trains as well as its buses.

Now how egregious is this situation?

According to the most recent statistics (see Table 1-9) on the American Public Transportation Association website, the State of New York invests more than $3 billion a year in its transit systems — an average of $155 per person annually.

Massachusetts invests $1.2 billion in transit, or $181 per capita. California: $2.3 billion or $63 per person.  Pennsylvania: $1.1 billion or $91 per capita. New Jersey: $1 billion or $120 per capita. Maryland: $844 million or $149 per capita.

By comparison, Georgia invests $6 million a year in transit — 63 cents per person. Only three other states invest less per capita than Georgia — Idaho (20 cents); Montana (43 cents); and Wyoming (54 cents). Not one of those three states could be considered urban, transit-oriented places.

And then we hear from Long that the state will not even contribute to the state-run Xpress bus system. With that kind of stance, what are the chances that the state will support commuter rail or MARTA or any other transit agency in the state?

As an aside to our dear state leaders, let this serve as a warning. Regional transit governance is the next big issue on the horizon. If the state wants to take control of our regional transit systems (be it through GRTA or another state authority), it must be prepared to pay a proportional amount of funding to whatever power it will have.

Meanwhile, the vacuum must be filled.

The State of Georgia needs to become a full partner in metro Atlanta’s plans to develop and maintain a first-class regional transit system.

August 8, 2011 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

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