marta12Much is being made of a rail line connection to Emory; presumably this will be a light-rail line from Lindbergh Station which will follow the CSX tracks to the Emory campus.  I even suggested as much a while back, but the prevailing thought at that time was that a heavy rail line should be built along that same route.  The old metric for a heavy rail line was $400 million per mile unless there was extraordinary construction such as hard rock tunneling.  I’m sure that it is more expensive now.

However, there is another alternative that while costing the same, may actually serve more people than just Emory.  In its original design for the heavy rail system, several branches were incorporated into the design that allowed for future expansion.  At the time of original construction of the heavy rail lines, structures were placed at several locations.  These structures typically were short tunnels which “went nowhere”.  There are several.  One is just north of Arts Center station for expansion to the NW.  There is another, an underpass just south of the East Point station for a line to Hapeville.

One is actually being used.  Just west of the Ashby Station, there is a line that goes all of one mile up to Bankhead Station as the Green Line.  This was originally the “Perry Homes Line”, and a portion of it actually got built after lots of local political pressure so that “people living in Perry Homes could get to their jobs”.  Of course, the irony is that Perry Homes no longer exists and is a statement to the fact that heavy-rail construction takes a lot of time in addition to costing a lot of money.  So, for the moment, the Green Line is an operational anomaly, serving one unique station and duplicating the balance of its route on the Blue Line.

Right now, the Green Line runs through downtown, terminating at Edgewood Candler Park station.  It then switches over to a center track passing siding, allowing Blue Line trains to pass by.  The operator walks to the other end of the train and the Green Line train then proceeds westward to Bankhead.  However, just a bit east from Candler Park station, the other end of the passing siding there is an expansion point where the Green Line train could go into a short tunnel, passing under the CSX Railroad.  Like so many other MARTA heavy rail rights of way, the Green Line would then be parallel to the CSX tracks which lead to Tucker and beyond.


So, the Green Line, which is currently underutilized, could be expanded up to the Emory area by following the CSX tracks northward.  By doing so, at least two DeKalb County neighborhoods would have MARTA stations, which could also include the Veteran’s Administration Hospital on Clairmont Road.  After passing under North Decatur Road, the MARTA Green Line would then turn westward, again following the CSX right of way, connecting the main campus of Emory University, Emory Hospital and the CDC facility on Clifton Road.  Emory already has circulator buses in the general vicinity, and perhaps a light rail circulator line could serve not only Emory but also CDC and relieve a bad traffic situation.

Will it get built?  I’ve given up trying to predict this sort of stuff.  Should it be built?  Maybe.



Six years ago, I opined that the Atlanta Streetcar project was destined for failure.  At that time, I was criticized for “Not getting “IT””.  The notion of “IT” is a handy one when you don’t have a coherent argument.  Telling someone that they don’t get “IT” makes the speaker look wise and also makes the target of the matter look like a dolt.  In other words,  you are not only so stupid that you don’t get “IT”, but there’s not enough time to teach you just what “IT” is and why it is important.  “IT” sounds very good in faculty lounges across our great Republic.

This is not an “I told you so” piece.  Rather, it is a theoretical discussion about what can be done to salvage this misbegotten project.  And, let’s face it, the Atlanta Streetcar project is so poorly conceived that graffiti “artists” (pictured above) were able to successfully tag at least two of the Streetcar’s vehicles.  Their “work” took a fair bit of time and occurred at the operation’s maintenance facility.  Either the Streetcar’s employees did not know or did not care about what was going on, not a good omen.  That said, let’s talk about what to do.

Needless to say, there are those who feel that the whole project should be abandoned.  The three Siemens S70 cars have some sort of resale value since there are a good number of these cars operating on other system in the United States.  And, the City of Atlanta could take the same approach as the last time that Atlanta gave up on streetcars; take down the overhead wires and sell them for scrap, then pave over the rails and move on to buses.  Frankly, abandonment of the Streetcar is not an option.

