Despite massive tax dollar infusions, Rapid Transit has never caught on in Metropolitan Atlanta and here is why. The first problem is the sidewalks. You cannot do any pedestrian travel throughout the five metro counties and expect to have sidewalks the entire expedition. The way will be a patchwork quilt of eroded mud trails, flagstone, grass lawns, and various types of pavement. Different county’s require different compliance codes and grandfather clauses. And, the various governments pass the improvements off, onto private developers. If the land is not developed, then it gets no paved sidewalk. This has been the condition for over fifty years and governments have virtually no desire to change this.
The second problem is security, or lack of it. Well to be fair, there are many Marta Security Officers on the payroll, it’s just that they can usually, only be found cruising the streets and highways in their patrol cars, leaving the criminals, panhandlers, and nuisance violators free to make most people unlikely to subject themselves to this unsafe and unpleasant commute option. When asked why the Marta Officers are not on the platforms, and in the rail cars, but instead use automobiles, I suppose they will point out that patrol cars are the best way to transport offenders to jail. I guess they know what we know – cars are just plain, more convenient. Don’t even try to point out that when they apprehend a suspect, they could just as easily “cuff ’em”, radio the APD and hand the culprit off in the parking lot and quickly be back on-station, protecting the public.
The third unresolved problem is the routes. Oh, I know there has been plenty of debate about it, but mere common sense and good old market forces clearly show the way. Citizens of a city have a fairly good picture of where the roads in their town lead and how to get to navigate using them. Yet, they have no idea where the rail lines go, where the stations are situated, and especially which bus goes where. The bus routes are either counter-intuitive or just make no sense at all.
The forth problem is the long, time killing waits, both for the huge expensive buses and the huger more expensive trains. However, Free Enterprise saves the day. People pay for the goods and services that meet their needs and avoid those that do not. In other parts of the world, a visitor can stand on the side of any main road, wait less than five minutes, and a jitney bus will be right along. If it is full, often in less than a minute, another one comes right along behind it that usually has room.
This organic solution is two-fold. First, the buses stay on the same road that they travel up and down. When you need to change directions you just disembark at the necessary intersection and catch another jitney heading in the new direction. It will be along in just a minute!
This is accomplished by the second fold reason – they use smaller buses! How many times have you seen one of those $100,000 chauffeur driven limousines aka Marta buses, drive by with fifty empty seats? They are over-priced, over- built, gas-guzzling monstrosities, and few of them! For the same amount of money they could place in service four smaller buses, which means, four buses passing by your stop in the amount of time you would wait for just one lumbering hulk to eventually show up. In essence, you would have a fifteen minute wait, rather than a one hour wait!
At the risk of stating the obvious, less wait-time and simpler routes, delivers more convenience. More convenience means more ridership; more ridership results in more revenue; more revenue equates to fewer taxes needed; and fewer taxes equals happier citizens, or more money for more pressing civic needs. While the Marta Board members were still sitting around scratching their heads, just such a system has sprung up right here in Atlanta, under their very noses, on Buford Hwy! In fact, this system is so competitive, there are actually two private companies already offering service on this corridor!
So there you have it! The Free Market’s Invisible Hand is wiser and more responsive to the needs of the people than government sponsored, socialistic, boondoggles. They always ask for more tax money and higher fares, while at the same time launch ad campaigns to beg people to actually use their service! So, what is the City of Atlanta’s solution? Build a trolley line! Yep, it’s true. When will they ever learn? Never, it’s the government!