Last week, Atlanta received some uncharacteristic snowfall. Although the
storm only brought two inches of snow, it was enough to halt the entire
Atlanta metro area. Children were forced to stay overnight at their schools,
some commuters spent up to 20 hours in their vehicles, and many simply
had to abandon their cars on the interstate. All this for two inches of
snow, but this isn't the first time this has happened.
Three years ago, a snowstorm hit the Atlanta metro area and the same thing
happened. The governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, and the mayor of Atlanta,
Kasim Reed, have received most of the blame. Critics say that both the
Mayor and the Governor did not adequately plan for a weather emergency
like this. The Governor is accepting responsibility, but Mayor Reed is
standing by the way he handled the crisis.
The real problem is not as simple as "Southerners don't know how
to drive in the snow." This was just as much, if not more, the consequences
of poor decisions as it was an act of God.
The Downtown Connector and MARTA
There are about 6 million people living in the Atlanta metro area. Only
about half a million people live in the actual city of Atlanta. If you
live anywhere near Atlanta, the Downtown Connector may very well be a
part of your daily commute. This highway cuts directly through downtown Atlanta.
Construction began on the connector project in the 1950s. To make room
for the highway, hundreds of people had to move from their homes into
the Atlanta suburbs. Many highways were constructed during this time,
but a transit system was not approved until the 1970s. But even this transit
system, MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) does not
serve the entire region. What this means for most people is, if you need
to get to or through Atlanta, you're going to have to drive.
More and more people are moving to Atlanta and its suburbs, but MARTA is
limited. A 1971 bill restricted expansion of the transit system as did
adjoining counties' rejection of it (Cobb, Clayton and Gwinnett counties).
What remains are over-crowded highways and interstates that barely function
in good weather, let alone during a snowstorm.
Because the greater Atlanta area comprises multiple cities and counties,
there was a severe lack of coordination. For example, there was confusion
as to who was responsible for clearing the streets. Was it the city's
responsibility or the county's? In addition, when it came to evacuating
motorists off the roads, Mayor Reed said that the city was only responsible
for doing was getting people off the roads. He claims that it was the
state of Georgia's responsibility to get them home.
The lack of communication and the lack of a streamlined transportation
system for the entire Atlanta metro area has many people concerned. If
two inches of snow could bring one of the largest metro areas in the nation
to a halt, what happens in the event of a bigger disaster?