Georgia’s statewide transportation charade

Yesterday the AJC posted an editorial by Neal Boortz titled Our transportation record shows lack of leadership. He makes some excellent points so I hope you read the whole thing. Below are a few choice selections:

I’ve been reading the AJC’s coverage of the machinations surrounding the  multibillion dollar transportation infrastructure tax referendum scheduled  to descend upon us next summer. And so, a question: Considering the  transportation track record of the brilliant traffic planners and engineers  in the Atlanta region, do you really have the confidence to put a few  billion dollars in their hands for more projects and “improvements”?

Let’s just look at the record. First we’ll deal with that traffic monstrosity  known as the Downtown Connector. If you weren’t born here you probably don’t  know that what is now the Downtown Connector was supposed to be the route of  I-85. I-75 was supposed to come roaring in from the North along what is now  Northside Drive to cross I-85 around the airport. Someone decided we could  save some money by simply combining the two through the city. That certainly  worked out well, didn’t it?

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Pity also, if you will, the poor saps traveling down Ga. 400 toward downtown.  Your typical suburban families eager for an evening of fun at Underground  Atlanta. There our transportation wizards funnel four lanes of traffic down  to one for the transition to I-85 … and Lord help you if you cross the  gore, that white line separating the highways from the on- and off-ramps.  See you in court.

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The new tax is also supposed to fund some rail projects as well, right? Will  these projects be designed by the same geniuses who didn’t put a MARTA  station at what was then Atlanta-Fulton County Station — a station that  would now serve Turner Field — because Atlanta was afraid it would lose  parking revenue at the stadium? Can the people who made this decision be  banned from getting anywhere near even 1 cent of this new tax revenue?

Boortz is right. How can any rational person believe that the dysfunctional politicians, consultants and bureaucrats that got us into this mess will ever solve anything?

If you doubt me just consider that after months of political haggling the geniuses in charge have managed to compile a list which would spend more than 6 Billion Dollars without making any noticeable impact on Atlanta’s traffic problem. Look at the list yourself.

Notice anything strange? The state is trying to sell people on higher taxes for a plan that doesn’t even begin to cover the cost of the projects they are including!

The state list says that they will spend $172,000,000 to improve the exchange at GA 400 and I-285. But the cost of the project is projected to cost $450,000,000. The list also calls for $37,000,000 to bring MARTA to Roswell… but it projects the total cost to be more than $900,000,000. Transit advocates have been all excited about the inclusion of One Billion Dollars to expand MARTA into the I-20 and Clifton Road areas. But apparently it doesn’t bother them that the state expects it to actually cost nearly Two Billion Dollars. So even if those projects could relieve traffic the state would still need another Two Billion Dollars to get them all done.

But we are falling into a trap if we worry too much about the list anyway. It is an illusion. The project list will carry no more weight than a flyer handed out by a used car salesman.

The list to be voted on next year will not be a binding contract… on the state. When the state takes money from one promised project to cover the gap they have in another, taxpayers will have no recourse. Remember what they did with the GA 400 tolls?

So realize that the entire transportation tax charade is just one big, happy waste of time intended to get the “buy-in” of Georgia taxpayers and facilitate a new pipeline of money for the people responsible for our transportation mess in the first place. The same people that created the downtown connector and routed MARTA away from Atlanta Fulton County stadium will decide where Billions of dollars in extra tax money go and there won’t be a darn thing we will be able to do about it. Yay!

So how’s that liberalism working out for you Charlotte?

A few months ago Kyle Wingfield of the AJC wrote a column about the unhealthy habit many Atlantans have developed of pointing to Charlotte, North Carolina as an example of what we need to do here. Below is a sample:

One thing I’ve noticed since moving back to Georgia is how many people here spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about North Carolina, and specifically Charlotte. They’re building high-speed rail in North Carolina. They’re building light rail in Charlotte. They’re spending more money on incentives to lure businesses. They just landed the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

(Notice how many of the supposed superiorities in our northern neighbor concern left-wing causes; you don’t hear much about North Carolina leading the way in cutting red tape or privatizing inefficient state-government functions.)

