What’s Plan B if T-SPLOST fails here, passes elsewhere?

The claim by proponents of the T-SPLOST that there is “no Plan B” — no alternative to the proposed 1 percent increase in the sales tax and the $6.1 billion in regional transportation projects it would build — has always struck me as silly.

Is there another plan already prepared and waiting in the wings should voters reject the tax in July? Probably not. In that sense, the “no Plan B” talk rings true. But surely no one believes local and state officials would just quit trying to speed up the construction of new roads and mass transit. A second option would emerge, probably sooner than later.

That said, there is one real nightmare scenario for those who would have to create a Plan B: The tax fails in metro Atlanta, but passes elsewhere.

We in metro Atlanta tend not to think about the tax referendum outside our 10-county region. But the rest of the state is divided into 11 other T-SPLOST regions, and the tax might very well pass in some of them.

Legislators discussed the reverse case — that the tax would pass in metro Atlanta and nowhere else — before passing the Transportation Investment Act two years ago. But I never heard anyone consider that traffic-choked Atlanta might turn it down while other regions embraced it.

For argument’s sake, let’s say voters in the three regions comprising Augusta, Columbus and Savannah approve the tax. Those regions represent a quarter of Georgia’s 159 counties and one-sixth of the state’s population.

What alternative could then be taken at the state level? For example, it would be seemingly impossible for the state to raise the motor fuel tax only in counties that rejected the T-SPLOST. It’d also be exceedingly unpopular in those counties, and probably counterproductive: Counties slapped with a higher gas tax would likely bleed some fuel sales, and thus revenues, to unaffected counties.

Counties that approved the tax would not watch idly if the state tried to raise another tax on everyone, just to take care of Atlanta. And they almost certainly would raise heck to make sure regions that rejected the tax were assessed the penalties in the law. Among the poison pills for a “no” vote: requiring locals to match 30 percent of state transportation spending rather than 10 percent.

Those penalties also would seem to prevent the state from simply devoting more funds to transportation in metro Atlanta. Complain all you want that the Legislature tries to control MARTA without contributing to its budget, but there are even longer odds of that changing if the T-SPLOST fails.

So, the likeliest Plan B is a do-over for Plan A. That would be a re-vote on a regional tax, probably with a revamped project list, in 2014; that’s when the tax, by law, would next be allowed on the ballot.

And I must say I’m torn about that prospect — although I’m certain it frightens those state officials who support the tax now and would be in the unenviable position of supporting it a second time while running for re-election (cough, cough, Gov. Nathan Deal).

My main hesitation toward the T-SPLOST is that the project list isn’t focused enough on our region’s worst traffic congestion, and that voting “yes” this summer will use up one of our precious few options for improving transportation. A two-year delay is worthwhile if it means we get it right.

But then, I’m not sure why we’d trust the same people to create a better list next time.

In fact, trust is shaping up to be a big factor in this referendum. But that will have to wait for another column.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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160 comments Add your comment

Susan

May 18th, 2012
6:43 pm

That’s a good question for a Wireside Chat, Kyle. From June 4-14, ARC will hold 12 Wireside Chats with local officials from each of the Atlanta region’s jurisdictions. Citizens can participate from their homes and ask questions of their local officials – all questions will be answered during the chat or, if time runs out, by email. Find out more and register for a chat at: http://bit.ly/JjUjXO

yuzeyurbrane

May 18th, 2012
6:57 pm

Insightful analysis.

Rafe Hollister

May 18th, 2012
7:08 pm

We know plan A is poorly thought out, so we have to vote it down to see what is next. Voting for plan A insures there will be no plan B. We can only hope the GDOT learns from their errors. I doubt they will based on past experience, but we can give them a chance if we vote down plan A.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

May 18th, 2012
7:12 pm

Funny, I was just thinking the same thing – obozo’s chances of reelection; SPLOST, all over the windshield.

