Belittling the Bus in Atlanta
In an AJC article today, DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May uttered something I found particularly odd.
He was discussing his disapproval of the regional transportation tax based on the absence of funds to build a new MARTA rail line to serve his south Dekalb County constituents.
Instead of a new rail line, the tax’s project list includes “$225 million for an express bus service from south DeKalb to job centers around metro Atlanta.” His thoughts on that bus service?
“People don’t ride buses”
After my blood pressure un-spiked, I did a simple web search and found statistics on MARTA bus ridership and ridership of another metro bus service that prove his statement wrong. Lots of people ride buses. Every day.
Now, I’m realistic enough to admit that I understand the validity in the point he was trying to make. There’s a stigma against buses. I get that. And bus lines don’t offer the same promise of economic development that comes with light rail. Sure.
But it only takes a look at the satellite view of south Dekalb (or a drive around it, if you’re particularly interested) to see that this area has a typical suburban-sprawl pattern, one that doesn’t lend itself well to rail, but is decently suited to bus service.
This issue of rail in south Dekalb was addressed recently by transportation website The Transport Politic in a post about the regional transportation tax. The post, which deemed new bus service to be a more economically-appropriate fit, had this to say:
It is also worth questioning the value of extending rail to South DeKalb County. The area is, like much of metropolitan Atlanta, automobile dependent and lacking in significant density.
The moderate density and car-oriented land use of south Dekalb makes their rail demand an overly costly one. When they can bring a planned retro-fit of their land use — one that provides a walkable density that gives a solid return on rail investment — to the table, this conversation will make more sense.
Land use and transportation lines have, in too much of the metro, developed without good planning and growth strategy. This disconnect, and the inefficient land use that has resulted, can be seen as the root cause of much of our transportation woe in the region.
Which leads me to announce that, starting next week, this blog will publish a multi-part series on land use and transportation in metro Atlanta, something I was inspired to write in long form after reading (and thinking) about issues surrounding the upcoming transportation-tax vote.
MARTA bus photo by Flickr user ferret111