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A little background: Even with things going so swimmingly in North Carolina — at least according to some people here in Georgia — the state’s voters just saw fit to turn out the majority party (the Democrats) in both chambers of the legislature. It’s the first time the state’s senate has been out of Democratic control since 1870.

And now a few facts that may help explain the political upheaval:

  • During the 2009 through 2012 fiscal years, North Carolina has had bigger budget shortfalls than Georgia all four years in absolute terms, and in three of the four years as a percentage of the state’s budget. This year, their budget shortfall is projected at $3.8 billion to our $1.7 billion.
  • North Carolina’s unemployment rate, at 9.8 percent, is just about the same as our 10.2 percent.
  • North Carolina was cited by the Tax Foundation as having one of the nation’s 10 worst business tax climates; Georgia is in the middle of the pack at No. 25.

The reason I bring this up again is that this weekend I saw an interesting post about Charlotte’s Mecklenberg county on Twitter:

House hunting in SC 2day. Our property taxes going up $2000 next year. $2000 tax increases might be fine in NJ & CA. Bye, bye MeckCo & #CLT

So a metro Charlotte resident is going to move across state lines because their taxes just went up $2000 a year in a horrible economy? Huge tax increases in Charlotte? That couldn’t be right… could it? Well it is according to a blogpost titled Our 6.3% Property Tax Increase:

By the time you read this our top elected local Socialist – I’m writing of course about Jennifer Roberts –  will have graciously presented you with a 6.3% property tax increase. We now have a property tax rate of $.8166 per $100 of accessed property. A revenue neutral rate would have been $.7678 per $100. This 6.3% increase will soak you for another $50 MILLION. For some reason the percentage increase was never mentioned by that bastion of journalistic integrity – The Charlotte Observer – in their breathless advocacy for the tax increase prior to Tuesday’s budget vote by the BOCC.

If you live in Charlotte (85% of Mecklenburg County residents) you have already been the highest taxed individual in North Carolina for the past ten years.In the FY 2009 budget year (last available statistics), Charlotteans were clipped on average $2,360. The median average in North Carolina was $1,304. That’s a mere 44% difference if you’re mathematically inclined. Thanks to Roberts, you are padding your lead.

One of the leading bastions of liberalism in the Southeast is now raising taxes during an economic depression because they have to pay for the expensive policies that many influential Atlantans want to duplicate. Makes me glad I live in Alpharetta, Georgia. My property taxes will actually decrease this year.

So how’s that liberalism working out for you Charlotte?

Is transportation the new housing?

Kyle Wingfield wrote a column discussing crony capitalism in the case of Fannie Mae that gave me an epiphany of where the next government created disaster will occur.

Kyle’s column explored the idea that political elite of both political parties in the United States have been guilty of spending taxpayer money to benefit themselves, their friends and their supporters. Wingfield used Fannie Mae to point out that the crony capitalism inherent in our current political system is the driving force behind our nations rush toward bankruptcy and that the backlash to this unsustainable trend has given birth to the Tea Party movement. I suggest you read the whole column here.

One particular section of Kyle’s column struck me because I see a clear parallel between what occurred with Fannie Mae and what is now going on with the sudden rush to subsidize transportation and transit projects with more taxpayer money. Below is the section I am referring to:

Fannie Mae co-opted relevant activist groups…. Fannie ginned up Astroturf lobbying campaigns….

Fannie lavished campaign contributions on members of Congress. Time and again experts would go before some Congressional committee to warn that Fannie was lowering borrowing standards and posing an enormous risk to taxpayers. Phalanxes of congressmen would be mobilized to bludgeon the experts and kill unfriendly legislation.

Fannie executives ginned up academic studies. They created a foundation that spent tens of millions in advertising. They spent enormous amounts of time and money capturing the regulators who were supposed to police them.

