By Bob Voyles

Perimeter Center is increasingly Georgia’s Fortune 1000 address of choice for many reasons, as witnessed by the construction cranes dotting the 4.2 square miles of our Perimeter Community Improvement Districts (PCIDs), with more commercial, retail and residential development yet to come.

Bob Voyles. (Special)

On most any given business day, 120,000 to 135,000 temporary residents come into Perimeter Center to work, and though some live nearby in Brookhaven, Dunwoody or Sandy Springs, the vast majority commute to this sub-market from elsewhere, and most do so in a single-occupancy vehicles. There are also several thousand who daily utilize our three MARTA stations — Medical Center, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs — as well as a growing number who ride Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) Xpress buses from across the metro area, but there is certainly significant potential to expand those numbers.

The remaining challenge is attracting workers who are willing to go without a car or to leave it at home to cover that last mile between MARTA or the GRTA bus stop and their offices or place of business.

Though Atlanta has a relatively mild climate, our rain, hot summers and few weeks of real winter are enough to discourage most from long walks to work, and though the PATH400 trail heading north from Buckhead and possible new pocket parks in the Perimeter Center may increase biking and alternative pedestrian transit, to really move the needle, we are going to have to deliver a solution and option which affordably covers that last mile.

The Perimeter Center is home to regional, national and international headquarters and corporations such as UPS, InterContinental Hotels Group, Cox, Mercedes-Benz USA and Arby’s, as well as the state’s largest retail center and Class A office sub-market. The bulk of those workers and business owners who choose to use alternative transit would be choice riders, as opposed to transit-dependent commuters who have no other available options.

The best options for last mile may be a combination of offerings. People-movers may best connect our three outstanding hospitals clustered around Pill Hill and the Medical Center station, as well as potentially dedicated tunnels, bridges and possibly even off-ramps with direct connection to the coming collector-distributor lane expansions on I-285 and Ga. 400.

Shuttle buses, with or without their own dedicated lane, may become the most cost-effective answer to deliver in the near and mid-term. But while buses and shuttles may reduce the number of vehicles on crowded corridors, they do not increase capacity.
DART, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, came into being in 1983, and it now operates buses, light rail, commuter rail (heavy rail) and HOV lanes across metropolitan Dallas and 12 suburban communities. With extensions completed to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in 2014 and another in 2016, DART now operates 93 miles of light rail, making it the largest light rail operator in the United States.

A group of Fulton County and other local elected officials and business leaders recently traveled to Dallas to see this system in action and to better understand how public support was built to fund and construct that system.

MARTA and GRTA are already partnering with ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft, and transit-oriented developments are underway atop or adjacent to several MARTA stations across the region. The two primary mass-transit providers are also exploring ways that their Breeze card and Peach Pass payment systems might be made compatible, like the all-transit “Octopus” card in many Asian markets.

As someone who has been fortunate to be involved in the development of some of Atlanta’s most prestigious mixed-use office projects, I have long believed to achieve your goals and to lead, one has to be ready to accept a certain element of risk.
Shooting for the stars means at least looking up into the sky. There is likely not just one solution to our last-mile challenge, but for at least part of that. I do think we will need to be looking up, and not just out on our existing roadways.

Bob Voyles is chairman of the Perimeter Business Alliance and principal at Seven Oaks Company.

3 replies on “Commentary: Making ‘last-mile’ connections in Perimeter Center”

  1. You can talk about all of the positives in the Perimeter Center all day long. When your friends are developers you only see things from a developer’s viewpoint. Perimeter Center has many outstanding companies and almost all of the workers commute. That will never change because the entire region is dependent on cars. A small percentage will utilize alternative means. Shuttle buses? From where? Smryna, East Cobb?
    No more developments sounds harsh. But the reality is that most of the current buildings are not fully utilized and as the economy improves, more capital is available to build more speculative developments. Our pols need to realize that the life is being choked in the surrounding communities. All pols talk about safeguarding neighborhoods, but don’t know how to accomplish it. The reality is that the developers control our political process of approvals and denials with zoning issues. That is the primary reason that we have massive traffic congestion in the Perimeter Center and frustrated citizens. The pols are not accountable to its citizens because the people do not want any more developments.

  2. “…and while we are trying to figure this out , we at the perimeter business alliance will continue to develop this area to the max and you, who work there will just have to suck it up and get up earlier to deal with the traffic. Oh, I forgot , but the next few years should be terrific as the 400/285 interchange is being rebuilt. Grab an extra cup of coffee for the car as you’ll have plenty of time admiring all the lovely cranes as your car idles away…..It may be risky developing perimeter area, but you will sit in traffic with very little risk….you are welcome!”

    Lift off.
    Space Cowboy Bob

  3. Mr. Voyles,

    As a result of the citizen backlash, soon to be voter backlash, how many projects has your development firm halted? How many moved to Roswell and North where the people have moved to and more lanes into town needed?

    I’ve been to Europe twice since 2nd week of December in city’s further north and saw scooters, bicycles, people walking in weather worse than here. It’s a ‘Merican thing that private school kids don’t walk 200 yds to the Church School and more practical, sensible ways of travel are ignored.

    The Ten Year delusion has been completed and I didn’t see light rail down the middle of Roswell road to mid-town nor light rail from Perimeter Center to East Cobb and the new stadium. Wait, no light rail at all so that must mean there was a Subway system included? Oh, no not that either. Sure a toll lane will fit the bill somewhere as it seems the Georgia way now.

    Time for that PCID to start spending all it’s money on traffic infrastructure, bicycle routes and stop asking the regular city tax payer to fill the needs after their misuse of PCID taxes.

    It’s always nice to read a “Special”Commentary section by an interested 3rd party. Convincing tax payers that you, the developer, are on our side in finding ways to spend our money is so… Lobbying. State Farm and that $40 million was a win for the Executive Class at another public company the citizens in this area will end up paying for. The burden of TSPLOST and other fee’s we are now stuck with for the tax breaks given the list you mentioned above is all we can afford

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