Fort McPherson – 475+ Acres of South Atlanta Hope??

 

What is going on with the Fort McPherson development on Lee Street in south west Atlanta?  Strategically located between the Oakland City and Ft. McPherson/Lakewood MARTA rail stations, this former Army Base was finally beginning to show signs of development four years ago.  That is when Tyler Perry purchased the majority of the property and the remaining (approximately) 145 acres has been slowly planned for community use with community input.

It was beginning to look as if the Oakland City/Ft Mac communities, with an average household income of less than $20,000, were about to get a “good deal”.  Now, the project that includes lots of community input, has come to a halt.

In the Saporta Report, Maria Saporta weighs in and is asking City Hall some really tough questions.  I welcomed the opportunity to add my two cents.  See her article on the link below:

Questions surround future of Fort Mac redevelopment

Be sure to leave your thoughts about what could be the best project for Atlanta residents because 60% of the housing units are slated to be affordable!

 

MARTA Releases New Funding Plan

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The MARTA Board of Directors will vote on Thursday, October 4 on how the Atlanta half-penny sales tax will be used over the next 40 years.  See the full plan overview in the 9/27/18 AJC.

Here are my thoughts on this updated thoughts on MARTA’s updated funding plan:

1)  The Campbellton Rd Light Rail Transit (LRT) & Greenbriar Transit Center can be a win for transit dependent riders and will draw “choice riders” from that corridor, City of South Fulton, Camp Creek and beyond. However, it needs to be the #1 project on that list for implementation and use an accelerated schedule (remember The I-85 bridge?). Since the #83 Campbellton Rd/Greenbriar bus Route is #1, it should be prioritized as #1 in project scheduling and completion. That
would be the start of unprecedented equity in this major project.
2)  Emory will always secure funding for what it wants. Bravo MARTA for realizing they could reallocate some of their originally designated funding. Perhaps this is a move toward equity.
3)  BeltLine. I agree with Councilmen Dickens and Hillis who said in Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting that the south end of the Beltline needs to be done before other BeltLine areas to insure it gets done. They discussed how south side projects are always done last and if funding run out, those areas suffer most. That would be a real equity move!  Besides, the folks who live on the BeltLine are mostly choice riders, they won’t suffer any loss other than pride. They will get other funding including from their own financial portfolios, if they choose.
4) I still believe the Fulton Industrial Blvd. (FIB) MARTA Station should be added. The extra funding that went to the BeltLine should go here. This is a key regional job corridor as well as the gateway to Cobb County. Cobb residents overwhelmingly used the H.E.Holmes MARTA station when originally opened (as the Hightower station). Today, on Falcons and other game days, Cobb residents fill that station to capacity.
5) The FIB station would be the gateway to the future Cobb County MARTA connection and take thousands of cars off the I-20 FIB corridor daily as well as help Six Flags employees and visitors; both UPS distribution centers and more. The #73 FIB bus route, out of the Holmes station, ranks #6 in MARTA ridership.  Another reason to add this station.  Cobb County’s Planning and Division Manager, Eric Meyer, said after a recent ARC meeting that he is all for the FIB station and would be happy to work with stakeholders to make it happen.
6) If we can’t get FIB right now, “At least give us the Holmes heavy rail extension to I-285 at MLKing. That way, drivers would exit there and take MARTA into the city” says Councilman Dickens. That extension was supposed to be done about eight years ago. According to MARTA, ‘There was a glitch in funding for that project.’ Yet another prime example of why south and west side projects need to be done first!

7) The state of Georgia needs to step up their game. They benefit from everything that happens in metro Atlanta.  They use all that Metro Atlanta has to offer to sell prospective companies on why they need to expand or relocate here.  Yet, other than $100 million for a transit funding along GA 400, on the north side, no other funding has been allocated.  Shame on you!  Metro Atlantans pay state taxes.  A portion of that should go to MARTA expansion to give is any chance of decreasing our ridiculous traffic woes.