So, what to do?  Ultimately, any solution calls for spending more money, a difficult task given the disastrous results so far.  Almost $100 million has been spent and by most measures, the outcome was unsuccessful.  There is one excessively cheerful individual who repeatedly insists that massive development has occurred as a result of the Streetcar.  Say what they will,  the real measure is at the farebox.  And by that measure, the Streetcar is a failure.  When asked to pay for their ride, the market for the Atlanta Streetcar evaporated.  Yes, I know that farebox receipts don’t fully cover the costs of operation, but if you look at any of the cars when they are in operation, you will know that the car does nothing but bleed money.  If only the Streetcar actually did something.

There are at least three things that the Streetcar could do.  The politicians hold out for a connection to the Atlanta Beltline which, in my mind, is more high-pie-in-the-sky stuff that brought us the first 2.7 miles.  In due time, this may be a viable option, but it will be years down the road.  Consider some other possibilities:

  • Student Transit 1.  Georgia State is now well involved with development around the former Braves stadium. Already, there are massive parking lots for the University’s students and faculty, with much more to come.  For the moment, buses take care of things, but why not extend the Streetcar line out to Turner Field?  And, while they’re at that, extend the line further into the local neighborhood?
  • Student Transit 2.  At the other end of the Streetcar route, extend the line up Luckie Street to North Avenue, serving Georgia Tech and Coca-Cola?
  • Football Transit.  Yes, the new stadium will be served by the MARTA Blue and Green lines, but a lot of people come to town and stay in nearby hotels.  A special branch could serve the World Congress Center and the stadium, being used only when sufficient passenger traffic is present.

And, since we’re talking about this, how about a real high-pie-in-the-sky project?  Close Peachtree Street to automobile traffic from 14th Street south through town to Garnett Street.  Maybe even on to West End?  Turn it into a transit / pedestrian / bicycle thoroughfare.  Most auto traffic already uses Juniper Street southbound and West Peachtree Street northbound.  A Peachtree Corridor project would serve a number of prominent locations such as the Fox Theater, Crawford Long Hospital, the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, and a host of others, making for a true public relations jewel.

Hey, it could happen.

The Gate City Street Railroad Company (variously 1881 or 1884) ran from near Five Points downtown to Ponce de Leon Springs. Opera house owner Laurent de Give was an investor.  Pages 6 and 7 of Martin’s Mule to MARTA, Volume 1, show photos of the line’s car(s).  Little else is known about this line, which later became the Union Street Railroad.


Lithia Springs Railway

I have included the Lithia Springs Railway in this list, but I am reluctant to do so.  Several sources cite the existence of this car line, but there is little to support it.  It is not the Bowden Lithia Springs Shortline Railroad.

In my research, I have only come across one entry (using Google Books):

lithia springs 1894

Listed as “6 miles of railroad, 5 cars”, originating at the Post Office, sharing track with Atlanta Consolidated for some distance. Headed westward toward the Chattahoochee River.

As I mentioned initially, the railway journal listings from the 1800’s need to be taken with a grain of salt since: “These journals would report transit activities in Atlanta, but need to be considered with a minor degree of skepticism since they also reported on the hopes and dreams of various promoters.


The West End & Atlanta Street Railroad (1872) was a horse car line which ran between downtown Atlanta, West End and Westview Cemetery.  By 1883, the line had electrified, with these later cars shown in the Harold E. Cox list of cars manufactured by Brill:

  • 4 closed, two-axle cars, Order number 3266, 12/1890
  • 1 open, two-axle car, Order number 3267, 12/1890

The “two axle car” of that era was very similar to the horsecar designs, with an open platform at each end and a heavier frame to support the electrical equipment.

The line was merged into the Atlanta Consolidated Railway, owned by Joel Hurt, in 1891.




Atlanta Street Railway – Founded 1872 (Adair & Peters)

 Atlanta’s first streetcar line used animal drawn cars, similar to this:


This line initially operated between Five Points downtown and West End.  Three additional lines were added in 1873 and 1874.  According to the Atlanta Street Railway’s Wikipedia entry, in 1889: “….the line owned 15 miles (24 km) of track, fifty streetcars and 200 horses and mules.

Two years later, in 1891, the Atlanta Street Railway was absorbed into the Atlanta Consolidated Railway. Presumably the mules and their horse cars were retired, with the routes continuing as improved electric car lines.

