Residents to get say on Brookhaven at Capitol

By  April Hunt
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Both opponents and supporters of carving a new city out of north-central DeKalb County will argue time is on their side when residents get their say for two hours under the Gold Dome on Tuesday.
A state House committee that must recommend whether the Legislature allows a vote this year on Brookhaven is holding its first of two hearings, to get general input on the idea.
Supporters, who want lower property taxes, will argue that the time is right for a vote this summer. Opponents, including those who have signed petitions against Brookhaven, are expected to ask for more time to thoroughly vet the city.
“Regardless of viewpoint, I want to ensure the process is open and allows for every viewpoint to be presented,” said Government Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming.
Members of the cityhood advocacy group, Brookhaven Yes, think they will have no trouble convincing their neighbors to vote for more local control.
Group president J. Max Davis II, an attorney and namesake son of a late conservative state representative who touted that he never voted for a tax increase, said many DeKalb residents already feel the county is too bloated.
Those in Brookhaven want to reinforce that idea by voting for cityhood, he said. But the first goal is convincing lawmakers to allow the July 31 referendum.
“Our motto is ‘better services, lower taxes,’ but before we can discuss why we think we can do a better job of spending our money than the county, we have to get the right to vote,” Davis said.
The DeKalb County government, meanwhile, is officially lobbying for any vote to be delayed, so that more time could be spent studying what losing Brookhaven would mean for county coffers.
The county lost $20 million in revenue when Dunwoody incorporated in 2008, and Brookhaven is expected to cost the county at least $22 million, according to county estimates.
More than 500 residents have signed petitions also asking to slow down a process they believe has been rushed. A group formally opposing the city, called Ashford Neighbors, circulated the petitions.
Eddie Ehlert is among the Ashford Park residents who plans to call for a delay, though he would prefer the idea be killed altogether.
Ehlert said there hasn’t been enough transparency about one goal he sees for the city: to undermine county control of a 63-acre tract of hardwoods just across Clairmont Road from the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.
The land is now a runway protection zone owned by the Federal Aviation Administration and county, shielding residents from noise and fumes from airplanes in the area. Ehlert, who is political chairman of the Sierra Club Georiga, worries that developers supporting Brookhaven actually want that land for a big project.
“We cannot possibly support a police department without needing more taxable land, but there hasn’t been any notion that we’re going to leave that property alone,” he said. “There hasn’t been enough time to really look into that.”
Creating DeKalb’s second new city, and the sixth in the metro area since 2005, was first raised in the last days of the Legislature last year. State rep. Mike Jacobs, a Republican who represents the area, said he filed a bill for the city after hearing from residents who wanted a local, not county, government.
A study by University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute for Government released in November concluded Brookhaven could provide services comparable to those provided by DeKalb, with no tax increase.
Even residents who liked the idea of a new city complained, though, that the study called for the same 6.39 mills that residents there now pay for county special district services.
Earlier this year, Jacobs revised the proposal for Brookhaven. He lowered the tax rate to 3.35 mills – or about the same rate residents paid before the county raised taxes last year.
“By rolling that back, we are able to deliver a property tax decrease from DeKalb’s tax increase and still end with a projected $261,000 surplus,” Jacobs said of the proposed $25 million budget for the city of about 50,000 people.
Whether the timing works remains to be seen. The hearing at 3 p.m. Tuesday in room 341 of the state Capitol.

