Decade in Review - THEN AND NOW: Getting Around

THEN: Believe it or not, there was a time when state leadership actually seemed to care about transportation. In the second year of his term, Gov. Roy Barnes daydreamed about a commuter-rail network that would connect the city proper to sprawl-afflicted metro Atlanta. He even proposed floating bonds with federal transportation funding to pay for the initiative and new roads, including the controversial Northern Arc. The state came to terms with a coalition of environmental groups who sued the federal government for failing to monitor the metro region’s horrendous air quality, which paved the way for smog-reducing bike trails and commuter lanes (and eventually more roads) that were part of a settlement. MARTA opened two new train stations in Sandy Springs and North Springs — but hasn’t opened any since. And back in 2000, “the Beltline” referred to the area around your waist. Those were simpler times.

NOW: Ain’t it something how nothing can change in 10 years? Although transit and land-use planners have numerous concepts to make light rail a reality and city streets are somewhat more walkable, Atlanta remains an auto-dependent monstrosity that deserves better. MARTA hasn’t expanded. The ambitious Beltline loop of transit and trails, still in its initial stages, is years away from providing an alternative way to access intown neighborhoods. And plans for a long-envisioned Atlanta to Lovejoy commuter rail line collect dust on a shelf while state lawmakers sit on unused federal funding earmarked for the project. The greatest hope Midtown residents have is the Peachtree Streetcar, which is competing for sought-after federal stimulus funds. Meanwhile, it takes a stuntman’s sense of adventure to even consider riding a bicycle on city streets — and the leading GOP gubernatorial candidate is talking about building an interstate through East Atlanta.  

PROGNOSIS: Because state lawmakers refused to help MARTA and offer counties funding for local transit projects, we’re still stuck.

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