Category Archives: Transportation

Civic elders ask millennials to engage with community; How will they respond?

This may be a breakout year for millennials in metro Atlanta because the region’s current leaders are actively encouraging young folks to step into the public realm. One question is the form the relationship will take.

Midtown millennial

Metro Atlanta civic leaders are seeking to ways to engage millennials such as Sarah Ayres in the public arena. Ayres was in a Midtown cafe while Pony was served on the sidewalk. Credit: David Pendered

Bill Bolling didn’t mince any words in his comments to more than 100 young professionals assembled by the Atlanta Regional Commission to bring their fresh eye to eight challenges facing the region. Bolling now heads the Food Well Alliance after founding and running the Atlanta Community Food Bank for more than 35 years.

“We want you to lead the effort,” Bolling said. “To begin to map who your allies are. The ARC is one; Community Foundation is one; the Food Well Alliance. To start mapping progressive policy makers in government, business. At the end of the day it has to be a business proposition. You’re going to say that, because you’re going to say, ‘This is what we want; this is what we demand.’”

For some baby boomers, the millennials’ response to Bolling’s challenge may present a case of, “be careful what you wish for.” According to a White House report, all indications are that millennials have the education and social skills to win their case when they engage in an issue:

However, the millennials face a challenge may impede their ability to engage in politics or community-building events: college debt. Finding time for such activities might not be possible for a millennial facing a monthly payment on a student loan.

The average real per borrower debt increased from $24,000 in 2004 to $30,000 in 2012, according to the White House report. Total student outstanding loan debt exceeded $1 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2014.

To get greater numbers of this generation into the fold, the Gwinnett Chamber has revamped its youth outreach program. The chamber has partnered with Georgia Gwinnett College to ramp up Gwinnett Young Professionals, a mentoring program.

“Our mission is to attract millennials to the chamber when they first enter the workforce and engage and empower them through community, professional and social opportunities,” Sean George, manager of membership services at the Gwinnett Chamber and program manager of Gwinnett Young Professionals, said in a statement.

Millennials by race, ethnicity

Metro Atlanta mirrors the national trend of millennials being the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of youth in the nation’s history, with no majority ethnic group in 2010, according to an ARC survey. Credit: ARC

This strategy, of focusing an outreach program on millennials, is one of the recommendations of a report commissioned by the ARC. The Millennial Report is part of the ARC’s New Voices program, which aims to promote meaningful conversation among millennials on topics related to the future of metro Atlanta.

ARC sponsored the event where Bolling made his comments to nearly 100 millennials. The Millennial Meeting was the forum at which eight working groups of millennials turned their attention to regional problems – transit; access to healthy food; affordable and livable centers; mentorships at every stage of life; education; uniting the region; and promoting regional cooperation.

ARC Chairman Kerry Armstrong told the young professionals that current leaders are looking to them for ideas, and ways to implement them.

“I want to reiterate the high expectations we have of this group,” Armstrong said at the start of the meeting. “What we hear tonight is extremely important to all of us.”

At the end of the meeting Armstrong echoed Bolling’s sentiment: “How do we keep the momentum up? All you groups are going tell us, and we’re going to listen.”

 

Millennials offer a smorgasbord of solutions to the region’s big challenges

Editor’s note: Visit our page Sept. 22 to read more on this subject and the broader issue of millennials in metro Atlanta.

The Atlanta Regional Commission recruited some of the sharpest millennial minds in metro Atlanta to come up with their best solutions to the region’s thorniest problems. The overarching response is that no challenge is too great if folks are willing to try new things and work together.

Doug Hooker

ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker recorded the slides and videos presented during the Millennial Mixer. Credit: David Pendered

A proposed Pledge to Win the Future is the clearest example of how one group of millennials think the region should approach its challenges. Presenter Michael Leithead said Denver created its Mile High Compact 15 years, and the compact helped create a shared vision for the region.

