Commuters may not have Agent 007’s personal jetpack at their disposal, but personal rapid transit around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is a possibility.
Members of the Aerotropolis Atlanta Community Improvement Districts will be going to London to experience on-demand, two- to six-passenger Ultra Global PRT shuttles now in use at Heathrow Airport.
That was one of the transit solutions offered by vendors at the CIDs’ Sept. 10 Transit Innovation Summit, held at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.
The venue itself is connected by a free SkyTrain to the world’s busiest airport, whisking passengers to the hub in less than five minutes.
Summit speakers shared visions of greater mobility for a population that demands ride shares, bike paths and other departures from single-occupant automobile commutes.
CIDs Executive Director Gerald McDowell introduced major players who will help move more residents around an increasingly crowded metro Atlanta area, not just the 15-square-mile area surrounding the airport.
He also promoted the CIDs’ transit feasibility study, begun in January and set, McDowell said, to be completed in December.
“We’re hoping to identify a pilot program that we can kick off immediately,” he said. “But we also wanted to identify some potential solutions that could be implemented within five years, some solutions that can be implemented in a five- to 15-year time frame and then solutions that could be implemented in a long-term time frame, maybe 15 to 30 years.”
Speakers included Chris Tomlinson, executive director of three agencies—the State Road and Tollway Authority, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and, most recently, the new Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority, or the ATL.
He said mobility is about connecting residents, jobs and communities through new and existing options as well as finding innovative solutions.
“Investment in technology has to be the key,” Tomlinson said.
Georgia Department of Transportation Director of Intermodal Carol Comer agreed, saying high returns on investment will keep the airport and the Aerotropolis area’s economic engine running at top performance.
“The economic impact of Hartsfield is staggering,” she said, citing an annual $30 billion positive effect on the metro Atlanta area.
MARTA Assistant General Manager Ben Limmer said snarled traffic, however, is having an annual $3 billion negative impact through lost productivity, fuel consumption and environment issues.
“With improved transit, we can certainly cut down on our traveling and increase overall productivity,” he said. “Mobility is multi-modal. Just ask Millennials who are gravitating to communities that bring a holistic view to how to travel throughout your city.”
Limmer praised fellow speakers District 9 State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, the House transportation committee chair, and District 21 State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, his Senate counterpart, for their roles in creating the ATL.
Beach said the ATL team in the Georgia Legislature focused on residential and business customers, including potential relocations by companies seeking Millennial talent.
“Transit is an economic development issue,” he said, adding that he envisions a multi-modal passenger terminal like Washington’s Union Station replacing Atlanta’s aging Amtrak and Greyhound facilities.
Tanner said mobility momentum is building at regional, state and national levels.
“Talk has been replaced with progress,” he said. “Our best days are ahead of us.”
Tanner encouraged ongoing teamwork among the invitation-only event’s attendees, who included elected officials College Park City Councilman Ambrose Clay, District 60 State Rep. Kim Schofield, D-Atlanta, Clayton County Chairman Jeff Turner and Henry County Chair June Wood.
Wood said she learned valuable information.
“We’ve got a comprehensive transportation plan. We’re getting some road projects into order,” she said. “I was glad to hear that what is being discussed are the five-year, the 10-year and the 15-year plans, because that’s why Henry County needs to think about the future, especially as we hear about what’s going to bring quality jobs to our community.”
Wood said a Sept. 5 county commission resolution supporting the ATL reflected a desire to participate in decisions shaping where residents and relocating companies will settle.