By Cara Thomas, Brand Communications, Metro Atlanta Chamber
As the metro region continues to grow exponentially, necessary conversations surrounding Atlanta’s transit and its future are taking place. The recent ATLeaders Council meeting tackled this topic with a discussion around some of the alternative methods of transportation that the region offers.
The panel of guests featured experts from around the region. Ben Limmer, assistant general manager of transit-oriented development for MARTA; Timberley Jones, marketing and community outreach for Relay Bikeshare; and Ed McBrayer, executive director of PathATL, represented the alternative transit industry. Ginny Kennedy, director of urban design for Midtown Alliance, represented for urban development and design. The group was moderated by Danielle Elkins, CEO and founder of Civic Ideation and president of Advance Atlanta.
The panel agreed that, as the metro region continues to grow, residents need to consider alternative methods of transportation. However, challenges unique to these new forms remain.
“Our government continues to make car-centric laws and pass legislation centered around the car and not the pedestrian,” McBrayer said.
“We have to plan our streets to be inclusive and reserve street space for alternative transportation,” Jones said.
Some of the ways that Midtown has taken strides toward inclusive transportation for all is by eliminating slip lanes.
“In Midtown, we have eliminated several slip lanes and created public right of way. We have also created more public space to make Midtown more pedestrian-friendly,” Kennedy said.
Since the BeltLine’s conception, transit conversations have been heightened. Limmer said that one of his goals for MARTA is to make transportation feel more seamless and user-friendly, arguing that “transit agencies must re-invent themselves and become mobility providers and not transit providers.”
Limmer said that while MARTA is constantly improving, funding and politics play a huge role in MARTA’s expansion. While recent legislation has been passed that helps MARTA’s expansion plans, Limmer said that the people must continue to express the need for transit options.
“We have to keep the pressure on our politicians, vote for the laws that create the space we want,” McBrayer added.
“It’s critical that we don’t think of transit in a vacuum. If we want to see transit improvements, we must also have conversations about affordable housing and parking,” Kennedy said.
The conversation ended with the panelists expressing their expectations surrounding the future of transit. Jones said that her expectation for the future is to see more dockless bikes, e-bikes and scooters around the city.
“I’m interested to see what happens to the existing parking decks as more people begin to choose alternative transportation,” Kennedy said.
ATLeaders is the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s council comprised solely of young professionals under 40 years of age. The council is focused on providing future leaders with access to the business community, a network of their peers and a platform to create social impact. The ATLeaders Transit Working Group is led by Amanda Hauther, associate director of strategy with Stripe. ATLeaders is chaired by Jennifer Winn, general manager of natural resources for Georgia Power.
For more information on how to become a part of ATLeaders, please contact Cecile Kirby.