2017-09-27 / Editorials

A better way

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

As anyone who regular reads my weekly effort will know, I hate traffic. I hate sitting still on an interstate highway. I hate sitting through two cycles of a traffic light because there are so many cars on the road.

Unfortunately, I live on the fringe of Atlanta, home to some of the nation’s worst gridlock traffic.

Once, when I was going to visit my mother in Southwest Georgia, it took me longer to drive from Gainesville, on the north side of Atlanta, to the area around the airport, on the south side, than it did to drive from the airport area all the way home.

I’m convinced there’s some arcane law in Gwinnett County that requires everyone with a car to come to the interstate between 6 and 9 every morning. How else could there be that much traffic?

A few weeks ago, we went to Chicago for several days, and when we arrived, we rented a car. I admit I was a little nervous about driving around the Windy City. My fears were realized when we left the rental car place. We took a side road to the hotel, but the interstate was directly beside us. It was at a complete stop. At 3 in the afternoon.

A friend who used to live in Chicago strongly encouraged us to use the transit system, called the “L,” which he said would get us anywhere we wanted to go. Given that there was a train station right next to our hotel, we decided to give it a try the first night. We bought a three-day pass for $20.

We took the Blue Line train downtown, transferred to a Red Line train, and then walked a couple of blocks to a comedy club. The return trip was just as easy.

The next morning, we took the Blue Line train to Addison Street and transferred to a bus, which dropped us off in front of Wrigley Field, where we took a tour. After the tour, we took a Red Line train downtown for lunch and some sight-seeing, including going up 103 floor in the Willis Tower. Then we took the Red Line back to Wrigley for a Cubs game that night.

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday — the last two days were bonus days thanks to Irma — we used the “L” to get to Soldier Field for the Falcons-Bears game, downtown to go to Harry Caray’s restaurant, to a deep-dish pizza joint and to the city’s park district.

The trains were efficient, fast and inexpensive. Perhaps as important, the stations, the trains and the buses were clean and wel lkept. The trains got us within a few blocks of any place we wanted to go. In fact, the only time we used the rental car was to drive to and from South Bend for the Georgia game.

Our experience made me wonder how much easier getting around Atlanta would be with an effective public transit system. I like MARTA. I use it often when I’m in the big city. But MARTA is only great if the place you’re going is along the north south line or the east west line. Want to get to someplace else? Good luck.

It’s almost impossible to easily and effectively take public transportation to the new Braves stadium. In Chicago, there’s a train station directly behind Wrigley Field.

We need to figure out a way to do better. Until then, I see a lot of brake lights in my future.

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch.clarke @gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/mitch.

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