North Perimeter: MARTA is a key to growth

The biggest corporate relocation to Atlanta since the early 1980s, the 10-year economic impact on Atlanta of the move was estimated at $2.2 billion.

The planned North Springs MARTA extension was one of the factors that had an impact on UPS’ decision, according to UPS Vice President Chuck Altimari, who served on the real estate team that picked the headquarters site.

Altimari, who chairs the Fulton Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID), knows that public transportation is one of the primary drivers in economic development today.

“Everybody benefits,” he points out. “If you don’t have the transportation backbone in place, a lot of companies won’t even give you a second look. It’s going to become more and more important, particularly with the next generation that wants that access,” says Altimari.

Cox Enterprises is another major Perimeter company that considers access to MARTA in making location decisions and has the hard data to back up MARTA’s importance, says Dale Hughes, senior vice president for strategic investments and real estate planning.

“Our studies tell us that we have a number of employees that like to use public transit,” says Hughes.

Since 2003, Cox also has made a significant investment itself in a shuttle system from its Peachtree Dunwoody Road headquarters to the Medical Center MARTA Station. Cox Enterprises is a communications, auto services and media company whose holdings include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB television and radio stations.

A major commercial real estate management and leasing company now in the process of re-leasing the call center space at the Three Ravinia building in Perimeter says prospects consider MARTA to be a key benefit of the location. They need to recruit from a broad employee base to staff a call center and MARTA expands their pool of potential employees.

With three stations within the Perimeter CIDs’ boundaries and a fourth station nearby, the more than 100,000 employees who commute daily to Perimeter have a viable transportation choice that reduces their time and cost of getting to work.

In fact, Hines Senior Vice President John Heagy, vice chairman of the DeKalb Perimeter CID, notes that “MARTA is one of Perimeter’s primary differentiators.”

And, the number of Perimeter companies that purchase MARTA cards through the nonprofit Perimeter Transportation Coalition (PTC) has doubled in the past 10 years. The PTC works with employers to encourage workers to use transportation alternatives to single- occupant cars.

It now furnishes discounted MARTA passes to nearly 40 Perimeter companies, and 95 percent of the passes purchased by employees are further subsidized by their employers. The PCIDs think the PTC’s work is so valuable that they fund part of the organization’s operating expenses annually.

Having access to MARTA is critical not only for attracting and retaining a quality work force, but also for encouraging multi-use development in Perimeter.

GID Investment Advisers Vice President John Darrah calls the influence of MARTA “huge” in his Boston-based firm’s decision to choose Perimeter for a 42-acre mixed-use development at the corner of Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center Parkway across from the Dunwoody MARTA station. The development is expected to be constructed next year.

Perimeter is a microcosm of the need that exists for MARTA in our region. It is essential for metro Atlanta and all of Georgia’s economic growth and quality of life that MARTA funding take center stage during the 2010 legislative session with a sound plan and thoughtful leadership.

The ninth largest transportation system in the country, MARTA is a more than $6 billion investment that must be maximized through its ability to operate and meet the needs of a growing region.

This will place Georgia among the leaders of 42 other states in this country that support public transit funding.

Yvonne Williams is president & CEO of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.

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