Eight working groups of millennials presented their solutions in a format similar to those on the TV show, Shark Tank. The Millennial Mixer, on Monday evening, culminated a project that ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker has pursued for almost three years. The teams have been working most of this year.

After the mixer, Hooker said he viewed the eight teams as a convergence of focus group, think tank, and implementation team.

“They are a focus group in that we started with the idea of putting them in a lot of settings they are comfortable in and asking, ‘what do you want to see in this region and what will keep you committed.’ We got lots of ideas and these eight subjects rose to the top. So that’s a focus group.

“The think tank aspect is, ‘How do you put these ideas into action; how does the region implement them,’” Hooker said. “As far as implementation team, you saw their energy, their excitement. They are laser focused on implementing these ideas.”

At this point, Nick Juliano, a presenter, walked up and offered to be a contact for future stories about his group’s effort. Juliano said he wanted to approach the Metro Atlanta Chamber to gauge its support and interest on advancing the group’s subject – creating a unified voice of support for transit in metro Atlanta, and a unified transit system to operate it.

Millennial Mixer

Putting live DJs to mix music on MARTA trains is one of the ideas that would incorporate transit into the lifestyles of riders, millennial presenter Blake Bredbenner said. Credit: David Pendered

Hooker offered to introduce Juliano to chamber chamber President/CEO Hala Moddelmog, who attended the mixer.

The solution Juliano and his teammates devised is to unify the support for transit that is emerging throughout the region. A number of polls have showed a rising level of support across the region for improving transit.

The group already has created a website to begin building support and gathering responses to a poll.

A related aspect is to unify the region’s five major transit systems in order to promote the development of a comprehensive transit system. The group cites MARTA, GRTA, Cobb Community Transit, Gwinnett County Transit, and Atlanta Streetcar.

According to a statement on the website: “Transit is top of mind for individuals across the region, but this has translated to limited action. If metro Atlanta is to remain competitive as a region, it will need to provide residents with a comprehensive and unified transit system capable of moving people conveniently and efficiently throughout the region.”

A second team that considered the transit issue considered the issue of healthy transit habits.

The upshot is to make MARTA an integral part of life in metro Atlanta. Ideas include an app that lists events occurring at locations near MARTA bus and rail stops; expanding the fresh market concept that MARTA has developed at the West End Station; staging pop up community gardens in underused parking lots; and having live DJs mix music inside MARTA trains.

MARTA would hire an art curator to coordinate the events, according to presenter Blake Bredbenner.

 

Atlanta Climate Action Plan to set sustainability agenda for region’s urban core

Atlanta is poised to adopt a comprehensive plan intended to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions and forestall climate change, much like sustainability initiatives at Emory University and Spelman College that have resulted in their ranking among the greenest campuses in the country.

Urban gardens

Atlanta is home to at least 85 community and school gardens, and at least 10 urban farms, according to the proposed Atlanta Climate Action Plan, which proposes to expand the city’s food programs. Credit: westsidecommunities.org

Lofty goals outlined in the introduction of the proposed Atlanta Climate Action Plan can be achieved through, “common sense approaches and cutting edge policies.” The goals include reducing energy use and waste, creating local jobs, improving air quality, and improving the local landscape and history.

The proposed sustainability policy has evolved into one that addresses many more aspects of the city’s carbon footprint than a proposal introduced at the start of the Great Recession, in 2007. Rather than focusing on commercial buildings, the current proposal covers everything from energy audits on buildings to urban farms and food deserts.

The Atlanta City Council could consider adopting the proposed Atlanta Climate Action Plan as early as Sept. 21. This schedule presumes that two council committees support the proposal at their meetings on Tuesday. Atlanta Councilmember Kwanza Hall sponsored the resolution.

The Utilities Committee is to begin the discussion. If members approve the proposal, they are slated to refer it to the Community Development Committee for consideration Tuesday afternoon. If the proposal clears the second committee, it is to be placed on the city council’s Sept. 21 agenda.

