A writer at the Virginia Policy review takes a look at the way race shaped the coverage area of MARTA, and how a proposed new line could help connect minorities to employment opportunities in suburban job centers: MARTA Offers Equality a Seat on the Bus
Here’s a quote:
MARTA’s new plan to expand their transit lines to reach North Fulton County is the first step towards ending racial discrimination in Atlanta’s railway transit system. The transit route will also provide greater access to Cobb, Gwinnett, and Forsyth County, one of Forbes’ 2013 top 10 Fastest Growing Counties in America.
The article doesn’t mention that suburban counties of metro Atlanta are much more racially diverse now than they were years ago, though I’m not sure how relevant that is given the clear segregation in the metro visible in recent mapped data.
To see how MARTA rail coverage compares with racial demographic data in the metro, compare the above rail map to this Racial Dot Map of metro Atlanta:
As announced last year, MARTA is following through with plans to find a developer to turn a parking lot at its King Memorial rail station into a mixed-use development of apartments and retail. The rendering above is from Walton Communities, which hopes to build almost 400 apartment units here.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a good story on the project this week, reporting that the deal still requires a vote from the MARTA board and further negotiations on property leasing. Here’s a quote:
MARTA is making plans to transform the unsightly tunnel and a large parking lot adjacent to the King Memorial station into the first in a series of pedestrian-friendly villages next to its transit stations. The King Memorial project is furthest along in the planning process, but similar developments are expected to be launched over the next two years.
To me, this effort on MARTA’s part is one of the most exciting developments of “good urbanism” currently happening in Atlanta. It’s something that I’ve hoped for over a lifetime of living here and riding MARTA: that some day we’d make better use of the potential for these rail stations with surface parking lots — that we would help them to be the transportation centerpieces of walkable, compact neighborhoods instead of drive-to locations for riders.
Your must-read article for the week is Politico’s The Day We Lost Atlanta How 2 lousy inches of snow paralyzed a metro area of 6 million. Local writer Rebecca Burns takes a look at the dysfunctions of Metro Atlanta that led to people being stranded on highways, in schools and in stores by the snow and ice over the last two days.
The highlight of the piece, for me, is her exploration of the regional peculiarities that laid ground for a situation wherein one million motorists were on the interstates at the same time, headed home to the suburbs in the snow.
Here’s a quote that answers the question of why the suburbs are so much more populated with residents than the center city:
In the 1970s…the city of Atlanta witnessed an exodus of 160,000 people. The white flight of the 1960s and 1970s, triggered by integration of schools and housing, was followed by reverse migration as blacks from the Northeast and Midwest returned to the Atlanta region but opted to move into the suburbs of DeKalb, Fulton and Clayton counties[*]. Atlanta the city, became—and despite a slow uptick in population, remains—the commercial district to which people commute from Atlanta, the suburbs.
[* For the reasons why so many new residents “opted” for the suburbs in the last couple of decades, look to the drive-until-you-qualify affordability of housing built along interstates, and the mortgage assistance offered in the 90s that enabled ownership of suburban homes. Add in the City of Atlanta’s inability to encourage transit-connected, affordable housing in it’s limits — as well as the corruption of public schools driving away families — and you’ve got a perfect storm of car-centric sprawl for the metro area.]
She also looks at the lack of transit connectivity in the metro and the failed attempt to correct that situation with the recent TSPLOST vote. It’s a great article.
Incidentally, I spotted Rebecca walking down Broad Street on Tuesday after the snow had fallen and I was coming back inside with my son after playing in the snow in the park. I almost introduced myself but she was walking with a sense of purpose that made me suspicious. It wasn’t until I got inside and saw the news that I realized the horrible things that were taking place on the roads, forcing her and others to abandon their cars.
My urbanist’s prayer: please let the silver lining of this experience be a strengthened resolve to, 1.) put affordable housing near MARTA rail stations; 2.) improve city schools so they families aren’t tempted away from the city when kids reach school age; 3.) build infill housing and mixed-use developments in the suburbs that reduce the number of car commuters in our region.
In my highly-biased opinion, the source of the problem is our sprawling, car-focused environment. It will continue to cause problems for us with or without icy roads. The best thing we can do for future generations in our region is to build (and re-build) in a way that lets alternative-transportation options thrive.
Photo by Flickr user James Bursa