All Aboard! Let's Bring the Train to North Fulton

This is the 20th post in a series of posts this December that will chronicle the 25 things we would most like to see in Roswell. None of these are actually happening... at least in the way we'd like them to. Please enjoy and have a happy holidays!

We can just put this one on the 'keep on dreaming' list.  But, I'm going to post it anyway.  I want MARTA trains in North Fulton.  Others do too according to the North Fulton Comprehensive Transportation Plan.  At the public charettes, 22% of the comments were about mass transit.  Now, everyone knows that the eventual plan is to eventually run rail up to Windward Parkway.  However, I don't think the best route is to run it straight up 400.  That would make the same mistake that MARTA has been making for the past 30 years.  That is to focus on getting people to switch from their cars to the train after they have already started driving.  Mode shift doesn't work. 

Here is my route:

 

  • Northridge - This stop would hit an area where a large portion of the residents are low income with one or fewer cars per household.  This is a large target market for transit.
  • Chattahoochee - This one is not all that logical... yet.  Since this is on my wishlist, I'm going to incorporate something else on my wish list but you'll have to wait for another couple days for that post.
  • Roswell City Hall - This, I believe, is a future neighborhood center when the blighted areas around Roswell City Hall are redeveloped.  A MARTA station underneath the intersection at 9 and Norcross St would be very interesting.
  • Roswell Town Center - This spot is a logical Suburban Center Transit Oriented Development.  It could also serve as a hub for an East West BRT line along Holcomb Bridge as well as for the North Fulton Circulator Buses that were mentioned previously on our wish list.
  • North Point Mall - This might be the crown jewel stop on the North Fulton line.  I believe that the North Point Mall area will become a new urbanist town center in the next 30 years.  There are a lot of parking lots that can be redeveloped into a gridded street network with homes and townhomes.  That's my prediction here.  
  • Prospect Park - This is another prime spot for a future TOD but it could also serve as the northern termination/park & ride lot.
  • Windward Parkway - This has always been the spot that MARTA has said it was running rail to.  That's not going to happen for a long long time but odds are that the train stops here.

 

I like this route best not because it is the most logical but because it hits the target market for transit in North Fulton.  The people most likely to utilize transit are those with no cars, people below the poverty line, disabled persons, youth and the elderly.  The North Fulton Comprehensive Transportation Analysis confirms that the highest concentration of population meeting that criteria lives west of 400 along the hwy 9 corridor.  I also think that this route gives developers the best shot at getting cheaper land that can successfully developed into Suburban Center TOD.  

It's unfortunate that Atlanta doesn't have very many good examples of TOD to use as guides.  The Decatur Square and Inman Park areas are about the best models we have.  Other areas of the country that have expanded rail service to suburban areas with great success are Arlington County, VA, Addison Circle in Dallas and Evanston, IL.  The necessities for making this successful are the proper type of zoning, the recognition that the right kind of density is needed both to foster growth in the new economy as well as developers that are willing to take a risk.  North Fulton would need to commit itself to Transit Oriented Development.  Here's a quote from Kaid Benfields blog at NRDC on the success of Arlington County VA:

With amazing foresight and gifted planning, Arlington has transformed itself in about three decades from a declining inner-ring suburb into a thriving, bustling and immensely livable community.  This was done by coordinating the county’s (under Virginia law, Arlington is a county, not a city) redevelopment and growth with the region’s Metro subway system.

As Roger Lewis put it 
"Arlington planners and politicians were bold, optimistic and foresighted. They insisted that the [Metro line] run underground through Arlington, following Wilson Boulevard and Fairfax Drive, rather than running along the Interstate 66 right of way, which would have been the path of least resistance and at the lowest cost. And they wanted five closely spaced stations [along the route].

Other cities that have the exact same trains as MARTA are San Francisco and DC.  They have become very successful with DC being one of the most walkable and transit friendly regions in the nation.  There are two reasons that DC has been able to accomplish this while Atlanta has not.  First, the region was willing to embrace the transit system allowing it to expand into what were then rural and suburban areas.  Second, the development around the station focused on real neighborhoods and diverse districts that created places where people actually wanted to go rather than parking lots that cater to the comfort of cars.

If North Fulton can follow the leadership of the successful regions highlighted above, we can get a transit system that works instead of one that is laughable.

images: Hyku @ Flickr, Google Maps, Rroberts41 @ Flickr