9/23: No easy path on transportation tax decision

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Transportation is key to quality time. Traffic jams can mean missed soccer games, family dinners and PTA meetings.

That’s where next year’s vote on the additional penny sales tax for transportation comes in.

Supporters such as Post Properties CEO David P. Stockert,  say passage will help Atlanta’s business and home life.

Personally, I’m still trying to make up my mind.

Read what we have to say and then comment below

25 comments Add your comment

Jeff

September 22nd, 2011
9:07 pm

Is this similar to the 400 toll that was supposed to go away after it was paid for? Why don’t you just divert that money?

Laurie

September 22nd, 2011
9:44 pm

Between the transportation, education, and whatever other SPLOST they can come up with, we’ll be paying 8%+ sales tax. Texas has 8.25% sales tax, but they don’t have a state income or ad valorum tax. At some point you have to ask how our current tax dollars are being used. Seems to me Georgia is not making the best use of the money already flowing into the coffers. That’s why I’m voting NO to any SPLOST on my ballet come 2012.

Uncle Milton

September 22nd, 2011
10:05 pm

Note only big corporations and big business that will make $$$ off the 10 year tax support this. You don’t raise taxes on the people during a recession. Unless of course you are big business and can hide your money offshore. Isn’t crony capitalism?

MiltonMan

September 22nd, 2011
10:08 pm

Nothing like throwing away more of our money to politicians.

Count on me voting no

Sallie

September 23rd, 2011
6:39 am

I completely agree that “transportation is the key to quality time” If the projects part of TSPLOST were all about helping Atlantans get home faster it would sail through the voters. But, the politicians and some groups have carved out big bucks for purposes that are more political, more parochial and less about moving traffic better.

The politicians talk about traffic when they want our votes but they earmark the money for projects that don’t accomplish the purpose.

From what I have seen, TPLOST is dead.

Shar

September 23rd, 2011
7:57 am

I grew up in New York City, which would not function without its public transportation system. I have wanted a viable, effective, efficient public transportation system since I moved to Atlanta 30 years ago, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the TSPLOST when the promise was to move more people out of their cars by providing, finally, a good alternative.

Then I saw the list.

Georgians already pay millions and millions of dollars in gasoline taxes, which are supposed to continually upgrade roads yet which seem to be wasted on crony projects that benefit the developers and the politicians instead of those of us who pay for them. Due to the waste and corruption at GDOT, we are now being asked to fund – for the second time – actual road improvements they have already stolen the money for. NO.

The cost estimates are absurd. Seven million dollars to fix the intersection at Moreland/Briarcliff and Ponce de Leon? I drive it often and yes, it’s awful, but SEVEN MILLION? The costs grow worse as the projects increase in size – hundreds of millions to fix one interchange. Who is doing these estimates, and how many palms have to be greased for the public to see any benefit?

Most disappointingly, the public transportation options are bad. MARTA is to continue just as it is, without rationalizing routes or expanding service to try to make using it an attractive alternative. The Beltline is a nice tourist attraction, but it will never, never be a “transit alternative” because it doesn’t go where people need to be. It’s an urban carousel, continuously circling the City but never getting anywhere. I support it as parkland and recreational space, and I think it would be of benefit to Atlanta, but it is not worthy of inclusion in a transportation tax. Worse, the money that has already been expended has been monumentally wasted on appalling land purchase prices and contemptible overstaffing, so the project has languished in debt almost since it was approved, yet there has not been a single word of explanation from the mayor’s office or the City Council. The light rail proposals would help, but they are underfunded – the obvious tactic being to spend a huge dollop of public money and then force additional funding in order not to waste what has already been spent.

The state, regional and city governments have already proved, again and again, that they are not trustworthy in spending the huge pots of money the taxpayers have already provided for transportation, using them instead as slush funds. Now they want more, and for projects that either should have been funded elsewhere or that are pointless.

I’m so sorry to say it, but I’ll be voting no.

NRBD2

September 23rd, 2011
8:07 am

We already pay enough in taxes. If they have anything left over from what they currently steal from us, I have no problem with them spending money on something like this.

But let’s get real….

It might start out as a 1% increase, but within 2 years they’ll be broke already and demand another 1% increase….and on and on and on.

NRBD2

September 23rd, 2011
8:07 am

Enter your comments here

Miltonite

September 23rd, 2011
8:31 am

You got that right, Uncle Milton. It takes cojones to raise taxes during a recession with skyrocketing inflation, but these people have no shame. Every day new stories are coming out about the misuse of public funds. Hey, I thought we were a red state?

ScrewedAgain

September 23rd, 2011
8:46 am

Why is the argument always what we can get for more taxes.

Want transportation funded? Find out how we transfer money from other projects from already in place taxes.

These politicians and beaurocrats always think more taxes for more worthy purpose. Let them re-divide the amazing amount of taxes already on the books. Oppose ANY TAX INCREASE for ANY purpose.

Nickie

September 23rd, 2011
9:37 am

I live in Cobb and see nothing to help most of the traffic here. Expand Marta to Cumberland which is about 10 feet into Cobb from Fulton. Great! What does that do for the traffic north of Cumberland? If a comprehensive system of bus routes for major roads were proposed with perhaps Park and Ride lots near routes to downtown then I would vote “yes”. This is the system that Seattle uses and it works for all the suburbs – lots of buses and plenty of parking near the major bus stops. I have ridden it from the northern suburbs to Mariners and Seahawks games when I visit there. Let’s not forget that the transportation tax will pay for a new control tower at McCallum! Will they be directing traffic on I-75 perhaps? McCallum airport may need a new control tower but it does not belong in a SPLOSH designed (it is promised) to help traffic.
It would seem to me a good bus system would be preferable to expanding Marta for many reasons. It would be flexible – adding and deleting routes and buses as times goes on; certainly less expensive than laying tracks and could be up and running and being fine tuned as to routes, times and number of buses long before the first Marta train will run on any new track.
In an area as spread out as Atlanta is the only way to get any significant number of people out of cars is to provide reliable transportation from where they are to where they want to go. Currently I live about 15 miles from the nearest Marta station and the one at Cumberland will be 13 miles. Not much chance of anyone living near me using either one.

A reader

September 23rd, 2011
10:01 am

I will be voting no. While many of the projects seem worthy I refuse to pay for the Beltline. It is a boondoggle. It is someone’s pet project and will add nothing to the region as a whole. Why should taxpayers in 10 counties pay for a pet project within the city limits of Atlanta?

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

September 23rd, 2011
11:16 am

Some people aren’t going to vote for ONE project they don’t support? How silly. Others are asking for extensive service to start at the drop of a dime? Really?

If I have 10 projects and don’t like just one, that means I should let the other 9 die and not have nothing? That makes no sense. They you here you want an elaborate system of buses and trains everywhere on the ballot but systems are built in stages. Yeah the Cobb line only goes about a mile or so into Cobb but it’s a start. Thank your elders that voted no to MARTA in the 70s for the same proposal. A line would probably be well past Cumberland probably to Marietta by now. We would only be voting on a short extention from there to Towne Center versus trying to go from Midtown to Towne Center!!

The same with Gwinnett and Clayton. MARTA rail would already be there. We could be working on expanding transit versus just trying to make is what it already should be.

I hope this isn’t doomed but let the people talk on these blogs it probably is. Don’t want to pay for nothing but want everything. Everyone wants a train right at their door step to take them right where THEY want to go. How many times to you here that MARTA goes no where? One, it can’t go outside of Fulton and Dekalb and two where DOESN’T it go within the boundries that it is limited to that you folks want to go?

Most of the people on these blogs make no sense!!

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

September 23rd, 2011
11:23 am

One thing I don’t like are all these proposals for light rail. We need more heavy rail. MARTA is a heavy rail system. Save the light rail for the Beltline and maybe cross county routes. Extentions into Gwinnett, Cobb, and Clayton should be HEAVY to move a HEAVY amount of people quickly. Not light so that it stops frequently, doesn’t move a lot of people, and turns them off so that they don’t use the system anyway, just because it is cheaper! You’ll pay more in the long run providing empty light rail trains versus paying for the price for heavy rail but having people actually us it!

DawgDad

September 23rd, 2011
12:51 pm

“Some people aren’t going to vote for ONE project they don’t support? How silly. ” Not necessarily the case for me (many reasons I’m opposed to the tax), but it is NOT silly. Each voter needs to make up their own mind and I would encourage them to vote according to their interests, whatever those might be. That is why we vote.

I expect inner city people to generally favor mass transit, though I consider it to be a boondoggle and open invitation for corruption, fraud, and waste on a grand scale. I expect there will be highway and arterial road projects to serve the outlying areas; however, the projects proposed in my area are long, long overdue, ill-conceived, and in some cases ideologically repugnant. I expect the tax to be justifiable and the funds to be well-managed, which I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt will NOT be the case. I will make a personal judgment as to whether or not I believe the tax and projects are serving my interest and the general interests of the taxpayers. At this point in time I’m solidly convinced the tax is NOT serving either my interests nor the general interests of the taxpayers.

MrLiberty

September 23rd, 2011
12:54 pm

Agreeing there is a need for transportation improvements and then saying government is the only solution is a completely ridiculous argument. Government zoning, central planning, taxation policies, land use policies, infrastructure screwups, etc. have created nearly all of the problems our region now faces (and federal government polices are responsible for the rest). Giving these idiots $7billion more to waste and give to their friends certainly won’t make any of the problems any better.

Chief Wes

September 23rd, 2011
1:05 pm

“Thank your elders that voted no to MARTA in the 70s for the same proposal.” – Bryan

Bryan – Back in the 70’s, no one knew nor predicted that the population of metro Atlanta would significantly EXPLODE like it has. This city and region has had plenty of growth, but unfortunately much of it has NOT been planned growth. Combine that with Atlanta’s suburban sprawl, the Olympics coming here in 1996 (which contributed to the population boom), and transplants and companies moving here for cheap land and better weather, and major traffic congestion is the result.

