June 11, 2001
New proposal rekindles MARTA hopes
By Michael Terrazas firstname.lastname@example.org
In the latest round of Emorys ongoing quest to bring commuter rail
transit to campus, the University has thrown its support behind a new
proposal that would link it via light rail to the Lindbergh MARTA Station,
with the line continuing to the Atlanta University Center, then turning
east again to DeKalb County along I-20.
U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) have asked the federal
Department of Transportation for $2 million to fund a feasibility study
of the arc-shaped route, and a cadre of greater Atlanta businesses, universities
and other organizations have expressed enthusiasm for the idea.
I think the new proposed route might be the breakthrough we have
all been hoping for, said President Bill Chace. As far as
I can tell, all parties that have examined it have found it most appropriate
for their respective needs and situations. I am happy that such a promising
plan has been developed, and the entire Atlanta community can be assured
that Emory will continue to work actively toward reducing automotive pollution
and traffic glut.
Were very excited about this proposal, said Betty Willis,
associate vice president of governmental and community affairs, who has
been leading the effort as chair of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce transportation
committee. None of the previous [route proposals] connected so many
vital employment and activity centers, as well as the major universities
in the metro area, and we feel it addresses a growing need to provide
rail transit to some densely crowded intown neighborhoods.
Along with the two Congres-sional representatives, other individuals
who have put their support in writing for the proposed line include Chace,
Georgia State University President Carl Patton, Georgia Tech President
Wayne Clough, Central Atlanta Progress President Richard Reinhard, the
city of Atlanta, and numerous corporations. The Georgia Regional Transit
Authority (GRTA) passed a resolution supporting the study at its May meeting.
While there is a great need to offer transportation alternatives
to the regions daily car commuters from surrounding suburbs, there
are also a significant number of citizens who live, work and travel within
the heart of the Atlanta area with limited or no access to public transit,
wrote Erick Gaither, president of the Clifton Corridor Transpor-tation
Management Association and Emory senior associate vice president for business
Light rail is a logical next step in building a transit network
in Atlanta that can meet our mobility needs, wrote Reinhard, whose
organization is managing a multiyear cooperative planning process for
the citys downtown stakeholders, in a letter to Lewis. Light
rail would be more flexible and less costly than heavy rail extensions
and more environmentally sound than added road capacity. Light rail can
be more easily linked to other forms of public transportation, such as
commuter rail and MARTA heavy rail.
The technology for light railas opposed to existing MARTA trains,
which are all heavy railis akin to that employed by streetcar lines.
Indeed, a light-rail line would harken back to Atlantas own pre-World
War II past, when streetcars ferreted passengers back and forth between
downtown and then-remote suburbs such as Ansley Park, Druid Hills, Grant
Park and other neighborhoods.
There is a company in Italy that can produce light-rail vehicles
made to resemble anything youd want, from sleek, aerodynamic trains
to old-fashioned trolley cars, Willis said, adding that new technology
also enables light-rail trains to function without overhead electrical
lines, instead drawing their electrical power from beneath the tracks
themselvesand without safety risks to pedestrians crossing the tracks.
However, even with growing support, when it comes to public rail transit,
the wheels of action can move agonizingly slowly.
Dont expect to hop on the trolley anytime soon, Willis
said. Assuming funding is appropriated, the study would likely begin
early next year and could take 1218 months to complete. It would
identify the exact route, ridership numbers, environmental and community
impact and other criteria. Then it would compete for the same pot of money
as the other proposed lines that are already further along in the process.
If all goes well, it could take eight years or longer to get up and running.
Willis said her office can provide sample letters for anyone wishing to write his or her Congressperson. For more information, call 404-727-5166.