During the 1990s, MARTA extended just over two miles north of its existing Dunwoody station, opening the Sandy Springs and North Springs stations in late 2000, which together comprise the North Line (now Red Line) extension.
Project Type:Line Extension Project Mode:Heavy Rail Average Weekday Riders:16,827 Length (mi):2.40
Economic Distress:0.96 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):631 Population Growth Rate (%):2.25
Employment Growth Rate (%):3.70 Market Size:2,812,469 Airport Travel Distance:24 Topography:5
Region:Southeast State:GA County:Fulton County
City:Sandy Springs Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:Zip Code 30328, 30338 & 30346 (Dunwoody & Sandy Springs)
Impact Area:Within 3/4 miles of station(s) Transportation System:Transit GIS Lat/Long:33.932592 / -84.352080
Initial Study Date:1995 Post Constr. Study Date:2012
Constr. Start Date:1996 Constr. End Date:2000
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 1999 Planned Cost (YOE $):381,300,000
Actual Cost (YOE $):463,180,000 Actual Cost (curr $):662,347,400
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||74.02||0.00||74.02|
|Output (in $M's)||135.49||0.00||135.49|
MARTA’s heavy rail extension – with the addition of Sandy Springs and North stations – through the heart of Perimeter Center the Atlanta region’s largest single employment center, accelerated a growth trajectory that has been ongoing for several years. This case study documents 750 new office jobs in 2013 in walking distance of the Sandy Spring station. It should be noted that since 2000, when the two new stations became operational, broader the development in the locale has been observed, but not necessarily within walking distance of either station.
During the 1990s, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) extended its heavy rail transit line 2.3 miles north of the existing Dunwoody station, opening the Sandy Springs and North Springs stations in December 2000. Together, these two stations comprise the North Line (now referred to as the Red Line) extension, a project that allows travelers from Atlanta and its northern suburbs to access Perimeter Center, the region’s largest single employment center. MARTA’s extension has helped attract large employers to the area surrounding the Sandy Springs station, spurring the creation of a vibrant retail and restaurant scene. According to Katy McNulty, who was quoted by Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, “There are a lot of urban advantages to living in Perimeter [Center]—upscale shopping, multi-cultural dining and being able to live close to work. With MARTA nearby, I can easily get to...entertainment locations.”
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
MARTA’s Red Line extension is located in north Fulton County, approximately halfway between Atlanta and Alpharetta, a suburb at the northern edge of the metropolitan region. At the intersection of Georgia 400 (a tolled state highway) and Interstate 285 (referred to as the “Perimeter”), the extension provides easy access to and from the city via park-and-ride lots directly off the highways. According to one person interviewed for this case study, for companies, the MARTA stations are centrally located between a young workforce in Atlanta and executives living in Alpharetta and other northern suburbs. In addition, this same person interviewed for this case study describes MARTA’s connection to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, currently the world’s busiest airport by passengers enplaned and deplaned, as “a very easy transfer,” particularly because the Red Line travels directly the airports domestic terminal. According to Google Maps, the travel time (via transit) from North Springs, the Red Line’s northernmost station, to Hartsfield-Jackson (a distance of 30 miles) is approximately 45 minutes during the peak morning period.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
From 1995 to 2012, the population of Sandy Springs station neighborhood (zip-code based) grew by 29.8 percent, from approximately 54,400 to 69,400. From 1998 to 2012—the earliest and latest years for which data are available—the number of jobs in the neighborhood contracted by 7.9 percent, from 103,670 to 95,445.
In extending the Red Line, MARTA intentionally shifted the route less than one mile east of Georgia 400 so that it would pass through Perimeter Center, a large commercial area anchored by the Perimeter Mall. This real estate “submarket”—which straddles two counties and is roughly bounded by the Perimeter, Chattahoochee River, and City of Dunwoody—has more square footage of tenant-occupied office space (22.6 million square feet) than downtown Atlanta. Perimeter Center is also the third-largest retail market in the Atlanta metro, with nearly 11 million square feet of tracked inventory in the second quarter of 2015.
