On November 12, 2014, the Council for Quality Growth sponsored the 5th Annual Community Improvement District Recognition Event at the Loudermilk Center. The event highlighted the current and future projects of the twenty Metro Area CIDs in the work they do improving and connecting the region. Jones Lang LaSalle illustrated the CIDs accomplishments by taking over two hundred attendees on an aerial journey through Metro Atlanta in the year 2025. The “Fly Over”, narrated by Mike Sivewright, Market Director for Jones Lang LaSalle, used a Google Earth type technology known as Blackbird to view the collective impact of CIDs.
Following the presentation was a Transportation and Connectivity panel including State Senator Brandon Beach, MARTA General Manager Keith Parker, 11th District DOT Board Member Jeff Lewis and State Senate Transportation Chairman Steve Gooch. The panel was moderated by Michael Sullivan, President and CEO, ACEC Georgia and Georgia Transportation Alliance Chair. Since the overall theme of the event was connectivity, the panelists were asked questions pertaining to, how can Metro Atlanta solve its connectivity and transportation issues.
Senator Beach described a trip he recently took from Kennesaw State University to Gwinnett Arena using only bus transit and rail transportation. The trip took approximately four hours. He further elaborated on how there are two types of riders, Lifeline Riders and Lifestyle Riders. Nationally, and most importantly regionally, the younger workforce prefers taking transit to work. Without transportation options, the Metro Region could lose out on companies wanting to migrate to the Southeast region. Beach believes a regional coordinated transit system, including Gwinnett and Cobb is vital to keep the region competitive. Also, expansion of MARTA up GA 400 is essential to retain the 900 technology companies from leaving the area of I-285 to Windward Parkway.
State Senate Transportation Chairman Steve Gooch stated, TPLOST set the framework and basis of why we are in this predicament. Senator Gooch said, “Think Big and Bold”, as finding a way to fund our transportation infrastructure needs. The Federal Highway bill is set to expire next May, which accounts for 60 percent or $1.2 billion of federal funded revenue. Senator Gooch believes looking at revenue enhancements – which includes tirelessly reviewing all transportation policies for alternative reliable revenue sources so the DOT board can fix our roads.
Jeff Lewis, 11th District DOT Board Member, agrees with Gooch that the state needs another reliable source of revenue, less reliant on the Federal Government. He also stated the Georgia Department of Transportation needs to embrace the 21st Century, throw away old transportation models and adopt new models incorporating technology.
MARTA General Manager Keith Parker echoed the sentiments of those on the panel for the need of connectivity. He referred to last week’s vote in Clayton County to expand MARTA operations as a sign of communities embracing other modes of transportation. Clayton County has suffered economic setbacks, the most of any county in the Metro Region. Parker expressed how this expansion is an investment in Clayton and surrounding areas. Parker also discussed future plans which would involve MARTA developing WiFi – cellular activity in stations and the ability to use smart phones as a MARTA breeze pass. All these enhancements are what he referred to as MARTA’s “Routine Excellence”.
The Keynote Speaker, L. Preston Bryant, Jr., Senior Vice President of Infrastructure and Economic Development at McGuire Woods Consulting, gave an enlightening historical account of Virginia’s Transportation Funding. In his account of thirty years of woeful transportation funding neglect in Virginia, L. Preston Bryant Jr. eloquently quoted Winston Churchill – “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.” Thirty years of new proposed transportation funding legislation, Virginia is now capturing new revenue using public-private partnerships and other measures to add funding.
The mission of Community Improvement Districts is to create and maintain a more accessible and livable urban environment. The presentation highlighted those efforts and now it is time to collectively make meaningful improvements in the transportation network and public realm to connect people and places. Georgia is growing, and so shall we.
Jon Richards of PeachPundit.com was present and highlighted the event. Please click HERE to view the story.