A government entity co-opting activist groups, ginning up academic studies and spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to finance astroturf lobbying campaigns? Well that might have happened when Fannie Mae spent hundreds of millions creating a housing bubble that drove this nation into a depression…. but something like that couldn’t happen again. Could it?

Surely government organizations like the Federal Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency would never spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting ideas and policies that will lead this nation further down the path toward bankruptcy… would they? Well according to the Center for Transportation and Livable Systems:

The U.S. Department of Transportation supports a network of University Transportation Centers throughout the nation to advance technology and expertise in transportation through combined efforts of research, education, and technology transfer. Within the federal SAFETEA-LU legislation, the Center for Transportation and Livable Systems (CTLS), formerly the Center for Transportation and Urban Planning, was designated the University of Connecticut’s University Transportation Center in August 2005. CTLS began its first year of operation in 2007 and since then has supported dozens of researchers and students through its research activities and helped inform the public and the scientific community in its workshops, seminars and symposia.

The theme of the Center for Transportation and Livable Systems is Livable and Sustainable Transportation Systems for Smart Growth — a holistic theme that incorporates walking, bicycling, transit and automobiles in an integrated multi-modal system

But that must be an isolated example. It’s not like the federal government would spend $175 Million on some ridiculous initiative to expand transit into low density suburban and rural communiites. Would it? Apparently so according to this press release on the Federal Transit Authority website: 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the availability of up to $175 million in livability grants to help urban, suburban and rural communities develop transit options to better connect people to where they live, work and play.  Local transit agencies will be able to compete for livability dollars from the pool of up to $175 million. The competitive grant program will
begin accepting applications when announced in the Federal Register during the week of June 20.

It seems everywhere I look there are indications that the federal government along with many state and local officials have begun the process of screwing up America’s transportation infrastructure the same way they managed to destroy the nation’s real estate industry. But it isn’t just politicians. It is also their cronies in the infrastructure and real estate development industries that are helping to create this mess.

Remember the first scandal to break for Georgia’s new Speaker of the House, David Ralston, back in 2010? Maybe a clip from this AJC article will refresh your memory:

House Speaker David Ralston and his family spent part of Thanksgiving week in Europe on a $17,000 economic development mission paid for by lobbyists interested in building a high-speed train line between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

Commonwealth Research Associates, a D.C.-based consulting firm, paid for the trip, which also included Ralston’s chief of staff Spiro Amburn and his spouse, to Germany and the Netherlands the week of Nov. 21-27, according to records filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission.

The trip was the most expensive single expenditure reported by a lobbyist since at least 2005.

Coincidentally another article explains that Speaker Ralston is now proposing that the state of Georgia use the train those lobbyists wanted as leverage in the water wars between state of Tennessee and Georgia:

Georgia’s House speaker says leaders from his state need to sit down with Tennessee officials and discuss trading transportation enhancements for access to the water in the Tennessee River.

During a recent radio interview with WABE-FM in Atlanta, Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said his state might be willing to offer improved rail, roads or other links between Chattanooga and Georgia air and sea ports in exchange for access to the river.

Isn’t that special? Sure is funny how the push for inefficient and unbelievably expensive trains shows up in the oddest places.

Between the early 1990’s and 2008 the federal government along with willing accomplices at the state and local level worked hand in hand with banks, governmental agencies, developers, builders, land speculators and a host of other cronies to create a real estate bubble that has staggered this country. In the process a lot of people made a lot of money at the taxpayers’ expense.

I see many of the same people doing almost the exact same thing now. The only difference is that now they are salivating over the billions of dollars to be made from creating a transportation bubble.

So the question I leave you with is this: Is transportation the new housing?

The Yin and the Yang of Senior Transit in Atlanta

First there was Yin in the AJC:

Metro Atlanta seniors beware:  By 2015, 90 percent of area residents 65 and older are expected to live in neighborhoods with poor or nonexistent access to mass transit.  That’s the worst showing among metropolitan areas with more than 3 million people, according to a new study released Tuesday, “Aging in Place: Stuck Without Options.”