DeKalb schools have too many administrators

By  Ty Tagami
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Taxpayers in DeKalb County have been funding a top-heavy school system that could stand to shed more than 300 administrators, according to an outside review.
The audit of management positions was commissioned by new Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson as she sculpts a new organizational structure for the 15,000-employee district. It’s the first comprehensive study of staffing in years.
The report, released Wednesday , said DeKalb has 1,499 employees in the  central office — too many for a system its size. The  consultant, Virginia-based Management Advisory Group, recommends that DeKalb slim down to 1,162 administrative slots.
But don’t expect immediate cuts. Job titles, and their lack of descriptiveness, are a problem, Atkinson said. The district employs directors, coordinators, secretaries and others in the central office whose titles don’t reflect their responsibilities.
The audit focused mostly on white collar positions. It found confusion about who does what and how much they should be paid. Some secretaries, for instance, have more responsibility than the presumably higher title of coordinator. Atkinson said it would take at least 30 days to review the titles, redefine them and place them in a proper hierarchy — work that must be done before major organizational changes.
Atkinson said she’s not sure how closely she’ll follow the consultant’s proposal.
“This is their recommendation,”  she said. “We’ll take it now and massage it.”
The DeKalb school district has long been maligned as a bloated operation, but  evidence supporting those charges has never been this clear. Atkinson, who just finished her first 90 days on the job, has been saying that she’d make substantial personnel changes. She’s already reassigned a few high-level administrators, replacing the chiefs of finance, curriculum and instruction, operations and information, for instance.
But this report says the district needs a whole new organizational chart, and a top-down reclassification of all positions.
“I think what this has really found is massive redundancy,” said school board member Don McChesney, who attended Atkinson’s presentation Thursday. “We’ve got secretaries making more than our teachers. That might be justified, but somebody’s got to show me how it’s justified.”
The audit says DeKalb has 15.5 central office positions per 1,000 students and should have more like 12, according to the consultants. Comparable school districts had numbers ranging from 18.5 central office positions per 1,000 students in Fulton County to 5.8 in Cobb and 6.1 in Gwinnett, the report said. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools — a city against which Atlanta jurisdictions are often compared — had 14.5 central office jobs per 1,000 students.
This was the first phase of the review. The next phase will look at all of the school system’s positions. It’s due March 15.

Explore a New Trail Near Peachtree Creek

By Sally Sears
Invitation  to explore a meadow in winter — it’s a newly created trail through a  long-ignored slice of Midtown, beside Peachtree Creek and Interstate 85.  Popular tours of the trails last week gave dogs, owners and neighbors a  walk in nature.
The  neighbors and the South Fork Conservancy are carving a new vision for  caring for our intown creeks. Simple trails through the landscape beside  the south and north forks encourage people to walk their dogs, breathe  deeply and re-discover big hardwoods hiding in plain sight on public  land. This meadow is interstate right of way, next to a neighborhood  with almost no accessible greenspace.
Two years of cooperation helped to  build this mulch trail, weaving along the creek and through a meadow of  wild flowers and grasses.  Neighbors hope to connect the trails under  the interstate to the Morningside Nature Preserve, Zonolite Park and  then to the Herbert Taylor-Daniel Johnson Nature Preserve.
If  you want to walk it, the trail head is just across the guard rail at  Lindbergh Drive and I-85. On street parking available at Lindbergh Drive  and  Armand Road.
More information is available at the South Fork Conservancy website.
Sally Sears is the Executive Director of thr South Fork Conservancy, a nonprofit that seeks to restore, conserve and protect the Riparian systems of the South Fork of Peachtree Creek Watershed. This article appeared in the Virginia Highland/North Druid Hills Patch on January 11, 2012.

Local Voices – Why a Clifton Corridor Transit Line is Long Overdue

by Nenad Tadic for Virginia Highland/Druid Hills Patch
I wrote an article in August on a recent development to bring MARTA rail service directly to Emory’s Druid Hills campus. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept up with the initiative since then so I don’t know the current status of it.
But it’s a shame that when MARTA was constructed, it bypassed plans to service the Druid Hills/ Clifton Corridor area with a rail line. These are some of the biggest commercial centers in all of Metro Atlanta, which include Emory University, Emory University Hospital, Emory Point (coming soon) and the CDC, to name a few. These prominent institutions are located just 4-5 miles from Downtown Atlanta, yet because of the absence of a rapid transit line near them, travel times from the CDC to the Five Points station, per se, can take upwards of an hour.
Convenience. Convenience. Convenience.
That’s the first buzz word that comes to mind for me when I think of what a MARTA station off Clifton Road would bring to our entire community. Getting around town would be no hassle at all.
It’d be safer. It’d make exploring Atlanta neighborhoods more of a possibility. It would diminish the prevalence of the “Emory Bubble,” coined because a freshman at Emory is so limited because of unreliable and oftentimes confusing public transit options that he or she makes his own little bubble on campus.
Emory sponsors Cliff Shuttles which operate on a fixed schedule to/from Emory and various nearby business sites. Emory also has special shuttles that run to shopping districts like Lenox Mall or Atlantic Station. These usually operate on weekends, but not every weekend.
These shuttles are great! I use them often. But they are just too limited and run too infrequently to satisfy the student who has an internship Downtown and commutes everyday, or the cafeteria worker whose home in Southwest Atlanta can’t realistically be reached without a car, especially late at night or early in the morning.
As the 9th largest metropolitan area in the country, Atlanta’s public transportation is a nightmare compared to #10 Boston, #18 St. Louis, or even #23 Portland, Ore.
Of all the cities I have visited during my college visits (these include New York, Philadelphia, Houston, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and of course Atlanta), getting from Hartsfield Jackson to Emory was the hardest airport-school commute.
I myself am from Chicago and can attest to the fact that you can get anywhere in the city with public transit. Anywhere. Especially the University of Chicago and Northwestern University – Emory’s peer institutions. In fact, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) runs the “Purple Line,” named after neighborhing Northwestern which the line runs near.
That’s not to say better public transportation would necessarily make Emory a better school. Not at all. Sure it may make it seem more of an attractive option to prospective students, but that doesn’t get at the bottom line.
The bottom line is this: Atlanta is famous for its urban sprawl and consequently, its traffic. Its infrastructure is severely lacking for a city of its size.
Those opposed to transit lines cite that they bring crimes to otherwise safe and wealthy white neighborhoods. Policymakers need to address their concerns.
It is time for Atlanta to develop a plan that suggests it really is the forward-thinking city it once prided itself on. Better public transit is only going to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. And in important districts like the Clifton Corridor, a transit line is crucial.

