Thursday, June 12, 2008

Perdue announces transportation plan

As expected, Gov. Perdue held a press conference today to discuss his new transportation plan. Jim Galloway has the goods, as well as a link to the audio (if you want to hear what Perdue said instead of just reading it). I listened to the audio and I'd say there are two big pieces of the speech: 1) Perdue announced support for commuter rail; 2) Perdue finally seems to understand how transportation affects other issues and seems serious about doing something.

Perdue announces support for commuter rail

I was prepared for more lukewarm politi-speak about commuter rail, with Perdue's usual "what about BRT instead?" feint. I said as much yesterday. So I was a little surprised to hear him say, in reference to the DOT, "I am prepared to fully support their efforts on a commuter rail pilot," and then suggest that the rail should go all the way to Griffin instead of stopping at Lovejoy. He also spoke about hoping that all the visions for commuter rail come true. I'm pretty cynical about Perdue and transportation, but he seems fully behind the commuter rail line.

One concern I have about the commuter rail line to Griffin is that Perdue sees it as a pilot program. That is, if it is successful, others can follow. I really wish that the Griffin line weren't the first line built. An Athens line, like the Brain Train folks suggest, would be immensely more successful, and I'd hate to see the Griffin line prohibit commuter rail really getting a fair shake. When introducing a new product, you want to lead with your best product, and I'm afraid the Griffin line wouldn't be the best rail line to introduce Georgia to commuter rail.

Also, I'm afraid to ask, but does this mean that we'll finally get funding for the multi-modal station downtown? That topic is another post entirely, of course. But suffice it to say that I think the multi-modal station is very important to downtown's future.

Perdue finally seems to "get it"

The AJC phrased this point thusly:
Perhaps the most significant shift in Perdue’s outlook is this: Months ago, the governor was a “first that, then this” kind of guy on traffic and transportation. Fix the Department of Transportation, then we’ll talk about more transportation funding.

Today, the operative quote from his press conference was this: “We’ve got to fix it while we’re flying.” Urgency was the one thing missing from his past statements on transportation, and it was a centerpiece of this one.
I think this is accurate, but I wanted to highlight a few other things I heard. Perdue started off by talking about how Georgia needed a world-class transportation system (including transit and greater freight capacity to the ports) if it is going to compete globally. Maybe Perdue has said this before, but all I can think is, "about time." Congestion has begun to make the Atlanta region less competitive in business recruiting, so it's great to see Perdue finally recognize this and to place the proper emphasis on infrastructure as an investment.

Also, when he was talking about buying more buses for the commuter bus program, Perdue mentioned having seen a slide showing that one bus takes 57 cars worth of people off the road. I'm guessing it was something similar to the photo at right. But when Perdue said that, I thought that maybe he was beginning to understand why transit is so important. It sounded like someone who finally saw things "click" on an issue.

So I was more encouraged that I had planned on being. Sure, it's six years too late, but better late than never, right?

Of course, we'll see how it all fares when it comes to getting something through the Legislature. And he still isn't supporting the regional transportation tax, among other things. The plan is pretty limited (commuter rail, more commuter buses), but it is better than nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Ben,

    I am enjoying your blog. It's nice to find one that reflects my interests of development and transportation issues in Atlanta. Keep up the good work.

    As to Perdue finally removing his objections to Commuter Rail, I say "It's about time." This was set to go in the late 90's by the Barnes administration and Perdue has done nothing but drag his feet on the issue.

    For those question rail's viability in Atlanta, it is a chicken vs. egg thing - Which comes first? Clayton County communities such as Forest Park and Jonesboro had dowtown redevelopment plans drawn up based on an operating commuter rail line, but they had to shelve them because the rail never came. Hopefully, they'll revisit these plans once this line gets going.

    In regards to the Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal (MMPT), the last time the DOT published factsheets (in 2006) they had a phased plan. The inital plan for the MMPT would be a small rail platform that would service the Lovejoy/Griffin line. This would be added to with later line additions and eventual build out to the full terminal with bus bays and street-level retail in the downtown area.

    Here is a link to the MMPT factsheet:
    http://www.garail.com/Pages/pdf/2006mmptfactsheet.pdf

    Here are the all the last factsheets:
    http://www.garail.com/Pages/Nwslttr.html

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