Georgia Association of Railroad Passengers
PO Box 851
Decatur, GA,  30031
www.garprail.org

WHY GEORGIA NEEDS COMMUTER RAIL

1. UNLIKE ROADS, COMMUTER RAIL PROVIDES PERMANENT CONGESTION RELIEF.

One commuter rail line can provide 18 times the capacity of a single highway line. According to the respected Texas Transportation Institute, "There is substantial evidence that demonstrates that building new roads often increases congestion." A University of California Berkeley study found that every 1% increase in new lane-miles generates a 0.9% increase in traffic in less than five years.

2. COMMUTER RAIL WILL SAVE GEORGIA MONEY.

With Metro Atlanta's population expected to reach 7 million by 2030, the respected Texas Transportation Institute estimates that Atlanta will be required to build 275 highway lane miles each year just to maintain current levels of congestion. The US Dept. of Transportation says interstate construction can cost up to $40 million per lane mile, and current Atlanta-area construction costs are said to range between $8 and $18 million per lane mile. One commuter rail line can provide 18 times the capacity of a single highway lane, for much less money, using existing railroad right-of-way. Building a seven-line commuter rail network would cost $2.1 billion, much less than the $25 billion "big dig" transit project backed by highway proponents.

2. COMMUTER RAIL WILL SAVE COMMUTERS MONEY.

AAA estimates the average cost of operating an automobile at 52.2 cents per mile, putting the true cost of driving round trip between Atlanta and Lawrenceville $33.41. For riders with a monthly pass, the projected cost of a rail round trip between Atlanta and Lawrenceville would be $10.80 cents. Rail commuters also avoid sudden spikes in gasoline prices.

3. COMMUTER RAIL WILL SAVE COMMUTERS TIME.

The rush-hour drive between Jonesboro and Atlanta currently averages 43 minutes. The train time would be 36 minutes, which is seven minutes faster. By 2030, the rush-hour drive time between Jonesboro and Atlanta is expected to increase to 60 minutes. The train time will still be 36 minutes, which is 24 minutes faster. The more congested Atlanta, the faster rail will be by comparison.

4. COMMUTER RAIL WILL REDUCE TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS, IMPROVE AIR QUALITY, REDUCE GEORGIA'S CONTRIBUTION TO GLOBAL WARMING AND DECREASE GEORGIA'S DEPENDENCE ON IMPORTED OIL FROM UNSTABLE AND UNFRIENDLY NATIONS.

According to the Georgia Clean Air Campaign, Atlanta had 43 smog alert days in 2006, and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently ranked Atlanta as the nation's asthma capital. Car and truck emissions have long been recognized as a major source of pollution. The Georgia Rail Passenger Program estimates that a full commuter rail network will take 21,000 cars off the road during each morning and afternoon, cutting pollution and accident costs by $160 million per year. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimates that commuter train travel is 22% more energy efficient than auto travel.

5. COMMUTER RAIL WILL IMPROVE OUR QUALITY OF LIFE.

Commuter trains allow riders to read, to think or just to relax on their daily trips to and from work. They strengthen established community centers, reducing sprawl. University of Georgia students living in the Atlanta area will be able to take the train to school. Sports fans will be able to take the train to football games at Georgia and Georgia Tech, or to hockey games at Phillips Arena. A businessman living in Macon or Lawrenceville or Athens will be able to take a commuter train to East Point, then transfer to MARTA for a short trip to Hartsfield-Jackson airport, avoiding the cost and hassles of airport traffic and parking.

WHICH OTHER CITIES HAVE COMMUTER RAIL?

Of the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas more populous than Atlanta in the 2000 census, only Detroit and Houston lack commuter rail. Both Detroit and Houston are considering adding commuter rail.

Several U.S. metro areas that are smaller than Atlanta have commuter rail systems: Miami (#12), Seattle (#13), San Diego (#17) Nashville (#39), Providence (#40) West Palm Beach (#45) and Albuquerque.

Several other US metropolitan areas smaller than Atlanta are in the process of building commuter rail lines: Minneapolis-St Paul (#15), Portland (#23), Salt Lake City (#36) Austin (#38).

Other US metro areas actively planning or considering commuter rail lines include: Phoenix (#14), Denver (#19), Tampa (#21), Milwaukee (#27), Orlando (#28), Indianapolis (#29), Charlotte (#34), New Orleans (#35), Hartford (#42), Tuscon (#58), Baton Rouge (#70).

WHAT ABOUT DENSITY?

Much is made of the fact that metro Atlanta ranks only 45th among US metropolitan areas in population density. A check of the 44 metro areas with more density than Atlanta shows that 29 currently have commuter rail service* and six more are building or considering commuter rail lines. Of the 14 top metro areas with LESS density than Atlanta, six have commuter rail service*, and four more are considering commuter rail service.

WHO RIDES COMMUTER TRAINS?

Americans took nearly 414 million trips on commuter trains in 2004. While many of these trips were on older, established commuter rail systems in the Northeast,in Chicago and in San Francisco, nearly 10 million riders boarded commuter trains in Los Angeles, almost 3 million boarded trains in Miami, and nearly 1.5 million riders boarded trains in San Diego and in Dallas. The demographics of commuter rail vary from city to city. In a 2000 survey, 63% of Los Angeles commuter train passengers were between the ages of 35-54, with a median household income of $61,000. In a 2006 survey, 25% of Virginia Railway Express passengers had household incomes between $100,000 and $124,000. 38% of its riders drove to work alone when they didn't take the train. A survey of Chicago rail commuters in the late 1990's showed that 25% had household incomes above $100,000, and 85% owned cars, suggesting they could have driven to work if they had wanted to.

HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST?

Capital costs for building an entire seven-line commuter rail network are estimated at $2.1 billion, compared with $25 billion for the proposed Atlanta "big dig" highway proposal. Much of that funding would come from federal sources. Operations funding is estimated at $30 million a year, less than the cost of building one mile of a four-lane interstate highway.

*some commuter lines serve more than one metro area.

About the Georgia Association of Railroad Passengers

The Georgia Association of Railroad Passengers (GARP) is an independent, non-profit corporation that advocates rail service as part of a balanced passenger transportation system for Georgia. For over two decades, GARPís members have worked to expand public awareness of the value of passenger rail service and promote the development of commuter rail service for metropolitan Atlanta, as well as the establishment of a statewide intercity passenger rail service.

For more information, please visit www.garprail.org.

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Media contacts:

Steve Vogel     president@garprail.org          404-373-7530
Jim Dexter     vicepresident@garprail.org     404-687-8753