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For the reasons above, bolstered by the state requirement that the entire 39.3% of the HMT revenue stream go entirely to such a project, I believe our decision is in the best interest of the City of Atlanta.
Norwood: From my previous years on City Council, I know enough not to venture a guess as to how I would've voted. Experience tells me our present council members were privy to countless reports, studies, memorandums, lively discussions, and debates that led them to their decision. Since I was not privy to all of the internal reports, studies, and discussions, I feel that it is inappropriate for me to take a position on a decision that is now fait accompli.
Last year, metro Atlanta voters rejected the T-SPLOST, which would have raised billions of dollars in funding for large-scale transportation projects throughout the region and smaller projects inside the city limits. Mobility remains an issue in Atlanta. What ideas do you have for improving transportation?
Watson: The rejection of the regional transportation referendum was a consequential loss for Atlanta and the region. The capital city is central to our state's commerce and we cannot afford to bear the burden alone of providing safe, reliable transportation options for commuters.
Regional leaders must come together once more to determine a viable funding mechanism for addressing our existing transportation infrastructure needs while simultaneously expanding transportation options. In the interim, our state representatives are exploring how to make the transit experience as seamless as possible across the numerous agencies. Additionally, under new leadership, MARTA is making significant efforts to improve the rider experience and increase service frequency.
In less than six months, the first phase of the Atlanta Streetcar is scheduled to open for service. Our signature street, Peachtree, and the ever-popular Old Fourth Ward neighborhood will be home to the first rail project within the City limits since MARTA.
The City is also vigorously pursuing federal funding for public transit along the Atlanta BeltLine and we are establishing a robust bicycle network, addressing the critical issue of last-mile connectivity.
As our regional leaders brainstorm on "Plan B", the City of Atlanta could consider the implementation of a parking user fee that may provide additional funding to build and improve upon our transportation infrastructure while encouraging us to drive less often to our destinations.
Norwood: There are two issues: one is within our city limits, we must work to resolve traffic congestion in the areas where it exists. The second is the larger regional gridlock that exists on our interstates and in our suburbs.
There are many roadways in our city which provide mobility today, and I travel them frequently. Other parts of our city, including the one in which I live, has gridlock during many hours of the day. We can't "widen" our way out of congestion; we must redevelop our city so that we learn from the mistakes of the past. I have been a proponent of new urbanism principles for many years and am delighted to see these principles becoming more widely known and appreciated.
Atlanta is a city that was built for cars. In a city full of cars, there is no quick fix for gridlock traffic. As the city continues to grow, we need to make sure that we create new density that doesn't exacerbate existing congestion. Traffic signalization needs to be deployed to assist in congestion. And we need to evaluate the traffic flow issues caused by off-duty officers who are hired to "move traffic quickly" for individual entities, but which may produce unintended consequences creating gridlock on nearby streets.
As a councilmember, I was proud to support the Beltline and will continue to fully support system expansion for transit, bike, and pedestrian trails, and the creation of WalkUPs – Walkable Urban Places.
Traffic doesn't stop at county borders, city lines, or at the Chattahoochee. While MARTA, the CCT, and the GCT systems function well enough, I would like to see a coordinated Atlanta area transportation system that envelopes the entire scope of our city and region. Paramount is developing solutions to clear our interstates and roadways quickly of traffic accidents.
Homelessness in Atlanta remains a pressing problem. However, the city's charter limits what it can do to fight the issue. What realistic options does the city have when it comes to tackling homelessness?
Watson: There is much national debate on cities taking on social issues such as homelessness. Thanks to an innovation delivery grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, we have experienced success in providing for our homeless population – particularly homeless veterans. However, we will have to work with Fulton County, the state and other non-profit partners to provide supportive housing as we have done with the Gateway Center, the Veterans Administration and United Way of Greater Atlanta.
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