My Response to Town Hall Meeting with Marshall Orson, DeKalb County School Board Member

Matt Huey
Matt Huey

By Matt Huey – What I know about DeKalb Schools and our Board of Education stem from my involvement in Briar Vista Elementary, the school that will touch every student and tax payer who live along LaVista, Houston Mill, Mason Mill roads and much of Briarcliff Road. Since 2009 I have fought budget changes that threatened the school’s Montessori teaching program, ultimately losing the fight this school year. I spent 2 years as Parent Teacher Organization’s president advocating for better education for the children at our school.  Along the way I met many good people in the DeKalb School System and many that I wouldn’t offer a ride if they were standing in the pouring rain. What I learned about county educational politics can be summed up in 3 points:

  1. The DeKalb school system is more about money and property values than education.
  2. Your school either has influence or it does not.
  3. Your school is either on the inside or the outside of the DCSS and the DeKalb Board Of Education.

DCSSDeKalb schools have been so poorly run, so mismanaged that last week the state board recommended that every board member not serving their first term be removed citing a sustained “culture of poor governance”. This culture stems from misappropriation of tax funds, nepotism, favoritism, cronyism and politicking of an institution that has one function…providing a quality education for our children. While I cannot cite many of the past indiscretions I can raise awareness of one in the works: The planned replacement of Fernbank Elementary School.
Along with Avondale, Briar Vista, Laurel Ridge and McLendon Elementary schools, Fernbank is in the Druid Hills High School “cluster”. These elementary schools feel Druid Hills Middle which feeds Druid Hills High.  Since the entire cluster feeds the same middle and high school only elementary school districts exist within the cluster.  The entire county school system is composed of such clusters.
Currently the populations of the elementary schools in our cluster are as follows:

  • Avondale:  Capacity 686 seats, enrolment 525, 77% utilization (159 open seats)
  • Briar Vista:  Capacity 542, enrolment 439, 81% utilization  (103 open seats)
  • Fernbank:  Capacity 578, enrolment 675, 117% utilization (97 over capacity)
  • Laurel Ridge:  Capacity 443, enrolment 446, 101% utilization (3 over capacity)
  • McLendon:  Capacity 559, enrolment 490, 88% utilization (69 open seats)

We have a total of 331 open seats in our cluster, more than enough to accommodate all of our students now and in the future.  When the 900 seat Fernbank is built another 322 seats will be added bring the total open seats to over 653, the equivalent of a new, empty school. To justify this new school the county plans to redistrict 65 students from Laurel Ridge and 17 students from Briar Vista.  Below are the county’s own 2016-2017 utilization forecasts:

  • Avondale:  Capacity 686 seats, enrolment 527, 77% utilization (157 open seats)
  • Briar Vista:  Capacity 542, enrolment 423 , 78% utilization  (119 open seats)
  • Fernbank:  Capacity 900, enrolment 758 , 84% % utilization (142 open seats)
  • Laurel Ridge:  Capacity 443, enrolment 343 , 77% utilization (100 open seats)
  • McLendon:  Capacity 559, enrolment 491, 88% utilization (68 open seats)

Don’t believe me? Check the below link from the DCSS website.
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/splost-iv/proposed-organization-facilities-presentation-and-binder-(2012-12-10).pdf

Briar Vista Elementary School
Briar Vista Elementary School

In short we are spending tens of millions of tax payer dollars on new school that will decrease average facility utilization from the current 93% to 80%, all to accommodate 97 students in a school cluster with over 300 open seats.  Am I the only genius who sees the problem here? Wait…refer to the 3 points above. Who has influence? Who is on the inside? Who stands to gain financially?
Are there plans to close a school in the cluster to fill the new Fernbank? Not now and not likely.  Fernbank’ s stellar test scores are, in large part, due to the near absence of students with the Limited English skills and economic disadvantages, the two demographics that most negatively impact test scores. If a neighboring school were to close it would take some serious gerrymandering (like the Cross Keys cluster) to keep these demographics intact. Consider that the 82 students targeted for redistricting from Laurel Ridge and Briar Vista are all from single family residences, least likely to contain these demographics.
Conversely, will the county redistrict Fernbank students to relieve overcrowding and balance the cluster? History has shown that they will be in for the fight of their life if they try.
So why is county spending a large portion of the 2.2 billion tax payer dollars on a new school where it is clearly not justified? Who has influence? Who is on the inside? Who stands to gain financially?
And at whose expense? Around 60% of your county property taxes go to schools and the entire county will pay for SLPOST IV, the 1 cent tax that will be in place for the next 4 years. How much of this money will be spent in your neighborhood? Helping educate your children? Helping your property values?  For Briar Vista, our neighborhood school: no influence, no one on the inside, no one fighting for our interests.
If you are concerned you should be. Strike while the iron is hot!!  Write Governor Deal (http://gov.georgia.gov/contact-governor-domestic-form), representative Scott Holcomb (scott@repscottholcomb.com), interim school Superintendent Michael Thurmond (michael_l_thurmond@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us),Marshal Orson, our new Board of Education representative (marshall_orson@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us) and voice your concerns. Tell them to not only remove the board, but to begin repairing the damage they have done. Share this with anyone who will listen. Ask questions and carefully listen to the answers. There may still be time to do something that will benefit all our children, not just a chosen few.
Matt Huey
Past President
Briar Vista Parent Teacher Organization
Editor’s Note: The above piece is the expressed opinion of the author and not policy of LLCC.

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.

MARTA Rep.: ‘We’re at the end of the beginning’

Talks about Clifton Corridor transportation project continue

Residents take a close look at possible transit options in the Clifton Corridor.
by Jaclyn Hirsch for Virgina-Highland/Druid Hills Patch
 
Residents packed a conference room at the Emory Conference Center Hotel Tuesday night to have one final discussion about transportation options in the Clifton Corridor area.
Although MARTA project manager Jason Morgan said the end of the public input process is “the end of the beginning,” residents were eager to study the three options that would bring rail or bus service — or a combination of both — from Lindbergh Center in Buckhead to Cheshire Bridge Road, Emory University, and the Centers for Disease Control.
Some options would extend the line to the Avondale Estates MARTA station and connect North Decatur and Clairmont Road and DeKalb Medical to the line.
This final public meeting gave residents the opportunity to hear from project managers and have one-on-one discussions with those working on the project.
Morgan said the team has been working to balance the needs of residents and commuters in the area and reminded residents that they have a long way to go on the project. Conversations about the project began more than two years ago with 36 options on the table.
“This process is not done,” he said. “This is a journey, essentially, and a partnership.”
The project would cost roughly $700 million and no plans for funding have finalized.
The Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable voted earlier this month in favor of a $6.14 billion list of transportation investments, which included the Clifton Corridor project. Projects on the list would be funded by a penny sales tax — if voters approve — when it’s placed before them on the 2012 elections ballot.
Druid Hills resident Ken Gibson said regardless which option gets chosen, he wants to see action soon.
“I feel strongly that something needs to be done and the longer we wait, the harder it gets,” Gibson said Tuesday night.
Morgan said rumors that MARTA plans to “bulldoze” Briarcliff Animal Hospital on Johnson Road in Morningside are false. He said there are no plans to level any businesses at this time, and only the city and county would have the authority to do so if it became part of the plan.
He also said all transportation options on the table involve building tunnels that will go under Lenox Road.
Morningside resident Carey Aiken said he supports the light rail option and feels the heavy rail option would create “a big transportation mess in an area that’s already congested.”
“Good quality of life would be ruined,” Aiken said.
He said the light rail option is “the vision of the future” and could see himself using that line instead of driving to the 10th Street MARTA station or Lindbergh Center.
Morgan said he expects the MARTA board of directors will approve one of three options in December and urged residents to submit comments and feedback by Nov. 8. Residents can submit comments on the MARTA website.
The options
The three transportation options include bus service, light rail service and heavy rail service.
The 8.3-mile bus service would connect Lindbergh Center to Avondale Estates with stops in Cheshire Bridge, Sage Hill, CDC/Emory, Emory Clairmont Campus, North Decatur/Clairmont, Suburban Plaza and DeKalb Medical Center.
This route would serve about 15,300 riders daily and create about 15 jobs per acre.
The 8.3-mile light rail option would link Lindbergh Center to Avondale Estates with stops in Cheshire Bridge, Sage Hill, CDC/Emory, Emory Clairmont Campus, North Decatur/Clairmont, Suburban Plaza and DeKalb Medical Center.
This route would serve about 17,500 riders daily and create about 15 jobs per acre.
The final option, a 4.7-mile heavy rail line, would connect Lindbergh Center to Cheshire Bridge, Sage Hill, CDC/Emory, Emory Clairmont Campus and North Decatur/Clairmont.
This line would provide direct service to Airport, Doraville and North Springs stations without transferring at Lindbergh. Local bus service would be available to connect to Avondale Estates.
This line would see roughly 18,400 rides daily and create 17.6 jobs per acre.
All three options have an optional station in Morningside.
For more information on the Clifton Corridor project, visit the Clifton Corridor portion of the MARTA website.