Animal drawn cars had the operational advantages of steel wheel on steel rail, along with low start up costs.  Typically, the horse cars were built by stagecoach builders and the like.  The car bodies themselves were wood with metal wheels.

The animals represented significant operating overhead, along with the commensurate waste left in the streets.  The horse car lines had also been decimated by the Great Epizootic of 1872, when hundreds of horses succumbed to Equine Influenza.  The horse car lines had a considerable investment in their animals, and as passenger traffic on the horse car lines grew, popular concern about the welfare of the animals became a greater concern.  As horse drawn vehicles slowly were phased out, the horse car lines switch to electric traction.

Little is known of the Atlanta Street Railway car roster, but Atlanta Transit / MARTA had a rubber-tired promotional car that captured the spirit:




Early Atlanta Streetcar Companies

There are two definitive books about the Atlanta streetcar systems:

  • Mule to MARTA, Vol 1 and Vol 2.  Written by Jean Martin and published by the Atlanta Historical Society, these two volumes cover the transit scene in Atlanta.  There was supposed to have been a third volume which would have covered the equipment used by the various streetcar companies, but it never made it to print.
  • The Trolley Titans.  Written by O. E. Carson and published by Interurban Press, this book also covers the Atlanta streetcar scene.  And again the streetcar equipment roster remains unreported.

Additionally, there are at least two web pages that also cover the subject of Atlanta streetcars:


This blog section is meant to serve as a supplemental reference for these books and webpages.  While there has been coverage about Atlanta’s streetcar systems, there has been scant coverage as to the equipment which these systems used.

Many of Atlanta’s early streetcar lines were operated with cars that were pulled by either horses or mules.  At that point, circa 1870, that was all that they had available.  Steel wheel on steel rail was an established technology, thanks to the steam powered railroads, but the motive power was like most other vehicles on the streets in that era.  Horses.

The first successful electric powered streetcar line was Frank Sprague‘s Richmond, Virginia system.  That was 1888, and as pointed out in the Wikipedia article about Sprague, there had been over 7o attempts at electric powered streetcars up to that point.  The Atlanta and Edgewood Street Railroad first operated in 1889, three years after the formation of the company and one year after Richmond began operations.  The electric trolley industry was born.

Below is probably the most popular image used to illustrate the early days of streetcars in Atlanta.  It is the Inman Park car barn of the A&E, and through the grace of God and the efforts of countless civic minded preservationists, it still stands.  A rare quantity for modernity-driven Atlanta.


Inman Park Trolley Car Barn

While the carbarn itself still stands, who manufactured the streetcar, and how many of them were there?  What is missing from the books and articles is a list of what equipment each of the individual systems used to transport passengers around Atlanta.

Not that there hasn’t been talk about it.  And not that it is an easy matter.  Like other historical subjects, there often is no corporate sentimentality about preserving company records for the benefit of posterity.  Things changed, and there was little or no need to save outdated records.  And so, into the trash.

I have my own theory as to why Jean Martin’s Mule to MARTA stopped dead in its tracks, but I did have an interesting telephone conversation with Mr. Carson.  He has thoroughly researched the various equipment rosters, but it’s like a lot of other things in life, things get done in their own time.  Or not.  Mr. Carson had been active for many years with the Shoreline Trolley Museum, located in Connecticut.  This museum holds the one active Atlanta streetcar, No. 948:


Georgia Railway & Power City Car

Gene Carson was responsible for the preservation of 948.  And he has thoroughly researched the streetcar rosters of Atlanta, both the predecessor companies and Georgia Railway and Power’s (later Atlanta Transit).  But there is the minor matter of his publisher, Interurban Press, going out of business.

And it is hard to get a train book published in the United States.  Not impossible, but still hard.  Not to mention the time and energy needed for such a project.  Mr. Carson is retired and has moved to the Wine County of California to live with his daughter and granddaughter.  I say that that is fair enough.  The Shoreline has his research materials, and perhaps, in due time, his efforts will see print.

But, for the moment, all you’ve got is me.  I’ll do my best.  This section of my blog will cover the equipment rosters of the individual companies that led up to the consolidation in the form of the Georgia Railway & Power Company.