Metro Atlanta turning winning transit season into losing one

By Guest Columnist COLLEEN KIERNAN, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club for SaportaReport
The way the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) is playing out in the Metro Atlanta Region feels a lot like the 2011 Braves season. It started out with a lot of hope and promise, primed with new leaders at the helm who would be able to undo years of disappointment.
In the early stages, it stumbled a bit, but by mid-season, it was in good shape.  After the All-Star Break, aka the August 15 deadline for a draft project list, boosters claimed the list was about 55 percent transit, 45 percent roads.
Although I’m not aware of anyone who thought the draft list was perfect, it did represent the first time that the 10-county region, as a whole, was going to make a significant and (somewhat) ongoing commitment to funding transit. That commitment, like the ballclub, is starting to crumble in the home stretch.
The team that blew a long lead was the same team that had been looking good enough to run up that long lead.  The TIA showed a similar appearance vs. reality profile: the 55 percent transit number was always a bit misleading.
That figure considered only the 85 percent of the pot that the Roundtable is allocating, omitting the other 15 percent that local jurisdictions get to spend on their own local projects – almost certainly roads.

The 55 percent also counts federal money that is tagged for projects, which makes the transit percentage appear higher than it is. The true final breakdown is likely to be around 40 percent transit / 60 percent roads – a discouraging result in light of the fact that road projects have a dedicated revenue stream, the gas tax; transit has limited regional and no state funding.

Even if the TIA were dedicated entirely to transit, overall regional spending on transit expansion would still fall short of projected roadway spending over the life of the tax. That long lead was not so long after all, not so long it couldn’t be blown when confronted by determined opponents.  The difference between the Braves and TIA is that the opponents are supposed to be members of the TIA team.
But the most troubling element of the TIA draft list is that a segment of the Northern Arc expressway, an intensely controversial road that was repeatedly contested finally defeated by a diverse coalition of organizations (including Sierra Club) nearly a decade ago, was quietly slipped onto the list as project TIA-GW-060 with little public discussion regarding the true impact and ramifications of this decision.
The connection between TIA-GW-060 and the historical Outer Perimeter / Northern Arc concept is undeniable when properly articulated (click here  for a visual explanation), and we are concerned that once voters fully appreciate the magnitude of the decision to resurrect a divisive proposal that was resoundingly rejected by the public years ago, this project will become a poison pill that could endanger passage of the tax next year.
While no amendments were offered that would strip the Northern Arc, Roundtable members have started hacking away at the transit component. Cobb County, which got the biggest allocation of transit money, proposed moving $271.5 million from their transformative rail project from Atlanta to Cumberland to making a portion of Windy Hill Road an expressway and adding bus service from Acworth to Atlanta.
While Cobb insists that the feds will step in and keep the rail project viable, the project will “live” on a wing and a prayer instead of a reliable stream of revenue.
More encouraging was a proposal from DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis to  redirect road money from a massive widening and reconstruction  of GA-400  to the proposal for rail along I-20, but the amendment received little support from fellow Roundtable members. It was then revised to take from the Clifton Corridor rail project instead, and was ultimately tabled until next week.
If this “robbing Peter to pay Paul” exercise is approved, it may be enough to satisfy South DeKalb constituents who have promised a “Vote No” campaign if I-20 East rail is not on the list, but will seriously jeopardize the viability of the Clifton project and likely lose another constituency that otherwise  could have enthusiastically supported the tax.
The more offensive example of “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” however, is the proposal to fully fund Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s (GRTA) Xpress buses at the expense of MARTA maintenance and the Beltline and Clifton Corridor rail projects.
As Senator Doug Stoner pointed out, it’s time for the State to step up to the plate on GRTA funding. And finally, despite  overwhelming  support from all corners for adding the Griffin commuter rail line, all it got was $20 million for additional studies, which while taken from another bad road project (the Tara Boulevard “super arterial”) is good, but not enough.
Sierra Club can’t see any major public constituency that will be truly excited about supporting the T-SPLOST as the project list currently stands — not just on election day but also during the critical campaign season leading up to the vote.
Anti-tax activists and Tea Party types will oppose this new tax simply because it’s a tax.
Should the T-SPLOST fail to inspire significant support from environmental and pro-transit voters, this could be the death knell for passage of the 2012 referendum. The Roundtable would be much better served by focusing on gaining the support of the ever-growing and varied group of pro-transit voters.
If they do, Atlanta can take its place among other forward-looking metropolitan areas that have positioned themselves for enduring success in the 21st century. And then the Roundtable’s last regular season game, despite dragging on for 13 innings, will end up in the “W” column, and we won’t have to once again “wait ‘til next year.”