And, perhaps in 2019, our legislators will introduce and pass legislation to allow for a portion of Georgia’s fuel tax to be used for MARTA… something other than expanding our roads by adding more lanes.  We are among very few states who do not fund public transit from the fuel tax because this state was controlled by the auto industry for so long (they wanted people to buy cars, not take public transit.).  With Ford and GM assembly plants long gone, Georgia is still operating as if those plants are still here.  What’s up with that??  Being 18 years into the new millennium, what are our legislators waiting for??

Here is an updated article with thoughts from a GSU researcher, Chris Wyczalkowski on MARTA’s current funding challenges (click on the MARTA article if it does not automatically load.):

https://epaper.ajc.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=Atlanta%20Journal-Constitution&pubid=8e0858ee-1443-484d-9e94-f8b8a1eaaaff

 

BeltLine Group, “The Haves” Are Claiming Victory

If the BeltLine Group, “the haves”, that is well-organized wins; that means south and southwest Atlanta loses. That includes transit dependent riders, who do not own or have access to a car, lose.  We are Atlanta!  We are the home of Civil Rights!  How can this be allowed to happen??

Please read the info below and contact MARTA Board members AND all Atlanta City Council members via email, phone, social media AND snail mail. Contact them ASAP, and definitely before September 28 since the MARTA Board is scheduled to vote on October 4.  “The have nots” need a modified plan of the first proposed project list that connects 126 neighborhoods and adds the Fulton Industrial MARTA Station.

Remember:  “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings!!  So we still have time to get what we want, need, and have paid for; yet we still being denied equity…equal distribution of the $2.5 Billion available through the Atlanta half penny sales tax.

 

BeltLine Rail lands front page in the AJC

We’re heartened to see that the public’s views are being heard. The AJC articletoday states the More MARTA project list is being revised in talks between Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the MARTA board. Some remaining funding may go to to the BeltLine as a result of these discussions. BeltLine Rail Now! is optimistic about this development. However, it’s not clear how much funding would remain, or how that funding would be applied. We look forward to learning those details.

We encourage you to keep making your voices heard! Sign our petition and contact your City Council representatives, Mayor Bottoms’ office and MARTA before the board votes on October 4th. Let them know you want transit that connects all 45 neighborhoods along the BeltLine to jobs, destinations and opportunity.

70 Atlanta Residents Say Bad Gulch Deal

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Yesterday’s Atlants City Council meeting heard over three hours of public hearing from residents on a variety of topics. However, over 80% were appealing to the Council to either slow down or scrap the Gulch Project being proposed by the “Armani suit wearing” development team, CIM Group, from California.

After receiving the 600 page proposal document, myselfnand others have more questions than answers.  As I put on my banker hat to review this complex deal with Georgia Stand Up, the nonprofit for which I am the Public Policy Coordinator, a researcher from Georgia Tech and independent attorneys; I am shocked and embarrassed that this 30 year deal gives away prime Atlanta property with no ownership or financial gain for residents other than inflated projections of jobs and benefits. It reveals $1.7 Billion in tax payer funds being diverted from our schools and desperately needed neighborhood infrastructure projects that includes sidewalks so our kids do not have to walk in the street to get to the library in places like Campbellton Road on the southwest side.

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Senator Vincent Fort warned, “Someone one is going to jail from decisions made three years ago involving the Airport contracts, the BeltLine and the Emory annexation deal so they could get a MARTA station.  And, someone will go to jail three years from now if you approve this deal…which one if you will it be?  Or do you have the guts to represent the people who elected you?

As the Work Session questions by Councilman Amir Farokhi revealed, there are 1,500 construction workers per year. The document as taken 1,500 and multiplied it by some factor of 20 (years) to derive the false number of 35,000 construction jobs. Questions by Council member Matt Westmoreland also sought to get to shed light on what is contained in these 600 pages.  I am both sadden and disappointed that our mayor is pushing a deal by a developer who has a history of bad deals.