DawgDad

September 23rd, 2011
1:06 pm

Let me make a point about HOT lanes, too. While I see benefit of having a lane available for those people willing to pay the toll, say, so they aren’t late to their kid’s soccer game, this is an abuse of public taxpayer interest. Say I head off on a Friday evening to visit relatives, and since I’m not a regular traveler over the HOT lane route I cannot legally use those lanes and waste a considerable amount of my VERY limited time stuck in traffic. Who’s to say my interest is less than someone with a transponder paying the toll? I’m paying the same taxes, right? What about the through-traffic? Shouldn’t those people have reciprocal rights for our free access to highways in their areas?

This whole concept is just flat-out repugnant, and we haven’t even begun to discuss the potential for skimming revenues and other forms of corruption and fraud.

Greg

September 23rd, 2011
1:58 pm

What about simply adding turn lanes, both center and right hand, on:
Cheshire Bridge
Clairmont
North Druid Hills
Briarcliff
Ponce deLeon
LaVista
Lindbergh
Piedmont
Moreland
North
Do I need to continue?
Are you paying attention Mayor Reed and CEO Ellis?

Road Scholar

September 23rd, 2011
2:32 pm

Jeff: Get over it! They did suspend it for a short period. Besides the SR 400 toll money is being used to fund more projects like SR400 @I 85!

Laurie: Texas has oil, in case you didn’t know, and they appreciate your money from your driving!

Uncle Milton: So how do you propose we pay for congestion relief? Just stay home?

Shar: The money that has been collected does not cover all the costs of the projects already in our long term plan. This will accelerate many of them.$7M for Briarcliff at Moreland too much? And you can do it cheaper and have the same benefits as the state’s plan? Go for it; toll it to recoup your money! And don’t forget to work with the neighborhoods (they’ll love ya”) and remeber to design it to acceptible safety, environmental, and operational standards.

For those who state they pay enough taxes , just stay at home or stop your whining about congestion!

Greg: Are you proposing a road diet by taking two lanes and turning them into a center two way left turn lane with bike lanes on each side? Or are you proposing to widen the roads listed, by buying the homes/businesses on ech side due to the effects of widening???

Felton McMichael

September 23rd, 2011
6:53 pm

@DawgDad – I’m not sure you quite grasp how the HOT lanes will work. Anyone with a PeachPass (currently free) can use them provided you are willing to pay the going rate to travel on them. If you live in Metro ATL why not just go ahead and get one if you think that at some point you’ll need to travel that route quickly? Also, in your previous comments you express dislike for paying taxes on things that don’t directly benefit you, yet you are also opposed to the HOT lane tolling, which is just about as close to a user fee as you can get, as a means of providing congestion relief.

Zanaya

September 23rd, 2011
8:10 pm

Jeff

September 22nd, 2011
9:07 pm
Is this similar to the 400 toll that was supposed to go away after it was paid for? Why don’t you just divert that money?

That pretty well expresses how I and thousands of other people here in metro Atlanta feel about trusting the State with additional tax money. They sandbagged us on the GA400 toll, now we’re supposed to just forget that and just trust them. No way Jose.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

September 24th, 2011
3:44 am

Mr. Stockert is correct. Texas, Florida, North Carolina and even Virginia have invested and are continuing to invest much more in their transportation infrastructures than Georgia.

But there is a wrong way and a right way to invest in transportation infrastructure and this T-SPLOST looks to be an example of the WRONG way to invest in transportation overall.

But at least this proposed, if very much flawed, T-SPLOST is a start that advances the conversation about infrastructure investing as it seems that Georgia has not really seriously thought about extensive infrastructure investments on a critically-needed large scale in quite a while.

Even though this TSPLOST will likely fail, the extensive need for COMPETENT infrastructure improvements and investments is not going away anytime soon.

tracie sanchez

September 26th, 2011
2:37 pm

Tom, i’m at a fork in the road too, but i fully support the t-splost one penny transportation tax. My fork is whether to leave my great state again or to lead by voicing my support for an olympic (as you say) stand in collaboration and regional policy for the betterment of all Georgians. its a moment of hope that the collective voice can find reason and vision and institute new policy to overcome the individual greed with which decisions have been made for too long. its a moment of hope that our future city will be joyfully livable community, and folks will look back to this sea change as the moment Atlanta went not from good to great, but worse to great. I so hope to be a part of it…July 2012 will be a turning point for sure for me.

MrLiberty

September 26th, 2011
3:55 pm

Of course there is an easy solution on the Transportation Tax. JUST VOTE NO !

Why would anyone consider giving an additional $7 billion of taxpayer money to government so they can waste it on trains to nowhere, etc. You do not reward failure unless that it what you want to get more of.