Atlanta Forward / Another View: A smart regional plan must prioritize transit

By  Burrell Ellis

At 5.5 million people, the Atlanta region makes up the 10th-largest  metropolitan area in the United States. Over the last 20 years, our region  has been one of the fastest-growing urban centers in the country. This is  largely the result of investments in infrastructure that have not only  created new jobs, but which have afforded us access to the global  marketplace. Our transportation investments, in particular, have kept us  economically competitive and enhanced our quality of life.

Traditionally, cities and counties have individually invested local tax  revenues in infrastructure and then leveraged those investments with  matching contributions from the state and federal governments.
As the federal government grapples with the deficit and the state government  deals with its own revenue reduction, the competition for matching funds has  become fierce. It is no longer Atlanta versus Cobb County, or DeKalb versus  Gwinnett.
With fewer federal funds available to disburse, our key competitors are other  metropolitan communities such as Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix and  Seattle. It is those regions that address their needs collaboratively and  smartly that are the most competitive, both in securing federal funds as  well as new industry.
That’s why a smart regional transportation plan … one that addresses the  transportation patterns of the people within the region irrespective of  which city or county they may reside in … is a necessity. A smart regional  plan is vital to our growth, economic prosperity and quality of life.
The most vibrant and sustainable metropolitan areas throughout the world have  regional transit systems. While a 1-cent sales tax cannot fund all of our  region’s transportation needs, a smart plan should prioritize a transit  system that is regionally funded … if that plan is expected to reasonably  reduce traffic congestion and gain the trust of the people it is designed to  serve.
Over the past several months, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable has put together  the framework for such a plan.
Over the next two months, there will be more opportunities for public input  before a final plan is put before the roundtable members for a vote.  Ultimately, the voters within the 10-county region will decide whether they  like the plan and are willing to fund it.
We have a tremendous opportunity to show that Atlanta has grown, not only in  size but also in progress. That will require shared sacrifice and regional  thinking.
 
Burrell Ellis is DeKalb County CEO.

Clifton Corridor Residents Worry About Compensation, Quality of Life

By Eden Landow for Virginia-Highland/Druid Hills Patch
Neighborhood groups involved in planning for a MARTA expansion through the Clifton Corridor say residents are worried they might not be adequately compensated for their property or that the right-of-way would extend virtually to their doorsteps and harm their quality of life.

Planning consultant Heather Alhadeff, who has been hired by Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition Inc. to aid in the communication process, discusses the proposals with LLCC board member Rosalie Townsend, former LLCC president Henry Batten and NPU-F chairwoman and LLCC transportation coordinator Jane Rawlings. Credit Eden Landow

The public got another chance Wednesday night to comment on a proposed $1 billion project to expand MARTA rail through the  Clifton corridor and link Lindbergh Center with Emory, the CDC, Decatur  and Avondale.
The latest configuration proposes heavy rail, including some  underground tracks, from Lindbergh Center to the intersection of  Clairmont and North Decatur roads and then light rail or bus rapid to  the Avondale MARTA station. Three possibilities were detailed among the  presentations up for comment.
Jason Morgan, MARTA