The study was conducted by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and released by Transportation for America, groups that advocate for sustainable development.

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According to the American Association of Retired Persons, when older people lose transportation options they make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor and far fewer trips to family, friends and other places.

The groups called for a federal investment in mass transit expansion.

You can read the whole Yin here.

Then there was Yang from the CATO Institute:

Most seniors don’t ride transit. Census data show that more than 12.5 percent of all Americans are over 65, yet data from the American Public Transportation Association show that only 6.7 percent of transit trips are taken by senior citizens. The average American rides transit less than 34 times a year; the average senior citizen less than 18 times a year.

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Transportation for America wants transit agencies to extend frequent bus or rail service to every remote suburb where there might be a few people over 65 — not because those people want to ride transit, but to simply give them “options.” In order to pay for service extensions to suburbs, many transit agencies have reduced transit service in the central cities where most transit riders are actually located. As a result, since 1985, per-capita transit ridership has plummeted in such major urban areas as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.

Congress expects to pass legislation this year that will decide how to spend $40 billion in annual federal gas tax revenues over the next six years. In recent years, 20 percent of those gas taxes have been spent on transit. Transportation for America’s goal is to further increase that share. But after decades of huge transit subsidies, per-capita transit ridership today is no greater than it was in 1970 — mainly because the subsidies have focused on extending transit service to those who don’t need it rather than providing better service to those who do.

Americans will be better off by privatizing transit. Private operators will provide better service to those willing to live in denser, transit-friendly neighborhoods without wasting a lot of money trying to attract a few suburbanites out of their cars.

You can read the whole Yang here.

I remember attending a transportation charade charrette once where I had a discussion about senior transportation with Alpharetta’s Director of Engineering and Public Works, Pete Sewczwicz. Pete suggested that it would good if the city of Alpharetta could use excess capacity in shopping center parking lots as transit stops for seniors that weren’t able to drive to the doctor’s office. I then pointed out to Pete that if seniors couldn’t drive to the doctor’s office they couldn’t drive to the shopping center either and it was doubtful they would be walking the several miles from their homes to catch a bus.

As the Yang points out, most seniors have no intention of giving up their cars and the only transit helpful to those unable to drive is the kind that picks them up at their house. MARTA already spends millions providing door-to-door transportation for some elderly residents but Georgia’s taxpayers simply can’t be expected to provide door-to-door transportation for every senior citizen in the metro Atlanta area. It might be nice if every senior citizen could get free transportation but unfortunately the service wouldn’t be free, it would be paid for by taxpayers that are already facing 10% unemployment in the worst economic environment of our lifetimes.

Yin may seem like a sympathetic cause but government’s attempt to provide for every possible need of its citizens is simply not sustainable nor desirable. Put me down for Yang on this one.

The public transportation money pit in perspective

*Editors note:Please read the update posted below the original article*

The AJC has started a series of articles designed to give a comprehensive assessment of Georgia’s transportation situation as the state decides whether to raise taxes in the hope of solving the state’s transportation problems. The first article in the series is titled Atlanta at heart of area’s transit issues and you can read the whole thing here.

As the AJC continues their series I will examine their coverage from my own perspective and today I want to focus on the paragraph below because it illustrates beautifully how the absurd inefficiency of public transportation and the resulting cost to taxpayers is overlooked by proponents as well as those responsible for covering transportation issues.

One thing Atlanta wants to do, if the project makes the final list, is pump $861 million into 
MARTA to bring the “system into a state of good repair.” Tom Weyandt, Atlanta’s senior policy adviser for transportation, said MARTA currently has a $1.6 billion backlog on repair projects.

The current MARTA sales tax costs Dekalb and Fulton County taxpayers more than 300 Million Dollars a year but the system still has 1.6 Billion Dollars  worth of maintenance projects that they can’t afford to pay for? In these days of trillion dollar federal deficits people have become completely desensitized to astronomical numbers but let us take a moment to put 1.6 Billion Dollars in perspective. This is what 1.6 Billion Dollars looks like: $1,600,000,000.00.