Much of my research on the Atlanta equipment rosters is sourced from the Martin books and the Carson book.  In addition, the late Harold E. Cox, of Virginia, compiled substantial information about streetcars manufactured by a variety of companies such as Cincinnati, Brill, Laconia and others.   So, it was possible to search the manufactured car list for the various Atlanta car lines.  There was also significant help from the miracle of Google Books, a trove of old railway journals and the like.  These journals would report transit activities in Atlanta, but need to be considered with a minor degree of skepticism since they also reported on the hopes and dreams of various promoters.

There’s a nice timeline, located here.

This timeline is a little simplistic since there were a number of mergers that eventually led to the Atlanta Consolidated system, which led to “The Second Battle of Atlanta”, where two great financial forces in the City fought it out for control.

There are also a number of “shell” companies that were formed.  This was typically the first step in accumulating capital to start a transit operation; sometimes insufficient capital was available and these proposed companies would quietly disappear.  To my knowledge, these existed on paper only:

  • Southside Street Railroad Company – 1882
  • Capital Street Railroad Company – 1884
  • Baltimore Place & Peters Park Railroad Company – 1885
  • Atlanta City & Suburban Streetcar Company – 1887
  • Marietta Street Railroad Company – 1888
  • West Atlanta Street Railroad Company – 1888
Trolley Private Right of Way

Trolley Private Right of Way

Click to access GAStreetcar.pdf

Click to access GAStreetcar.pdf

High Speed Dreams


 One of the evergreens for politicians are high speed trains.  They get dewy-eyed at the prospect of having high speed trains in their political districts.  For people who have been savvy enough to get elected and have the self-control which allows them to stay in office for long periods of time, politicians can be remarkably irrational when it comes to the subject of railroad transportation.  Especially high-speed trains.

Inevitably, their eyes turn toward the Northeast Corridor.  If they’re lucky, their constituents will send them on a 14-day junket to Europe to survey the passenger railroad situation there.  Like the Intercity Express:


 And when they get back from Europe, they find themselves standing in front of their constituents, extolling the virtues of high-speed trains.  The high speed train is the Holy Grail of modern transportation, that object of exceeding value that must be had by all progressive peoples.  It has become a crusade, just as streetcars have become a crusade.  As just like the modern day streetcar, the real goals of these projects are concealed behind a veil of flowery words and empty promises.

So it is with Columbus, Georgia, which has plans:


Of course, once the pretty words and pictures are peeled away, there’s still the ugly reality that these trains cost a lot of money.  They cost a lot of money to plan for, they cost a lot of money to buy the rights of way for the tracks, they cost a lot of money to build, they cost a lot of money to operate and, most importantly, they cost a lot of money over the long term to maintain.  Without continuous maintenance, these high speed trains cannot reliably operate.

Already, there have been studies, with civil engineers sitting about with yellow pads and pencils, pulling numbers out of thin air to justify the construction of these things.  Let’s look at the competition:


The optimum in terms of transportation availability, the automobile has already won the war in terms of popularity.  Our entire transportation infrastructure revolves around the automobile.  Since much of the cost of that infrastructure is buried out of sight, it is impossible to factor in the actual costs of an individual trip to Columbus from Atlanta.  Using Mapquest, the trip on I-85 is about 126 miles, taking typically 1 hour and 40 minutes.  Except on Fridays on holiday weekends in the rain.  You are, modern soul that you are, driving a 2014 Toyota Prius, using about $10.00 worth of fuel.  (Interestingly, the way to play this is to make the trip having your fuel costs reimbursed by your employer at the current IRS rate, to the tune of about $60.00).  Of course, your mileage may vary.  And, no mention of wear and tear on the car or on the roads.  Nor a mention of the overhead costs such as insurance.

The Bus

Greyhound goes between Atlanta and Columbus, taking between 1 hour 50 minutes and 2 hours 15 minutes.  The one-way fare is around $33.00, less discounts.  Again, because the bus uses public rights of way which are supported by the taxpayers, it is not possible to calculate the actual costs of this trip per person.  But you have to believe that the costs for Greyhound are artificially low.


