Photo by Jim Massara
Hartsfield head Louis Miller said public transit would help both the airport and Clayton County.
MORROW — The possible return of public transit to Clayton County could help both Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as well as local citizens, according to Louis Miller, Hartsfield’s general manager.
“If it benefits the airport, it benefits the people who come to the airport,” Miller said Thursday to members of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce.
“A lot of transit riders come in on MARTA right now. Obviously, they’re coming from the north. Get something coming from the south, and it would help,” Miller said. “We don’t have to build more parking, it takes cars off the roadway system, so transit into the airport is a good thing.”
Public transit for Clayton County is one of the projects to be funded by the Transportation Investment Act and its tax — popularly known as the T-SPLOST — to be voted on July 31.
Miller made his comments after a state-of-Hartsfield report at the chamber’s monthly breakfast at Clayton State University.
His talk was heavy on facts and figures. Miller said that the 92.4 million travelers — about a third of them international — who passed through Hartsfield in 2011 represented an airport record. In addition, cargo flights increased by 40 percent in 2011. And even though international cargo was down, according to Miller, it didn’t shrink as much at Hartsfield as it did at most other airports.
“A lot of companies say that the number-one reason they come here is because of the airport,” Miller said.
Miller also repeated statistics from a 2009 study that showed Hartsfield creating $32.6 billion in direct economic impact and 58,000 jobs, with another 403,000 jobs generated in the region.
The region — specifically, the corridor from downtown Atlanta leading to Hartsfield — was of particular concern to Forest Park Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams.
“What (visitors) see on that corridor from the airport to downtown is blight, abandoned buildings, graffiti,” Adams said during a question-and-answer session after the talk. “We’re losing a lot of business and economic growth potentially because of what they see from the airport to downtown.”
Miller answered Adams by saying that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was equally concerned but that “he’s facing the same problem that everyone else is with budget deficits.”
After the meeting, Adams said that cleaning up the corridor wasn’t “rocket science” and that grants and volunteers could fill the need where government budgets couldn’t.
“Even if (a business) is just in Clayton County, they want to see the downtown, they want to see Atlanta,” she said. “It affects us all.”