AB_Clearing_the_Air_in_Atlanta_JUE1.doc - 1 Clearing the...

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Clearing the air in Atlanta: Transit and smart growth or conventional economics? Alain Bertaud 166 Forest Road, Glen Rock, NJ 07452 [email protected] Jan 11 2003 Revised May 29,2003 Abstract The Atlanta’s Regional Transportation Plan addresses the problems of pollution and congestion by proposing to expand the existing transit network and to promote a more intensive use of the existing built-up area. This paper argues that neither of these proposals is feasible: the current spatial structure of Atlanta is incompatible with a sizable transit market share; and Atlanta’s spatial structure cannot be changed significantly in the next 20 years, even if draconian land use regulations were adopted. As a result, technology and congestion pricing are the only way to solve the problems of pollution and congestion in Atlanta. Acknowledgement I want to thank all the professionals who spent time with me during my visit to Atlanta in February 2001. Their candid discussions of Atlanta’s problems and the superb database available through ARIS gave me a unique view of this fascinating metropolis. I want to acknowledge also the helpful comments of the editor and the comments of two referees. 1
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I.Introduction A. The price of success: pollution, congestion and a need for Federal funds Atlanta is among the most congested and polluted cities in America. 1 These conditions have led the federal Government to block allocations for additional highway investments between 1998 and 2000 2 . The reason for interrupting federal transfer was that more road investments would only increase pollution and traffic congestion. The Federal shot across the bow of Atlanta’s region has resulted in a new strategy and a new program of investments prepared by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC [2]). These apparently satisfied Federal authorities as subsidies resumed after July 2000. However, in Atlanta the problems of pollution and traffic congestion remain as serious as ever. According to a Brookings study [7], since 1977, Atlanta has never been in compliance with EPA’s ozone standards. Georgia Department of Natural Resources estimates that about half of the nitrogen oxides that cause ozone pollution in metro Atlanta come from cars and trucks. A survey by the Texas Transportation Institute [24] estimates that the average driver in Atlanta was confronted with 68 hours of traffic delay in 1997, wasting in the process 108 gallons of fuel per driver. The same survey ranked three Atlanta intersections eleventh, twelfth, and eighteenth among the worst traffic bottlenecks in the United States. The survey examined only those intersections that caused more than 9 million hours of delay a year The high levels of pollution and traffic congestion in Atlanta are linked to its fast rate of growth, and to its spectacular economic success story. The metropolitan area has been a magnet for migration for the last 20 years. Between the two census years of 1990 -2000 the population of the metropolitan area has been growing at an annual average rate of 3.14%, one of fastest growing urban areas in the US.
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  • Fall '17
  • Urban area, Atlanta metropolitan area, transit

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