According to the 2010 census there are now 420,000 people living in the city of Atlanta so that 1.6 Billion Dollars would be $3,809,524 for every person that lives in Atlanta. So after decades of collecting tens of billions of dollars in sales taxes, MARTA needs almost 4 Million Dollars from each man, woman and child in the city of Atlanta just to stay running! Since the average person in Atlanta makes about $50,000 a year, each resident would have to work 76 years just to pay for the repairs that MARTA already needs but it wouldn’t even begin to expand capacity, improve service or reduce congestion in any way.

The numbers being tossed around by public transportation advocates aren’t just numbers, they are money that has to be collected from people that are suffering double digit unemployment along with plummeting property values and skyrocketing prices for food and gas. Politicians and bureaucrats may treat numbers with nine zeros in them like play money but taxpayers are the ones that have to pay the bill so we need to keep this money pit in perspective.

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Update 5/23/2011 7:30 p.m.

As some of you may have noticed my math on the post above was off by almost a trillion dollars and the result was a post which exaggerated the projected per capita cost to Atlanta residents a thousand-fold. Oops! It was a silly mistake which occuured because my calculator wouldn’t function in the billions and in my haste I incorrectly adjusted the numbers twice. I’d like to thank Michael Hadden for pointing out my error.

I do find it ironic that while trying to show how difficult it is to put transportation spending in perspective I actually ended up proving the point by illustrating how easily an error of 1000 percent could go unnoticed. I apologize for my carelessness and will immediately refund each of my readers a prorated share of their subscription fee. 😉

Atlanta Regional Commission disproportionately represents seniors

Today’s Atlanta Journal has an article that reminds me of something most people don’t realize: the Atlanta Regional Commission disproportionately represents seniors in the metro Atlanta community.

The article is Metro Atlanta getting older quickly and it is about the aging of the suburban population in Atlanta. It is a good article and I recommend you read the whole thing. As you do, also keep in mind that control of local issues like zoning and transportation are being systematically regionalized to an organization primarily responsible for providing services to the elderly, the Atlanta Regional Commission. Below is a graph of the ARC’s revenue sources and you can see that about one third of their money, more than 20 million dollars, comes from federal grants to serve Atlanta’s aging population.

ARC Revenue

The reason I point this out is that the AJC article makes it seem as though Atlanta is overwhelmed by an elderly population that it estimates to be 472,000 when in fact that is less than 10% of the metro area’s total population. Our aging population is certainly an important part of Atlanta’s community and future but it is still a relatively small percentage of our overall population.

And yet ARC, the organization which is increasingly responsible for the economic future of our entire state, is primarily an organization responsible for services catering to less than 1/10th of our population. Regardless of how you feel about government involvement in these kind of social programs it seems obvious that such a distortion is not in the best interest of our region.

When you are kicking the competition’s butt, don’t stop kicking… part 2

In my last post I discussed an article by Pat Fox of the Atlanta Journal Constitution which highlighted Alpharetta’s tremendous success attracting lucrative technology jobs. There was also another article in the AJC about Alpharetta but unfortunately that one is not posted online so I contacted the writer, Rachel Tobin. Ms. Tobin graciously said that I could reprint the article here as long as I give the newspaper credit.

It is an excellent article so I am going to try something different today by posting the whole article with certain key phrases highlighted. After the article you can read my comments.

The big money still heads to Alpharetta
Top industries flock to hot office submarket.Besides company HQs, call and data centers also move into area.
Rachel Tobin / Staff

Thirty years after striking out to attract the executive set by building grand homes around bucolic golf courses and horse farms, Alpharetta has succeeded in its mission of also luring the companies that employ those executives. The result: Alpharetta is no longer just an enclave for well-heeled executives. It’s become a hub of call and data centers for Fortune 100s like Coca-Cola, as well as regional corporate offices for other companies with household names. Think Motorola, Philips, Comcast Cable, health care services firm McKesson Provider Technologies and information service Lexis-Nexis.

