"Public transit is far from the only thing that makes for a shorter commute. As those economists found, it’s also a question of sprawl. City design and transit go hand in hand: it’s easier to design a public transit system that efficiently connects people in a more compact city than in a big one."

Suburban sprawl and bad transit can crush opportunity for the poor | Vox, 7/23/14

The Atlanta Transit Agency’s Big Plan to Convert Parking Lots into Housing
The following is a re-post from thisiscitylab - Darin 
Like many U.S. transit agencies, MARTA has long struggled to secure reliable funding. The agency doesn’t receive money from the state, instead relying on sales tax income from participating counties, making it vulnerable to big economic swings. After the Great Recession, MARTA reduced staff and service while increasing fares, and when an effort to expand the revenue base failed in a 2012 referendum, the agency found itself facing a $33 million deficit.
So MARTA got creative. Keith Parker, who took over the agency in late 2012, implemented a transformation initiative that involved, among other things, a new planning strategy emphasizing TOD. In spring of 2013, Parker announced that MARTA would have five station-area projects underway within two years; to date the agency has identified developers for three projects, targeted several stations for the final two projects, and expects groundbreaking on some of the buildings as early as next year.
Enabling the projects is MARTA’s recognition that certain stations have devoted too much space to parking—an insight that several transit agencies around the world now share. At King Memorial Station, an urban station that Rhein says doesn’t make sense to reach by car, the agency owned four acres of parking lots adjacent to the station that it didn’t even use. Instead, the space had been subleased to a nearby hospital.
READ MORE…
[Image: Tim Adams/Flickr]

The Atlanta Transit Agency’s Big Plan to Convert Parking Lots into Housing

The following is a re-post from thisiscitylab - Darin

Like many U.S. transit agencies, MARTA has long struggled to secure reliable funding. The agency doesn’t receive money from the state, instead relying on sales tax income from participating counties, making it vulnerable to big economic swings. After the Great Recession, MARTA reduced staff and service while increasing fares, and when an effort to expand the revenue base failed in a 2012 referendum, the agency found itself facing a $33 million deficit.

So MARTA got creative. Keith Parker, who took over the agency in late 2012, implemented a transformation initiative that involved, among other things, a new planning strategy emphasizing TOD. In spring of 2013, Parker announced that MARTA would have five station-area projects underway within two years; to date the agency has identified developers for three projects, targeted several stations for the final two projects, and expects groundbreaking on some of the buildings as early as next year.

Enabling the projects is MARTA’s recognition that certain stations have devoted too much space to parking—an insight that several transit agencies around the world now share. At King Memorial Station, an urban station that Rhein says doesn’t make sense to reach by car, the agency owned four acres of parking lots adjacent to the station that it didn’t even use. Instead, the space had been subleased to a nearby hospital.

READ MORE…

[Image: Tim Adams/Flickr]

"The long-strapped agency finished the year $9 million in the black—a Herculean feat considering MARTA budgeted for a $33 million deficit and has only balanced the budget twice in the past fifteen years. The turnaround is a result of aggressive belt tightening."

State of MARTA: Back in black, brighter than ever | Atlanta Magazine, 12/13/2013

This is big news. With MARTA no longer operating the Atlanta Streetcar (still under construction), a private contractor will be chosen. Atlanta’s history with private contractors is iffy at best — ParkAtlanta being an unpopular example.

The major question left unanswered at this point: will transfers to and from MARTA still happen? Will the Breeze Card system of MARTA still be used for the streetcar? If the answer to either of those is “no” then I sense big trouble for the Atlanta Streetcar’s ability to gain regular riders, A lack of integration with MARTA’s fare system would hurt the convenience level (and price point) significantly.

EDITED: two commenters have helped ease my fears and I think it’s likely that MARTA and the streetcar will continue to partner so that the Breeze Card system is used for streetcar fares. But I’d still like to see some official statement saying it’s so in the wake of this news.

Read more…

Atlanta Streetcar

Atlanta streetcars: mule-drawn & electric

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This is an 1882 photo of the intersection of Whitehall (now Peachtree) and Alabama Streets. Notice the mule-drawn trolleys and horse-drawn wagons on the streets.

An article published recently, “Did Cars Save Our Cities From Horses? Debating a modern parable about waste and technology,” gives an interesting rebuttal to the common story that personal cars saved cities from mounds of horse manure.

Between the era of horse-drawn carts and personal cars was an age of electric streetcars:

The late 19th and early 20th centuries was actually the age of streetcars. Running on steel rails, a few pulled by horses but most powered by electricity, they were the dominant urban mode of vehicular transport. The first suburbs date to this time, rising along streetcar lines in Boston, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and other cities.

You can include Atlanta in “other cities.” We had an extensive line of streetcar routes covering the city, as seen in the 1946 map below:

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Streetcar systems like this served cities for decades before cars began to dominate. As the article states, once car infrastructure was in place:

Streetcars now had to compete on roads suited to automobiles, and it wasn’t a fair fight. Cars clogged the streets, slowing traffic and preventing streetcars from keeping their schedules. Ridership fell. Streetcar companies struggled to stay profitable, all the more so because, as local monopolies, city governments limited fare increases.

Cut to — this classic image. These are discarded streetcars from the Georgia Railway and Power Company (the precursor to Georgia Power) which ran streetcars from 1937 to 1950.

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"Atlanta is positioning itself to go after federal dollars to expand the soon-to-be-completed Atlanta Streetcar.

The city was recently named a Federal Transit Administration grant designee, which allows Atlanta to apply directly for federal transit funds for the first time.”

"Just east of downtown Atlanta was once was a bustling, wealthy African-American business hub known as Sweet Auburn. When the interstate was built, it cut the area in two. People here have long waited for the economic turnaround they were promised."