Ray

May 18th, 2012
7:21 pm

I will never vote for any Sales Tax Referendum that includes streetcars, a tourist attraction doomed to be supported by taxpayers, forever and ever. (See TIA-AT-004 and TIA-AT-007) on the final list at : http://www.atlantaregionalroundtable.com/documents/Fact_Sheets_Final_Investment_List_Higher_Resolution.pdf

Can I hear an amen?

Hillbilly D

May 18th, 2012
7:22 pm

The “there is no Plan B” talk reminds of back in the 60’s when Jim Cherry was head of the DeKalb Schools. Every time they’d have a bond issue up for a vote, you’d hear the same kind of talk you’re hearing now about T-SPLOST. Funny thing, though, whenever a bond issue got voted down, things went right on and the sky didn’t fall and they found the money for the things they truly needed. I’m guessing this thing will wind up about the same.

I don’t live in the Atlanta T-SPLOST region, so what the people there vote for or against is their business but I sure hope this thing don’t pass in my region. As it stands, two counties can basically vote a tax increase for the rest of us. Seems odd to me, sort of like taxation without representation. Nobody ever asked us if we wanted to be part of the region, they just informed us that we are.

My area doesn’t need anymore roads, anyway. We have all we need. The local developer/real estate cabal are the only people who actually want more.

redneckbluedog

May 18th, 2012
7:45 pm

Good article…Another “Road to Nowhere”….

BTW…What is the “Plan B” if Romney is elected, cuts taxes, and increases spending for drilling and the military…..and it doesn’t work…!?!? We end up in another recession/full blown depression…!?!?? Have we given that any thought..??? Because, based on the past 10 years, that would be a likely outcome……

Plan B: S-O-C-I-A-L-I-S-M…!!!!

big t

May 18th, 2012
8:33 pm

TRUST….How can we Trust the State DOT or legislature to even use the money for whats on the list,
without useing some for Special projects of people in power…..

Shine

May 18th, 2012
8:43 pm

Lets hope it fails everywhere and the Republican kooks who created this bs all get tossed out of office. If they need money then take back all the corporate welfare and tax cuts to deadbeat businesses that the rest of us dont get and pave roads. I am pennied to death.

Hillbilly D

May 18th, 2012
9:09 pm

I am pennied to death.

I remember when you paid 3 cents sales tax in Georgia. Now it’s 7 cents, everywhere in the state that I can think of. It’s not all state tax but who cares? You’re still paying 7 cents, no matter where the money is going.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

May 18th, 2012
9:09 pm

redneckbluedog: What is the “Plan B” if Romney is elected, cuts taxes, and increases spending for drilling and the military
————————

The cronyism of your Idiot Klown Obozo has you confused–the federal government doesn’t spend money drilling. That’s handled by private industry.

If President Romney is elected (pardon the redundancy) the plan is to control spending so that the massive increases in tax revenue, thanks to real economic growth, will actually close Obozo’s un-American deficits.

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
10:12 pm

Enter your comments here

BW

May 18th, 2012
10:15 pm

Kyle

The real problem is that the voters do not trust the Georgia government to properly allocate the amount of money truly needed to “fix congestion.” Keep in mind alot of the congestion happens from allowing developers to build in the burbs without corresponding expansion of local arterial infrastructure. One persons fix may not be the same for another.

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
10:18 pm

I’m not sure I got all this straight. If Atlanta votes for TSPLOST and the rest of the state does not, then, what goes where? Atlanta gets 50 trolly cars, three hot lanes and a bicycle path while the rest of the state keeps dirt roads?

Hmm that’s no fun. (Just been to a patriotic band concert and that was fun! …. STAY ON SUBJECT!) OK

I don’t plan to vote for TSPLOST. I”m going up there and ride on dirt roads with HillBilly. That’s the life!

Clark

May 18th, 2012
10:29 pm

The fact that there is no plan B should mean to voters everywhere that without plan A, there is nothing. It’s much better to taste the batter now and wait for the cake than to get nothing at all!

