This morning, I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the “Kennesaw Mountain Pedestrian Improvements”. It was a beautiful day celebrating a great project.

The Kennesaw Mountain Pedestrian Improvements is a combined 3.85 of trails along three different roads: Burnt Hickory Road, Whitlock Avenue, and Cheatham Hill Road. It took over 7 (SEVEN) years to complete and was funded by our 2016 SPLOST dollars.

As Cobb County Chairwoman Lisa Cupid, Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin, and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Superintendent Patrick Gamman made their remarks, one comment was consistent:

“Some people said no one would use the trail, but it was being used while they were pouring concrete”

-Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin

Even as the event was being held, people were using the trail and an unknowing biker almost biked right through the ceremonial ribbon. It was beautiful and a great reminder of the famous Ray Kinsella/Kevin Costner quote: “If you build it, they will come.”

Whether its Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 Black Sox, bikers and pedestrians, or even drivers, “If you build it, they will come” is the Hollywood adaptation of a concept called Induced Demand.

The premise of Induced Demand is that as we build out our infrastructure and make it easier to travel, more people use that infrastructure. For the past 10 20 30 40 50 60, eh, let’s call it 67 years since the Eisenhower National Highway Act of 1956, we have built more and more car-centric roads at the expense of pedestrians, biking, and transit.

In my public comment, I equate Induced Demand to Chik-fil-a drivethroughs. As Chik-fil-a adds multiple drivethroughs to their locations, do the lines get any shorter? No. They just see more cars/business. Meanwhile, if you try to go inside one of the new locations, you are an afterthought as a pedestrian (sometimes I can’t even tell where the door is anymore…).

So as a county, what has that resulted in?

  • 95% of travel is done by the car (American Community Survey/US Census)
  • Stretches of highway/roads where the pedestrian/biking/transit experience is an afterthought to CARS CARS CARS CARS CARS
  • A road maintenance/repaving backlog that costs the county $45-50 million per year (pre-COVID) and is currently funded by our SPLOST program (evergreen Strongtowns article link)
  • An increase in deaths and injuries to pedestrians and bikers

Related to the second point (prioritization of cars), watch this interview from Atlanta News First. I welcomed the reporter and his cameraman to a bus stop along South Cobb Drive and their off-camera reactions when the sidewalk stopped and they had to continue walking along the overgrown grass to get to the bus stop was a mix of shock and disappointment. The experience opened their eyes and I welcome everyone reading this to be on the look out for people waiting for their bus, walking along the road, or biking. Along Highway 41, you can see desire paths up and down the highway as we have neglected the infrastructure for anyone not in a car.

Induced Demand isn’t just a theory or urbanism concept. It’s been studied at length in academic circles, with over 42,000 articles in a basic Google Scholar search.

Three articles to highlight:

This concept has been known since the 1930s or 1940s: both Robert Moses and Roy E Jorgensen saw these impacts but their solution to mitigate it was to build more highways and roads and since then, it’s been how our cities and communities have been built. Sigh.

So that’s why, even if it’s a standalone project without connections to other trails (Noonday Creek and Mountain to River are very close), any investment in multi-modal infrastructure should be celebrated. Perhaps with more trails, bike lanes, sidewalks, and transit infrastructure, we can start seeing an increase of travel using these methods. As the county is expected to continue to grow in the future, increasing the mode share of non-car travel will relieve the dependency of building more lanes.

Unfortunately, our state DOT is focused on adding more and more highway lanes, with future toll lanes being added to the northern arc of 285. The increased travel on the highways will do 2 things:

  1. Increase travel on arterial lanes (Highway 41, Roswell Rd, East West Connector, Big Shanty Road)-You are seeing this with 2 of the 3 RAISE grants being focused on increasing roadway capacity (McCullom Parkway, East-West Connector). RAISE grants should be transit/bike/ped focused. Big Shanty is also being widened with a vote at the next BoC meeting
  2. More Sprawl

You are seeing proponents sell the highway expansion project saying it will improve transit, but the impacts of more highway travel will be felt on all of our roads throughout the county. Also, as the state spends billions on the highway expansion, the transit connectivity and funding is being left to local resources.

The success of new federal funding opportunities will be determined by our State DOT and County DOT leadership (with help from city and regional stakeholders).