Until recently, for example, there were direct flights from Hartsfield to Macon which were heavily subsidized by the taxpayers.  Even then, the air carrier couldn’t make it work out, probably because more time was spent on the ground taxiing than actually flying.  In any case, a Delta subsidiary will get you to Columbus in about 42 – 48 minutes, gate to gate.  The fare is in a general range between $450.00 and $600.00.  As with the other forms of transit discussed so far, the actual costs are hidden from view, making cost benefit analysis difficult.

High Speed Train

The Columbus proposal shows three different options, with the least expensive having trains that operate at speed under 100 mph on existing rights of way.  You can refer to the costs of these plans in the feasibility study document.

What We Had

Just for fun, let’s go back 60 years, to the early 1950’s.  There was a passenger train called the Man O’ War, which ran between Columbus and Atlanta; center of the city to center of the city.


The train was operated by a private company, the Central of Georgia Railway.  This company paid taxes on its revenues, on its equipment and on its rights of way.  Prior to 1956, there were two trains between Columbus and Atlanta (typical running time 2 hours 50 minutes, with several stops) :


The round-trip fare, in today’s dollars, was $31.62, or $15.81 one-way.  Of course, that would be different these days, since fuel costs, taxation and such would have grown considerably faster than the official rate of inflation.  But, there’s still a point to be made.

Popular tastes change.  People got tired of taking the streetcar when they could take their car instead.  So, the streetcars generally went away.  Popular tastes have changed back, with the streetcar becoming a sign of urban progress (and not so much as a sign of improved transportation).  We had it all and let it slip away.  And, we’re paying for it now.  While our elected leaders are dreaming of high speed trains, a more modest train with useful amenities such as Wi-Fi, conference rooms, light food and beverage service, which would be useful for those who travel between Columbus and Atlanta might be a real winner.  It won’t be as fast, but it will be just as useful at a much lower price.



Well, with a title like that, I’m sure that a few of you are expecting me to swing for the fences about the new City of Brookhaven.  Sorry to disappoint, but it’s really too soon for that stuff, but it is not too soon to talk about something called “SeeClickFix“, a website that our new City utilizes.

The concept of SeeClickFix is good enough that the City has chosen it as a primary method for the citizens of the lovely City of Brookhaven to contact their public officials with issues such as potholes, missing stop signs and uncollected trash.

The premise is simple.  You log on (there’s an app of course), photograph the problem, with your phone picking up the GPS coordinates.  City officials read these reports every morning, notify the appropriate departments, post a notice that the complaint has been received and, when the problem has been fixed, post another comment stating that the work has been completed.

It’s all very transparent, the big buzzword of today.  If you’re a politician, it’s important to work transparent into your political spiel, because it sounds so, well, open and above board.  It is now one of the most overworked words in our language, right behind awesome.

Suit yourself, but there are times when I would really not like hearing about some things.  And, SeeClickFix is starting to hedge into that territory.  Consider this scenario from the old days in some rural Southern town:

  • Back in the day down at the mayor’s office in City Hall, the staff would come in on Monday morning, refreshed from a relaxing weekend.  But there was a sense of impending dread in the air, because Monday morning also meant a ritual phone call from Miss Augusta Talmadge.  Miss Gussie was quite predictable, in a Southern kind of way, and after a long weekend of stewing about a local infrastructure issue, she was compelled to contact the mayor. Each and every Monday.  Miss Gussie’s Morning Wakeup Call was anticipated with cold enthusiasm.  The staff would draw straws, or pull seniority, as to who would receive the often lengthy telephone communication.  For example, she would be upset at her neighbor’s method of pruning his crape myrtles. (and, those out there who know the term crape murder know what I’m talking about).  After a few tortuous minutes, Miss Gussie would run out of steam and all would be right with the world until next Monday.

Now, of course, Miss Talmadge has a computer and a smartphone and uses SeeClickFix.  Where before, only a select few knew that Miss Gussie was the Town Crank, now everybody does.  That’s transparency.

While SeeClickFix has noble intentions, it also has a dark side where neighbors get into firefights over local issues.  It also has the prospect of trivializing things.  Consider this posted complaint from the northern end of the City of Brookhaven:

  • At sundown each night, giant cockroaches come streaming out of the sewer through the manhole cover in center of cul-de-sac.

