Expert: White ’burbs ‘racialized’ MARTA
by Jon Gillooly
July 16, 2012 12:35 AM | 12983 views | 57 57 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CUMBERLAND — Land-use planner Chris Leinberger with the Washington, D.C.,-based Brookings Institution chided metro Atlanta for “racializing” MARTA during a talk with the Cumberland Community Improvement District on Thursday.

Leinberger also called bus rapid transit — which county chairman Tim Lee has asked Cobb voters to spend $689 million on by voting for the TSPLOST — “an experiment.”

And he said the goal of having a rail system is not for traffic relief, but for economic development.

Leinberger and William Fulton, a former mayor of Ventura, Calif., now with Smart Growth America, spoke at length about the need for metro Atlanta to have more “walkable urban” places such as Atlantic Station and Midtown instead of “drivable suburban” communities that require the use of cars.

Fulton highlighted this point by noting that his niece recently moved from Cobb County to Virginia Highland.

Also in attendance at the meeting were Cobb Manager David Hankerson, Cobb Chamber Chief Operating Officer Demming Bass and Michele Swann, CEO of the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority.

Following the lecture, Malaika Rivers, executive director for the Cumberland CID, referenced the July 31 transportation referendum to raise the sales tax for 10 years.

“If the referendum passes and the funds come into place, and the county determines that light rail is what they call the ‘locally preferred alternative,’ then by the end of this year we could very well be in a situation where we’re going to get a rail system in our future — let’s say 10 years down the road, more or less — so how again do we as community

members, as government partners, as private investors come together to maximize everybody’s return in investment in this community so that we can create this type of environment that these two have recommended to us?” Rivers asked. Leinberger said the No. 1 thing that needed to be done for Cumberland is to heavily invest in rail transit.

“It’s by far the most important investment you’re going to make,” he said. “The Europeans are spending 5, 7 percent of their GDP per year on infrastructure over the last decade. The Chinese … 8 percent. What have we been spending? 1.5 percent per year.”

Leinberger asked the CID board to keep in mind why rail is built.

“You do not build it to move people,” he said. “That is not your goal. That may sound counterintuitive, but that’s not why you build transportation systems, and again, particularly rail transit. For 6,000 years we’ve been doing this. You build transportation systems for economic development.”

CID board member Trey Parrish, a senior vice president with B.F. Saul Property Company, asked for examples of where bus rapid transit had made “walkable urban” communities successful.

Leinberger said the best example is in Cleveland, where that city’s Euclid Avenue line has shown “some” positive economic development.

“But I don’t think anybody is going to follow a Cleveland model for urbanism,” Leinberger said. “The jury’s out on bus rapid transit. We know rail transit works. I can show billions of dollars spent at a rail station. I’ve yet to really see the first dollar invested, private sector dollar invested, at a bus stop.”

Fulton, the former California mayor, who volunteered that he is the economic development columnist for Governing Magazine, which he described as “the leading magazine for state and local government in the country,” said developers follow rail lines because the rail is fixed.

“The big question is will middle class people ride buses,” Leinberger said. “They do in South America. They do in Europe. … but for the last 50 years truth in advertising with our bus systems, we should have a sign put over the door that would say, ‘only ye that are poor should enter,’ because that’s how we treat bus riders, and so most people who have a choice say, ‘I don’t want to go there.’ Ultimately, real estate developers are building for middle class and upper class folks, and it’s who is riding the bus rapid transit, and so far we haven’t gotten over that hump yet. I hope we will. … If it would work here it would work anywhere, so it would be a great experiment, but just remember, it’s an experiment. We know where rail transit can lead if you put the overlay zoning and do the place management, we know rail transit will lead to significant private sector investment around the stations. We don’t have proof yet that the BRT will lead to private sector investment.”

In his talk, Leinberger said comparison-wise, metro Atlanta’s sister city is Washington, D.C. The populations for both metropolitan regions are about 5.7 million, both are historically Southern towns, both are political capitals, both have been invaded in recent decades by Yankees, both are the top choice for middle and upper class black Americans and both received federal grants in the 1970s to build heavy rail.

But while Washington has 43 regionally significant “walkable urban” places — Dupont Circle, for example — metro Atlanta only has a few: Buckhead, Midtown, downtown and Decatur.

