3 Things You Can Do NOW to Get Rid of Traffic in Atlanta
The other day, I was stopped on I-85 just south of Jimmy Carter. Headed to a campaign event after work, I could tell I was running late. The anxiety this induces is the worst — but it's a common experience to all residents of the metro Atlanta area.
It shouldn't be a question in the morning whether or not you will make it to work on time. The unfortunate reality is that our roads were overloaded decades ago. Although counties like Gwinnett and Cobb were exploding in terms of population at the time, the road improvements made far undershot the eventual needs we would have as a community.
But in truth, departments of transportation were doing their absolute best. The problem is that, at some point, your population hits a threshold where roads will no longer suffice local need. And we've seen this for years. The fact that every major road becomes a parking lot from 8am to 6pm is ridiculous. But what else would we expect? Everyone's on the road! However, that doesn't mean that heavy rail like a MARTA train is going to magically solve the problem. It's going to take some robust planning to make our transit system work for everyone.
But what can you do about the traffic in Atlanta right now? Well, it's funny you should ask...
1. Attend local transit meetings and participate.
Gwinnett County has been offering transit meetings in order to educate the public about their plans and proposals. But they aren't just engaging in a one-way conversation. They have been getting community input and the like since the beginning. They really care about what the people of Gwinnett want, in terms of features, access, and efficiency.
Moving forward, the community is going to have to buy into a system that will work for everyone. More lanes and roads will not fix this problem. But it's up to you to make sure that the need in your specific area is articulated. We all must become advocates for our own neighborhoods.
2. Find ways to use mass transit whenever possible.
If you can take the bus downtown and connect with MARTA, you will likely save money on parking and gas, not to mention your freedom from stop-and-go traffic. Using transit NOW will help signal growth to the county. One of the best arguments for expanding a system is that it's being used and now needs expansion.
We are in the infancy of mass transit in Western Gwinnett. As such, it isn't perfect — but it is still convenient in terms of getting downtown without a car. Consider where Lyft and Uber can fit into your plan as well. They key is to find a way to reduce the number of mostly-empty vehicles on the roads. Using the mass transit that exists will be a key component of expansion.
Now, this might seem obvious, but voting is probably one of the most important pieces to this puzzle. And we're not just talking about in terms of who you vote for, though that's important as well.
For one, we cannot trust those currently in control of the General Assembly to do the right thing longterm on transit. Sure, they recently passed a bill and the governor signed it, but these are the same people that a few years prior spoke against expansion of mass transit. Their extreme short-sightedness cannot be allowed to continue. We need representatives and senators who will do the right thing about transit.
Finally, you must vote on all of the local penny sales tax increases. If we fail to pass them this time, as has happened before, the overwhelming bulk of our local transit plan will die. Get out and approve those measures! Only with your vote can effective mass transit in metro Atlanta be possible.