Transportation Roundtable job is much harder because the state doesn’t fund transit

From SaportaReport.com
 

It all boils down to this.
All the hand-wringing that’s going on this week with the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable can be traced back to one player — the State of Georgia.
The Roundtable has until Oct. 15 to submit its final list of projects that will be included on a penny sales tax referendum that will be presented to voters next year. The tax is estimated to generate $7.2 billion over 10 years with 15 percent of that will go directly to local governments, leaving $6.1 billion to be divvied up by the Roundtable.
The leaders in the 10-county region are agonizing over whether it should add $80 million (in addition to the current $100 million) to fully fund the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s Xpress buses over the next 10 years by taking away from four other transit investments.
The Roundtable will meet on Oct. 11 to try to find consensus on the four toughest amendments that must be addressed before the Oct. 15 deadline.
An amendment proposed by Henry County Chair B.J. Mathis would remove that $80 million from MARTA’s allocation to keep its system in a state of good repair, from the Atlanta BeltLine streetcar project, from the Clifton Corridor transit line and from Cobb County’s light rail line.
Also on the table is another amendment proposed by Douglas County Chair Tom Wortham to shift $34.5 million from MARTA’s state of good repair to go to fund GRTA’s Xpress buses.
A third amendment, submitted by DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, would shift $297 million of funding along Georgia 400 towards expanding MARTA east line along I-20 corridor.
The fourth amendment was proposed by Clayton County Chair Eldrin Bell to invest $350 million in the Atlanta to Griffin commuter rail line, and the proposal has called for reducing all other transit projects by 10 percent to pay for commuter rail.
Watching this agonizing tug-of-war between the various jurisdictions chipping away at proposed transit projects is painful.
And while regional leaders are tempted to turn on each other, the real culprit here is the state and its lack of funding for transit, in particular, and transportation in general.
GRTA is a state agency that was created to be a vehicle for the state to become a regional player in transit. But GRTA has been lobbying to get $180 million from the metro Atlanta tax to fully fund its system rather than rely on any financial support from the state to pay for the regional bus system.
Earlier in the Roundtable process, a dramatic moment occurred when Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Roundtable Chairman Bucky Johnson took advantage of a break in a meeting to go see Gov. Nathan Deal. At that meeting, Deal assured Reed and Johnson that he would help the state invest $80 million in GRTA over the next 10 years.
That’s how the GRTA allocation in the project list was reduced from $180 million to $100 million.
Now GRTA backers are trying to restore that $80 million because they say the governor can not make a financial commitment to support the regional bus system because it would be up to the legislature.
Mathis actually called on state Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Cobb) to describe the appetite for GRTA funding in the legislature.
“The state has not shown a commitment at this time,” Stoner said. But Stoner added that he did not believe that funding for GRTA should come out of MARTA’s state of good repair, which is essential to having a regional transit system.
Atlanta Mayor Reed said that when the economy recovers, the state will be in a much better financial position than local governments that have a ceiling on what they can collect on property taxes. And he continued to believe the state would rise to the occasion to invest in a regional transit system.
“The governor was willing to try to get it figured out,” Reed said.
The mayor also added that on Wednesday, Oct. 5, the state had “a wonderful meeting around transit governance” — an effort that would create an umbrella entity to oversee all the transit operations in the Atlanta region.
“I think the transit governance conversation really is the key to getting the state interested in long-term funding,” Reed said.
Speaking about the entire Roundtable experience, Reed said: “I never expected this to be an easy process. I focus more on results than the journey.”
For decades, metro Atlanta has been under-investing in MARTA — the region’s largest transit system by far. Most of that can be attributed to two facts — the lack of state funding and the fact that only two counties (Fulton and DeKalb) provide financial support for the system.
Until the state becomes a significant player in transit funding, the region’s leaders will continue fighting over the limited dollars that exist.
And while it would be easy to get frustrated by the situation, MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott has managed to remain hopeful that the process will lead to a favorable outcome for the transit backbone of the region.
“There’s a solution,” Scott said. “We have come too far to have it fall apart now.”

