Growth and Traffic in Fulton County


Transportation funding will be a crucial issue for Fulton County in 2016 as mentioned in this previous article. Transportation can often be a complex issue to discuss but in Fulton County it is further complicated because it involves a million people stretched over 90 miles including the high density urban areas of Atlanta, medium density suburban areas and extremely low density rural areas concentrated at either end of the county.

The county’s demographics are as varied as the geography as well. Over the last 40 years Fulton County has become a true melting pot with people from all over the world representing every economic background imaginable.

Given these characteristics it is important to understand that there is no universal solution to solving transportation issues. Expecting a single solution that would allow a million people from varied geographic, cultural and economic backgrounds to reach unanimous consent would be unreasonable. But it is reasonable to believe that an objective evaluation of current options could result in a reasonable proposal that an overwhelming majority of residents can agree on.

The first step of that process is to objectively assess our current situation so let’s take a look at the numbers. The largest city in Fulton County is Atlanta and our metropolitan area was one of the fastest growing metro areas in the nation from the year 2000 to 2010.

As you can see in the charts below the Atlanta metro population increased by more than 1.1 million people between the last two censuses taken. The population of Atlanta actually decreased slightly over that decade but the population of Fulton county as a whole increased by more than 100,000 people.

Fulton growth 00-10Atlanta-MSA comparison

In the year 2000 Roswell and Alpharetta were the only cities which existed in North Fulton county but they only accounted for 130,000 of the 297,000 people who lived in the area. The other 167,000 residents lived in areas of unincorporated Fulton County until the municipalities of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton were formed.

The formation of the new cities took place before the 2010 Census which showed the population of North Fulton to be over 347,000. So over ten years there was a total increase of approximately 50,000 residents in the region which equals a 17% growth rate.

That means North Fulton County has been one of the fastest growing areas in one of the most rapidly growing metropolitan regions in the United States over the last 15 years. So it is only natural an area experiencing such growth would also experience growing pains. In North Fulton the growing pain most often complained about is rush hour traffic.

And while traffic is definitely an issue most areas only experience congestion for a few hours a week. In Alpharetta we generally have complete mobility for about 20 hours a day during the week and any time on the weekend. During the summer when schools are out there is hardly any rush hour at all in most areas.

For example on an average Tuesday morning at 11:00 a.m. a person can drive anywhere in Alpharetta in about 20 minutes. They could get to I-285 on GA 400 in about thirty minutes or even reach Hartsfield Airport in less than an hour.

So as we assess infrastructure needs in North Fulton county it is important to realize that most roads flow freely except for about 4 hours a day, five days a week. The other 88% of the time we already have an abundance of transportation capacity.

The issue North Fulton faces isn’t really a lack of road capacity but rather a problem of poor traffic flows during peak hours. The distinction won’t make you feel better when you’re  sitting through 3 cycles of a red light to get through an intersection during rush hour… but we have to identify the right problem if we want to find the right solution.

However as we discuss what to do about traffic in 2016 let us not lose sight of the fact that it is only an issue because North Fulton provides one of the most attractive places in the world to live, raise a family and do business. As a region we have successfully created a place where people and companies from all over the world want to be. That is a good thing and we should not take it for granted.

Success does bring challenges but they are the challenges we should welcome as we work to resolve them.




Transportation follies continue

The third act of Georgia’s transportation tax follies began this week as the planning director of the Department of Transportation, Todd Long, announced his list of projects which could be funded with the tax increase. If passed by voters, Metro Atlanta taxpayers will be expected to pay an additional 8 Billion Dollars over the next ten years. With this week’s release of potential projects the state has winnowed the list down to a mere $23 Billlion. But since 23 Billion is nearly 300% of what can be expected from taxpayers the rest of the cuts will have to come from that master of efficiency known as a government committee.

The AJC has an article about this most recent revision of the transportation project list and you can read the whole thing here. Below are a few of the highlights:

A group of 21 local elected officials must take those $22.9 billion worth of projects and jettison about $15 billion of them, because the penny tax would raise only about $8 billion over its 10 years


For  the moment, this is it: $14 billion worth of transit projects, $8.6  billion worth of road projects, $205 million in sidewalk and bicycle  projects, and $28 million for aviation.

Long emphasized that the  $14 billion price tag for all the transit was just a reflection of the  high cost of new transit capital projects, not his opinion on how much  the region should spend on such projects.


Bodker (Johns Creek mayor) is ambivalent about the idea of Ga. 400 transit. While he favors transit, he said it has to be the right project, a sustainable one, so he’d like to see it studied first.  MARTA staff did not put the project on the agency’s list because of the difficulty and expense of crossing the Chattahoochee River to get to the next jobs center, staff members told their board.

But other officials in north Fulton favored putting the $839 million line on the list, Long said.

So the director of planning added an $839 million MARTA train extension to Roswell because “other officials in North Fulton” favored it. I can’t imagine who those other officials  might be.

The MARTA train is projected to cost 10% of all the money collected from every taxpayer in the metro Atlanta area over ten years and wasn’t even requested by the people of Roswell. That is the kind of decision making which will doom this entire transportation tax boondoggle.

I am starting to believe that the tax increase is doomed. And while I never thought the tax increase was a good idea, it is sad that the state will have wasted two years by the time voters make it official.

Meeting tomorrow with Fulton County School Board Member Katie Reeves

Below is an email I received today about an opportunity tomorrow morning to discuss the local school redistricting with our representative on the Fulton County School Board, Katie Reeves. I know this is late notice but it is an important issue and I wanted to pass it along in case anyone is interested in attending:


As I am sure you are aware by now, there are redistricting decisions being made
by FCSS that affect our Milton cluster. Unfortunately, we arrived rather late
“in the game” as some communities who have previously been affected
by such decisions were ready with their arguments, plans, and matching t-shirts.

Though it was unexpected, it turns out that the latest proposed map will have a
major impact on the high school beginning Fall 2012 but extending far into the
future. We need to communicate to the board and superintendent (who decide the
final map with their vote) that we have significant concerns. Katie Reeves is
our district’s representative and her regularly scheduled community meeting
happens to be this Tuesday at 9:30am at Crabapple Crossing Elementary School .

Please plan to attend so that you can hear information firsthand from Ms.
Reeves and show support for Milton . Previous experience with such meetings
leads me to caution you that respectful and informed dialogue are best heard.
You may not feel conversant enough with the complex issues to speak up, and
there may not be time for all who want to speak to do so.


You have likely already seen one petition and there will be at least one other.
If you agree with the content of these documents, please sign and send along so
that the board hears our “Milton Voice.”

Last, please forward this email to those you know who share that voice.

Thank you!

“More density envisioned for East Roswell”

That is the headline of this article in the Roswell Neighbor by Joan Durbin. Apparently there is an email circulating in Roswell that points out how the City of Roswell is planning to urbanize in much the same way the City of Alpharetta has for the past five years.

It may come as a surprise to the average resident who is busy raising a family but it is completely consistent with what has been going on in the Atlanta area ever since the 1990’s. That is when the federal government inserted themselves into local zoning issues by forcing local communitities to surrender their autonomy to regional authorities under the threat of withholding transportation money. Now local council members allow our future to be dictated by the federal government through the Atlanta Regional Commission. Of course our schools won’t suck and our crime rates won’t soar until the current councilmembers are safely out of office so what does it matter to them?

I sympathize with the residents of Roswell that are frustrated by a city government that should be representing them and hope that Roswell residents have more success in stopping the high density onslaught than we have here in Alpharetta. We are all fighting the same fight.