You see, the Mayor needs eight votes to pass legislation.  Word on the street is she had six firm votes, possibly seven.  When it was confirmed that Councilman Ivory Young would not be able to attend or vote by phone in yesterday’s meeting due to his stem cell medical treatments, the vote was removed from the agenda.

The diverse group of speakers were clear in their call to not rush this deal through the legisltive process and be more transparent.  The call was so strong that yesterday’s scheduled vote on this deal was cancelled.  And, Mayor Bottoms has called a meeting on Wednesday, September 26, at City Hall at 6pm.

Georgia Stand Up Executive Director Deborah Scott reminded City Council when they ran for Office, none of them, not even the Mayor mentioned the Gulch as an area of importance at any of their debates or in their platform issues.  She went on to say all of them mentioned community development, transparency, and affordable housing and she has tapes of those forums to prove what they said.  “So why is it that this project is all of a sudden so important, …slow this process down!  Give everyone a chance to see what this is all about and be transparent.”

In the words of Sean King, “When we organize we win.”  So thanks the organizations that include Georgia Stand Up and the Housing Justice League.  Thanks also to community leaders who also came to speak against this plan that includes:  Former City Councilman & WAOK Radio Host, Derrick Boazman; Former GA State Senator Vincent Fort; Internation Human Rights Advocate, Joe Beasley; APAB Officer James “Jim” Martin, and NPU-R member Edith Ladipo.

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Joe Beasley warned that this is a volatile situation and residents are tired of their elected officials not representing their best interest.  He went on to warn that it is going to blow up if you do not change who you represent when you vote on issues harm residents.

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Despite this challenging day, City Council President Felicia Moore did a great job to move the speakers along several hours of passionate public comments.

My comments included that as the Jewel of the south, Home of Civil Rights, we have to get the Gulch deal right . Atlanta has an opportunity to set the standard across the state, region, and nation on how to do an economic development deal that is in the best interest of the residents.  If we get this right, even more people will want to move, do business and visit Atlanta. We do not have to do business with the devil, the CIM Group because there are more ethical developers.  And, we definitely do not have to give away the bank!

As Atlanta residents come together to demand that their council members represent their interests and not the interest of the developers, we/they will get a different result than had we remained silent.  This is democracy at its’ finest!!  So, start and continue conversations on your social media and within your circle of friends about The Gulch Project, More MARTA, Fort McPherson, and recent eminent domain issues.  Today’s action or inaction today has massive consequences tomorrow, next year and decades from now, so “stay woke”, stay informed and show up to shape the future.

For more details on this “bad deal”, read today’s (9/18/18) page one story in the AJC:  “Mayor Delays Council Vote on Gulch Deal” by Stephen Deere (sdeere@ajc.com) and J. Scott Trubey (strubey@ajc.com).  In this article, Deere and Trubey outline each aspect of this complicated 600 page proposal in laymen’s terms.

More MARTA – Using Atlanta’s 1/2 Penny Sales Tax

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This great AJC article by David Wickert is so informative, I have included the full article below.  Enjoy and share. Take the online survey (5-7 minutes) and support the Greenbriar and Campbellton Road Projects at: http://www.itsmarta.com/moremarta

MARTA’s Atlanta expansion: More demands for service than money

MARTA is close to finalizing an Atlanta transit expansion plan that will influence where people, jobs and prosperity flow in the economic capital of the South for generations.

But with city residents demanding far more rail and bus improvements than the agency has money to pay for, the final plan is bound to leave many people unhappy.

MARTA has $2.5 billion to spend over the next 40 years, thanks to a transit sales tax approved by Atlanta voters in 2016. But it’s working from a list that includes $11.5 billion in potential projects, and many won’t make the final cut when the board approves a final list in September.

Among those lobbying for their favorite projects are supporters of light rail along the Atlanta Beltline, the Clifton Corridor and Campbellton Road. In recent public meetings, Beltline supporters have made the most noise. They fear the sales tax money MARTA is preparing to spend is their best – and maybe last – chance for funding for decades.

