Metro leaders must deliver solutions

We all know and accept that providing a full range of transportation options and alternatives is one of the hallmarks of a successful state. Great transportation is the base for positive economic and social opportunities for all who live there. Helping provide those services is a traditional role of government that becomes even more vital every day.

In the Atlanta metropolitan area, we have several bus and transit services, but what we lack is the coordination between the entities delivering those services. The people, the riders, truly suffer from the lack of integrated services and options that do not fully meet the existing needs of the community.

We need to embrace innovation as a key to developing a “big picture” plan for our region’s transportation. Coordination and communication needs to start at the top with our influencers so diverse organizations can move toward providing coordinated services and routes that make sense and move seamlessly for riders.

Through its Leadership Involvement Networking and Knowledge program, the Atlanta Regional Commission takes leaders to key regions to experience firsthand what that area is accomplishing and what the Atlanta area can borrow. I was part of the most recent trip to the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area. The area is a great example of various entities coming to together and providing transportation options integrated between counties and other units of government. We saw that this type of amalgamated service is not only possible, but fundamental to successfully addressing the community’s needs for mobility.

Making changes and moving in a different path takes strong leaders, and Atlanta has a number of them up to the task. However, bringing them together to focus on multi-modal transportation options is not enough; we must move toward implementation. Local leaders have already proven they can come together, represent disparate constituents and still work together to present a unified voice. We must take that next step to deliver a working solution.

Visiting other major urban areas and seeing the success they have had providing seamless services is extremely motivating for me. Atlanta benefits from all the lessons learned by those who have already accomplished the task, and we know there is room for all stakeholders in this process. Establishing a seamless system does not have to mean abolishing operators, but it does mean we must coordinate operations for success.

We took a few steps in the right direction this year, including increasing the financial commitment to Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) and Cobb County’s reinstatement of some bus service lines that had been cut. But these are small steps, and all organizations involved in transportation planning and implementation must build off these with a greater sense of urgency. We must work together for comprehensive regional coordination, and provide residents with a system that offers convenience and connectivity.

Dana Lemon is a board member of the Georgia Department of Transportation representing the 13th Congressional District.