The sweeping proposal encompasses several initiatives the city now is implementing, but in a piecemeal fashion. The Atlanta Climate Action Plan is to bring all the initiatives, both existing and future, into one program overseen by the Office of Sustainability, now headed by Stephanie Stuckey Benfield.

For example, Mayor Kasim Reed recently created and posted the position of “urban agriculture director.” The duties will include the implementation of a food security program that’s identified in the Atlanta Climate Action Plan. The notion is for the new position to promote new policies regarding farming in the city, and the conversion of brownfields into urban gardens.

The Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge now has 100 million square feet of commercial space enrolled in a program that aims to reduce water and energy consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020. The Atlanta Climate Action Plan calls for expanding the program. The plan states that 45 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions stem from commercial buildings and industrial processes.

An example cited in the Atlanta Climate Action Plan involves the cost savings and emissions reductions related to the illumination of the exterior of Atlanta City Hall. The older lighting system was replaced in 2013 with a system of light emitting diodes (LEDs). Annual maintenance costs were trimmed by $8,000, electricity costs by $8,000, and 36 tons of greenhouse gases were abated.

The Atlanta Climate Action Plan is the result of a stakeholder process that brought together more than 50 individuals with expertise in six categories:

 

 

The organizations that participated on a Technical Steering Committee include:

 

 

 

One participant previously produced a report on air quality in metro Atlanta that’s received scant attention. David D’Onofrio is the ARC’s air quality and climate change principal planner, and he released a report last year entitled, Understanding the regulatory environment of climate change and the Impact of community design on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Buckhead community in Atlanta produces the greatest amount of carbon dioxide emissions, per person, in the Atlanta region. The ranking includes emissions for both powering homes and tailpipe exhaust.

On a related point, Atlanta’s sustainability plan is more aggressive than Georgia’s pending State Wildlife Plan.

Atlanta’s plan seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whereas the state plan seeks to devise ways of, “preparing for and coping with climate change impacts on fish and wildlife.”

The two campuses in metro Atlanta that achieved national rankings for the success of sustainability programs were announced in the August edition of Sierra magazine.

Out of a pool of 153 schools, on a scale of 1 to 1,000 points, the schools were scored:

 

Breaking cycles of poverty: How not to cluster the poor in broken neighborhoods

Metro Atlanta could be the poster child for housing policies that, intentionally or not, have concentrated lower income households in non-white neighborhoods that aren’t pleasant places. The U.S. Supreme Court and the Obama administration intend to change the way policies are implemented, and the policies.

Imperial Hotel

The Imperial Hotel, in downtown Atlanta, was renovated in 1995 with funding from the Low Income Tax Credit Program. All 120 rooms were set aside for low income residents. Credit: wikimedia.org

In the world of housing advocates and developers, the actions coming out of Washington this past summer are most compelling. They could change the way business has been conducted for decades, according to panelists at a quarterly forum sponsored Wednesday by Atlanta Housing Forum.

“The Supreme Court decision is really scary when you look at it, because it’s not built on what we intended to do, it’s built on things that maybe we don’t control,” said Laurel Hart, who directs the Housing Finance and Development Division of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Hart referred to the outcome of long-standing Georgia DCA policies regarding low-income housing tax credits. The outcomes in Georgia are similar to those at the heart of a test case heard by the Supreme Court involving the Texas Department of Community Affairs.

Georgia’s policies for allocating the tax credits have resulted in affordable housing in metro Atlanta being concentrated mainly in south Atlanta, south DeKalb and south Clayton counties, and the town centers of counties such as Hall and Cherokee counties, according to maps provided by Mike Carnathan, a researcher with the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Housing Forum, low income tax credit projects

Georgia’s formula for allocation low income tax credits has resulted in affordable housing being concentrated in poor communities. Credit: ARC

The reason is the matrix of rules that determine where Georgia seeks to encourage the development of affordable housing, according to Hart. Evidently, the matrix has had an unintended impact and the matrix needs to be changed, she said.

