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MARTA wants input on rail to Windward

July 16, 2014
NORTH FULTON, Ga. – As part of its continuing efforts to bring increased public transportation through North Fulton, the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) held more public meetings to gather input on what should [or not] be done north of the Chattahoochee River.

MARTA is focusing on the Ga. 400 corridor because of the significant change in the corridor over the last decade. A dramatic increase in jobs, population and density has spurred the transit authority to pay a little more attention north of the river. The study area is just short of 12 miles long – from North Springs station in Sandy Springs, along Ga. 400 to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta.

Several stations are proposed along the route, including Northridge, Holcomb Bridge Road and North Point Mall.

"We heard people wanted more opportunities for input on the alternatives considered," said Janide Sidifall, a MARTA planning representative.

MARTA has been soliciting public input and conducting studies for several years now on its expansion. Beyond a basic desire, the system has sought to learn just what kind of transportation the residents want – bus, light rail or heavy rail.

There are trade-offs.

• Light rail is the most expensive because MARTA would have to build new storage buildings for the cars.

• Heavy rail would be somewhere in the middle, in terms of cost because it would be a continuation of what they already have.

• Bus rapid transit is by far the cheaper option and easier to implement. Buses would almost certainly be needed to supplement light or heavy rail if and when it comes.

Heavy rail is what MARTA uses up until the North Springs station. It is what people often think about when talking about trains.

Light rail is similar but carries fewer passengers. However, as usage fluctuates, it is easier to add or subtract cars from the train than it would be with heavy rail.

Bus rapid transit is a heavy bus system similar to trains but they run on streets.

"We want people to understand what the trade-offs are so they can make an educated decision," Sidifall said. "It's not just a matter of putting a rail line down the corridor. It's making it complement the area of operation. That rail has to be supported."

That means new bus routes and bus stops east-west.

For some residents, expanding MARTA is a no-brainer.

"If we are an international city, we need a better means of transit," said Salpi Adrouny, of Johns Creek.

She was placing sticky notes on maps giving suggestions on what she wants and where.

"No rail on the west side" of Ga. 400 was a popular note with attendees of the July 10 meeting. Adrouny said she uses MARTA at least once a month to travel to the airport.

"I can't think of a more relaxed way to get to the airport," she said.

According to MARTA officials, she is not alone. A Kennesaw State University study called 1,000 residents and employees in the area. It found that the vast majority of people want some form of increased public transportation.

Eighty percent of residents asked for some form of transportation, with 40 percent asking for heavy rail. Employees were more supportive of rail. In the survey, 68 percent of employees said they wanted heavy rail.

"It's going to be part of the future," said Al Nash, executive director of Progress Partners North Fulton Atlanta, the economic development arm of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. "We have to look at some form of transit to remain competitive. We are a big importer of labor here [in North Fulton]. We need the infrastructure to get people to live and do business here."

Some residents were not so convinced.

Tom Miller, who lives in the Windward neighborhood, said he and all of North Fulton have been paying the MARTA penny tax for years now, yet there are only four bus routes north of the river.

"It hasn't changed [in years]," he said. "Milton and Johns Creek have nothing."

Alpharetta City Councilman Jim Gilvin was cautiously optimistic about MARTA's plans.

"I'm not sure why there is such a heavy push for something that is not affordable or practical," he said, referring to proposed rail improvements.

Gilvin said he was more in favor of the bus system, but he criticized MARTA putting four stations in Alpharetta, yet overlooking the upcoming Avalon and Gwinnett Tech College developments on Old Milton Parkway.

"That's the No. 1 place," he said. "It makes no sense to do it and not have it there."

Brandon Beach, president of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, also pointed to the penny sales tax for MARTA.

"We have been paying that for years and have no service. It's time to get our investment back. There are more than 900 technology companies alone in this corridor," said Beach. "Those young workers have grown up where they take transit or ride bikes. They often don't own automobiles. We need those options available."


Editor, Milton Herald
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Tags: Government & News & Crime

  1. report print email
    Let's do this!
    July 17, 2014 | 04:38 PM

    We need this badly up here, please bring the rail north!

    Corey Edwards
  2. report print email
    Not sure what to think
    July 18, 2014 | 08:52 PM

    I want people to have the opportunity to have easy access to public transportation, but the crime aspect worries me. I will not take bus transportation period because I worry for my saftey. Is there a way you can make public transportation safer? Such as metal detectors etc.

  3. report print email
    Not sure what to think
    July 18, 2014 | 08:52 PM

    I want people to have the opportunity to have easy access to public transportation, but the crime aspect worries me. I will not take bus transportation period because I worry for my saftey. Is there a way you can make public transportation safer? Such as metal detectors etc.

  4. report print email
    Oh noes the crime!
    July 21, 2014 | 03:50 PM

    Patently ridiculous worries on the "crime aspect". We have one of the lowest crime rates in the country, which is at 50 year historical lows as a whole. Don't know why a "metal detector" is needed for, much less who we'd pay to run it.