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
10:33 pm

Good news! The BRAVES defeated the Rays 5-3. Way to go, BRAVES!!

Maybe Wren and Freddie will draw up a recovery plan B if the Big T-SPLOST fails. They surely must have a fine recovery plan. Things are moving forward fast! Just what we need!

We need some new faces in the planners group.

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
10:39 pm

Clark,

Nobody wants to eat an expensive burnt and fallen cake. Nor do they want a plan that cost millions but solves no problems. Time to start over and do it right in the kitchen or the capital.

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

May 18th, 2012
10:48 pm

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
10:18 pm

“I’m not sure I got all this straight. If Atlanta votes for TSPLOST and the rest of the state does not, then, what goes where? Atlanta gets 50 trolly cars, three hot lanes and a bicycle path while the rest of the state keeps dirt roads?”

I’ll guess that you haven’t seen some of the four-lane roads that the state has built in South Georgia and extreme North Georgia?

While Georgia’s 49th ranking in per-capita transportation funding means that we also don’t really fund roads that well in addition to spending virtually nothing on transit (which shouldn’t be all that surprising seeing as though overall infrastructure funding isn’t all that adequate, either; READ: reservoirs and water infrastructure funding), we also at least have not totally neglected our rural roads.

Heck, from GDOT’s standpoint it’s a lot easier to fund and construct divided four-lane roads in sparcely-populated rural areas, where everyone will be happy just to get a new road, than it is in heavily-populated Metro Atlanta where people act like it is the end of the world when GDOT proposes to just merely widen a road by one or two lanes in most places.

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

May 18th, 2012
10:52 pm

There doesn’t need to be a “Plan B” for transportation in case the T-SPLOST goes down, especially for transit, because transit can pay for itself, if managed correctly (and as we see with MARTA and the suburban systems, CCT, GCT and, especially, the currently-defunct C-Tran, that is a very big IF around these parts).

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
11:05 pm

Last Democrat..10:48

Don’t take it too hard. I was just dreaming about the dirt road bit. There are some nice “country ” roads. I was on 416 coming from Clarksville this week and the highway was super with few cars to enjoy it. I sailed along until I hit 85 and a rain storm, neither of which was fun.

I do think we have to do some very careful planning mainly because we will never have enough funds to appease the public need for transportation, not to mention water, etc. etc.

But this is a time when we HAVE to think of the essentials because the public, including me, does not want their taxes raised. Too many citizens are having a hard time making ends meet. The governnment should plan everything on a shoe string budget as far as possible. Let’s start from “there”.

But I like your defense of Georgia’s road. I love this state, roads and all.

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

May 18th, 2012
11:07 pm

Transit can pay for itself through user fees like zone pricing (higher more adequately-priced fares), fees on parking fines, traffic fines, sin taxes (on alcohol and adult entertainment).

Transit upgrades and expansions can also pay themselves by maximizing advertising revenues (properly utilizing advertising space on trains and buses), utilizing Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development around rail transit stations as opposed to being solely dependent on the very limited revenues from sales taxes).

Transit can also pay for itself by utilizing the same type of public-private partnerships that the state was originally going to enter into to build the reversible tolled carpool lanes (HOT lanes) on Interstates 75 & 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties where a private partner provides up to one-third of the cash needed to construct a transit line and continues to operate and maintain a selected transportation infrastructure for the life of the contract.

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

May 18th, 2012
11:14 pm

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
11:05 pm

Our taxes don’t have to be raised, especially when it comes to transit (one, primarily because transit can pay for itself at the farebox…See my post at 11:07 for ways to creatively finance transit upgrades WITHOUT raising taxes).

The fact that the powers-that-be don’t really have to raise our taxes to pay for the needed transportation infrastructure means that they are only after more public money to increase the size of their own personal slush funds for themselves and their cronies.

