Emory Report

 July 14, 1997

 Volume 49, No. 35

Tensions soar over MARTA
study of Emory route

A MARTA public meeting July 1 to discuss the feasibility study of a South-DeKalb-Clifton Rd.-Lindbergh transit corridor began contentiously and erupted into frequent hostile outbursts by area residents opposed to the idea of trains running through historic Decatur and Druid Hills neighborhoods. Residents also expressed concerns about property values, crime and noise during the two-hour meeting. Many who came for the meeting were forced to wait upstairs as the Decatur Library auditorium filled and overflowed its capacity.

Emory administrators have long wanted MARTA to explore ways of linking the campus more efficiently to their transit system, and the University has provided $82,000, or 10 percent, of the study's $820,000 cost.

MARTA officials passed out questionnaires and information and showed a video on possible transportation alternatives that would link the area around DeKalb College's south campus, Clifton corridor and the Lindbergh MARTA station. Among the options they will be studying: changes to existing roads and transit systems to improve traffic flow; reducing the number of cars on the road through work and travel alternatives such as flextime, telecommuting, carpooling, shuttle buses and building sidewalks; heavy rail, such the train system MARTA now operates; light rail, or trolleys and streetcars such as those found in Boston and San Francisco; monorail, such as that at Disney World and in downtown Seattle; automated guideway transit, such as the trains at Atlanta Airport; high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and busways; or building more roads.

"We are looking at all reasonable and all possible alternatives," said Tom Huston, manager of special projects for MARTA. "We do not have anything predetermined." That didn't seem to placate many of those assembled for the meeting, who appeared frustrated by the structured meeting MARTA officials had set-up.

But MARTA officials seemed determined to include communities in the discussion of possible commuter options-even those opposed, said Huston. The Decatur Library gathering was the first in a series of meetings being held over the next few months. MARTA officials also met with residents of South DeKalb and the LaVista Rd. area in late June. In September, they plan to present preliminary ideas for the corridor and ask for public feedback. Then meetings will be held in January or early February during which area residents can make recommendations on three to five proposals.

Whatever choice that arises from those meetings will then be sent to the MARTA board for approval. Since MARTA currently has 14 different projects under study, the priority of the South DeKalb-Clifton Rd.-Lindbergh corridor will be set by them. If developing the corridor is deemed a priority, MARTA officials attending the meeting estimated that it would take another five to seven years before the commuter option would be completed.

The Atlanta area is under the gun to develop viable transportation alternatives to single occupancy vehicles, said Cheryle Crumley, Emory's manager of alternative transportation. "If Atlanta doesn't meet federal ozone standards by 1999," she explained, "then the federal government will begin to fine the city for every day it's not in compliance."

Said Connie Cannon, MARTA's manager of transportation planning, "Atlantans drive farther, faster and more frequently than anyone else in the country." As MARTA officials learned, getting this city of car lovers to embrace alternative modes of transport won't be easy.

-Stacey Jones

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