Despite the 40-minute-plus drive from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport — and sometimes choking traffic — Alpharetta remains one of metro Atlanta’s most competitive office submarkets. It’s successfully been attracting — and keeping — some
of the nation’s hottest industries, from technology to health care. The city was anointed the country’s No. 1 “reloville” by Forbes in 2009. Rival office markets like Central Perimeter have lost big tenants to Alpharetta, which boasts office rental prices that are up to 10 to 15 percent lower.

With housing stock that goes from $85,000 starter homes to multimillion-dollar mansions, Alpharetta is not just for CEOs anymore. Alpharetta’s daily workforce now includes lower- to mid-level staffers at data and call centers as well as regional headquarters for internationally known companies.

Holder Properties has developed 20 to 30 data facilities in north Fulton, said Tim Bright, an executive vice president.
“Because so many data centers have gone there, others are going because of the critical mass of talent, intellectual expertise and vendors that service them, ” he said. “It’s the cool place to be.”

Sarah LaDart, a project manager for the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and Progress Partners, an economic development group, said the area has “been very aware that not every job created in Alpharetta is a $200,000-a-year job. A stone’s throw from the chamber, we have homes that are $100,000.”

Adam Viente with Jones Lang LaSalle describes what he tells potential office tenants at Sanctuary  Park in Alpharetta: “We have million-dollar-plus homes and golf course communities, as well as entry-level housing. And every amenity you could imagine.”

One of those continues to be Alpharetta’s serene setting. On a recent day, traffic was stopped in Sanctuary Park as geese crossed the
road. One of the most popular features at the office park is its softball field, where 16 teams of tenants battle it out for the coveted end-of-season trophy. There’s also a foot path to Verizon Amphitheatre.

Still, “call center” is not exactly what some want the area branded for. “I hate the term because of the connotation that comes with it, ”
Viente said. What Alpharetta has are not sweat shops, where office workers in headsets are corralled into rooms handling difficult customers, then huddle at the exits for 10-minute cigarette breaks, he said. These are sophisticated call centers, he said, handling inside sales calls for companies like Coca-Cola.

Some, for example, are longtime engineers who help restaurants fix beverage machines, added Clint Howell, also with Jones Lang LaSalle, who manages Sanctuary  Park. Many are mid-career and high-paid, he said. “Coca-Cola’s isn’t a call center in the traditional sense of the word, ” Howell said.

One of Alpharetta’s strengths, said Chris Macke, a Washington-based senior real estate strategist with CoStar Group, is its ability to attract companies up Ga. 400 from the Central Perimeter, especially technology firms like Verizon, E-Trade Financial and AT&T that have built campuses in north Fulton.

Many of these businesses will fuel the economy for years, if not decades, to come, Macke said. The result is a stabilization on the north Fulton market, which was hurt when financial service and real estate firms, battered by the recession, shed staff and offices.

Estimates for north Fulton’s overall office vacancy rate vary. CoStar says it was 17 percent in the first quarter, compared to 12.7 percent at the end of 2007. Jones Lang LaSalle reported 19.6 percent for the first quarter, compared to Cushman & Wakefield’s 18.9 percent.

Only the Central Perimeter area and northwest Atlanta have more Class A office space than north Fulton, but North Fulton’s vacancy rate is 15.8 percent, which beats metro Atlanta’s Class A average by more than three points. Central Perimeter’s Class A vacancy
is 18.7 percent, while northwest Atlanta’s is 15.8 percent, according to CoStar.

To be sure, Viente said Class A suburban office buildings aren’t the same as the glittering skyscrapers from downtown to Buckhead. Most Alpharetta office buildings are four to six stories, surrounded by ample parking in manicured settings complete with lakes and waterfalls.

But the office parks and nearby lifestyle continue to be a draw.