“We’re pulling out all the stops,” said Beltline supporter Rick Hudson of the Grant Park Neighborhood Association. “We’ve had 600 people in the room at a City Council meeting and a thousand people at City Hall to let our voices be heard. We’re not newbies to this.”

Atlanta Beltline supporter Rick Hudson asks questions during a recent public forum on MARTA’s proposed Atlanta expansion. Supporters for various projects are jockeying to be included in the final project list. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

But the new sales tax money may also be the last best chance for other big-ticket projects. If Beltline supporters get the 22 miles of light rail they want, other projects may have to be scaled back or put on hold.

MARTA officials have spent weeks soliciting public input on the proposed list. They’ve assured residents that no final decisions have been made, and that public opinion matters.

But they acknowledge there simply isn’t enough money to pay for every project.

“We are working very hard to get this right,” said MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe. “But we realize that, at the end of the day, somebody’s likely to be disappointed.”

The Atlanta expansion is a milestone for an agency that hasn’t built a new rail line since the completion of the Red Line to North Springs in 2000.

City voters overwhelmingly approved a half-penny sales tax for MARTA two years ago. And in May the agency unveiled its proposed plan to spend the proceeds.

The plan includes 21 miles of light rail; 18 miles of bus rapid transit lines; other new bus routes; two new transit centers, and renovation of existing stations.

Among the major projects proposed:

  • The four-mile Clifton Corridor light rail line from MARTA’s Lindbergh station to the Emory University/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention area recently annexed by Atlanta.
  • A third of the 22-mile Atlanta Beltline light rail loop through dozens of Atlanta neighborhoods.
  • Transit improvements along Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta. MARTA would start with enhanced bus service, then upgrade to bus rapid transit in dedicated lanes before finally building light rail along the line. The plan would create a continuous light rail line stretching from Emory to southwest Atlanta.

Among the projects that didn’t make the proposed list: a heavy rail extension on I-20 west and a bus rapid transit line along I-20 east.

This MARTA presentation shows the major transit improvements proposed for the “More MARTA” program approved by Atlanta voters in 2016. The projects include light rail (yellow), bus rapid transit (blue) and arterial rapid transit (red) lines. Not pictured: Local bus improvements, new bus transfer stations and renovation of numerous existing transit stations. SOURCE: MARTA. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

MARTA officials said they used a variety of criteria to compile the list. Their goals included connecting people to jobs, reducing travel time in various corridors and dispersing transit improvements across the city, so that as many people as possible benefit.

But no matter how they slice the data, they say there isn’t enough money for everyone’s favorite project – even with federal matching funds.

“Two and a half billion dollars is a lot of money,” Ashe said. “But we have more needs than that.”

That’s touched off some intense lobbying, with supporters touting the benefits of their favorite projects and questioning the merits of others.

The Clifton Corridor has been the top punching bag. Critics say the Emory area wasn’t even in Atlanta when city voters approved the transit sales tax. But they say it’s jumped to the front of the line for transit funding – at $503.6 million, it’s the single-largest project on MARTA’s proposed list.

“I hate to see them prioritizing Emory, which – up until after we voted – wasn’t even part of Atlanta,” Hudson said.

The project was on the potential project list approved by the City Council in 2016. And supporters say there’s a reason the Clifton Corridor is a priority: It’s the region’s largest employment center without direct access to MARTA rail or an interstate highway.

Betty Willis, a senior associate vice president at Emory University, said the Clifton Corridor also could be the city’s best shot for federal funding – crucial to any rail project.

“I don’t think you want to go to [Washington] D.C. asking for federal funds for projects that are not realistic,” Willis said. “That will be rejected.”


Charnette Trimble walks to her office space from MARTA’s Five Points stop. She is a community activist from southwest Atlanta who is advocating for the proposed Campbellton Road light rail line.