“If the end results of our selection process means we are primarily building in high minority concentration areas with high poverty, high crime, than we need to make changes,” Hart said.

The policies should be based on a number of decisions influenced by the court ruling, she said.

“It doesn’t prohibit us from building in a blighted area,” Hart said. “But when we do, I think it has to be much more thoughtful. I don’t think we can just build a tax credit project in a minority concentrated area with high crime, bad schools, and we’re going to say that just because we build here we’re making that community better. … Are we just building a property, or are we community building? Are we making a community better place for people to live?”

Hart was one of three speakers on the panel. The others offered their perspective of the federal actions.

Tera Doak is an attorney and self-avowed “geek” on housing law. Doak serves as associate general counsel for Habitat for Humanity International.

`Housing Forum, low income in minority neighborhoods

Georgia’s formula for allocating low income tax credits has resulted in affordable housing being concentrated in non-white communities. Credit: ARC

In her closing comments in the first segment of the program Doak noted: “One of the points I’m trying to make is there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there in respect to these claims, and it will be really interesting to see how all this plays out.”

Doak noted that the Supreme Court ruling did reaffirm a long-standing ruling about what it takes to make a case of disparate impact in fair housing lawsuits. And HUD did issue a final ruling that will affect programs including the Community Development Block Grant.

Still, from a lawyer’s perspective, a lot of litigation remains before the final policies are determined.

“It remains to be seen how courts ill apply, ‘disparate impact,’” Doak said. “Additional cases will be brought that will flesh that out.”

The headliner of the presentation was Ethan Handelman, vice president for policy and advocacy for the National Housing Conference.

Incidentally, NHC presented its 2015 Housing Visionary Award in June to Piece by Piece, a regional initiative to address the foreclosure crisis. Piece by Piece is staffed by the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc., which helps staff Atlanta Regional Housing.

Handelmann was enthused by the rulings from the Supreme Court and HUD. He focused on the notion that the court had reaffirmed long-standing interpretations of fair housing.

Housing Forum, housing plus transportation costs

Metro Atlanta ranks sixth highest in the nation in terms of the combined cost of housing and transporation. Credit: ARC

“In some ways, what the Supreme Court says is, ‘status quo continues,’” Handelmann said. “By reaffirming that standard, it added a lot of energy to this conversation and remind people of what the Fair Housing Act of 1968 means, and how we can change communities for the better.”

Handelmann discussed the sometimes competing visions of fair housing. Some advocates call for community development. Others frame the fair housing issues of access and choice as relevant in civil rights.

“Too often, we’re fighting each other,” he said.

Handelmann’s comments reminded of the 2013 Supreme Court decision that wiped away crucial parts of the Votings Rights Act of 1965. The court determined that states with histories of racial discrimination no longer need approval from the federal government to change voting laws.

Obama called last month for Congress to renew the provision. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled against providing Shelby County, Ala., with more than $2 million to cover its legal costs for bringing the case to the Supreme Court, according to a report in huffingtonpost.com.

Atlanta Streetcar to accept Breeze Card despite earlier reports of conflict, to get new interim director

It turns out that the Atlanta Streetcar will utilize the Breeze Card, despite an earlier report by a top city official that it isn’t cost efficient and resulted in no fares being collected this year. In addition, the streetcar has a new interim executive director, according to a statement issued Thursday by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office.

Atlanta Streetcar

Atlanta’s streetcar system serves the Downtown area. File/Credit: walkableapp.com

A main reason for interest in the fare technology is that Reed told Central Atlanta Progress at its annual breakfast meeting in March that there was one reason for delaying fare collection on the streetcar until 2016. Reed said fares wouldn’t be collected in 2015 because he’d learned of new fare collection technology while traveling abroad.

A month later, Reed’s commissioner of public works gave a different reason for the delay in collecting fares. Richard Mendoza said the lack of technology to collect fares, including the Breeze Card technology, meant city administrators decided to waive fare collection:

Evidently, all issues have been resolved.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Transportation Committee of the Atlanta City Council, William Jones, of the Public Works Department, told the Transportation Committee that Breeze Card machines will be provided at every stop of the Atlanta Streetcar.