“And one of the major reasons is that you turned your back on MARTA,” Leinberger said. “You have so underinvested in MARTA, and of course we all know what MARTA really stands for. It’s not the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit. It is Moving African Americans Rapidly Through Atlanta. You’ve racialized it. The white suburban neighborhoods and places have completely ignored the economic development potential that MARTA could have been and will be in the future.”

By contrast, Washington has embraced its rail system, which is why it has been successful, he said.

County Chairman Tim Lee has also described opponents of a proposed rail line from Midtown to Cumberland Mall as racists.

CID board member Barry Teague, one of the owners of Walton Communities, noted how he is in the rental apartment business.

“We see several small towns in the north metro area that have good walkable communities downtown, and they would like to become more walkable and attract more people, but they do not want rental housing. They only want for sale housing.”

Teague asked for advice on that problem.

One of the properties he is referring to is in downtown Marietta. Last year, Walton purchased Meeting Park, the 12-acre property near Marietta Square that was hailed as the cornerstone of the city’s downtown development efforts until the economy crashed and it entered foreclosure.

Teague wants to build some apartments on the site, although Mayor Steve Tumlin and the City Council have made it clear that Marietta has too many apartments as it is.

Answering Teague’s question, Leinberger again brought up race.

“That’s been the bias, which is partly racially driven, but is partly because of the school system and the tax base and all that stuff,” he said.

CID Chairman Tad Leithead has asked his board to help fund a $190,000 study Leinberger would do of “walkable urban” communities in metro Atlanta. The board will consider the request at its next meeting on July 26.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 22, 2012
Before you vote "FOR" the T-Splost TAX, go to any end station of the MARTA RAIL and ride to the all of the other 3 end stations.

Then ask yourself,

"Is this what I want in Cobb County"?

Ride some of the MARTA EXPRESS bus routes between 7am and 10am on any business day.

Then ask yourself,

"Is this what I want in Cobb County"?

Ride MARTA ... Then VOTE !
J Stoner
July 20, 2012
OK Leinberger, you say you know what MARTA truly stands for. What does CCT stand for?
SW Gal
July 19, 2012
Tim Lee, my grandmother gave me good advice when I was a child. She said that anyone who resorts to name calling shows a low IQ. Calling people "racist" for not agreeing with your disastor of a plan for transit is not fair to the the good people of Cobb County. Perhaps it is time for you to be replaced. I have voted for your replacement and a NO against this ill-conceived tax. When the ARC admied that it will do little to relieve traffic congestion, did you hear that piece of news? MDJ thanks for the good article.
July 18, 2012
Mr. Lee,

I am very tired and very weary of people like you calling anyone who chooses to disagree with the position that people like you take as being racists. That dog don't hunt no more!! I hope to see you and those of your ilk who find "racist" or "racism" as the band-aid for everything on the losing end of all that you support on July 31st, including your own "race".
top cat
July 18, 2012
Wow. Tim, you play roughhhhhhh.

I play rough too.

That's why I voted against the TSPLOST and YOU!
July 17, 2012
great story mdj. it seems that the mentioned $190,000 study of walkable communities might be throwing good money in the wind. cumberland mall is about 7 miles from marietta square and no one at the mall knows downtown marietta is walkable.??

and who wants to be like dupont circle? there's no breathing room. people are packed in like sardines.
July 17, 2012
"And he said the goal of having a rail system is not for traffic relief, but for economic development" -- so let the property owners that will directly benefit from it pay for it.
Small Town Boy
July 16, 2012
Wow, this is amazing. All of these posts are logical, well-reasoned, and well stated objections to this TSPLOST boondoggle, which should, and I think will, be soundly defeated. My question: Where in the heck were all you guys and gals when the Cobb Commission shoved the last SPLOST through by the slimmest of margins? You weren't on the blogs, or in the MDJ,on the phone or out putting up yard signs, and you darned sure weren't at the voting booth, or that ill-conceived money grab would never have passed. Remember: it's good to give voice to our opposition, but we still have to get to the ballot box and vote NO to keep this from happening!!
Pat H
July 16, 2012
I was indeed standing on street corners with No Splost. I still have my yard sign.