Jason Morgan, regional planner for MARTA and project manager for the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative, said Wednesday night’s Station Area Planning and Alignment Workshop, held at Torah Day School of Atlanta, concludes the public meetings that will be held during the Alternative Analysis phase of the project development process.
“It’s important that people’s concerns are documented at this stage   so they can be flagged for inclusion in the environmental process and   then we can be ready to mitigate them,” Morgan said.
Three previous formal public-input meetings were held, including this one, two last year and one in May. In addition, several community meetings have been held, including one called by the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition on July 12 that was attended by more than 200 people.
Neighborhood groups involved in the Clifton Corridor transit development process, so far, have included Morningside/Lenox Park Neighbhorhood Association, Lindridge/Martin Manor Neighborhood Association and Woodland Hills Neighborhood Association.
Planners had explored at-grade options including light rail and bus rapid transit and to utilize the CSX right-of-way, but neighborhood concerns, development density and refusal by CSX to share their space, open up the possibility for subterranean tracks.
Rather than blasting, Morgan said, builders would use a tunnel-boring machine.
“We want to avoid the ‘cut-and-cover’ method, which involves a lot of disruption, which is what we’re trying to avoid,” he said.
LLCC and Lenox Park/Morningside have hired consultant Perkins+Will’s Urban Design practice and their senior transportation planner, Heather Alhadeff, to assist them in getting their concerns heard.
“I am here to coordinate, advise and manage the dialogue between MARTA and their partner, CCTMA, and the neighborhoods,” said Aldaheff, “to communicate things in a meaningful, understandable and productive way, in both directions.”
MARTA and CCTMA boards are expected to vote in November on the proposal, which would send the process to the environmental stage, during which historic and ecological studies would be made, as well as impact studies on what effect would be felt by property owners. Once the environmental stage is cleared, the process moves on to preliminary engineering and then the final design stage.
All four stages of the development process must include public input as well as local and federal approval, Morgan said.
On Thursday, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable’s executive committee meets to adopt a list of transit priorities in the Atlanta region, which will be reviewed and approved by the full roundtable before going to voters as part of the statewide referendum in July or November called the Transportation Investment Act.
“We are trying to position the project so that it will qualify for any federal funds that might be available,” Morgan said, “regardless of what happens with TIA.”
This part of MARTA’s planning process began in 2009. Construction is likely to take upwards of 10 years, unless TIA passes, in which case, Morgan said, the process would speed up by a year or even two.
On one side of the room were posters and flipcharts for community comments on MARTA proposals for heavy rail from Lindbergh Center, through the Emory campus to the intersection of North Decatur and Clairmont roads, then bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail (LRT) along Scott Boulevard and then to the Avondale MARTA station. Linking to the Decatur MARTA station, for the moment, appeared to be off the table.
Also off the table seemed to be utilizing the right-of-way held by CSX railroad, though one of the planners at the meeting speculated that, once funding is identified and the project moves closer to being a reality, that the company might be willing to discuss the possibility.
On the other side of the room were placards describing how the stations might be designed for optimal entrance and access and amenities.
“We’re trying to find the right balance between having stations placed far enough apart that the trains can move faster, yet making sure we have enough stations so that people can get where they need to go,” Morgan said.
Ridership estimates were included on the posters, indicating that in 2030 about 27,000 “boardings,” or the number of people getting on the train at any given station along the way, each would be expected for heavy rail, about 17,000 for light rail and about 11,000 for bus rapid transit.
“None of the expansion projects could be done the way things are structured now,” said MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris. “Federal funds require that operating funds be available. The current ’50-50′ funding structure probably needs to be revisited.”
Also attending the meeting was DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader, who said he did not feel he had a direct role in this portion of the process but that these types of improvements could substantially reduce automobile traffic in his district and the impact of the traffic.
Later, he said, the DeKalb Commission would likely weigh in on land use and development proposals along the corridor.
“I haven’t heard anyone here say that we don’t need transit,” Rader said. “It’s just a matter of how we can get there.”
MARTA also is in the alternatives analysis phase of an expansion plan for an I-20 East Corridor to serve south DeKalb.

Perkins+Will Hired to Provide Technical & Strategic Expertise

By Jane P. Rawlings, LLCC Transportation Coordinator

 

Heather Alhadeff, Senior Transportation Planner

The Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition is pleased to once again engage the services of Perkins+Will’s Urban Design practice and their Senior Transportation Planner, Heather Alhadeff. Ms. Alhadeff is uniquely positioned to offer expert, independent analysis on the current Clifton Corridor proposals. This consulting work will begin immediately, and continue on a contractual basis.
Our Board of Directors has committed the necessary initial funding, while also reaching out to other impacted parties in order to help offset the costs involved. We’re seeking assistance, and would be pleased for you to consider making your own special contribution at this time of $10, $50, or $100.
Donations are 100% tax deductible, and can be made online through our PayPal secure website by clicking here.
Donate Now
Don’t have a PayPal account? Look for this wording on the left side of the donation page, “Use your credit card or bank account,” and click Continue.