Well, I could not resist responding with “Welcome to the southern United States.”  I can only imagine what will happen when this person goes to New Orleans some day, where the cockroaches have their own floats during Mardi Gras.

That said, SeeClickFix suffers from the same problem that pervades social media.  Everything becomes trivialized.  Things seem to inevitably wind down to Jerry Springer.


But the more insidious part of SeeClickFix is that it establishes and reinforces the notion that only government can solve your problems.

In the early days of the campaign to form the City of Brookhaven, some political hay was made when an individual was going around and patching potholes that DeKalb County was supposed to be repairing.  The County was embarrassed, of course.  And the political point was made.

Now, when you have a problem, you just go to SeeClickFix.


Snowzilla 2014


Atlanta is slowly coming back to life.  I’ve lived here since 1965, and I’ve seen my share of Atlanta in freezing weather.  And, I’ve had a child-like innocent attitude toward this sort of event, discussed here.  This time, however, things are different, and the reasons why are interesting.


Whenever Atlanta freezes up like it did at the end of January, 2014, I always look back and remember that those days were extraordinary and unique.  It all comes down to where I was and who I was with.


  • The first storm that I remember was in 1973.  I had been visiting my parents in Athens and suddenly realized that I needed to get back home before the storm.  I crept into town that Sunday afternoon, headed toward my apartment in Buckhead.  There was a 1/2″ patina of ice on my car.  During the night, the electricity went off as thousands of ice covered limbs fell onto power lines.  I was relatively fortunate, since the power came back on a day later, but many parts of town were dark for a week, if not longer.  After that event, Georgia Power became more aggressive in maintaining power line rights of way.
  • In 1982, I was sitting in a bar on Irby Street in Buckhead drinking beer with a friend.  We looked out to see snow falling heavily; he headed home and I found myself making a choice as to where I would go.  I could go home to my little cottage in Brookhaven or I could go be with the woman that I loved.  By the time things had firmed up and I was granted permission to stay with her, the roads had become barely passable.  I ended up walking to Sandy Springs in the snow.  Nearby, I-285 was completely shut down, with cars parked all over the place.  I’m glad that I was with her, even though we had to walk to the local 7/11 to buy groceries as things dragged on.  I would eventually marry that lovely young woman.
  • By 1993, we were married and living in Brookhaven when another storm hit town.  We were without electricity for five days.  Fortunately, my wife treated it as a camping adventure, and we cozied up near the fireplace under blankets.  The family cats hung nearby, too.  The big discovery in that storm was that we still had hot water; I had assumed that because there was no electricity, there was no ignitor for the water heater.    Fortunately, the heater had a pilot light and we were able to warm up in the bathtub.

There have been other storms, and there have been some false alarms, too.  I remember there was the threat of bad weather in the early 1980’s; everybody left town and went home to prepare for the oncoming storm.  It never happened and there was some finger-pointing about it after the fact.  Employers and schools were embarrassed.

Through it all, there has been a sense of “Well, this stuff happens from time to time.” and that’s been it.  This time appears to be different.


Certainly, politics has something to do with it.  Governor Nathan Deal is running for reelection.  Like him or hate him, the first Deal administration has been remarkably quiet.  There have been a few dust ups along the way, but the Deal administration has generally cruised right along.  Of course, with an impending election, opponents are eager to drum up whatever campaign rhetoric is available.

One of our neighbors, an all-politics all-the-time sort, had this to say:

I was just told by a friend that her son saw our Governor, Nathan Deal at the Varsity at lunchtime yesterday right as the snow was starting. He even took a picture of him. I guess a chili cheese slaw dog and a frosted orange took precedence over Georgian’s lives.

We can only speculate as to what she would have had to say if she had gone into the Varsity’s men’s room.  And, now that things are over, opponents are looking for anything that will stick.  I don’t remember previous governors getting this kind of flak; usually the Atlanta mayors get hit with it.

What is different this time is that popular expectations have changed.  We’ve been going through a five-year cycle of significantly increased governmental presence in our lives.  We are being told that government will be there to solve our every problem, and that only government has the tools to make such changes.  It was inevitable that popular expectations would rise as the government’s presence in our lives also rose.  Now you hear people asking “Why wasn’t the National Guard called out sooner?”  This on the second day of the storm.

