Stonecrest business owners want MARTA rail sooner, than later
Ken Watts | 10/11/2013, 6 a.m.
Stonecrest businesses want a MARTA rail station at or near the Mall at Stonecrest and the positive impact it would have on the area’s economic development.
They made that known Oct. 9 when MARTA’s CEO Keith Parker came calling.
After listening to Parker speak about the transit authority’s plans for metro Atlanta,
the group of 20 business owners from the area surrounding the mall also told Parker they want MARTA’s proposed east line extension to Stonecrest to be a priority.
Parker said MARTA has a $1.9 billion project on the drawing board for South DeKalb, a combination of heavy rail and bus rapid transit.
“The east line would extend from Indian Creek station, travel south on I-285, loop east to a station at Wesley Chapel Road, then go east along I-20 to Stonecrest,” he said.
The bus rapid transit portion of the plan would carry commuters west along I-20 to downtown Atlanta. Parker said neither component has funding right now.
“MARTA is recovering from a crippling recession with no help from the state and with only two counties – DeKalb and Fulton – providing tax support,” he said.
Still, Parker said cost-cutting measures have turned the agency’s finances around and it is making improvements that he thinks will attract new riders and raise revenues.
“We’re investing in our employees, giving them raises for the first time in years,” he said. “We’re improving safety measures with a new See & Say app that riders can download to their smartphones so they can discreetly report crimes on MARTA vehicles,” Parker said. “And we’re launching a Code of Conduct, what I call the ‘No Knuckleheads’ rules, against rude or dangerous behavior on MARTA trains and buses.”
Offenders will be subject to suspension from MARTA services or banned outright.
MARTA Senior Project Manager Janide Sidifall said that proposed east line rail and BRT projects are undergoing environmental assessment studies that have to be done to qualify for federal funding.
“So when the money becomes available we’ll be ready,” Sidifall said.
South DeKalb business and community leaders, including those at Stonecrest, are worried about MARTA’s recently announced plan to expand its north line along Ga. 400 from Northsprings station in Dunwoody to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta.
A Sept. 26 public hearing on that plan drew a crowd of about 150 people.
There’s community concern that the northside plan might leapfrog the east line.
Parker acknowledged that “community enthusiasm makes an impression on government officials and investors.”
Stonecrest Business Alliance member Sam Armstrong, who co-owns the Spa at Stonecrest with his wife, Dr. Chandra Britt Armstrong, said South DeKalb has been waiting for a long time for an expansion.
“Nothing’s ever happened for us,” he said.
Wesley Dowdy, Chairman of the Alliance, said he was encouraged by the presentation.
“We will continue to work toward rail service because the business community can see the potential economic benefit,” said Dowdy, vice president of Duke Hospitality, operators of the Hyatt and Fairfield Inn at Stonecrest.
J.P. Singh, a senior vice president of Duke Hospitality, said he was glad to hear about Parker’s internal changes at MARTA.
“They’ve been needed for a long time and I recognize the need to get his house in order before tackling expansion,” he said.