Weekly Links

The Great Streetcar Conspiracy Strikes Again


Gwinnett Approves MARTA Expansion

From the AJCThe Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted last week to allow voters to decide if they want MARTA rail services in Gwinnett. This leaves Cobb County as the last transit holdout of the major counties in the Atlanta metro area. Like Cobb, Gwinnett has a long history of animus towards transit in general and MARTA in particular. The vote is in response to the Georgia Legislature passing HB-930 last session, which created a regional transit system known as the ATL. The question now is whether Gwinnett citizens will vote this November or next November to join the ATL and impose a 30-year sales tax to raise transit funds.


The Great Streetcar Conspiracy

From The New York Times. The Gwinnett vote also comes on the heels of a recent New York Times piece that focused on the efforts of the Koch brothers, through their lobbying group Americans for Prosperity, to disrupt local transit initiatives in small to midsize cities like Nashville and Birmingham. The effort is reminiscent of the Great Streetcar Conspiracy where General Motors and other auto-related businesses worked to buy popular trolley lines and replace them with buses. This led to more people buying cars, which supported General Motors and the larger auto industry. While “conspiracy” may be a strong word, there was a widespread effort to undermine a viable transportation option for the benefit of a few industries and businesses. The Koch brothers are heavily invested in similar auto-oriented industries.

Atlanta was apparently spared of the Koch’s influence. Perhaps the coalition in support of transit in Georgia is just too large at this point for them to consider Atlanta as a viable propaganda market. While the Koch brothers were victorious in killing a major transit project in Nashville, other cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Raleigh recently passed major transit expansion legislation.

Despite the propaganda, transit will not deprive you of your car or freedom. If you want a car then you can have one. Many people can’t afford cars, though. A recent report showed that it costs over $10,000 a year to own a car in Atlanta while a MARTA pass costs a few hundred dollars. Even those who can afford cars simply want additional transportation options.  If you approach a financial adviser asking how to invest your lifetime savings, it’s doubtful the adviser will tell you to put it all in one stock. But investing in one stock is essentially what we’ve been doing with transportation for decades as we’ve focused little effort on building anything other than highways.

The Los Angeles streetcar system was one of the largest in the country through the first part of the 20th Century. Photo via Wikipedia.

Weather + Climate

This Chart Shows You a Clear Warming Trend in Atlanta

We’ve introduced a new chart to compare Atlanta’s monthly temperatures to historical monthly temperatures. The chart on the right (desktop) or below this article (mobile) with the colored dots shows Atlanta’s current average monthly temperature up to this point in the month (black star) and the corresponding temperatures for all years going back to 1930. The bottom chart shows you exactly where this month ranks compared to previous years. All of this is updated on an hourly basis. We will be tweeting and posting to Facebook updates on the numbers at the end of each week. Please see our Weather + Climate page for more charts and further explanation of the charts to the right.


A Lack of Sewer Infrastructure is Fueling the Rise of Tropical Diseases in the South

From The Montgomery Advertiser. “In most countries in the Western world, it’s assumed governments will one way or another make sure basic facilities like clean running water, sewage, and sanitation are available…”.

A lack of sewer infrastructure throughout the rural south is causing a health crisis reminiscent of a third world country. We take for granted sanitary infrastructure, but it’s a critical component of healthy societies. Local and state governments have little funding to update infrastructure and low-income individuals often cannot afford to install septic systems This has led to a wave of tropical disease outbreaks, which is only exacerbated by warming temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns.

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