- The Atlanta City Council has approved Atlanta's Transportation Plan (ATP), a blueprint of the city's long-term vision for its transportation network with a particular focus on accommodating the region's growth. It also serves as an action plan to address immediate transportation needs.
- The plan lays out about 20 programs and 200 projects along three major themes: expanding mobility, improving safety and increasing affordability. It puts forth ideas to maximize the transportation assets already in place in addition to adding new elements and capacity.
- The goals and action items benefit all forms of mobility including driving, cycling and walking, yet support the overall vision of an Atlanta metropolitan area less dependent on cars.
Atlanta adopted its last transportation plan in 2008 but the region has experienced a lot of growth in that time, which further stresses the system. Atlanta already had congestion consistently ranking among the worst in the nation and lacked a widespread, comprehensive transit system to adequately meet citizens' needs.
The ATP notes that Atlanta residents drive a lot and that 69% of commuters report driving alone. The region-wide share of transit trips is only about 10%, compared with 20%-38% for other cities such as Chicago, Seattle and Washington, DC. But in order to boost ridership a city needs to have a solid transit infrastructure in place, and until recently Atlanta has been behind in that regard.
But within the last several years, and especially the last year, city leaders have brought transportation and transit to the forefront. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) took over the once-maligned Atlanta Streetcar and has achieved improvements from service to safety in addition to committing to technological upgrades to assist with predictive maintenance.
MARTA also approved a massive transit expansion plan this fall that includes 22 miles of light rail, 14 miles of bus rapid transit (BRT), 26 miles of arterial rapid transit, more fixed-route bus service, two new transit centers and upgrades to existing rail stations. This spring the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the city a $12.6 million grant to help fund the planned BRT project. And this fall the city's economic development authority created a $15 million transit-oriented development fund to assist developers with building housing near transit.
Plenty of improvements for cyclists and pedestrians are included in the ATP. Those projects are viewed as important not just for boosting safety, but also for making a transportation network that can support a reduction in the amount of cars on the road.
The ATP recognizes the impact that new mobility have and will have on the region. It points out the significance of emerging mobility service providers, data analytics and new autonomous vehicle technologies as well as yet-to-be-discovered innovations. The ATP states that navigating the rapidly changing mobility space can be tricky and involves a lot of uncertainly but recommends being proactive and embracing innovation.