Gravel > Connect-The-Dots Transportation Planning Will Not Work.

(ideas.)  With advance apologies and love for my hard-working brothers and sisters in transportation planning, the more I look at the More MARTA plan, the madder and sicker I get. Concocted in some backroom laboratory, this is no plan for a great future city. What does it add up to? What kind of city will it create? On the heels of the groundbreaking Atlanta City Design, which aspired to move Atlanta toward Dr. King’s Beloved Community – what is this nasty hairball of candy-colored lines that somebody smeared across a map of the city?


The most egregious crime in this pile of tortured lines is the yellow one. It represents light rail transit – LRT – which is by far the most expensive type of transit in the plan. If LRT is done well, it can also be the most impactful. It can carry more people, shape the geography of growth, and create all kinds of economic, social, and cultural opportunities. This yellow line, however, will do the opposite. People won’t ride most of it because it doesn’t make sense and is slowed by traffic congestion. The city won’t be shaped around it in any logical way because it is inherently illogical and incoherent as an idea. And even though it would be our largest investment in transit in a generation, it will damage our larger goal of equity by investing the most money in the already-prosperous parts of town.

I could go on, but you get my point.

The yellow line is a classic example of what I call “connect-the-dots transportation planning.” It is “design-by-committee” applied to urban planning and the results are as ugly as you’d expect. Rather than a logical set of discrete investments that can deliver clear routes and objectives, it is a horse-traded list of political priorities that some sorry sucker had to draw on a map. It literally just connects the dots – it is six different projects strung together as if that made sense.

Instead of trying to do too many things not very well, let’s do a handful of things exceptionally well and deliver clear and effective outcomes for our future. Let’s leverage our transit investments like the Atlanta Beltline and Campbellton Road to help implement the Atlanta City Design. Let’s build the entire Atlanta Beltline – a clear concept with a long history of broad, inclusive objectives that are critical to achieving that vision.  >> Ryan Gravel

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