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

May 18th, 2012
11:22 pm

Now when it comes to roads, that is a slightly-different story.

The fact that transit is more than capable of paying for itself and even producing a profit over the long run when managed properly (that management thing is key), means that this tax referendum should have been just to increase our also currently inadequate level of road funding, either through a new proposed sales tax or a proposed increase in the fuel tax (gas tax).

Seeing as though fuel taxes often don’t even cover the cost of road construction and maintenance and that transit is capable of paying for itself (at the farebox, through fees, ad revenue, Tax Increment Financing and public-private partnerships), funding for roads and transit should be kept completely separate and not combined in one sales tax like this proposed T-SPLOST clumsily does.

Hillbilly D

May 18th, 2012
11:28 pm

I wonder how much money the state makes off the gasoline tax for gasoline that isn’t used on the roads, ie: lawn mowers, chain saws, small boats, weed eaters, four-wheelers, tractors that are used somewhere other than working farms, etc. In my neck of the woods, it would amount to a good bit of money.

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

May 18th, 2012
11:30 pm

Heck even if funding for roads remains the same and doesn’t increase anytime soon, there are road expansions that are also fully capable of paying for themselves.

A couple of which, like the widening and addition of truck-only and express lanes to Highway 6/Thornton Road/C.H. James Parkway from I-20 West into Paulding County and the construction of the Sugarloaf Parkway Extension from GA 316 to GA 20 near the Mall of Georgia in Gwinnett County, are projects that would be better constructed, operated and maintained as toll roads so that road funding could be dedicated to making improvements to freeways and surface roads that cannot pay for themselves through tolls.

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
11:36 pm

Last Democrat,

Your ideas seem very sound. I have no expertise in transportation but I might ask a few questions.
Isn’t your first plan about adding cost to entertainment etc. just the same as a selective tax?

As to advertising, I don’t ride MARTA trains very often but I do see that their buses are covered with advertisements. You are sure it isn’t enough?

As for “hot lanes”, perhaps they could have business entities to help finance them. As far as I can tell, the majority of people are rejecting the present “hot lanes”. I never use them but I am not a frequent traveler on those roads. But the idea of jumping into something with various rates that you will find the cost later (even though changing rates are posted) does not appeal to me. Maybe it just takes get accustomed to using them, but saving time at a higher cost is not appealing.

Keep up the good ideas. Are you passing them on to those concerned in government? They might be more responsive than you think but I’m trying to think with optimism.

td

May 18th, 2012
11:40 pm

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

May 18th, 2012
11:07 pm

Transit can pay for itself through user fees like zone pricing (higher more adequately-priced fares), fees on parking fines, traffic fines, sin taxes (on alcohol and adult entertainment).

This is not paying for itself. Name a city in the world that the transit fares pays for the
system?

td

May 18th, 2012
11:43 pm

If you want to pay for our road improvements then just set up toll booths at the boarders on all the major interstates and catch all these people passing through to help pay for our roads. How many people from other states us our roads to get to Florida contribute nothing to the state?

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
11:43 pm

Hillbilly D,.

Wouldn’t it be hard to figure how much gasoline is being used for purposes other than vehicles?

I fill up the car and the lawn mower gasoline can on one trip. How would you tell where the gaoline is going to be used?

Old Timer

May 18th, 2012
11:44 pm

Great column Kyle. As an out of the Atlanta area resident I will vote No on this aborted plan–Then when we are penalized 30% those that formulated this idea will no longer be elected the nex go around. Atlanta is not the center of the Universe.

Hillbilly D

May 18th, 2012
11:47 pm

Dusty

It would but the point is, nothing in this world is totally self-supporting. All of us are getting the short end of the stick some places and the long end in other places.

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
11:52 pm

td

I drove from Georgia to Arizona a few years back and I don’t remember any toll roads at state lines.
Myabe that has changed but I hope not. (Did get a speeding ticket in Texas! Speed trap!!! Another way to pay for roads..)