Jones is a transportation planner charged with implementing the streetcar, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Here’s what Jones said about app’s relation to the Breeze Card:

Jones cited the Breeze Card as he was explaining on Wednesday a proposal pending before the Transportation Committee to pay a vendor $172,272 to develop a mobile app. The app is to enable streetcar passengers to buy a fare from their mobile device.

The source of funds includes $100,000 in federal funds and $72,000 from Atlanta’s car rental tax collected at Atlanta’s airport. Committee Chairperson Felicia Moore asked for an accounting of how the car rental tax seems to be a bottomless pit of funds that subsidize so many varied projects that can’t pay for themselves. Jones said he will get more information to say how many years the $72,00 fee may cover.

At the Transportation Committee meeting, Councilmember Alex Wan said he’s ready for the streetcar to begin generating revenues: “We’ve run into problems, but we’ve got to starting bringing money in on this project.”

Moore called for an accounting the funds being used to maintain the app for the streetcar. That amount totals $72,000. Williams said he needed more time to determine if the sum covered one year or several years.

Councilmember Natalyn Archibong asked who is in charge of the streetcar. Mendoza answered the same question last month and said he’s in charge. Some on the council seem to doubt that a department head is handling the daily affairs of the streetcar.

keith jones

Jones has updated his LinkedIn page to reflect his current position. Jones’ pending appointment wasn’t passed to the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee when its members asked the day before Jones’ announcement who was overseeing the Atlanta Streetcar. Credit: LinkedIn.

Reed’s office issued the following statement Thursday concerning leadership of the Atlanta Streetcar:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every GRTA Xpress bus route to be affected by first holistic overhaul of routes in a decade

Starting in spring 2016, every GRTA Xpress bus route will be affected by an overhaul of bus routes that’s intended to increase bus ridership.

GRTA bus runs redlight

As part of its realignment of routes in downtown Atlanta, GRTA intends to ensure that drivers follow the law and are courteous toward vehicles and pedestrians. Credit: David Pendered

GRTA intends to revise bus routes in Downtown Atlanta and add service to the Perimeter business district from Cobb and Gwinnett counties, and Cumming.

The purpose of the first major revision of bus routes in a decade is to improve reliability. The goal is to make it so that more commuters find it easier to ride a bus to and from work than to drive alone in a vehicle.

New routes in Downtown Atlanta will operate mainly along two parallel streets: Peachtree Center Avenue and Courtland Street. All routes will continue have access to MARTA rail stations, and the changes are being coordinated with employer shuttles.

Service will be eliminated to Centennial Olympic Park, and Spring Street, Marietta Street, and a portion of Forsyth Street. Incidentally, the Atlanta Streetcar serves these destinations.

GRTA acknowledges that the new alignments will disrupt some riders by eliminating routes that travel circuitous routes throughout downtown Atlanta.

However, GRTA contends the shift is worthwhile because the existing routes aren’t meeting current demand and won’t meet commuter needs over the next decade.

Here’s how GRTA’s consultant described the reason for the new North-South alignment:

GRTA has tweaked service over the past decade, realigning routes to serve job centers. The changes approved by GRTA’s board Aug. 12 are the most sweeping since service started.

The route changes are part of GRTA’s effort to address is stagnant ridership.

GRTA’s consultants figure the best way to attract new riders is to eliminate routes that result in buses routinely running 20 minutes late. Consultants determined that no one with an alternative will rely on a bus system that provides sporadic service.

“Direct Xpress will transform our service into something that is more understandable, marketable, accountable, and best positioned to meet the needs of metro Atlanta commuters and businesses,” GRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said in a statement. “We are confident that these changes will lead to greater ridership and a more valuable service.”

The changes approved in service to and from the Perimeter business district couldn’t come at a better time for commuters.