Excerpt from Georgetown Climate Center presentation showing how much power GDOT has in leveraging federal dollars for good (bike/ped/transit) or bad (road/highway expansion).

In conclusion, as nice as it was to see us celebrate a new trail being opened, we still have A LONG way to go to support non-car infrastructure. Let’s continue to build induced demand for bikers, walkers, and transit riders! We look forward to celebrating completion of the Noonday Creek Trail, Mountain to River Trail, Connect the Comet, Austell-Powder Springs Trail and many other trails in the future!

Transfer Center Planning

Cobb is currently in different phases for the planning and site selection of three different transfer centers:

  • Cumberland
  • Marietta
  • South Cobb

Marietta Daily Journal recently did a recap of the Transfer Centers and the first public meeting was recently held for the Cumberland Transfer Center.

Here are some photos we took of the information provided at the event:

Here’s a snippet of my position on the Transfer Centers from the MDJ article:

These transfer centers are a great opportunity to invest and “do it right”. This means a good experience for transit riders (including high frequency routes), good connectivity and local land use, and a welcoming, comfortable environment. This shouldn’t just be benches and shelter for transit riders, but a destination and experience that brings people together and improves the community.

Commissioners Meeting Updates and Preview

Before I preview next week’s meeting, I want to do a quick shoutout from the previous meeting where the topic of the day was a public hearing for the Strategic Plan.

In the past, a public hearing for something like the strategic plan would be filled with public comment against the county moving forward. Instead, at this meeting, 7 comments were supportive of the Strategic Plan while 5 comments were against it. Huge shoutout to Donna, Lynn, Jeff, and Tyler for sharing the supportive comments for more housing, transit, and diversity. This was a welcome change and we need to continue the momentum!

Looking at next week’s Commissioner meeting (Tuesday 6/13 at 9AM), here’s a quick preview of the agenda:

  • Presentations (1): Town Center CID and stakeholders for cooperation of Aviation Park
  • Public Hearings (3)
    • Chattahoochee Corridor Certificate of Compliance for construction of single-family residence
    • Engineering design services for three 2022 SPLOST sidewalk projects (West Atlanta Rd, Davidson Rd, Akers Mill Rd)
    • Zoning Code changes (changes to variances and appeals process)
  • Consent Agenda (36 items)
    • Multiple grant opportunities for DA/Courts
    • Multiple work orders and agreements for the Water System
    • 3 Transportation projects
      • Modifying purchase order for paratransit vehicles from Natural Gas to Gasoline for quicker delivery
      • Xpress operations approval
      • Adding ADA Sidewalks improvements on County Services Road to the existing Windy Hill Road contract
    • Funding for the Library System’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Initiative
    • 4.87 acres of property to be transferred to the Department of the Army for Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection requirements.
    • An IT procurement contract
    • A Police Department Agreement with Atlanta Regional Commission for a Video Integration Center
    • Two Contracts for Fire and Emergency Services
    • Four Community Development Hearings for alcohol licenses
    • Three Economic Development grants
  • Regular Agenda (13 items)
    • Road Widening of Big Shanty Road Engineering form selection
    • Engineering Design of Johnson Ferry Road and Shallowford Road Intersection Improvements
    • Multiple road and drainage projects
    • Traffic Signal Timing change order with AECOM
    • Land acquisition, building purchase, and renovations for the Cobb County Records Services (They are consolidating all of the storage of records into one location)
    • Engineering Services for the ARPA-funded Healthy County Building Initiative

Upcoming Events

  • Saturday, June 10th: Create Austell’s Summer Soulstice
  • Tuesday, June 13th 9AM: Board of Commissioners’ June Morning Meeting
  • Friday, June 16-Sunday June 18: NAACP Juneteenth Celebration
    • Friday, June 16 7PM-11PM: Evening Under the Stars
    • Saturday, June 17 10AM-6PM: Cultural Festival
    • Sunday, June 18 2PM-6PM: Fathers Day Festival
  • Sunday, June 25th 2-4PM: Connect the Comet Celebration!
  • Monday, June 26th 6PM: A Better Cobb Meetup at Marietta Meltyard (more info to come)
  • Tuesday, June 27th 7PM: Board of Commissioners’ June Evening Meeting

As always, join our Facebook Group, join the conversation on Discord, and be on the lookout for new channels!