I think those Florida “snow birds” do stop sometimes in Georgia and “contribute”. Saying “Welcome to Georgia” with your hand out does not sound very appealing.

Dusty

May 19th, 2012
12:14 am

Hillbilly 11:47

Sometime those longs & shorts just don’t even out! Does seem like it.

I heard some great music tonight I bet you would enjoy. The Peachtree Symphonic Winds! A big band of about 45 musicians were playing lotsa good stuff, like Sousa and all the armed forces themes. Even had a patriotic sing along with America the Beautiful, Greenwood’s God Bless the USA and many others. I had a good time..

Now I’d better hum my way right off to bed. Getting late. G’nite…and may all our roadways be bright!

@ Last Dem - 11:07 PM

May 19th, 2012
12:39 am

Sorry, but you have no grasp on the realities and politics of transit, especially when it comes to MARTA.

“Transit can pay for itself through user fees like zone pricing (higher more adequately-priced fares)…” – On paper this would be realistic. However, every black group in Atlanta would be up in arms if this was pushed. Since blacks are the major users of MARTA, this would unduly affect the costs for them since many have to go from one side of town (where they live) to the other (where they work).
“… fees on parking fines, traffic fines….” – taxes are already high on these to take care of City of Atlanta and DeKalb/Fulton County needs. Have you not read about the controversy with ParkAtlanta and street meters?

“sin taxes (on alcohol and adult entertainment)” – Go up much more and you will see a fall in business as customers go outside these areas for entertainment. Oh, but you say tourists will be the ones mainly affected? Guess what, word will get out and conventions will go to more friendly areas like Orlando.

“Transit upgrades and expansions can also pay themselves by maximizing advertising revenues (properly utilizing advertising space on trains and buses)…” When have you last been on a MARTA bus? Do you know the demographics of those who make up the majority of ridership? Advertisers want bang for their $$. Also, check out the advertising on the trains. There is a common theme. Again, why is this? Demographics of ridership. Come on, MARTA is not stupid. They desperately wish to capitalize on ad revenues.

“…utilizing Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development around rail transit stations as opposed to being solely dependent on the very limited revenues from sales taxes)…” – and how, pray tell, does MARTA (or any other transit system)have the unilateral authority to tax developments around stations – unless they own the property?

“Transit can also pay for itself by utilizing the same type of public-private partnerships that the state was originally going to enter into to build the reversible tolled carpool lanes (HOT lanes) on Interstates 75 & 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties where a private partner provides up to one-third of the cash needed to construct a transit line and continues to operate and maintain a selected transportation infrastructure for the life of the contract…” – Do you foresee so much transit feeding off of the interstates to warrant a dedicated lane?

Clark

May 19th, 2012
12:40 am

Anyone that believes that transit can directly pay for itself is deluded. The benefit of transit is the increased movement of people which leads to increased economic benefit. As a personal example, I don’t indulge in any Atlanta nightlife. Why? Because I can’t get to and from downtown/midtown/Buckhead without driving which is unpleasant even not late at night. If I could drive two miles, then jump on a train to the action, then jump on a train back out, I likely would and that might mean purchases at several establishments. A single visit isn’t much, but multiplied over several times a month, then multiplied by several hundred? thousand? people, it adds up FAST!

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

May 19th, 2012
1:22 am

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
11:36 pm

“Isn’t your first plan about adding cost to entertainment etc. just the same as a selective tax?”

Of course it is a selective tax, but the cost would not be added to all entertainment, just to adult entertainment (strip clubs, adult novelty purchases like magazines, toys, films, etc) and alcohol purchases. Basically it would be a “sin tax” that would only be paid only when someone chooses to buy adult entertainment items and services and alcoholic beverages….If you don’t buy it, you don’t pay it.

