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Latarski: Atlanta roads cant keep up with growth
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Here's a news flash: an outfit named the Texas Transportation Institute determined Atlanta has the worst commute time of any city in the country.

Telling this to people who fight rush hour in Atlanta every day is like telling General Custer he had Indian trouble.

While the criteria this organization used to make such a determination may be questionable it is interesting this observation came from an outfit based in Texas. Driving across Texas is not a commute - it's a life sentence.

Everyone who travels the Atlanta roads during rush hour attempts to find ways to make the commute less egregious and make efficient use of their time on the road.

Unfortunately, rather than focusing on driving, they will talk on the phone, shave or put on makeup, eat breakfast, type on their laptop, read a novel or watch a movie on some ridiculously small device that makes any movie look bad.

Why anyone would want to watch a movie on a two-inch screen eludes me but there is no accounting for taste.

Eventually any of these activities will also add time to the commute as sooner or later these folks have to spend time answering a lot of questions while the police officer fills out the accident report.

Atlanta has evolved - despite what Gov. Rick Perry thinks about evolution - into a time city rather than a distance city. How long it takes to get somewhere depends on the traffic, not the miles.

A 15 mile commute in Atlanta can take 45 minutes while a 45 mile drive can take half that time. And this can be just the result of regular traffic and not because of some fender-bender that brings everything to a screeching halt. If you wave a blue flashing light on the side of the road in Conyers there's a good chance the traffic will stop in Douglasville.

Add in inclement weather, which in Atlanta includes an ice storm, snow storm or four drops on rain hitting the windshield, you may never get to your destination and could be forced to abandon your car on the side of the road.

The only good thing is by the time you get it back it will probably qualify for one of those antique vehicle license plates.

All of this has caused great gashing of teeth and much study on how to deal with transportation issues in the metro Atlanta area.

For some the idea of telecommuting or working from home is a legitimate and valid option, but unfortunately too many employers have no faith in their employees and demand they come to work so the boss can justify being the boss by standing over their shoulder and watching them work.

We have the famous HOV and HOT lanes, the effectiveness of which on lessening traffic congestion is dubious at best.

Discussions of mass transit via some type of rail system are greeted by detractors as being wasteful and ultimately useless.

The science fiction of days when we would commute wearing flying belts has not happened.

And the absolute killer is that no matter what project or combination of projects designed to improve transit will not be completed before being outmoded and overmatched by the burgeoning population.

And no one wants to say - because massive out of control growth is deemed more important than anything else for economic wellbeing - that it may be time to encourage regional growth so everyone will not attempt to locate in the same zip code.

The bottom line is there are simply too many people in metro Atlanta trying to get to too many places all at the same time in a city that did little in the past to prepare itself for the growth that occurred.

And what will be done now will likely be looked at 30 years from now as woefully inadequate and leaving that generation saying, "What were they thinking?"

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at