It only passed by 90 votes and most of the pro-Splost votes were Cobb County employees.
July 16, 2012
ANYONE BUT TIM LEE!!!! What a joke.
Suburban Dummy !
July 16, 2012
We came here because we want a suburban lifestyle. We want to "dig in the dirt again"; we want space for our kids to run and play ball; we want excellent schools with room for Friday night football; we want Master Gardeners: we want the Sheriff's corn boiling; we want to sit on a quiet deck in the evening and visit with neighbors. What's wrong with that?

And why do these high flying consultants want to race bait the issue? Check the statistics. Practically all Cobb subdivisions are now integrated - black, oriental, even Islamist..... And these folks spent their money to buy the same lifestyle the earlier homebuyers had. A suburban style.

And Cobb has ample opportunity for great malls and more dense development in Town Center and Cumberland. Why do we need to build a "walkable" strip city on US 41 that will split Cobb in half ? And who's going to walk up Windy Hill anyway? The train can't even make that grade.

And by the way, we already live next to one of the great cities - Atlanta. Seems like folks who want to live in Atlantic Station or Buckhead are doing just that. Why do these developers want to build Atlantic Station in Cobb?


Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Lawyer says T SPLOST too critical to reject
July 16, 2012
Ding Ding, we have a winner.
A teachable moment
July 16, 2012
Dummy... People of far eastern decent are "Asian or Asian-American" whereas objects and artifacts from the far east are orientals.


A·sian (ey-zhuhn, ey-shuhn)


1. of, belonging to, or characteristic of Asia or its inhabitants.


2. a native of Asia.


o·ri·en·tal (awr-ee-en-tl, ohr)


1. ( usually initial capital letter ) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the Orient, or East; Eastern.

2. of the orient or east; eastern.

3. ( initial capital letter ) Zoogeography . belonging to a geographical division comprising southern Asia and the Malay Archipelago as far as and including the Philippines, Borneo, and Java.

4. Jewelry .

a. ( usually initial capital letter ) designating various gems that are varieties of corundum: Oriental aquamarine; Oriental ruby.

b. fine or precious; orient: oriental agate; oriental garnet.

c. designating certain natural saltwater pearls found especially in the Orient.

Straw Man
July 17, 2012
You're bringing up a lot of false premises and straw men. No one is trying to destroy suburban life. What places like Marietta need to be taking extremely seriously are young family's changing preferences and rising gas prices.

The lifestyle your cherish so strongly today may not be sustainable for much longer and unless voters accept that adaptation is necessary, Marietta will most likely decline.

Marietta will never be New York City or Washington D.C. Just because a policy is nudging the town a little in that direction doesn't mean it needs to take on all the characteristics of that place.

The transportation issue is a rich vs poor thing. It is about keeping poor families far away from good schools.
West Cobber
July 16, 2012
This reminds me that Larry Savage has promised to protect our suburban lifestyle, which is why many of us bought homes in West Cobb. I will vote for him!
Code Language
July 16, 2012
but what is he really saying there about protecting our suburban lifestyle?

Just an observation and considering the context.
Larry Savage
July 16, 2012
Remember this: the Economic Development that is intended from this debacle is not creation of permanent, quality jobs. The boost is to property values within select commercial areas like the Cumberland CID, where the transit station will be an amenity, a feature that will be used to 'sell' prospective buyers and tenants on locating in the CCID. The fact that the taxpayers will subsidize it forever and ridership will never hit big numbers is not an issue for the real estate investors.
July 16, 2012

The more desperate the TSPLOST proponents get, the more stupid things they do.

Now they have resorted to yelling racisim and encouraging us to copy the socialist leaning European model that has devastated the economy of so many countries in that part of the world.

Bringing these two characters (Leinberger and Fulton) to town to insult and castigate us for not embracing MARTA and their "inspired" vision of how they think we should live was a real stroke of genius!!

Way to go Tad!! You are showing your true colors more every day.

The only thing that could top this would be to hire these two arrogant, ivory tower idealists to formulate a $190,000 manifesto to give us our marching orders so we can "fundamentally change" our lifestyle.

July 16, 2012
Tim Lee, I, along w/ many others you represent, are extremely offended by you calling people that are against out of control government WASTE & SPENDING,...racists!

