ARC: T-SPLOST would boost commutes

Trying to ride transit to work at Emory University or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? If a transportation referendum passes this summer, you'll be a big winner, according to new figures released Friday by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Thanks to a MARTA train line proposed for that area, passengers there would be 700 percent more likely to finish their commutes within 45 minutes, according to the ARC, the region's official planning agency.

"I think it's awesome," said Adam McCall, student body president at Emory. "That would have a real impact on folks who work here," battling traffic in the Clifton Corridor area, where Emory and the CDC have become sprawling employment centers served by modest two- and four-lane streets.

"It’s really bad. It’s stop-and-go in the late afternoon. It’s very hard to get around," he said.

Voters in 10 counties in metro Atlanta are scheduled to vote on a regional 1 percent sales tax to run 10 years and raise about $6.14 billion. The projects would be built in all 10 counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale. The project list, drawn up last fall, includes two new interchanges and eight expanded ones, widened roads, new rail and bus service, and even trails.

Big improvements would come to areas with the big projects, according to the ARC. But in the region overall, more people would take mass transit than do now, and drivers would spend less time sitting in traffic than if the projects aren't built, the figures showed.

According to the ARC:

  • In the Cumberland-Galleria area, where a $689 million high-capacity transit line would be built, 18 percent more workers could drive to jobs within 45 minutes.
  • On roadways where the projects are built, commutes on average would be 24 percent less congested.
  • There would be so much less idling due to delays that the benefit to air pollution would be like taking 72,000 cars off the roads. (The ARC could not say Friday how many cars use the roads daily overall.)
  • Just as the Clifton Corridor area would see a sevenfold increase in the ability of transit passengers to ride to work within 45 minutes, the Town Center area would see a 61 percent increase, and Southlake, a 42 percent increase.

Referendum opponents have questioned the ARC's information, alleging it may be accurate but they are selective in deciding what to measure. ARC officials say their process is objective.

The ARC uses complex computer programs to calculate the impacts of transportation projects for the Atlanta region's transportation plans. It has spent months working on the calculations for the referendum projects. In a statement, ARC chairman Tad Leithead called the calculations "conservative."