Mass transit preserves lifestyle of both the city and the suburbs

The Atlanta metro area faces an important crossroads in its history. Public transportation and urban growth policies will make-or-break the region and turn Atlanta into a world class city, or a blighted bust.

In a city that is home to only 10 percent of the metro region’s population, the odds are stacked against the residents, who wind up paying for everyone to use its infrastructure.

While the common thought in suburban areas may be “why should we give money to the city?” it is important to recognize the substantial benefit that improved public transportation will provide to the suburbs.

As politicized as public transportation is, there are two indisputable ideas about the suburbs and the city: Less is more in suburbs and more is more in the city. Let me explain.

In the city, undeveloped property is a missing tooth in the streetscape; in the suburbs, undeveloped property is considered “open space” and likely raises the value of properties around it.

In the city, new development increases property values (a new shop, restaurant, office or residence benefits the streetscape, improves safety, and has transportation benefits as well).

In the suburbs, new development decreases property values, and increases the burden on streets and schools. People move to cities for the density, the vibrancy, and having daily needs within close distance. People move to the suburbs for less density, quietness, decreased traffic and to have more space.

With improved public transportation, suburbanites would recognize greatly improved traffic flow on every trip to the city. By supporting public transportation within the city, every commuter will recognize fewer cars on the interstates and surface streets.

This also pays financial dividends by eliminating the need for more streets or wider streets and lengthens the time between road repairs.

In addition, encouraging urban growth and limiting growth in the suburbs will mutually benefit each area. The city gains shoppers, workers, industry and commerce and the suburbs retain the lower density that their inhabitants desire.

Additional financial benefits include creating environments that allow for a sustainable working class.

In cities where the working class can lessen or eliminate the need to spend money on private transportation, they can spend more money on the critical needs of food and shelter.

Instead of paying for a car, gas, insurance and maintenance, these families can spend money on sustainable goods and services that benefit the economy.

With a network of mass-transit, and more important, urban growth policies that encourage walkable development, working class families will have increased savings, reducing the burden on taxpayers for other social programs.

Supporting mass-transit options secures a financially solid and better future for the city and the suburbs.

Kevin P. Clark of Atlanta is an architect and urban designer in the firm Historical Concepts.