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

May 19th, 2012
1:36 am

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
11:36 pm

“As to advertising, I don’t ride MARTA trains very often but I do see that their buses are covered with advertisements. You are sure it isn’t enough?”

The ad revenue that a MARTA takes in isn’t anywhere nearly what they are capable of taking in as they could better utilize that ad space by making more space with changeable electronic signs that show multiple advertisements both on the insides (the overhead ad signs) and outsides of buses (the small billboards on the sides of buses which only show one advertiser at present) and trains.

Replacing those signs with changeable electronic signs and billboards that can show multiple ads instead of only one plastic fixed ad per sign is a great way to create a strong and critically-needed revenue stream by dramatically increasing much-needed advertising revenues (instead of getting paid for one ad per sign, they get paid for six or seven ads per sign which means six or seven times the ad revenue).

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

May 19th, 2012
2:09 am

Dusty

May 18th, 2012
11:36 pm

“As for “hot lanes”, perhaps they could have business entities to help finance them. As far as I can tell, the majority of people are rejecting the present “hot lanes”.”

My proposal is not for HOT lane expansion (the state is on their own with that one as I’m also not all that in love with the HOT lane concept, especially on I-85 where they took the existing HOV-2 (two-person carpool) lane to convert it to a HOT/HOV-3 (toll three-person carpool) lane.

My proposal is to convert Hwy 6/Thornton Rd/C.H. James Parkway in Douglas, Cobb and Paulding counties to a super-artery/expressway and to construct the last remaining section of the Sugarloaf Parkway Extension (Lawrenceville Loop/Mall of Georgia Bypass) in Gwinnett County by making it a traditional toll road.

Now I guess that one could make the tolls (on Hwy 6 and the Sugarloaf Parkway Extension) slightly higher during rush hour to help payoff the initial cost of constructing the road as soon as possible while providing an ongoing revenue stream to operate and maintain the road during its lifespan so that limited fuel tax revenues will be available to maintain other freeways and surface roads that cannot take in toll revenues to pay for themselves.

Though I would not recommend jacking up the tolls on these new roads (Hwy 6 & Sugarloaf Pkwy Ext) anywhere near as high as the tolls are being jacked on the I-85 HOT Lanes because unlike HOT/HOV-3 lanes, where the price is jacked up during the busiest periods of the day to keep the lanes flowing at a minimum speed of 45 m.p.h. for three person-minimum carpools, commuter buses and paying “customers” (READ: those desperate enough to pay the extortion fee to escape the ridiculous traffic jams created by taking away a lane of traffic), the whole idea of a toll road is to keep the lane affordable enough for EVERYONE to use while still being able to raise the funds to construct, operate, maintain and even expand the road as needed during its lifespan.

I’m not necessarily all that crazy about the HOT lane concept, especially the way that the I-85 HOT lanes were converted out of the existing HOV-2 lanes.

If they were going to put HOT lanes on I-85, instead of taking away an existing lane from two-person carpools to do it, they should have ADDED them to the right-of-way by building two or three reversible lanes elevated over the median of the expressway.

Since there isn’t much, if any, right-of-way remaining along I-85 to expand the road horizontally by widening it as the I-85 right-of-way is pretty much built-out between Spaghetti Junction (I-85/285 NE Interchange) and the I-985 split which means that the only place that the road can be expanded is vertically with elevated lanes.

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

May 19th, 2012
2:53 am

@ Last Dem – 11:07 PM

May 19th, 2012
12:39 am

“Sorry, but you have no grasp on the realities and politics of transit, especially when it comes to MARTA…….“Transit can pay for itself through user fees like zone pricing (higher more adequately-priced fares)…” – On paper this would be realistic. However, every black group in Atlanta would be up in arms if this was pushed. Since blacks are the major users of MARTA, this would unduly affect the costs for them since many have to go from one side of town (where they live) to the other (where they work).”