“I’m happy where I am right now, ” said Dave Burr, who is consulting business leader for E-Trade Corporate Services, which has a campus on Windward Parkway. He started with E-Trade about two years ago and he loves the campus. “They keep remodeling it and adding more trees and scenery, ” Burr said. “It’s a really pretty office park to come to every morning.” Across the street, there are 10 restaurants, with dozens more a short drive away.

And he raves about another feature: a running group that meets after work Thursdays to take advantage of a nearby 14-mile path that winds through woods. Burr lives in Sandy Springs with his wife, a Midtown lawyer, and their three dogs. He said his commute is a breeze, though he admits his wife’s commute is not.

Clifton Camp, who owns MarketingCamp, a marketing and branding firm, often works from his five-bedroom home in north Fulton.
A Michigan transplant, Camp is on his fifth home since moving here in 2004, continually buying and selling homes after starting with a foreclosure in Country Club of the South. A major plus, he said, is the excellent school system for his three school-aged
kids. By not paying for private school, he said, “I can funnel those funds back into the household so we can have a few of the finer things in life. That is a plus.”

Still, all interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for this story said that the lack of a rail system is north Fulton’s biggest challenge for both future growth and quality of life.

For Viente, that means a competitive disadvantage for Sanctuary Park. “Central Perimeter has four MARTA stops. We have zero. I think that is the biggest thing this submarket is facing, ” he said. He’d like to see a MARTA stop near North Point Mall.

One of the main jobs of Ann Hanlon, chief operating officer of the North Fulton Community Improvement District, is improving transportation. “The north Fulton area is pretty easy to get around within it, but it’s difficult to get to and from it from somewhere else in the region, ” she said. “It’s a challenge, especially when more and more of our leases are going to call centers, which is pulling employees from other parts of the region.” She said when gas prices skyrocketed a few years ago, she saw people walking
long distances from bus stops in hot temperatures. “It’d be 105 degrees outside and people were walking all over Alpharetta
from the bus stations, ” he said. “We said it’s just not practical.” Her organization, with the help of other groups, is studying transit options. “We’re trying to show the suburbs are ready for transit and make the business case for it and that we can’t live without it anymore, ” she said.

About our series
Metro Atlanta has been a master of reinventing itself ever since the Civil War. In the process, the region has become the undisputed capital of the South, a hub for Fortune 500 companies, with an airport that is the envy of the region. Through it all, landmarks have risen, some have fallen, others were saved and new ones were built. As Atlanta’s ambitions grew, so did unique areas with their own flavor and style, attractions and problems. This year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will embark on an occasional series to check on the skyline. We aim to examine the opportunities and challenges in business districts metrowide.

To send us your ideas for the series, please e-mail Rachel Tobin at rtobin@ajc.com.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Main Edition
Sunday, 4/24/2011, Business, D1

The article is filled with interviews and data that show Alpharetta is kicking the Perimeter area’s butt in attracting technology jobs and corporate headquarters. Alpharetta has higher office occupancy rates and people that have relocated their businesses and families here applaud our quality of life, serene setting and outstanding public schools.

Yet somehow the article concludes that Alpharetta needs to be more like Perimeter Center because, “Central Perimeter has four MARTA stops. We have zero.”

It makes sense that the commercial property owners of the Northpoint CID covet the higher rents of the Perimeter area and it is clear they are pressuring our city council to allow more condos and apartments to accomodate MARTA trains.

But Alpharetta is not like Perimeter Center. That is the key to our success. In the words of Ms. Tobin:

“Thirty years after striking out to attract the executive set by building grand homes around bucolic golf courses and horse farms, Alpharetta has succeeded in its mission of also luring the companies that employ those executives”

Alpharetta’s strategy is working. We are kicking the Perimeter area’s butt. Why should we stop kicking to copy them?

When you are kicking the competition’s butt… don’t stop kicking.

***A special thank you to Rachel Tobin of the AJC for writing an excellent article and allowing me to use it here.***