While many University students spend their weekday mornings sleeping in until class, recharging after all-nighters or late-night debauchery, College freshman Giancarlo Ghinatti wakes up at 7 a.m. three days a week in order to arrive on time to his off-campus job.
Though his job is located only three miles from Emory’s campus in the Edgewood retail district, Ghinatti typically spends half an hour commuting to work. He relies on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) bus that stops on campus because he does not have a car. According to Ghinatti, the bus is frequently late or simply doesn’t come at all, making his commute more difficult.
“[Once], I had to wait in the rain for 30 minutes for the bus, and another time, a bus did not come at all, and I ended up being 30 minutes late for work,” he said. “I apologized to my boss and she understood, but that still doesn’t look good in the second week on a new job.”
Ghinatti said other forms of transportation, noting cabs in particular, are not necessarily “cost effective.”
In order to address the concerns of students like Ghinatti regarding transportation from Emory to other areas in metropolitan Atlanta, the Student Government Association (SGA) has partnered with Emory’s Office of Sustainability for an initiative to encourage Emory students to vote on a July 31 city-wide referendum that would provide funding for the construction of a MARTA rail line on campus.
This Monday, SGA will vote on a bill to formally express the organization’s support for the referendum to raise awareness of it on campus.
This referendum to the Transportation Investment Act would allot $8.5 billion in funding during the next decade to projects that aim to improve transportation in 10 counties that form a part of metropolitan Atlanta: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission’s website.
Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue signed the original Transportation Investment Act into place in 2010, which divided Atlanta into 12 voting districts to determine how to allocate funding for the transportation projects.
Besides the proposed Emory MARTA train stop, plans also include expansions to the Clifton Corridor space — which, according to SGA President and College senior Adam McCall, includes the area around Clifton Road — that would improve congestion caused by traffic.
McCall said if the referendum passes, construction on the MARTA line would be completed by 2015.
“For students who don’t have cars, it’s very hard to get around Atlanta, and the fact that there’s no MARTA train [at Emory] really inhibits students from getting around,” McCall said, adding that this rail line would also make it easier and less expensive for visitors to get to campus.
To fund the transportation improvement projects across Atlanta, the city government will impose a penny surcharge on any sales item purchased in the metropolitan area. McCall said he believes many may vote against the referendum due to this additional sales tax and feels that it is even more important for Emory students to vote.
“A lot of people who will vote [on the referendum] are purely anti-tax and don’t want to make the commitment to push Atlanta and Emory forward,” McCall said. “I think because Emory students understand the importance of traffic easement in Atlanta, they’ll be willing to pay the extra penny for the real social benefits we’d be getting from this.”
McCall noted that SGA has included information in its all-student newsletters on how to register to vote in Georgia and obtain absentee ballots for students who are not Georgia residents.
According to Emily Cumbie-Drake, a sustainability programs coordinator, the Office of Sustainability plans to have booths at the Farmers’ Market and during Earth Month events in April to educate the community about the referendum.
“I think Emory students feel a lot of investment in the long-term successes of Emory,” McCall said. “We’re all concerned about the value of our degree and how people from the outside perceive our education. The fact that we’re not on public transit and that it’s hard to commute around Atlanta are all factors that hold Emory back and passing this referendum will really help Emory move forward.
— Contact Stephanie Fang