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Sprawl shares blame

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Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. will go down in history as the day that two inches of snow completely shut down Atlanta, the 11th-largest metropolitan region in America. But what became known as “SnowJam 2014” showed us more about Atlanta than the obvious facts that the city needs to update its emergency weather alert apparatus. It also revealed the latent consequences of the racial division that tore the city apart decades ago.

“Atlanta” the city is very different from “Atlanta” the region. That is because the city itself consists of just 432,427 residents across 132 square miles, while the region encompasses 4 million people, 68 municipalities, and 10 counties across  8,376 square miles. In fact, Georgia has 159 counties, more than any other state except Texas. This balkanization is largely the result of the “white flight” from the city to the suburbs during the 1960s and 1970s. Though not explicitly race-related, suburban communities continue to try to distance themselves from the problems of the inner city; since 2005, three new municipalities have been formed in Fulton County alone.

Back to the snowstorm: because so few people live in the city of Atlanta, as soon as the snow started falling and businesses and schools closed, commuters began a mass exodus of 1 million vehicles and that mass exodus quickly jammed up highways. Furthermore, because of the region’s failure to invest in an adequate rapid transit system, these highways were the only way people could get home.

To those who argue this suburbanization and MARTA’s destitution isn’t race-related, keep in mind that Cobb County, which is 66 percent white, has consistently blocked all efforts by MARTA to expand into the county, instead operating its own transit system. Other northern counties have done the same. It is obvious that a major reason these counties refuse to do more to ease transportation problems is they don’t want MARTA transporting “undesirables from the city to their white, wealthy neighborhoods.

As a result, MARTA was relegated to DeKalb and Fulton County, so it could only transport residents of these two counties home on Jan. 28. Even with its limited funding, however, the system did a fantastic job, transporting 400,000 people in two days.

Hopefully the mess that was SnowJam 2014 will open our eyes to our city’s transportation problems. Already the Atlanta Tea Party and the Sierra Club have come together to support increased transportation funding.


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Sprawl shares blame