Traffic congestion in the area is likely to worsen starting in summer 2016. That’s when work is to begin on the $1 billion reconstruction of the I-285/Ga. 400 intersection that’s to take more than four years to complete.

In addition, the newly adopted Xpress bus service plan includes a long-range plan to expand service as funds becomes available. GRTA says the highlights of the plan include:

 

 

MARTA hopes to raise employee morale by offering interest-free payments on goods, services

After years of squeezing employees to help balance its budget, MARTA hopes to boost morale by offering a benefits program with interest-free payments, via a payroll deduction plan, on purchases ranging from legal services to computers.

MARTA train with downtown skyline

MARTA intends to offer a voluntary benefits program in order to boost employee moral. Qualified employees are to have access to free-interest payments on certain goods and services, and pay via payroll deductions. Credit: wikipedia.org

The program is being ramped up as MARTA’s leadership has implemented of a number of cost-saving measures, some of them in the face of strong opposition from some employees.

Some jobs have been outsourced, personnel costs were reduced as rail and bus service was reduced, and wages were frozen. These changes resulted from a 2012 management audit that showed MARTA would exhaust its reserve funds by 2018 unless steps were taken to reduce expenses.

With the fiscal outlook stabilized, MARTA is turning to one of the nation’s fastest-growing types of voluntary benefits programs in order to raise morale.

The advantage of these programs for employers is the ability to offer current and potential employees a benefit that doesn’t cost the company money or administrative hassle, according to one contractor, McGrath Affinity. For employees, the benefit is access to a source of credit, typically free for 12 months, that doesn’t require a background check or a ding on a credit score for submitting an application for credit.

Credit limits typically are based on salary and tenure with the company, typically a minimum of six to 12 months, according to McGrath Affinity’s website.

MARTA issued a request for proposals July 6 stating MARTA’s intent to:

MARTA has built a number of self-protection clauses into its RFP.

For instance, MARTA specifies that it is not responsible for any unresolved payments between the contractor and employee.

MARTA won’t mediate any disputes, because its only sole responsibility will be, “management and administration of the payroll deduction process and for reviewing and approving communication materials.”

If a situation compels MARTA to intervene, the contractor will pay MARTA an administrative fee to resolve disputes. None of the fee will be passed on to a MARTA employee.

MARTA plans to give the program a three-year try-out. Depending how things work out, MARTA can terminate the contract early or extend it for two, one-year extensions.

MARTA has identified four types of goods and services that it wants offer eligible employees. MARTA is willing to hire one or more contractors for the four categories of benefits to be offered.

The deadline for responses to the RFP was extended to Aug. 22, from the original deadline of Aug. 6. MARTA hosted a pre-proposal conference July 16.

Here’s a full description of each benefits category, as outlined in a MARTA document:

  1. “Employee Purchasing Program. The Contractor, under this component, will provide MARTA employees with the ability to purchase products and services including, but not limited to electronic equipment, computers, vacation planning and traveling services, and household products. The Contractor must be able to provide or have access to a host of interest-free products and/or services that MARTA employees will be able to purchase through payroll deduction.
  2. “Prepaid Legal Services. The Contractor, under this component, will provide MARTA employees with the ability to purchase legal services including, but not limited to wills, trusts, estate administration and other pre-paid legal services by attorneys licensed to practice in the State of
  3. “Insurance Services (Long Term Care & Final Expenses). The Contractor, under this component, will provide MARTA employees with the ability to purchase various types of insurance services/coverages including, but not limited, to final expense medical services, funeral costs.
  4. “Insurance Services (Pet and Animal Care). The Contractor, under this component, will provide MARTA employees with comprehensive, every day and/or emergency insurance coverages for their pets and animals.

 

Atlanta Streetcar ridership exceeds estimates made when a trip was to cost $1

Ridership on the Atlanta Streetcar is exceeding forecasts, although the forecasts were made with the presumption riders would pay for a trip.

