Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable - Atlanta's Transportation Destiny

On Friday, the Southface Institute held its monthly Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable. The event is held on the first Friday of every month and brings together many of the most influential individuals , businesses and non-profit organizations involved in making Atlanta a more sustainable city. The event was started over eight years ago and has grown into an impressive meeting.

The topic of discussion this month was Metro Atlanta’s Transportation Destiny and as you can imagine with the recent political events, it was a very interesting discussion that left the experts choosing their words wisely. The Panel this month was made up of:

  • Kevin Green, Executive Director, Clean Air Campaign
  • Cheryl King, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
  • Tad Leithead, Senior Vice President, Cousins Properties; Chairman of the Transportation and Air Quality Committee, Atlanta Regional Commission
  • Maria Saporta, moderator, Atlanta Business Chronicle

The panel was very insightful and really shed light on the inner details of the issues, past and present, surrounding the political log jam that has evolved on this topic. I have to admit that I was thoroughly impressed with Mr. Leithead who had a thorough grasp of all of the issues and was confident enough to answer even the most pointed questions.

One of the questions that resonated with me had to do with the party polarization that has come about around the transit issue both here in Georgia and nationally. I cannot understand why if you are a conservative then you must be a car person and if you are a liberal then you are a transit person. Ultimately, all forms of transportation in this country are subsidized so there can’t be an argument that one form of transportation pays for itself while another does not. It, of course, was not the purpose of the roundtable to settle partisan and philosophical issues.  The one thing that I was suprised did not come up once was the Beltline.  I figured that for sure, someone would bring that up.

Here are some of the main points that were made in the discussion:

  • Companies are reconsidering moving to Atlanta due to Traffic.
  • Virtually no progress has been made on transit in 10 years.
  • The rest of the state needs to realize that if Atlanta goes, so goes the state.  Thus, the state needs to consider a more integrated funding approach for transit.
  • Most Atlantans don’t have transportation choices except what road to take to get to work.
  • Charlotte may pass Atlanta on this front as they have figured out how to work together with the state. Atlanta is no longer the little engine that could in the south. Everyone is shooting to be the next Atlanta (without the traffic)

If you are interested in listening to the roundtable, you can access it on Southface’s website here.

Also, if you would like to attend any in the future, they are on the first Friday of each month and are open to the public. Admission is $10 for members and $15 for non-members if you pre-register. Prices jump by $5 on the morning of the event.