To no Atlanta commuter’s surprise, the metro recently ranked among the top most congested cities in the world, according to a new report by transportation analytics firm INRIX.
According to INRIX’s 2016 Global Traffic Scorecard, Atlanta ranked eighth in the world for congestion with the average commuter spending 70.8 hours in traffic each year.
Now, it’s worth noting that Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco — three American cities with better mass transit than Atlanta — are higher on the list, as is London, which has an amazing Underground and extensive commuter lines. Nevertheless, at least those cities have made efforts to expand or improve their systems. (Los Angeles, in particular, seems to add a new line every time I visit.)
Atlanta? Well, there is the streetcar that nobody rides — it would be more useful if it did more than make a loop downtown, and yes, I know that’s the plan — and … well, that’s about it. Instead, the state (which controls the pursestrings) has decided to invest in “Lexus lanes” — an express toll lane on I-75 on the northside and I-75 on the southside. (One already exists on I-85.) You want to avoid traffic? You may pay richly — as much as $10.40 for 12 miles — for the privilege. (Would it have been so hard to create express lanes like the ones in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland?)
Meanwhile, the Braves are about to open the baseball season with a new stadium at the busy Cobb Cloverleaf, which is practically devoid of mass transit besides the occasional CCT bus. I wish all the fans sitting on I-285 good luck and plenty of gasoline.
Atlanta isn’t an easy place to plan mass transit. It’s not a grid — in fact, as a friend once noted, even many of its major arteries are laid out on the remains of Indian trails and pig tracks. (And ferries — lots and lots of ferries.) So there’s definitely a need for well-planned road expansion. Mass transit is far from the only solution.
Still, it would be nice if this traffic-choked metropolis tried to think more comprehensively than roads, roads, roads.