Due to this, I believe you should apologize to your citizens,.. then STEP DOWN as chairman of Cobb!
July 16, 2012
Just Google Marta Fight then tell me; you would ride Marta by yourself or take your family on Marta. The cats out of the bag; TSPLOST is not about traffic relief just like the opponents’ have said TSPLOST is just about economic development and in slaving the taxpayers with on overpriced traffic problem. In the CCCC candidate forum Timmy had to admit he didn’t know how much light rail will cost. We now find out the northern arc money has to be paid back the Fed’s for funds we took and bought land and didn’t build it; how many trucks would this have taken off I-285. The ad’s are totally misleading and a fabrication of what will really happen. Into year nine not much will be ready and the same ad’s will come back; but they will say were in too deep now to stop we must keep funding this. Mean time all the baby boomers have moved out to a better lifestyle the average income has fallen all over the Metro Atlanta area. Rentals are at 40 to 60 percent all over the Metro area and home prices are still in the toilet welcome to Chicago. In closing just remember Georgia “400” when it’s paid for the toll will stop the penny is only for 10 years yea right.
July 15, 2012
Does anyone in his right mind, seriously, want to take advise from a former mayor of a city in California?

Land-use planner Chris Leinberger with the Washington, D.C.,-based Brookings Institution can take his left-winged, Utopian ideas and WALK back to Washington and pound sand. What a racist.

Seriously, why in the heck is the CID even talking to this guy? What makes him an "expert"? Flawed research? Wake up CID. Look into the background of institutions like Brookings and Smart Growth America. They could care less about the trials and tribulations of metro Atlanta transportation and development. Their goals are the goals of all the other left-winged institutions. They promote equal outcomes, wealth redistribution, nationalism (the kind we rejected when we wrote the Constitution), and freedom suppression.

The big question is not will the middle class ride buses. The question is, WHY SHOULD the so-called middle class ride buses? The middle class does not have time to wait on buses and take an hour to get somewhere that cars will get them in 15 minutes. Bus riding does not fit into my productive life style. And I'd rather not be more like South America and Europe, thank you. The folks there ride buses because they have to. The governments tax them to the point that cars have become a luxury item. This is another goal of the left. Tax and control us to the point that we have no choice but to ride government buses.

And why wasn't Marietta included in the so-called "walkable urban" places list? Marietta is VERY "walkable".

tyler durden
July 16, 2012
"freedom suppression"?

wow. what freedoms are actually being suppressed? I mean, I'm all for intelligent discourse concerning the sounds like it is a bad idea...but when you throw in lame Fox News hyperbole it just makes you look like a knee jerk tea party mook...
July 15, 2012
This is rich!!!!

"Fulton highlighted this point by noting that his niece recently moved from Cobb County to Virginia Highland."

Good for her if she wants to loive in an in town urban environment.

Virginia Highlands, Midtown, Little Five Points, Grant Park, Decatur are all wonderful neighborhoods.

I love Manhattan, downtown Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. They are all very special places.

I enjoy visiting them from time to time but I don't want to live there.

Cobb County simply offers an excellent traditional suburban lifstyle that suits most of its' 700,000 residents just fine. Same with Gwinnett and North Fulton and other surburban hinterlands in Metro Atlanta.

Just you wait if Fulton's niece get's married and has kid's I suspect that she and her spouse will be looking at the suburban areas they find so unappealing now.

As for Leinberger and Fulton they are just angling for fat consulting fees. They know that Atlanta, particularly suburban Atlanta, is what it is. It's not going to be transformed into a trendy faux in town environment anytime in the next 100 Years.

But they don't care as long as they get paid.
Gravy Train no
July 15, 2012
Leinberger is a race-baiting interlpoer. He sounds like Kevin Foley, and equally as dim.
Chris Sanchez
July 15, 2012
So 55% of TSPLOST is for economic development and not for the relief of traffic congestion. This is exactly why it will be defeated in two weeks. If developers and planning officials want to promote economic development then they should do so openly and not try to boondoggle people with something like the TSPLOST we will be voting on soon. There is a reason people in metro ATL have a problem trusting politicians in the region.
July 15, 2012
Tumlin is absolutely right.....far too many apartments in Marietta, Kennesaw and Cobb County....and if you build condo's they just become privately owned apartments. Matthews in Kennesaw is destroying that city by rezoning for 'college dorms'.We cannot even get code enforcement to deal with homes,condo's and townhomes with 4-6 college students living in them which is in violation of code enforcement. If you haven't noticed renters have no vested interest in the property and most do not take care of property. Make some changes to code enforcement, give it some teeth, and then maybe we can talk. But racist, NO !
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides