10/25: T-SPLOST a good idea for Cobb County?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The debate over metro Atlanta’s special purpose local option sales tax for transportation has a number of flash points. One is Cobb County, where an early plan for a rail extension was scuttled in favor of more road improvements and bus service if the 1-percent tax is approved next year. Below, two former county leaders have their say on the issue.

William B. Dunaway, former mayor of Marietta, writes that Cobb transit future can’t wait. While Bill Byrne, Cobb County Commission chairman from 1992 to 2002, writes that the tax is a bad idea in tough times.

What do you think?

28 comments Add your comment

Phineas

October 26th, 2011
10:12 am

Last Democrat: Thank you for your thoughtful overview and history of Atlanta’s transportation infrastructure planning and investment — or lack thereof. It is truly astounding that metro Atlanta’s population has gone from 2.9 million in 1990 to 5.8 million today with virtually zero transportation infrastructure investment, other than Georgia 400 in 1993, as you point out. What a mind-blowing lack of leadership by Atlanta and Georgia politicians and officials.

Now, rather than really deal with the issue themselves, the best our legislature can do is roll out this T-SPLOST option for us to vote on. It may not be the best, but at least it’s something, or a start. For those in Cobb or wherever that don’t like the current list of projects under the T-SPLOST, then advocate for projects you do like — keeping in mind that Atlanta is woefully and incredibly behind on rail mass transit compared to other cities our size, and so some expenditure in that area is very much warranted. But if you also want certain roads or interchanges improved, fine, advocate for that. But please, do not just stubbornly vote no on the T-SPLOST, because lord knows the last thing Atlanta needs is more years of doing nothing.

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

October 26th, 2011
12:42 am

Bryan — MARTA supporter

October 25th, 2011
10:45 am

“It’s obvious that building more and more roads isn’t working”

Actually, Georgia hasn’t really built many roads as a means of relieving congestion since the opening of the Highway 400 toll road in 1993 as nearly all of the roads built since then have been county-funded roads built for commercial development purposes (see East-West Connector in Cobb County and Sugarloaf Parkway).

Contrary to popular belief, the State of Georgia doesn’t really build that many roads, ESPECIALLY when compared to our Sunbelt counterparts in North Carolina, Florida and Texas as Georgia ranks 49th out of 50 states in transportation infrastructure investment.

The big problem hasn’t been that Georgia has built too many roads, but rather has been that since the completion of the “Freeing the Freeways” interstate widening project in the late 1980’s, the State of Georgia has built virtually NOTHING (no surface roads, no freeways, no toll roads, no rail lines, NOTHING) in the Atlanta Region in the last 20 years while the population of the region increased by a staggering 100 PERCENT growing from 2.9 million in 1990 to 5.8 million today.

The total lack of investment in transportation over a 20-year period of explosive growth in which the region grew by almost THREE MILLION residents means that our region of nearly six million residents is dependent upon a transportation infrastructure that was only meant to support a population of three million.

“There has to be an alternative. If the idiots of Cobb would have voted to fund MARTA in the first place there would already be heavy rail in the county and a much more extensive bus system other than CCT that primarily has service within the Cobb Pkwy corridor, which funny enough would have been where the MARTA rail line would have gone.”

Cobb residents voting down MARTA back about 40-plus years ago in 1969-70 is just a convenient excuse (and a poor one at that) for political leaders to attempt to fall back on for a total and complete lack of leadership on the transportation issue, especially at the state level.

When MARTA was voted down by Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton Counties (and I think that it may have originally been voted down by then-very suburban DeKalb the first time in 1969 before being voted in a second time in 1970-check the history on that one), most areas in those counties were still largely semi-rural and exurban.

Clayton County was a predominantly white bedroom community and still relatively new suburban area where airline employees at the Atlanta Airport were buying up new homes in droves.

Gwinnett County was still largely rural, exurban and very sparcely-populated with only 72,000 residents and eight high schools in 1970 (Gwinnett has over 800,000 residents and 21 total high schools as of today).

Cobb County was also just still very rural starting to gain its legs as a major suburb with a population of just under 200,000. At the time of the first MARTA votes in 1969 and 1970, Cumberland Mall hadn’t even been built yet (the now-defunct Cobb Center Mall in Smyrna was the only major suburban mall in Cobb at that time) and the ultraconservative movement that Cobb County has come to be known for was just starting to gain steam amongst disenchanted whites who were moving out of Atlanta to get away from a growing and strengthening black population.

The Atlanta Region was a very different place as many places in the metro area didn’t even observe desegregation laws yet and the population of Metro Atlanta hadn’t even reached two million people yet as the first MARTA votes in 1969-70 were held about four million new residents ago.

There’s no way that anyone in that era when Atlanta was much, much, MUCH smaller and much more provincial, that Atlanta would grow to be as big and as expansive as it is today covering an area of nearly 30 counties with a population of nearly six million people with 20-lane freeways and nearly every country on Earth represented in its population ranks.

This region has outgrown far beyond any solution that can be managed by local governments alone as it is way beyond time that the state to stepped in and took an active and COMPETENT leadership role in managing the transportation issues of a region that now encompasses nearly 30 counties in North Georgia.

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

October 25th, 2011
11:38 pm

Bryan — MARTA supporter

October 25th, 2011
5:11 pm

A lot of the derision towards the T-SPLOST list and referendum is a direct result of a total lack of leadership from the State of Georgia on transportation issues over the last 15 years.

The rejection of various massive road projects proposed by the state as (misguided) potential “solutions” to the Atlanta Region’s traffic problems over the years, from the Outer Perimeter, to the Northern Arc, to bus rapid transit on I-75 in Cobb County, to tunnels under the Eastside of Intown Atlanta, to the state’s most recent transportation blunder, HOT lanes on I-85, pretty much leaves rail as the only politically-acceptible solution to dealing with our gargantuan traffic and mobility woes.

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

October 25th, 2011
11:18 pm

Anson (Bob) Roberts

October 25th, 2011
2:23 pm

Very intriguing perspective from your comments as a native New Yorker who has become a transplant in Georgia, moving from an area where using transit is a (very necessary) way-of-life to a town where historically transit has been derided and even feared by the natives.

Many people move here from other large cities (especially New York) disappointed that Atlanta doesn’t necessarily have the same type of transportation amenities.

But you’ve got to keep-in-mind that Atlanta just recently became a megacity only about 15 years ago after the Olympics when the population spiked and began growing at an alarming rate that astonished and scared even the local boosters who so longed for Atlanta to join the ranks of American big cities (be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it…).

New York has been a mega-sized American city and one of the world’s leading cities for over 125 years and has had a dependable rail-centered transit system for over 100 years.

Atlanta had a fairly dependable rail-centered transit system until just after the Olympics when the population growth spiraled out of control far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

While cold to the idea for many years when Atlanta was just simply a fast-growing mid-sized big city, the population is quickly warming up to the idea of increased and dependable bus and rail transit service, ESPECIALLY commuter rail, which is gaining an increasing following as commuters outside the Perimeter realize that there’s not much more that can be done to increase capacity on the area’s limited surface road network.

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

October 25th, 2011
5:11 pm

And I’m still reading comments that are saying “vote no” but aren’t giving any alternative. You have a bill that basically splits roads and transit money 50/50 AND most of the projects on the list are actually road probjects and people still have a problem with it. Really?

What are the alternatives? What do the people saying vote no propose? What are YOUR solutions to relieving traffic?

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

October 25th, 2011
5:07 pm

@ Jeremy October 25th, 2011 12:52 pm

Be real with yourself; if you honestly believe that I see why Cobb is so far behind. Why don’t you tell that to all the developers that have built condo towers JUST for young professionals that want to live in the city, work in the city, and play in the city. Not for people living in Cobb. That’s why all of the jobs are in Atlanta, not Cobb. Cobb’s growth is because of Atlanta’s growth, not vise versa. What affluent areas are there in Cobb? Cumberland/Galleria…. uuummmmm can’t think of anything else. How many million dollar homes are there in Atlanta versus Cobb? I’ve driven around Cobb somewhat and I don’t see nothing out there to make me believe that Cobb is where all the money and rich people of this area live. But I’ve also driven around the Vinings and the Mt Paran area. West Paces Ferry and Buckhead. The highrises of Midtown. I’ve even been out Cambellton Rd (past 285) and seen way nicer stuff than anything in Cobb. Even go to Old Fairburn Rd (between Camp Creek and South Fulton Pkwy) and they have homes from 500K and up with even some million dollar homes. Cobb is just a bunch of behind the times, stuck up folks, that have no solutions to our problems but put down everything that is brought in front of them to solve it. Remember everything that is proposed, from the T-SPLOST to even MARTA back in the days was done thru a REPUBLICAN legislature. If you’ll can trust your own people than who can you trust?!

Sallie

October 25th, 2011
4:49 pm

Voting against a bad TSPLOST is the only possible way to get a good one. If we vote for this massively flawed program, it will preclude any possibility of gettign a transportation bill which is actually focused on reducing congestion.

A vote for TSPLOST as it exists today is a vote for another generation of traffic gridlock.

Phineas

October 25th, 2011
4:14 pm

For those of you against the T-SPLOST, just how exactly, then, are we going to solve any of metro Atlanta’s traffic problems? You do agree that we have some traffic problems, don’t you? And if your problem is that T-SPLOST will entrust funds to the corrupt/evil government, just how then, or who then, is going to solve Atlanta’s traffic problems — the private sector? How is the private sector going to magically solve Atlanta’s traffic problems? And if you don’t like the fact that Cobb and/or other suburban areas are lumped in with Atlanta, you do know that that is the plan for the T-SPLOST devised by your Republican legislature, right? Apparently the Republican legislature thought that we — metro Atlanta — are all in this problem together.

Voting against the T-SPLOST is just a vote to do nothing about a problem that we pretty much all acknowledge, and that can only be fixed by spending public money. Face it, or just go back and bury your head in the sand.