Around Town: Weather Report: Smooth sailing in latest storm ‘melted’ argument for rail
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
February 15, 2014 04:00 AM | 6470 views | 9 9 comments | 85 85 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILL THE SNOW and ice storms of recent weeks reignite the push for rail in Cobb and other metro Atlanta suburbs the way the coming of the Braves seems to be fueling a reinvigorated push for a Bus Rapid Transit line in the Cobb Parkway corridor?

Advocates of “regionalism” and for expanding MARTA-type rail to the suburbs were quick to pounce on the Jan. 28 “Snow Jam” as Exhibit A for why the metro area needs transit alternatives.

“If Atlanta, the region, wants to get serious about public safety, its mayors, county officials and state officials will need to start practicing regionalism instead of paying lip service to it,” argued Rebecca Burns, deputy editor of Atlanta Magazine, in a column given big play on Politico magazine’s web site the next day.

“And whether threatened by a dangerous pandemic, a major catastrophe, or just two inches of snow, we need to have ways to get around — and out of — the city other than by car.”

Left unexplained was how someone exiting a rail car in Marietta that day (if we had rail), was supposed to get to his or her home 10 miles away in say, Indian Hills or Brookstone, without climbing into a car and thus adding to the congestion on the iced roadways. This is not New York City, where getting home or to work from the nearest subway stop is but a matter of walking a few blocks.

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AND as we’ve been reminded since Jan. 28, when dozens of school buses were stranded, buses do even worse on icy roads than do cars. CCT actually suspended all bus service on Wednesday and Thursday this week, for example.

But it’s rail transit — not bus transit — that is the Holy Grail for regionalists, and was the original focus of the $1 billion TSPLOST referendum overwhelmingly rejected by Cobb voters in 2012.

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WRITING a few days after Snow Jam in The Saporta Report e-newsletter, Atlanta columnist Tom Baxter threw in a Chris Christie reference as he described Snow Jam’s traffic disaster “the George Washington Bridge of Dumb.”

“It demonstrated the extreme fragility of Metro Atlanta’s transportation infrastructure, compounded by a scattered and slow-moving response when the flakes began to fall,” he wrote.

There’s no question the response by government officials that day was “scattered and slow-moving.”

But we now have the benefit not just of hindsight, but a “do-over” — Tuesday’s ice storm, which was followed in quick succession by a second front that dumped several inches of snow on Cobb and most of the rest of the metro area early Thursday. And guess what? Traffic problems were minimal. Our “extremely” fragile transportation infrastructure held up just fine.

Was the metro transportation infrastructure somehow miraculously upgraded in a week’s time? No. What changed, obviously, was the response by government officials and the public alike, who took the weather forecast seriously this time. The roads were mostly empty as a result.

But guess what?

MARTA rail didn’t do so hot. Its trains were running on Wednesday, yes, but at slower-than-usual times, and all trains finally ground to a halt late that morning due to weather-related problems. And on Thursday the trains were arriving at 20 minute frequencies, twice the usual 10-minutes between trains, according to the Atlanta paper.

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THE BOTTOM LINE: Regionalists can lament the suburbs’ lack of rail all they want, but the argument that spending a billion bucks or more on a line connecting Midtown with the Galleria is the best insurance policy against future weather/traffic snarls has been melted by the events of the past few days.

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WITH COBB’S COURTS closed by the weather, Marietta attorney Bert Reeves, who’s running for the District 34 seat in the state House, put that unexpected time to good use. How? By campaigning door-to-door through the snow and ice.

But Reeves was better-prepared for such weather than the typical Georgia politico, it’s fair to say. The candidate ascended Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and last year scaled the Grand Tetons. So when it came to trudging through Marietta’s unusually tundra-like conditions at mid-week, Reeves wore the same ice-gripping crampons on his shoes he wore while climbing cliffs out West.

“If you are running for office and an ice storm happens, the cure for cabin fever is to get out and go door to door,” he told Around Town. “I have to say my crampons were critical these last couple of days on all these steep and long hills next to Kennesaw Mountain.”

Reeves, who was squired around the state Legislature a couple weeks back by former legislator and current Mayor Steve Tumlin, had been slated to host his campaign kickoff Thursday night at the Strand. But it’s now been rescheduled for 5-7 p.m. Feb. 26.

REEVES isn’t the only Mariettan with “cabin fever” this week. Strand Theatre director Earl Reece has had it in spades since his emergency bypass surgery at Christmas.

He’s home now and emailed Around Town on Friday: “My ‘cabin fever’ is at least 200 degrees. I go to my surgeon (next) week, and I’m confident that he will release me to return to the Strand at least on a part-time basis. I feel much better ... and to say that I am ready to return to normal is an understatement of epic proportions! (Can you tell I’m bored???)”

But the lights at the Strand haven’t exactly gone dark during Earl’s absence, and box office manager Manda Costoulas announced plans Friday for “The Pickup Truck Revue: A Hometown Country Show” that will run March 7-16 and feature a local cast. For more, email manda@earlsmithstrand.org or call (770) 293-0080.

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SOMEONE in Hardage Farm played “Santa in February.” Marietta florist Paul Conyngham reports that he awoke Wednesday morning to find out that one of his neighbors had anonymously left 50-pound bags of sand by every mailbox on his street.

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POLITICS: Bill Byrne, who’s running for the Northwest Cobb seat on the Cobb Commission being vacated by Helen Goreham, will hold his kick-off fundraiser from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the upstairs room at Shillings on the Square, reports wife Babe Atkins-Byrne. … John Moore and Russ King will host a campaign kickoff reception in honor of Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman, who’s running for Cobb Superior Court judge in the May 20 primary, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at the offices of Moore Ingram Johnson & Steele at Emerson Overlook, 326 Roswell Street in Marietta.