Atlanta Streetcar

Passengers will ride the Atlanta Streetcar for free in 2015 because there’s no feasible method to collect a fare at this time, according to Atlanta’s commissioner of public works. File/Credit: walkableapp.com

Richard Mendoza, Atlanta’s public works commissioner, said ridership in July set the record, at 102,619 passengers. Monthly ridership has ranged from 47,037 passengers to 92,107 passengers, he said.

The city had anticipated daily ridership of 2,123 passengers on the system that operates seven days a week, Mendoza said. Ridership has exceeded forecasts for four of the six months tabulated, he said.

Fares are to be collected starting in January 2016, Mendoza said. Fares will be available at kiosks and via an application for handheld devices, he said.

Mendoza did not mention the amount of the fare. A one-way fare was priced at $1 in the plan that called for fares to be collected starting in April, following a three-month promotional period during which rides were free.

Atlanta Streetcars have been involved in six collisions this year, Mendoza said. The accident rate is 1.87 per 10,000 miles traveled, Mendoza said, adding that the rate is within industry standards.

Three accidents were deemed, “preventable,” meaning that the driver could have taken additional steps to avoid a collision, Mendoza said. Three accidents were deemed not preventable, meaning no additional steps could have been taken to avoid a collision.

During his presentation to the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee on Wednesday, Mendoza encountered some strident remarks from committee Chairperson Felicia Moore.

Richard Mendoza

Richard Mendoza

Moore asked who is overseeing operations of the Atlanta Street. Mendoza said that he is in charge, as public works commissioner, with assistance from the department’s staff.

The Streetcar’s former executive director, Tom Borchers, resigned in April. His last day on the job was May 8, and no replacement has been named.

Borchers resignation letter was dated Sunday, April 26. That was three days before Mendoza went before the council’s Transportation Committee and offered a reason different from one provided by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed regarding the reason no fares will be collected this year.

Mendoza told the committee on April 29 that fares aren’t being collected because there’s no economical way to collect a fare. MARTA’s Breeze Card technology isn’t feasible, he said. In addition, Mendoza said the cost of the Streetcar is tracking $870,000 below budget because service started later than expected. Consequently, the loss of the projected fare box revenue won’t cause cost overruns.

Reed announced at the annual meeting of Central Atlanta Progress, on March 31, that he had decided to waive the fare for the rest of 2015 after learning during a trip to Israel of new types of fare collection technology.

Reed also said the Atlanta Streetcar is on track to meet its 2015 budget without relying on the projected $300,000 in revenues from the fare.

Update of Atlanta’s 1952 truck route plan seeks to balance needs of freight industry, residents

Atlanta is completing the first update since 1952 of the city’s designated truck routes, and one road that is to be removed from the freight map leads to the Goat Farm Arts Center.

Goat Farm, goats

The road leading to the Goat Farm Arts Center is to be taken off the list of truck routes in Atlanta. Goats wandered behind a fence in this photo taken in May 2011. Credit: David Pendered

The roadway situation around the Goat Farm speaks to the complexity of managing truck traffic in a city that serves as a national cargo hub. Planners face the competing goals of reducing truck traffic on some roads to reduce traffic congestion and wear on roadways, even while aiming to facilitate truck access to freight centers, railroad yards, and Atlanta’s airport.

The truck route plan introduced Tuesday at the Atlanta City Council’s Community Development Committee is the result of two years of work by city planners, cargo carriers, and civic leaders. The plan is due for discussion at the committee’s next meeting, slated for Aug. 25. The plan could be adopted into Atlanta’s long-range transportation plan, Connect Atlanta, as early as Sept. 8.

In addition to the truck route list, the city is considering three more additions to Connect Atlanta. These plans address cycling, complete streets, and transit oriented development. The four plans are moving ahead as a package of legislation that will be considered simultaneously.

The truck route plan recommends the removal of almost 100 roadways from the freight map. The list of road to be taken off the list begins at page 23 of the report, Cargo Atlanta: A Citywide Freight Study.