As a way to combat highway congestion during the 1990s, MARTA focused on its “link to community development,” partnering in 1999 with BellSouth (now AT&T) to develop a large transit-anchored town center in Atlanta’s Lindbergh neighborhood. During this time, MARTA continued to extend north, opening the Sandy Springs and North Springs stations in late 2000, which together comprise the Red Line extension. The extension, which is slightly over two miles long, connects the cities of Dunwoody (DeKalb County) and Sandy Springs (Fulton County). According to the U.S. Federal Transit Administration, the project cost slightly over $463 million, $370.5 million of which was funded by its New Starts program with the remainder funded by a regional sales tax (year of expenditure dollars).
4.1 Transportation Impacts
In 2013, an average of 2,322 riders entered the Sandy Springs station on any given weekday. The North Springs station average weekday entries were 6,436 in 2013. Only 6 stations have significantly higher entrance counts than North Springs, which serves as an important park and ride station on the north side. Sandy Springs performs well for being an outlying station. Parking facilities had usage rates of 43 percent and 65 percent, with North Springs among the highest usage across all MARTA stations.
For riders boarding somewhere along the rail extension, the table below summarizes the travel mode used to reach their station in 2010. According to these data, close to half of all riders entering at the North Springs reached their station by driving alone in 2010, while one-third did so at Sandy Springs. An additional 13.9 percent of riders entering at the North Springs station were dropped off by a car; at Sandy Springs, this figure is close to 20 percent. In a measure of the walkability of areas surrounding each station, over one-third of riders entering at North Springs and over 40 percent at Sandy Springs walked to catch their train.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
Although neither ridership growth nor real estate development occured as fast as expected, following the economic recovery, MARTA’s presence in Perimeter Center and Sandy Springs seems to be an important factor in attracting new jobs to the metro area. In 2013, AirWatch, mobile technology company, announced that it would relocate to the area, bringing with it an estimated 1,000 jobs. Today, AirWatch occupies a building within walking distance of the Sandy Springs station where, according to the Hoovers business database, 750 employees work.
In February 2015, Mercedes-Benz USA announced that it will build its new headquarters—which is being relocated from New Jersey—on a 12-acre site directly across Georgia 400 (and less than one mile) from the Sandy Springs station. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CEO Joe Cannon cited the company’s desire to tap into “Millennial talent who want to live in-town, while also being close to executive-level housing in Buckhead and the northern Atlanta suburbs” as one reason for the site location decision. As part of the move, Mercedes plans to relocate or create 800 to 1,000 jobs. One person interviewed believes the presence of the nearby MARTA station had a strong influence on the company’s decision to locate in Sandy Springs instead of other locations in the Atlanta metro that are less accessible by transit.
State Farm is also expanding its already significant presence in the Atlanta region. In 2014, the insurance company announced that it would lease over half a million square feet of office space directly across from the Dunwoody station in Perimeter Center. Although, this station was not part of the extension and the building is not new development, this provides a strong example of the growing priority placed on locations near transit. Dubbed the “Park Center Hub,” the new development will provide a direct connection to MARTA trains, helping realize State Farm’s goal of creating a “workplace of the future” with “...housing, public transportation, shopping and entertainment all within easy access.” State Farm plans to add 3,000 jobs to the Perimeter Center campus over the next ten years. One person interviewed believes owners of existing buildings in this area are “looking to redevelop in order to better orient” their properties toward the Sandy Springs station, in particular, which follows Dunwoody when traveling north.
According to some, Perimeter Center’s growth can be attributed to both an increase in population throughout the Atlanta region and “permissive” zoning that has enabled and incentivized developers to build millions of square feet of retail and office space. In addition, people interviewed for this case study emphasize Perimeter Center’s advantageous location at the intersection of Georgia 400 and Interstate 285, and halfway between Atlanta and Alpharetta, as an important growth factor.
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Atlanta Regional Commission
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority