With the HB277 regional transportation referendum coming up in 2012 and the wish list of regional transportation projects starting to take form, I thought it would be fun to put a regional wishlist of my own together. Below are the eight projects that I would like to see prioritized:
1. Beltline - Prioritization of the BeltLine transit component should be a top consideration. This project will do more to reign in the traffic inducing sprawl than any other in the metro area by bringing development closer to the regional core. If done right, new residents who would normally consider the outlying suburbs as well as some of the existing residents of the burbs will consider moving closer into town.
2. Cover the Connector - There is an incredible amount of downtown real estate that is not being used. Where is it? Aside from all the surface parking lots.... I'm talking about the space above the connector from 17th street south to the Capitol. Although I too use the term connector, it's actually not correct. The road is a major divider of the downtown core. I would envision a system of parks and boulevards on top of the connector that would bring the east and the west sides of the city together.
Here's a picture of the interstate under construction at Ga Tech and the Varsity. Yes, where we have divided the city, there used to actually be neighborhoods. Covering the connector will do nothing for traffic but it will to an incredible amount for the city and region.
3. Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal - The rail and transit infrastructure in Atlanta has suffered for some time. The multi-modal passenger terminal that has been proposed by the city will do a lot to change that. It would accommodate subway, commuter rail, buses and future high speed rail (if that ever happens). The city recently selected the proposal by Cousins Properties. Their vision outlined in the proposal is as follows:
"Below the street" is a central transit hub, a connecting point. "Above" is a vibrant, mixed-use urban environment, driven by the market, linking downtown Atlanta neighborhoods and activity centers with reconnected street grids and green spaces. The transportation connectivity below drives the Region and the State, while the development above creates new linkages that reconnect the City.
Man, that was a lot of buzzword planning jargon du-jour. I'm not opposed to any of it and I'd love to see it realized. Unfortunately, they did not provide any renderings but one of the competing bids from Perkins+Will did. Here's a rough image of their proposal which probably isn't too different from the Cousins vision.
4. Put Rail in the Center Lanes - So, you want to figure out how to run transit through our cities without having to pay insane amounts for right of way? Take the center lanes away and turn them into rail. It would look something like the center lane down 400 just north of the Buckhead business district.
5. Create a Truly Regional Transit System & Rebranding MARTA - If we are going to create a regional transportation system, we need a regional governing body to manage that system. MARTA sucks.. let's face it. There is a stigma that isn't going away... ever. We need to bring Fulton, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, Clayton, et al. together and act like a region. I believe Atlanta's image will suffer until we can coalesce into a coherent region.
I've floated the name ARTSY in a previous post. Since then, I heard that some folks are pushing the name "The ATL" for a new regional system. I'm okay with that as it is a reference that many people use and identify with the region and it would constantly remind people of the fact that they are part of a larger region 'The ATL.'
The planning efforts should follow the Concept 3 plan and work to spread rail and light rail to the suburban city centers. The map below is a great place to start. Unfortunately, the work detailed in the map would cost upwards of $100B and our region isn't going to have that type of cash.. ever. So, we should take the best pieces and make them work.
6. Tell Art Blank NO NEW STADIUM - This isn't really transportation related but do we really need a new stadium? Right next to the existing stadium? When that stadium isn't going to be torn down? I don't think so. Plus, I think the several hundred million of taxpayer dollars that will undoubtedly go into a new stadium could be better allocated to some of the projects that will be on the HB277 list. Plus, the Georgia Dome just makes more sense. It's located right in between two MARTA stations and it's only 20 years old!
7. 200 miles of dedicated bike/pedestrian paths connecting the region - I know this seems a bit ridiculous but I personally think we could make huge strides in health, community and energy consumption if more people felt like they could safely bike around their town. I'm not talking bike lanes. I'm talking dedicated trails such as the Alpharetta Greenway, Silver Comet Trail and the Beltline trail system.
8. Road Work - Take the rest and dedicate to road repair, maintenance and bottleneck reduction on our roads. It's going to cost a lot to maintain this monstrosity which was one of GDOT's 'highlights' of 2009.
That's it. There isn't much directly for Roswell itself on my list but many of the items incorporate expansion of transit alternatives into the suburbs and I would prioritize the extension of the North Springs line to Windward Parkway. If you want to drive jobs and development to our city and region in this day and age, the best way to do it is to invest in our city centers and regional center and provide high quality mobility choices. The days of the American love affair with the car are numbered. We need to get used to the idea that mobility won't be as cheap or easy and start thinking about ways to mitigate that.
Images: The BeltLine Partnership | Atlanta Time Machine | Perkins+Will | marklarson Flickr | Citizens for Progressive Transit | Populous | Path Foundation | GDOT