Poor blacks do use MARTA heavily but they are not the only users of MARTA as there are many middle-class whites and middle-class blacks, especially on the North (Red Line) and Northeast (Gold Line) heavy rail lines, who often drive to (via GA 400 and/or I-85 NE) and park at a heavy-rail station near the end of the line (stations like North Springs which has direct access onto and off of GA 400 NB & SB via direct freeway ramps and Sandy Springs on the North/Red Line and stations like Doraville on the Northeast/Gold Line) and to work in the city during morning rush hour.

In the evening those same riders will board MARTA heavy rail trains at various stations in Downtown and Midtown ride the trains back out to those same stations out near or at the end of line, gets in their automobiles and drive the rest of the way home so that they can try and minimize the amount of time that they are stuck in traffic (a practice which, by the way, is a prime example of a multimodal transportation system in which both cars and trains are utilized during a commute).

During the spike in gas prices back in 2008, many typically transit-averse suburbanites found MARTA heavy rail to be such an attractive option that parking spaces were often very difficult, if not downright impossible, to find at outlying MARTA stations where many commuters were parking their vehicles and riding MARTA trains to minimize their fuel purchases during that gas price spike.

The MARTA South Line (Red/Gold Line) is also utilized by visiting tourists and conventioneers needing to get between the Atlanta Airport and hotel and convention clusters in Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead.

Though poor blacks do as an individual group utilize MARTA heavily, and despite the popular myth, poor blacks are not the only ones who use MARTA on a consistent basis.

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

May 19th, 2012
3:37 am

@ Last Dem – 11:07 PM

May 19th, 2012
12:39 am

“– On paper this would be realistic. However, every black group in Atlanta would be up in arms if this was pushed. Since blacks are the major users of MARTA, this would unduly affect the costs for them since many have to go from one side of town (where they live) to the other (where they work).”

Converting from a flat, one-way fare of $2.50 to a zone-pricing graduated fare structure (the farther you ride the more you pay) would actually greatly benefit low-income riders by raising the increased revenues needed to provide more bus and train service, bus and train service which increasingly has been cut to the bone over the last decade.

Increasingly bare-bones transit service does no one any good. It doesn’t benefit the middle and higher-income single-occupant vehicle commuters who get stuck in horrifically lengthy traffic delays in ridiculously-long traffic jams on congested metro freeways with few other commuting options and it especially doesn’t help low-income and poor riders with few, if any, other commuting or travel options.

If transit service is to improve and transit options are to increase and expand, fares will have to increase so that there can be an increased and dependable revenue stream to provide the high level of quality service necessary to increase mobility and relieve severe traffic congestion in this major population center of six million people.

Though one consolation is that low-income riders can receive frequent-rider and hardship discounts so that they can pay smaller fares, but if we continue trying to keep the fares as low as possible to accommodate low-income riders then pretty soon, there won’t be any buses or trains to ride as MARTA will drown in a sea of red ink.

Being dependent solely upon very-limited sales tax revenues and rockbottom fares while sitting around and waiting for pigs to fly and hell to freeze over for a tax-averse state legislature to dramatically raise taxes on a tax-averse citizenry to the level of a Massachusetts, Illinois or New York to fund critically-needed transit expansion just simply is not a recipe for economic success, it has been and it never will be, especially in a state dominated by conservative right-leaning politics where low taxes and smaller, more efficient government is the ideal goal.

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

May 19th, 2012
3:53 am

@ Last Dem – 11:07 PM

May 19th, 2012
12:39 am

““sin taxes (on alcohol and adult entertainment)” – Go up much more and you will see a fall in business as customers go outside these areas for entertainment. Oh, but you say tourists will be the ones mainly affected? Guess what, word will get out and conventions will go to more friendly areas like Orlando.”

I agree, which is why we don’t want to increase sin taxes to the point where we try to get all of the revenue we need from one source.

