Last week, the City of Atlanta and Emory University shut down as the South experienced a rare snowstorm that it was generally unprepared for, resulting in government closings, hundreds of car accidents and even death.
Because most of Atlanta’s school districts and private businesses released commuter occupants at around the same time on Tuesday morning, the city’s major highways and roads were clogged for days in the biggest traffic fiasco in recent history.
As the national press continues to lambast Atlanta for its reaction to a mere two inches of snow, the whole story is that the city depends far too heavily on cars to get around.
In a piece for POLITICO Magazine titled “The Day We Lost Atlanta,” Rebecca Burns, who is the deputy editor of Atlanta Magazine and an adjunct faculty member for Emory’s Journalism program, chronicles the reasons for the debacle, which extend beyond just the snow to include urban (and suburban) sprawl, dependence on auto transport and lack of sufficient transit infrastructure.
We at the Wheel believe that the City of Atlanta and Emory University, a significant employer in the Atlanta area, should lobby more heavily for transit options in and out of the city, and that local voters should seriously reconsider oppositions to mass transit. While the University offers Cliff shuttles to the Decatur MARTA stations, and two MARTA bus routes are easily accessible from campus, this past week has shown that the city should attempt to reduce dependence on costly road transportation and long — hours-long — commutes.
While a MARTA rail line to Emory or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been proposed multiple times, voters have rejected transportation funding for decades, most recently in 2012 with the T-SPLOST referendum. For Atlanta to thrive, we need a stronger infrastructure and fewer drivers.
Additionally, while we believe that the University should have communicated with the Emory community before the snow hit to prepare them for potential inclement weather, we applaud the University’s efforts to keep the community’s safety its top priority throughout the week.
Lastly, we would like to thank all of the Emory service and maintenance staff as well as the Emory Dining employees, many of whom stayed overnight at Emory to keep our campus running. The people that make up Emory’s staff are too often overlooked, and we appreciate their contributions to the University. Blogs like the “Thank You, Emory” tumblr — which documents hundreds of personal “thank you’s” from Emory students to staffers — show that we are not alone in our gratitude.
To all the students, staff and faculty who helped in times of need, thank you.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel.