Feb. 1, 1999
Volume 51, No. 18
Traffic debate around Emory about to get congested as MARTA readies to release report
Last week the Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association (CCTMA) held its first annual meeting since incorporating in January 1998 to report its activities to members and stakeholders, of which Emory is one.
The CCTMA formed in response to the many traffic problems facing organizations located on or near Clifton Road, a heavily used thoroughfare that figures only to get busier as Emory and its neighbors continue to grow. Debate over what to do about Clifton congestion is sure to intensify over the next few months as MARTA prepares to issue a report recommending what course public transportation improvements should take. MARTA officials have indicated they plan to release the report later this month.
Several alternatives are being considered by the transit authority, from doing nothing to constructing a light-rail line from Lindbergh Station through the Emory area and either continuing east to Northlake Mall or more southeast toward the city of Decatur. President Bill Chace has said several times that he prefers "some kind" of light rail, but the University is waiting on the MARTA report before taking any official, specific stance.
"Emory, like Atlanta, does not consider a prohibition on growth as reasonable or viable in addressing environmental and traffic problems," Chace said. "There are, however, opportunities to affect the way we grow by identifying and implementing new ways to bring people to our campus and our medical and research facilities, by supporting flexible work schedules and telecommuting among our employees, and by placing future parking facilities in areas designed to decrease existing traffic and minimize the impact on the environment."
Indeed, Emory has been a leader in each of the strategies Chace described. The University continues to foster growth of its alternative transportation program, offering incentives for employees to participate in carpools and vanpools, or to ride MARTA buses into campus. To quell traffic along Clifton, the University is using the new 42-acre Emory West site as a remote parking lot, offering free parking to any employee who voluntarily chooses to park there and ride shuttles into the main campus. And last summer hundreds of employees worked out flex-hour or telecommuting schedules in their departments; many continue to do so during the academic year.
"We don't want to build more parking decks," Chace said. Emory's Campus Master Plan calls for the construction of, at most, two more decks in the long term, one of which is already in the design phase and will be sited at University Apartments. "In addition to environmental and traffic concerns," Chace continued, "[building decks] is not the best use of University property-it costs us an average of $10,000 per parking space."
If MARTA does recommend light-rail service, the proposal is sure to come under fire, particularly from the Druid Hills Civic Association, which strongly opposes any MARTA rail lines into the neighborhood. But such a line would not only benefit Emory, it would also ease traffic burdens for the University's Clifton neighbors. CCTMA membership includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society, Egleston Children's Hospital, the VA Hospital and Wesley Woods, which combined account for thousands of additional vehicles in the area.
Something will be done to ease traffic and air pollution problems, not only along Clifton but in all of Atlanta. Newly inaugurated Gov. Roy Barnes is making it one of his top priorities, and on Jan. 25 Barnes unveiled his proposal to create the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority to study and implement public transit initiatives in the 13-county Atlanta metro area. The proposal, which must be approved by the General Assembly, would enable the new authority to issue as much as $2 billion in bonds for construction projects.
"As transportation coordinator at Emory I'm excited about the governor's willingness to tackle this problem and having the foresight to deal with it immediately," said Cheryle Crumley, director of alternative transportation and CCTMA's acting executive director. "Because this issue is not going to get better--it's going to get worse."