Regarding the Goat Farm, the plan calls for Atlanta to ban trucks from the dead-end Spring Road, which leads to the Goat Farm from Huff Road and Foster Street. This area is near the city water reservoir, along Howell Mill Road near its intersections with 17th Street.

Truck routes, crashes involving trucks

This map shows hot spots for crashes involving trucks. The report identifies problem intersections including I-285 at Hollowell and Langford parkways; Northside Parkway at West Paces Ferry Road; Hollywood and Hightower roads; Ponce de Leon and Moreland avenues; Roswell Road at Peachtree and Piedmont roads. Credit: Cargo Atlanta: A Citywide Freight Study.

At first blush, this reclassification would seem to lighten the load of Spring Road. Given that trucks will be banned, there should be more space available to the artists and their patrons who use the performance center, studios, and organic farm.

However, big trucks haven’t visited the Goat Farm on a regular basis in years. The facility no longer serves as an industrial complex that shipped goods via the adjacent railroad yard or nearby Northside Drive, an interstate highway.

The red brick buildings at the Goat Farm haven’t been a production center since World War II, when they produced war materials. Prior to that, the complex produced machinery for the cotton industry. After the war, the industrial center fell out of use and several plans to convert it to apartments went nowhere.

For the past five years, the buildings have served as an arts center. Goats wander up to the fence to watch passersby. Railroad police keep an eye on the end of Spring Road and halt folks who venture onto railroad property.

The reclassifications that could have made a difference in the area’s traffic congestion would have involved the nearby Huff Road and Howell Mill Road. On these streets, residents and shoppers vie for space with 18-wheel tractor-trailers traveling between I-75 and the Inman and Tilford railroad yards.

However, the city proposes no changes to the status of Huff Road and Howell Mill Road. Both Huff and Howell Mill roads have been flanked by numerous apartment buildings in the past decade, adding to traffic congestion in the area.

As the report observes about Huff Road: “Continued freight connection for streamlined travel.”

Dredging company hired for Savannah Harbor wins complex project along Gulf coast

The dredging company retained to deepen the Savannah harbor has won a major contract in Louisiana, which illustrates the company’s depth of experience in handling major earth-moving projects.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Corp. won a $76 million contract to restore Shell Island, off the Louisiana coast. The project involves creating 2.8 miles of beach and dune habitat, and 281 acres of marsh. Funds from the BP settlement of the 2010 oil spill are paying for the work.

The project is anticipated to require 4.9 million cubic yards of sand borrowed from the Mississippi River and 1.7 million cubic yards of marsh material borrowed from an offshore source in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the company’s statement.

The plan calls for Great Lakes to transport river bed deposits from the Mississippi River in a sand and water slurry through a 16 mile long pipeline placed over two levees, bored beneath two highways, and submerged along the Empire Waterway to Shell Island, according to a statement posted on businesswire.com.

The company successfully utilized this pipeline on the Scofield Island Restoration Project in 2012 to 2013, which involved the longest direct pump dredging operation ever performed in the U.S., and also on the Shell Island East Berm Barrier Island Restoration Project in 2013, the statement said. Work on the Shell Island West project will begin this fall and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2016.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, port officials say the deepening project is moving forward.

On March 4, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Corp. was announced as winner of the first phase of the the harbor deepening project. The work for this contract represents about half of the channel deepening, increasing the depth of the channel in the Atlantic Ocean to 49 feet below mean sea level, and extending it an additional seven miles, according to a statement from the Georgia Ports Authority.

Two other projects are underway:

“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project has seen major progress in the past few months, with the contract issued to deepen the 18-mile outer harbor to 49 feet, crews raising the CSS Georgia, and installation set to start for oxygen injection systems,” GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz said in the statement.

“The Corps of Engineers has been a steadfast partner in the 15-year process leading up to construction, and we look forward to working with the Corps and our Washington delegation to bring this pivotal project to completion,” the statement continued.

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