Social Media

In spite of the constant drumbeats of anger over the traffic situation, there were some distinct bright spots.  Facebook proved to be an extremely useful tool, especially when someone set up a page that helped people find shelter:

enhanced-20286-1391019806-29All those little white markers  indicate someone who is willing to give shelter to strangers in this emergency.  Likewise, others reached out to strangers stuck on the highways:

enhanced-buzz-30973-1391023549-8More about those kind souls, here.  Home Depot and local grocery stores let people sleep inside where it was warm.  Not exactly the best, but at least acceptable.  Chick-fil-a reportedly gave out food to those stuck in place.  This sort of stuff is Atlanta at its best.  And, there was dry humor:

Stay off Johnson Ferry.  Seriously.

Stay off Johnson Ferry. Seriously.

Social media has not only been the font of information for people affected by the storm, it has also been the source of discussion.  Some it has been very good:

Lisa Engle I think no matter the call made, right / wrong, pockets of people will find “fault” and reason to highlight how it “should” be done different. After 25(ish?) in “the system”, I’ve seen that there is always controversy about the choices made. Julie – The call made a few weeks ago was bc of the buses not having the fuel “supplement” for the diesel to deal w/ the cold.. (from what I’ve been told)…wasn’t a “kids in the cold” issue…more a “can’t have kids stranded bc our buses won’t run” issue. Personally, I think the call to cancel would’ve been best in hindsight, but sure as that happened the snow would’ve arrived at 6:PM instead and the system would be made to look like idiots who caused parents trouble w/ childcare. Moving on…

There already has been major discussion online and in the newspapers.  This includes an article titled “Why the South Fell Apart”.  There is sure to be a lot more, including this blog item.  Yet, there is one other matter that has not been discussed…….

The Trucks

As I opined on Facebook:

At the mere mention of ice and snow, when everybody is racing to the store to buy bread and milk, that is the time to officially embargo all tractor trucks from passing through Atlanta. The city trucks are given enough time to get home, and then they too stay put until the storm has passed. Almost every scene in the year’s debacle includes shots of tractor/trailer rigs folded up, blocking lanes of traffic.

The presence of tractor trailer trucks significantly made matters worse.  A couple samples:

3223154_G 3223220_GAtlanta is a major transportation crossroads, and the tractor trailer traffic is significant in this town.  If you don’t believe me, go over to I-75 near Cumberland and count the number of trucks passing by in the span of five minutes.  Certainly, these trucks should be kept off the highways and away from Atlanta until the weather clears.  The truckers are sure to blame the auto drivers, and they’re probably right.  But it doesn’t sound so good to hear them complaining about the cars when nobody’s moving.

Long term, the truck situation in Atlanta needs resolution, regardless of the weather.  Looking to Europe, there are certain highways that are so congested that the tractor trailer trucks are hauled past the congested areas by train:

ger_bls_re485nr005_weilamrhein_2007_1_LIt’s called a “Rolling Highway“.  And it’s worth a look.

The Trains

Those who read these pages regularly know that I am a train enthusiast.  No apologies from me on that score, for I know that steel wheel on steel rail has some inherent advantages, both with fuel economy and system reliability.  For while MARTA buses were not able to run, the heavy rail portion of the system operated reliably, even with a fire at Five Points station.  My nearby Norfolk Southern line to Washington kept operating in its same reliable fashion through the storm.  It’s hard to improve on that.


There is sure to be a lot of discussion about this, but one thing keeps coming back to me.  Atlanta gets one of these storms every other year, with pretty much the same outcome every time. Fox News is saying that we only have perhaps a hundred sand / plow trucks, while Chicago has four times that many, if not more. Is it necessary for us to have hundreds of sand trucks for an event that happens every other year?

Be as the reed in the wind; bend but do not break.

I’m sorry for those who got stranded, and I know that we can do better, but this all needs a grain pf practical judgement. This is not Duluth, Minnesota. And, we’re lucky that it is only snow on the ground, no ice in the trees. Which means that the electricity is still on, so we still have heat and can watch Fox tell us how bad things are.

And, when the next storm threatens and the DoT starts spreading salt and sand on the roads, who will be the first person to complain about its affects upon the environment?