    Jack Neufeld
    Johns Creek
  5. report print email
    July 23, 2014 | 01:51 PM

    Can someone please explain to me the crime aspect? Do Marta users actually travel on the train, take a cab or walk to neighborhoods 2 miles away, rob the neighborhood-then walk or take a cab back the train with their bags full of stolen goods and ride the train home? I'm still trying to figure out this excuse for not having a train to Windward...

  6. report print email
    Suburban Transit Expansion & Crime
    July 23, 2014 | 11:45 PM

    The boogie man of transit. We just have to get past it. Crime is influenced by dozens of factors and rail can be one but in suburban settings, it's not something that should be the first thing on your mind. The study Rail Transit and Neighborhood Crime: The Case of Atlanta, Georgia published in the Oct. 2003 edition of the Southern Economic Journal concluded that "there is no evidence... that suburban residents should fear that crime will rise in their neighborhood if rail lines are extended beyond central city boundaries."

    Michael Hadden
  7. report print email
    Bring Heavy Rail North
    July 24, 2014 | 12:14 PM

    Bring the heavy rail to Windward exit 11 with stops near exit 7 Holcomb Bridge, the mall, and exit 10 Old Milton Pkwy (rte 120) Then make sure that buses run east and west from those stops. The bus alternative will suck if they have to run on 400. If they will run on private MARTA roads (I had read this somewhere) will be a little better. But they would have to pave their own road??$$ They would still need to buy the same land whether they run trains or buses, and the cost to pave and install all of the drainage and stuff will still be very significant. And most of that cost will not make converting to trains any cheaper later on. Train tracks do not need the same types of support and extra infrastructure that roads do.
    Bite the bullet and do the correct expansion now and then reap the rewards of extended growth.

  8. report print email
    North Fulton
    July 25, 2014 | 07:28 AM

    There goes the neighborhood! North Fulton will eventually be like Dekalb and Clayton counties.....

    Johns Creek
  9. report print email
    Careful what you ask for
    July 25, 2014 | 04:57 PM

    Without driving, there is no way to GET to and from even existing stations for the vast majority of users. No North Fulton homeowner with options will spend hours on circuitous bus routes to get to a train station, wait, take the train, and then walk somewhere. And then reverse that to get home. So in the Atlanta area, stations ironically increase surrounding traffic as people drive to them, especially with the added development density they draw.

    Consider the Perimeter center area. For those who don't know, it used to be a pleasant, green, beautiful, safe area until MARTA arrived. Since then, traffic has continued to spiral out of control (so much for the "transit reduces cars" nonsense). Every square inch of land has been cemented over or is planned to be. And crime has indeed skyrocketed. FWIW, most of that is likely driven by the massive increase in apartments and retail drawn by the stations, not because somebody is taking a train to rob a house.

    I can easily imagine Roswell/Alpharetta taking the same path. And that would be very sad. I don't know what the answer is. But not all growth is good.

    Johns Creek
  10. report print email
    Be careful what you ask for
    July 28, 2014 | 11:48 AM

    I work in the Perimeter area and have for 19 years. The area is changing not because of MARTA, but because it is a desirable area. The Concourse buildings and most of the other office buildings were here long before MARTA. MARTA has actually enhanced the area and halped traffic. There is now a large amount of residential that didn't use to be here. That would not have been possible without MARTA.

    I think the MARTA expansion is great. I'd use it if there was a train station at Holcomb Bridge or Winward. I think Mansell or Haynes Bridge would be a better choice however, than Holcomb Bridge. Holcomb Bridge is too congested, with no way to alleviate it, so getting to MARTA is a non-starter.

    Johns Creek
  11. report print email
    July 28, 2014 | 09:13 PM

    Face the facts .....trains will provide easy access for those living in higher crime areas, who may participate in criminal activity, to come more easily to the lower crime rate northern cities.

    Plus more uncontrolled government spending will be a result of such a large project.

    Carl G.
  12. report print email
    Don't Kid Yourself About Crime
    July 29, 2014 | 05:19 AM

    To the poster that asked about people taking marta, stealing thing then running back you are exactly correct. There are cases where crooks will steal a car to get away or hide until someone comes to get them. I pay higher taxes to be in a safer area, you bring more public transportation, you bring more of the public, and more crime. Period.

  13. report print email
    Look at the passenger volume of MARTA buses...
    July 29, 2014 | 11:21 PM

    ...specifically those north of a line of say North Point Mall. The further north you go from there, the emptier they are, even in peak AM and PM rush hour times.

    I see it regularly from Windward (both on the west side and Hwy 9 and east side and North Point Parkway) on down south, on BOTH sides of 400. I drive those roads regularly and purposely look into the buses and see how many people are in them. Clearly, very FEW people take MARTA buses further north than North Point Mall.

    So what point would a train be? Stop it at North Point Mall. Keep it away from further north. Waste of money otherwise...taxpayer subsidized money, I might add.

    Rick J.
  14. report print email
    racist pigs
    July 30, 2014 | 03:26 AM

    We need to worry about all those crazy teenagers in n. Fulton smoking that mari Jane not give them transportation. Forget the poor. Racist rednecks

    Bob b
    johns creek
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