Emory Report

February 14, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 21

New MARTA chair addresses local transportation concerns

By Mike Terrazas

Emory played host to a DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce meeting Feb. 8 in which MARTA's new chairman explained why bringing additional rail service to the county might be difficult in the near future.

William Moseley, who was named chair of the transit agency's board of directors in December, said he would like to expand rail service in DeKalb, whether it be to the Emory area or South DeKalb or both, but a number of local and federal factors conspire to make this a uphill climb.

"Every DeKalb member on the board is committed to bringing MARTA to DeKalb," Moseley said, "but we must be sure it's the right alternative, as opposed to a line on the map that's pretty to look at but will never be built."

The chamber meeting, held in Winship Ballroom, was arranged through the invitation of Betty Willis, associate vice president for governmental and community affairs and also a DeKalb Chamber board member.

A crowd of about 60 people from a number of different--and occasionally contentious --constituencies attended the meeting, and the long history behind the transit debate was evident in each participant's comments, even when no background was given. The questions for Moseley ranged from why Gwinnett and Clayton counties have representatives on the MARTA board even when those counties voted down proposals to bring MARTA to them, to why DeKalb was being "treated unfairly" since it pays a 1¢ sales tax to support the transit agency, to why a line cannot be built simply connecting Emory to Lindbergh Station.

"There's no question that there's a greater need for arterial transportation," said DeKalb CEO Liane Levetan. Levetan said when DeKalb voted by referendum for MARTA's creation back in the early 1970s, it was promised a line to Tucker and North DeKalb, but the proposed artery was dropped. "Quite frankly," she said. "I think we have a credit balance due to DeKalb County for rail."

But Moseley said a rail proposal to South DeKalb might not stand as much of a chance as other plans--extending the west line, most likely--in winning the crucial federal funding necessary to build them. Land-use planning in South DeKalb, he said, does not encourage the dense development federal agencies look for in making transit grant decisions; he said the area has too much residential development and not enough commercial and multifamily unit zoning.

And, of course, there is the question of neighborhood opposition. Moseley said the Kirkwood neighborhood has come out vigorously opposed to any rail line that runs through it. He added that eventually public and private agencies will have to put regional priorities ahead of individual concerns, however vocal.

"Are we going to continue to cave in to neighborhood pressure?" Moseley asked. "Are we going to let a small group of people, whether in Kirkwood or Druid Hills, deprive the entire region of transit? We have to come up with the best alignment we can and move forward, because wherever we go there's going to be opposition."

As far as the University is concerned, Emory officials remain optimistic that some form of light rail may be brought to campus in the future.

A number of Emory administrators attended the meeting, including Chace and Erick Gaither, senior associate vice president for business and president of the Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association.

"Emory is pledged to help in every way we can," Chace said. "This is something of extreme importance; [transportation] is a basic fact that colors and informs everything we do. Improving traffic and air quality is of the utmost importance, and we must all work together."

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