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GEORGIA music legend John Berry will be in concert tonight at the new Marietta High School auditorium as part of the Love Songs Tour. Doors open at 6 for the 7 p.m. concert by the CMA Award winner and Grammy nominee, with proceeds going toward the Career Pathways program. Introducing Berry will be Country Radio Hall of Fame inductee Moby in the Morning. Tickets start at $25. For more, go to www.johnberrymhs.weebly.com.

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THE BRAVES STADIUM deal will top the agenda at a town hall meeting hosted by The Cobb Citizens for Governmental Transparency from 7-9:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Mountain View Community Center, 3400 Sandy Plains Road in upper east Cobb.

“The main purpose of the meeting is provide a public forum for the people to speak and share their concerns, since the Cobb Board of Commissioners has not provided this opportunity, and we have been contacted by many in the community, from all backgrounds, who feel that this whole process has been unnecessarily rushed and secretive, with a continued lack of transparency, accountability, and fiduciary responsibility,” said spokesperson Sharon Hill.

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TREE FREEBIES: The Marietta Tree Keepers are giving away tree seedlings from 9 till noon today or until they run out. The group will have a booth at this morning’s Farmer’s Market on Marietta Square.
Comments
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Tom Barksdale
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February 16, 2014
"Traffic problems were minimal. Our 'extremely' fragile transportation infrastructure held up just fine."

That has to be one of the classic Catch 22 statements of all time. Closing the highways to all traffic shows that our transportation system held up just fine. And MARTA running at a reduced schedule, while the public is unable to use the highways at all, shows the vulnerability of MARTA and the lack of any need to expand mass transit to deal with severe weather.

The MDJ columnists offer us the surgeon's definition of a positive outcome: the operation was a success, but the patient died.

Larry Savage
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February 15, 2014
Quote from Atlanta Magazine: "And whether threatened by a dangerous pandemic, a major catastrophe, or just two inches of snow, we need to have ways to get around — and out of — the city other than by car.”

Atlanta Magazine, Politico, and Ms. Burns perhaps will explain how one would escape a pandemic by evacuating Atlanta on MARTA.
Transit varies
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February 15, 2014
Your argument is just as invalid at "their" claim: the benefits as well as inabilities of transit technologies vary widely!

If a system's cost is low enough and it's presence relatively non-intrusive enough, multiple points of access can be created closer to home. DOT thinks "corridor" because their thoughts are that transit costs sooooo much, you can only afford to create one major line and supplement it with buses. But a system designed to cost far less could provide better access for the same money, if demand warrants it.

Besides, I'd rather walk a couple of miles in the snow to get home rather than sleep on the floor in some Kroger along I-75!!!
anonymous
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February 15, 2014
It's a signal honor to get a mention in this area's most influential local column. Of course it's rank nonsense to assert that the "do-over"proved the stability of our transportation infrastructure, when all the schools were closed a day ahead and people were asked not to use the highways or come to work. But it's your nonsense, and you wear it well. As for MARTA, when my grandson's carpool got stuck on the streets three weeks ago, an alert dad walked his charges to a MARTA station and got all the boys home safely, when the highways were impassable. Seems a bit churlish to knock them for running late, when so much wasn't running at all. Regards.
Perimeter Worker
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February 15, 2014
AT thank you for pointing out the flaws in the last TSPLOST. Any new rail line needs to be built Around I-285 and branching out from there. Problem now is buying land for parking lots, when the commuter drives to the train station. As many said during the campaign last year, more people work around I-285 than they do in downtown ATL. But the ATL business leaders, politicians and chamber bigwigs are trying to save the business center in downtown & Buckhead.

Most newcomers do not know that in the beginning when MARTA was put to a vote with Cobb voters, the MARTA gurus had Cobb with one line, coming from downtown to Windy Hill. And that line would not start construction for at least 20 YRS.

Changeisgonnacome
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February 15, 2014
So we do nothing because things ran so smoothly in Cobb County? I guess the writer's self interests are so blinding that it's trumps providing legitimate options and changes. What nonsense.
anonymous
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February 15, 2014
I am sure that Mr. Bert Reeves is a fine young man but does he really believe that you can rent a home in a new district and avoid the claim that he is simply a carpetbagger? It may have been easy for him to pretend his old house is really for sale (hmmmm can't really find where it is listed on MLS or even has a lock box on the house..... maybe his friend and realtor Ms. Wendy Bunch just messed up). But there is no way to avoid the charge that this single guy works for a lobby or is remotely invested in his new district. Yes, the charge carpetbagger or opportunist really does apply.
The Truth
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February 15, 2014
Hey Anonymous, Bert Reeves is a man of integrity and if we are lucky enough to see him get elected, our community will be a better place. As far as your comments about Wendy Bunch, they hold no merit. You should embrace the greatness of these people and understand the positive impact they have on our community.
Really??
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February 16, 2014
Carpetbagger? Seriously, this isn't the Civil War! What a pathetic life you live there, sir. Trolling around his neighborhood to see if he has a lock box on his house and searching listings. That's kind of weird and frightening. Don't you have something better to do with your time? All that time you're spending stalking Mr Reeves could certainly be put to better use. Oh, I don't know, like read up on some of the wonderful things he has done for this community. Maybe you should find out what a fine young man he is before commenting here. And by the way, if you think you can do it better, WHY DON'T YOU RUN???
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