AJC: Transportation in Atlanta vs. Portland

Any comparison of major cities opens the door to all sorts of questions and objections. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn things from those comparisons.

In the lead-up to the July 31 T-SPLOST vote in 12 Georgia regions, the AJC has an interesting piece today, Should Atlanta follow Portland with T-SPLOST Streetcar neighborhoods lure young, creative types to Oregon city, but face criticism

A snippet:

Multiply their story by thousands and you get a pretty good picture of one way Portland differs from Atlanta: since 2000 it has excelled at attracting young, educated, so-called “creative class” workers. The dominant reason, according to one narrative prevalent among city planners, is that young folks gravitate to high-energy, walkable, eclectic neighborhoods where they don’t need cars — and that projects like Portland’s streetcar help create those neighborhoods.

Architects of the Atlanta Beltline, a $602 million chunk of the July 31 regional transportation referendum, hail it as just such a cityscape-altering project. They even hired the man who wrote the Portland streetcar’s plan to write a plan for the Beltline.

“Portland, Oregon, is the model in the U.S.,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in 2010, upon winning a grant to build a streetcar line that he called the “spine” of the Beltline. “We have strong evidence that infrastructure creates jobs and stimulates economic investment.”

But no project on the referendum list spurs more derision from its opponents, who view such projects as expensive toys that stifle rather than promote real prosperity.

We are seeing some real changes in Americans’ opinions on important topics involving lifestyle choices. But I really shouldn’t use a weak word like “lifestyle” — we’ve seen fundamental changes on issues that directly bear upon personal freedom. Younger Americans are far more likely than older ones to favor marriage equality, for example, as well as the legalization of marijuana.

And younger Americans also seem much more interested in alternatives to the automobile than older ones have been.

The shifting priorities are going to have an increasingly large impact on public policy.

And as the years wear on, some of those aging Americans marooned in car-dependent suburbs might wish they had taken different stands now.

The AJC piece is well worth a read.