NORTH FULTON, Ga. - In the latest effort to try and untie Atlanta's traffic knots, MARTA has set out with community partners to find out how they can improve the traffic circulation in the Ga. 400 Corridor from I-285 in Sandy Springs to McGinnis Ferry Road at the Forsyth County line.
This includes contemplating bringing all types of transit solutions from more buses to light rail or heavy rail along Ga. 400.
It's part of the “Connect 400” study. The basic scope is to look all along Ga. 400 and find out how traffic problems can be lessened.
At a meeting business leaders at the offices of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce Aug. 30, MARTA Project Manager Jason Morgan told the assemblage of North Fulton's movers and shakers that alternative transportation is the only way to fix the problems long-term.
“Nobody sitting in this room can deny Ga. 400 has congestion problems,” Morgan said. “We've got to look at alternatives.”
The group consisted of elected officials, members of the chamber of commerce as well as members of Community Improvement Districts all along the Ga. 400 corridor.
Alpharetta has a nighttime population of about 52,000 people but in the daytime, that number swells to nearly 150,000. The daytime population for all of North Fulton is nearly 500,000. More people are coming into the city than commuting downtown and the roads simply aren't handling the volume well.
“Your roads can only get so wide and then they reach capacity and shut down,” said Adam Orkin, a local developer and a Fulton County MARTA board member.
A big issue facing MARTA and its planning is how to get a public transportation option within easy access of everyone in North Fulton. Morgan said five or ten minutes is the most someone will walk to get onto a form of public transportation. That translates into adding more points of access in the system, such as bus stops.
East-west travel is a large component of the congestion as well. While Ga. 400 and Ga. 9 work fairly well at moving traffic north and south, the arterial roads get clogged as people try to move east and west.
MARTA also recognizes the problem is more than just adding more transit along Ga. 400. People need transit access to the terminals along 400. If people have to drive to the terminals, they are more likely to just keep driving to their destination, Orkin said.
So what is needed is a transit grid.
Morgan and his team will be looking at all alternatives, from simply adding more buses to extending the heavy rail service and everything in between.
giving their recommendations early next year.
No matter what they decide upon, the issue of how to afford the improvements is a major one.
With the federal and state governments heavily cutting back on their spending, the chances of getting a large portion of any proposed improvements solely funded with state and federal dollars are slim.
State Sen. Doug Stoner who represents Cobb and part of North Fulton that encompasses the southern portion of the study area, told the group not to expect any legislative action on transportation funding anytime soon.
“The voters decided not to fund any transportation initiative,” he said. “The earliest the Legislature will look at the issue could be 2016.”
Morgan anticipated relying heavily on private funds to bridge the funding gap.
“We're looking at public/private partnerships,” he said.
Brandon Beach, CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, agreed.
“If we're going to build new capacity, we need public/private partnerships,” he said.
The Alternative Analysis study should be completed by Spring of 2013. To keep up to date on progress, “Like” Connect 400 on Facebook.