For iPhone users: [audio http://ioneblackamericaweb.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/lemon0130.mp3%5D
Two inches of snow shuts down one of the biggest cities in this country. People were stranded on roads and interstates for hours, some for two nights.
How on earth could that happen?
Well, as a former seven year resident of Atlanta who moved there from Chicago via New York City via Philadelphia- let me tell you what most people won’t tell you because some of them have lived in Atlanta all their lives and are too close to it to see it.
First of all the mayor, Kasim Reed, who I know, like and respect, did not prepare for this and was caught off guard.
With forecasters predicting the conditions well in advance, the roads and streets that the city was responsible for were not salted enough in advance of the storm.
The interstates and highways that the state was responsible for were not salted enough in advance as well.
Hence, the state is at fault too.
Businesses, companies, the school system are equally at fault because they encouraged and in some cases even ordered people to go home, essentially forcing nearly a million people into a traffic vortex on an already over taxed and outdated interstate system.
It is no secret that Atlanta has one of the worst traffic problems in the country. Which brings me to who holds the biggest responsibility, besides Mother Nature, for the awful Atlanta weather tragedy, and they are the citizens of the Atlanta metro area.
I’m not blaming the victims. Most of them were just doing what they were told to do on Tuesday- to get in their cars and go home but Atlanta has historically rejected mass transit expansion for decades.
In late 2012 Atlantans rejected a multi-billion dollar transportation plan that business leaders called an essential bulwark against regional decline. (Source: AJC) The plan which would have helped to relieve congestion at key interstates by creating 29 miles of new rail track to passengers would have been paid for by a mere 1 percent increase in sales tax for only 10-years.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution writes, the defeat of the sales tax left the Atlanta region’s traffic congestion problem with no visible remedy and was a failure for the first attempt ever to unify the 10-county region’s disparate voters behind a plan of action.
Had they voted for the plan, the disaster would still probably have happened but the ball would have been rolling to prevent the next one.
Why did they reject it? Again, according to the AJC, “distrust in government.” There is huge intervention of the Tea Party in Georgia which wants no taxes raised for anything no matter what. The other reason, and here’s the big one, is fear.
Having lived there I know many people believe expanded mass transit will give the wrong kinds of people access to their gated and pristine, McMansion communities.
They want to keep their neighborhoods the way they are.
The city’s very limited mass transit system is called MARTA, which stands for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
However, the pejorative- the nickname – that seems to fall from most people’s mouths, in private, among their friends who all look like them is MARTA, Moving African-Americans Rapidly Through Atlanta.
So whether it was the MARTA issue or the fact that the plan wasn’t sold well—Atlanta seems bound to be plagued by bad decisions by both its leaders and voters while it’s already sprawling metro area keeps on growing.