Shedding Atlanta’s Transportation Stigma
By: Nate Seymour, Co-Chair ULI Programs Committee
Transportation. A hot button topic that can be as aggravating as many of the cliché’ terms out there like “Hotlanta” or “the ATL” that are commonly used to describe our fare city. The obligatory “I hear the traffic is horrible” or “how’s your commute?” will undoubtedly follow almost any Atlantan’s introduction to an outsider. The good news is that we have rare opportunity to make it better and possibly shed our transportation stigma for good, or at least until I-85 burns down again.
In 2016, Atlantans voted in favor of a T-SPLOST for four-tenths of a penny. Over a five year period, the T-SPLOST will generate approximately $300 million to fund transportation projects citywide. In addition, voters supported another half-penny sales tax for MARTA transit expansion and enhancements in the City of Atlanta. Over a period of forty years, this half-penny sales tax will generate an estimated $2.5 billion unleveraged and allow MARTA to make major investments in the city’s transit infrastructure.
These capital commitments are good news for the City of Atlanta, but what about the balance of the metro-Atlanta region? With nearly 30 counties and countless cities in the mix, developing a collaborative regional plan will be vital to the success of our improvement efforts. When looking at other Metro areas that do transportation well, we learn that there is no silver bullet, rather the need for a multi-faceted approach that includes a mix of heavy rail, light rail, express bus service, and managed lanes. That’s not to forget pedestrian and cycling-friendly investments that enhance mobility. Regionally, the following are a few of the projects on a wish list of roughly $10-billion dollars of investment:
- MARTA – Major investments in transit infrastructure, including the introduction of high-capacity rail improvements, the build of new infill rail stations within the City, the purchase of new buses, the addition of more frequent service, and the introduction of new bus routes. The infill rail station projects could include up to four new rail stations along the Atlanta BeltLine (Armour Yard, Boone Boulevard, Murphy Crossing, Mechanicsville, Krog Street).
- The Beltline – The purchase of the remaining right of way and acquisition of easements for the 22-mile Atlanta BeltLine loop, additional trail lighting, accompanied by the more ambitious construction of streetcar/light rail which includes the Atlanta BeltLine loop and several crosstown connector routes that intersect the BeltLine.
- GDOT – The Transform 285/400 project, the I-75 managed lane projects south of I-285, along with the I-75 Northwest Corridor Express Lane project and other managed land and intersection improvements around I-285 and along I-20 and up I-85.
Maximizing our resources and getting this right is imperative, especially when we are trying to understand broader economic and real estate development opportunities (like Amazon HQ2). Join us for a conversation on these priorities and the land use impacts for our city and region.
ULI Atlanta will be hosting a program on March 7, 2018 that will include a panel comprised of representatives from MARTA, GDOT, GRTA/SRTA, ARC, City of Atlanta, Georgia Transportation Committee and others. This event will discuss transportation issues and upcoming projects from a regional perspective and will encourage robust dialogue between the panelists. For more information or to register, please visit ULI Atlanta’s website.
Nate Seymour is Vice President of Commercial Real Estate at SunTrust