This is what Atlanta’s roads have looked like for the past 16+ hours. Thousands are still stuck in their cars after spending the night in sub-20 degree weather. Many have abandoned their cars on the side of roads, either out of gas or out of patience, and headed to schools, gas stations, and retail stores to sleep on the floor. SnowedOutAtlanta, an open group on Facebook, surged past 40,000 members as people tried to share their cold stories or offer warm assistance for those that could get to it.
All this makes me wonder: Where was MARTA during Atlanta’s #snowjam2014?
Well, Atlanta’s meager light rail system was just fine and dandy! In fact, it was perhaps a silver lining in the cold clouds that hung over Atlanta Wednesday and into Thursday.
Understandably, MARTA bus service was cancelled as the streets were a standstill, but rail service was operational albeit slightly delayed by 20 or so minutes. If someone could get their car parked within 1 or 2 miles of any MARTA station, they could have relied on the system to get them to any other MARTA station. They could have stayed at a hotel near a station, which there are many. They could have had a friend pick them up from a station that was accessible by car or walked home from that station.
This is exactly what several of my friends did. They ditched their cars and instead of spending hours in them through the freezing night, they walked to a MARTA station and had a family member pick them up.
Atlanta, we have to get over our obsession with commuting by car. A snowstorm shouldn’t make Atlanta look like a panic-stricken scene from the Georgia-based TV show The Walking Dead.
Atlanta can only grow so big if we are tethered to the roads our cars can travel upon. Commuting by car everywhere and everytime is not a viable option for our city’s sustainable economic growth. Traffic jams cost every Atlanta driver over 44 hours and $1,000 annually and we aren’t even the worst congested city!
Atlanta already has many commuting options; we just need to embrace them and make them part of our daily behavior.
I will not lie, it may be less convenient in the short-term. Being able to jump in a temperature-controlled car and be a few miles away in 15 minutes on a whim with no advanced planning or thought is a nice benefit. But is this really the case? Does it really only take 15 minutes to go a few miles when everyone else is doing the same thing? Do we really avoid advanced planning with our daily commute or do we already plan our commute around traffic jams and congestion? And is it really more convenient to sit idly in a car on a hot, humid highway when we could be sitting on an air-conditioned train reading a book, texting, talking on the phone, or watching your favorite TV show on your mobile device while speeding along to our destination?
Ultimately, Atlantans need to invest in Atlanta and make our city more connected. Below is a dream MARTA map. Imagine if this was an option for us in the next inevitable #SnowJam.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the eyes of the world are on you.