Digest 2: Atlanta – a MARTA expansion dream deferred

Oh, Atlanta. Why do you keep doing this to yourself? And to me?!

You got my hopes up with articles like “MARTA Expansion’s Unprecedented Support in 11 Charts” (Curbed Atlanta, February 12, 2016), which stated,

“the Metro Atlanta Chamber commissioned a poll back in October to gauge support for proposed expansions to MARTA. The poll…showed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that MARTA and proposed expansions have majority support from every segment of the local population.”

This is in reference to Senate Bill 330, aka the “MARTA bill”, in honor of Atlanta’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. The bill would have given voters in the region’s DeKalb and Fulton counties the choice to raise the sales tax by a half-percent to fund rail expansion projects. (“Millennial group pushes MARTA expansion” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), February 9, 2016)

Just as I was getting my hopes up, I saw the follow-up articles:

MARTA Expansion Dies Without a Vote Cast: Voters won’t have the opportunity to support or reject the popular transit initiative” (Curbed Atlanta, February 26, 2016)

R.I.P., MARTA expansion bill — for this legislative session, at least (UPDATE)” (Fresh Loaf, February 29, 2016)

Apparently, the bill did not make it onto the calendar to receive a vote. The bills seems to be dead, though a word of optimism remains:

“Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed: MARTA bill may not be dead” (Saporta Report, February 29, 2016)

Atlanta Mayor: MARTA bill may not be dead” (Atlanta Business Chronicle, February 29, 2016)

I shouldn’t be surprised. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. Americans are psychologically attached to automobile travel and will find any excuse to stifle attempts at expanding public transportation. I telling piece of journalism was published in the  AJC a few weeks before the bill was abandoned. In this piece, the so-called “Gridlock Guy” expresses doubts about Atlanta’s need for public transportation. Self-driving cars will probably solve our traffic problems. Must be nice to be so optimistic.

Gridlock Guy: MARTA expansion raises long-term questions” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), February 7, 2016)

“Is it really needed? I would argue that it is needed now, but will it be needed in the future? Maybe not…In 10 years (or sooner) I feel it will be very likely that all of our cars will be self-driving. The technology is here already and the benefits of self-driving cars are enormous. Not least of which will be the ability to pretty much do away with horrible traffic….When that day arrives, I will be out of a job, and mass transit will be a less appealing option. We will all be in our own, self-contained, little trains if you will….If I were a gambling man, I would bet that the new MARTA proposal doesn’t get passed and at the end of the day, it might not be needed.”

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