‘City with huge aspirations’

Campbellton Road supporters note the existing bus route serving the corridor is one of the busiest in the MARTA system – a sign that a light rail line might be well-used. And they say southwest Atlanta has long waited while other parts of Atlanta got infrastructure improvements.

“We’ve been putting up with everything out here, and it’s time we got ours,” said Charnette Trimble, who lives in the Oakland City neighborhood. “And we’re going to get ours.”

Some Beltline supporters have suggested using money from both the Clifton Corridor and the Campbellton light rail lines to complete the proposed light rail loop around the city.

The Beltline is a proposed loop of trails, parks and other amenities connecting Atlanta neighborhoods. Supporters say transit is essential to fulfilling a vision for urban living that has gained national attention.

“Atlanta has always been a city with huge aspirations. But often they haven’t carried them out fully,” Grant Park’s Hudson said. “I’d like to see them take this through from beginning to end. That’s what the city needs.”

But even some Beltline supporters doubt the full loop will make the final project list.

“That’s just not realistic,” said Brian McGowan, the outgoing CEO of Atlanta Beltline Inc., the organization overseeing its development. “There’s Campbellton Road. There’s Clifton Corridor. There’s $11.5 billion [in projects] on that list for $2.5 billion [in funding].”

McGowan said he supports transit along the entire Beltline route and is still hopeful it can get more funding.

For projects that don’t make the cut, there are other possible sources of revenue, including state funding, local taxing districts and public-private partnerships.

Compared to $2.5 billion from a sales tax that’s already been approved, those revenue sources are uncertain. But MARTA has pledged to keep searching for money.

“However we end up allocating these dollars, we will continue to pursue additional transit funding,” Ashe said, “both for the projects we identify and for those that don’t make the final list.”

Good News: Clayton County Expanding to Heavy Rail Transit

After MARTA started over forty plus years ago, Clayton County voted against transit expanding there. As the demographics have changed, so has the obvious need for transit.  Less than 10 years ago, local bus service was started and then stopped leaving many residents stranded.

Then in 2014, a transit ballot initiative passed overwhelming bringing MARTA bus service a few months later connecting it to jobs at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest.  And, it connects Clayton to the rail station in College Park. Now, MARTA is announcing plans to add heavy rail along the Norfolk-Southern rail line that is expected to eventually connect Macon and Savannah. That is exciting news for an area that has fell on hard times in the past decade (before 2014) where transit not being an option made every thing from grocery shopping to doctor visits to attending church to visiting friends and family an expensive, infrequent or impossible for Clayton residents who do not own a car.

In the link to the Atlanta Business Chronicle article below, Maria Saporta gives all of the exciting details.

Commuter rail is MARTA’s choice for Clayton County

By Maria Saporta

 

More on what I think:

While this is great news, many advocates are still working to get Clayton County officials and Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to work together to and much needed sidewalks, crosswalks and so MARTA can add more bus shelters and benches.

It is very challenging to walk in the rain, along a muddy path, or in the street (because the muddy path is too slippery) and then wait for the bus in the driving rain.  Add to that scenario a parent with a child in a stroller, someone with a cain, walker, or in a wheelchair. This are very serious safety issues.  Advocates hope to get these safety items in place before a tragedy or lawsuit mandates them.

Recently, I took a MARTA bus (from Northside Drive near the Stockyards), train (at North Avenue station), and another bus (from the College Park station) to a MARTA focus group meeting in Clayton County, I got off the bus on Tara Boulevard where there were no crosswalks across the busy six-lane intersection, no side walks at the bus stop, or along the 1/3 mile walk to the Clayton Library where the meeting was held.  Walking in the shoes of transit dependent riders will truly open your eyes.  It also exposes  why even more people, those who have a car, choose not to put their safety at risk in taking a bus in these areas.  Hmmm.  I wonder if anyone measures these “potential riders”.

Do you use public transportation?  If not, why not?  If you do, how often?  And, what changes would get you to use it more?