Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mental Block

I took a some heat a few days ago for saying that Atlanta is falling behind. Even though they have more transit and have a big plan, other cities seem to actually be "doing" rather than just talking. But its also an issue of regional mentality. I've seen a lot of these articles over the last few years and the feeling that nothing is getting done while other cities are building makes the fact that they are already ahead not so much of a consolation. And this doesn't help either:
Olens said plum employers with skilled jobs are slipping away. “In the last two years, I’ve had two major corporations tell me they would not move their headquarters to the Cobb Galleria area because all we had are buses,” Olens said this week.
The fact that there is little movement is well known to leaders that want to move forward in Atlanta, and there are many. But it seems as if no one with the political will wants to push.

“I continue to be frustrated that we can’t seem to move in that direction,” said Sam Olens, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Cobb County commission. “We’re losing our competitive advantage.”

Two years ago, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce invited reporters to hear officials from Phoenix and other cities talk about their new transportation initiatives. The message was clear: Atlanta and Georgia could be left in the dust.

On Wednesday, Sam Williams, president of the chamber, said in a statement that “cities that have made transportation a priority, like Phoenix, Dallas and Charlotte, continue to leapfrog Atlanta with respect to regional mobility. … While these areas make progress, we seem choked in congestion with little leadership to get us out.”


martarider said...

As one of the folks who pushed back on the last post, I will admit that Atlanta is being outdone by other cities like Denver/Charlotte/Phoenix *right now*. I think the crux of our response is that this needs to be viewed in the context of the last 25 years or so, which includes a time when Atlanta was investing big in transit (i.e. building the MARTA rail system) while our sunbelt peers were doing relatively little. I would characterize this more as a matter of Atlanta beginning to lose what advantage it once had as those places catch up on the transit front. And we *will* fall behind, no question, if current trends continue indefinitely.

That said, I do think we will see renewed progress here in the coming years. The fact that Sam Olens, a high-profile suburban Republican and potential 2010 gubernatorial candidate, is one of the people leading the charge for transit is very significant politically. Someone with that background would have been on the opposite side of the fight just 10, 15 years ago (which is why MARTA never made it past the two core counties initially).

Tom Christoffel said...

Google’s Blog alert sent me to this post because of the term “Regional Commission.” This blog should be useful to subscribers of Regional Community Development News, so I will include a link to it in the January 14 issue. A link to the newsletter will be found at Please visit, check the tools and consider a link if you are involved in regions work. Tom

Anonymous said...

Encouraging signals are all well and good, but are any of the plans in Atlanta funded? I don't hear anything about the beltline or the Peachtree streetcar moving forward. For the latter, the most recent stuff on the website news page is Jan 2008. Not promising.

The Georgia legislature is downright scary as an instrument of modern governance.

I'm glad that MARTA has seen a ridership increase this year, but Atlanta is what it is, and that includes a reasonably-patronized heavy rail system that carries a fourth of the passengers of the Washington Metro, which had a similar construction timeframe.

Atlanta is falling behind, way behind on transit, and has been. The type of intervention needed to turn Atlanta around may not be possible politically.