Regional transportation tax panel puts off projects vote

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Dave Williams, Staff Writer

A subcommittee of local elected officials is delaying its decision on which transportation improvements should be funded by a proposed regional sales tax right up to a state-imposed deadline.
The Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable’s executive committee had been expected to vote Thursday on a list of highway and transit projects to be built with $6.14 billion that would be available regionally if voters in the 10-county metro area approve the tax next year.
But the five-member panel is still trying to whittle down a $6.56 billion list of projects unveiled late Wednesday by the Atlanta Regional Commission staff. That’s as far as ARC staff members could get in cutting a project list that started with nearly $23 billion in requests from Atlanta-area cities, counties and transportation agencies.
The list the executive committee is working from includes partial funding for the Atlanta Beltline project and extensions of MARTA rail service along the Clifton Corridor, north to Holcomb Bridge Road in Fulton County and east to Wesley Chapel Road in DeKalb County.
It also incorporates a planned light rail line connecting MARTA’s Arts Center station with the Cumberland Mall area of Cobb County.
But it doesn’t include funds for a commuter rail line linking downtown Atlanta with Griffin, Ga., an omission that drew protests from political and business leaders from the south side of metro Atlanta and from commuter rail advocates.
Of about $3.5 billion in transit projects on the list as proposed, less than 3 percent would go to the area south of Interstate 20, said Gordon Kenna, CEO of Georgians for Passenger Rail.
“We are about to do the biggest thing we’ve ever done as a region, and you are completely ignoring half of the region,” Kay Pippin, president of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, told the executive committee. “You’re going to have to open the door and let us come in.”
The executive committee will meet on Monday – its deadline under legislation passed by the General Assembly last year – to finalize the project list it will recommend to the full roundtable. The 21-member roundtable then will have until Oct. 15 to submit the projects voters will asked to approve next year.

Community Input Sought at Clifton Corridor MARTA Workshop

By Margarita Delapaz for the North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch

The Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative Project continues to be worked out in partnership with MARTA. As part of a requirement to receive federal funding, an analysis was presented to the community for input.
Residents gathered at the Torah Day School of Atlanta Wednesday night to express concerns and get clarification on the proposed Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative project.
The project is a partnership with MARTA and the Clifton Corridor Transit Management Association which would bring new transportation options linking the Centers for Disease Control, Emory University and DeKalb Medical to Atlanta’s regional mass transit system.
After a brief introduction, participants were asked to go around the displays asking questions, examining their options and voicing their opinions about the project.
Jeremy Freeman said he lives off Lenox Circle where he fears a light rail may be the choice for the area behind his house.
“First and foremost they should be talking to residents because they’re concerned and don’t know what’s happening in their neighborhood,” he said.
There are three proposed options with different track locations. Heavy rail operates underground like current MARTA trains. Bus rapid transit would operate similar to the design of express buses in New York City. Designated lanes, high speeds and pre-paid fare speed up the process. Finally, the option Freeman fears, a light rail, would operate similar to a streetcar, above ground.
“They’re not telling you that this has to be 100 feet from CSX lines,” Freeman said.
Because CSX owns and operates freight trains along the existing tracks in the neighborhood, the proposed rail transit option may not use those same lines. In addition, new rail lines may not even be in close proximity to existing lines per federal regulations. This distance may mean the difference between having a train in your backyard or not.
Business owner John Cyphers said the proposal would have a train on top of his business which he feels would affect traffic flow.
“They’re going to take over my property,” he said.
After clarification and further examination of the proposal, it was shown that plans actually hope to utilize heavy rail in the option. This would mean an underground alternative that would not cut through Cyphers’ lot.
This discussion was the ultimate goal of the meeting, said Jason Morgan, a regional planner for MARTA.
“Those that live next to CSX are worried about their property and those a couple of blocks away are worried about access,” Morgan said.
Although the project would not break ground for at least six years, the ultimate goal of the analysis is to get comment and feedback for route options.
“This is Stage 1,” he said. “We don’t know the kind of technology yet or how to position the stations.”
If all goes as planned, Morgan said the lines may be available to commuters as early as eight years from now.