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-to-Griffin rail line getting second look

Dave Williams
Staff Writer – Atlanta Business Chronicle

A commuter rail line linking Atlanta with Griffin, Ga., that appeared to be out of contention for funding through a proposed regional transportation sales tax may get a new life.
The committee of metro-Atlanta mayors and county commissioners that has been assembling a list of highway and transit improvements to submit to voters in 10 counties next year will reconsider the commuter rail project on Wednesday.
An amendment to the $6.1 billion project list proposed by Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, a member of the regional “roundtable” developing the list, would set aside $350 million to build the rail line.
The roundtable had rejected the Atlanta-to-Griffin line last summer as too expensive. But Bell’s amendment, seconded by Union City, Ga., Mayor Ralph Moore, contends the work could be done for more than $900 million below original estimates by scaling back the scope of the project.
“As the first investment in the corridor between Atlanta and Savannah, this is the only project of significant regional and state impact,” Bell wrote in the form he submitted requesting the amendment. “This will be the only rail investment south of I-20, has strong support in the corridor inside and outside Atlanta, and meets every roundtable criteria.”
Supporters, including commuter rail advocates, complained vigorously when a five-member subcommittee of the roundtable recommended a project list that did not include the commuter rail line.
Under the 2010 state law that established the roundtable process and next year’s referendum, the full 22-member roundtable has until Oct. 15 to finalize the project list that will appear on the ballot.
Bell’s amendment recommends a series of cuts to the list to offset the $350 million that would go to the rail line. The largest would involve reducing the funds that would go toward a planned light rail line from Midtown Atlanta to the Cumberland Mall area by $85.7 million and cutting the proposed Clifton Corridor rail line by $70 million.

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.

Local residents discuss transit plans with GDOT, GRTA, MARTA officials during community meeting

More than 200 people turned out July 12 for a community meeting, coordinated by Rep. Pat Gardner, the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition and the Morningside Lenox Park Neighborhood Association to discuss the Clifton Corridor Connector designed to parallel the CSX line from Emory to the Lindbergh Station.
State Transportation Planner Todd Long outlined the process for selecting the final projects for the Transportation Investment tax to be voted on in either July or November of 2012.
Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director Jannine Miller and her deputy outlined their roles in coordinating all of the transit in the Metro area.
MARTA planner Jason Morgan provided a comprehensive description of their decision making process and assured those gathered that all three options (HRT, LRT, and BRT) are still under consideration. Suggestions from the residential neighborhoods were welcomed and more open meetings are planned for August.
The planning process for the Clifton Corridor MARTA project is likely to be high on the transportation tax priority list. Transportation expert and neighbor Tom Weyant spoke on behalf of Mayor Kasim Reed and reported that the mayor believes this project to be an important piece in addressing our congestion problems.
Please make your recommendations known to MARTA or Mayor Reed’s office.
Click here for a list of upcoming meetings related to the Transportation Investment Act, the Regional Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) vote scheduled for next year and the Atlanta Roundtable for the
10-county metro region.
For additional information as to the proposals visit:
http://www.itsmarta.com/clifton-corr-maps.aspx
LLCC has taken an official position on the current proposals. To see the LLCC Position Paper, click HERE.