The whole idea is to obtain revenue from MULTIPLE sources, not just from sin taxes, but also from fees on parking fines and traffic fines (which is only one way that the majority of transit-heavy cities all over obtain at least a portion of revenue to fund transit operations), advertising revenues, Tax Incremental Financing (revenue from new development around stations), fares and public-private partnerships.

No successful business or venture puts all of their eggs in one basket and only obtains revenue from only one source (like MARTA currently seeks to obtain most of their revenues primarily from the one-percent sales tax levied in Fulton and DeKalb Counties while almost completely disregarding the farebox where MARTA takes in revenue from each individual passenger everytime they board).

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

May 19th, 2012
3:57 am

The money to dramatically improve transportation (roads and transit) in this mobility and congestion-challenged town is out there in an abundance.

We just need to start looking under rocks and finding it.

We need to be resourceful and get away from the misguided, shortsighted, prehistoric thinking that the only way to fund transportation improvement is to raise taxes sky-high to the level of a high-tax state (an Illinois, a California or a Northeastern state) or a foreign socialist country.

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

May 19th, 2012
4:11 am

“When have you last been on a MARTA bus? Do you know the demographics of those who make up the majority of ridership? Advertisers want bang for their $$. Also, check out the advertising on the trains. There is a common theme. Again, why is this?Demographics of ridership.Come on, MARTA is not stupid. They desperately wish to capitalize on ad revenues. ”

By upgrading the level of service (lower headways, higher-frequency trains, a much more visible and vigilant security presence, etc) to appeal to and attract more riders across all socioeconomic classes, the agency will automatically expand the demographics to which advertisers can sell their products which will increase the amount of revenue.

Greater advertising revenues can also be gained by replacing the plastic signs that each only show one advertisement on the insides and outsides of trains with changeable electronic signs that show multiple advertisments (six or seven ads per sign = six or seven times the ad revenue).

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

May 19th, 2012
4:32 am

@ Last Dem – 11:07 PM

May 19th, 2012
12:39 am

““…utilizing Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development around rail transit stations as opposed to being solely dependent on the very limited revenues from sales taxes)…” – and how, pray tell, does MARTA (or any other transit system)have the unilateral authority to tax developments around stations – unless they own the property?”

Although MARTA does own property around some of its stations, you are right, MARTA does not have the unilateral authority to tax developments around stations, but the muncipalities (Fulton and DeKalb counties) in which MARTA operates in, along with the state, do have the authority to divert a portion of future property tax revenues from future development towards MARTA.

North Carolina is using the Tax Incremental Financing method to finance the construction of a commuter rail line along an existing Norfolk Southern freight rail line that parallels I-85 between Charlotte and Lexington, NC as it does not require the politically-difficult task of raising sales taxes in a tax-averse political (and economic) climate.

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

May 19th, 2012
5:46 am

Clark

May 19th, 2012
12:40 am

“Anyone that believes that transit can directly pay for itself is deluded.”

If properly placed toll roads can pay for themselves, so can properly placed rail transit lines.

Funding transit in the same or similar way that toll roads are funded will help to get the critically-needed infrastructure up-and-running and of use to the commuting public much sooner than sitting around and waiting for state government to make the wildly politically-unpopular move of substantially raising sales taxes to fund it.

Road Scholar

May 19th, 2012
6:07 am

Will @ 10:48:
“Heck, from GDOT’s standpoint it’s a lot easier to fund and construct divided four-lane roads in sparcely-populated rural areas,..”

Do you realize those 4 lanes were dictated by the Governor in the GRIP (Governor’s Road Improvement Program)? And many were paid for with Bonds that are still be payed off at abut $400M a year? I agree that these roads, built as surface arterials, have had limited affect to jobs and benefits to the state. But to imply these were “easier” since they were in the “boonies” is wrong. All environmental laws and permits and approvals had to be a cleared.

Kyle, what are the “right projects” in your opinion?

Oh, and the money raised by TSPLOST HAS to be spent only on the projects listed, as per the law!!!

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

May 19th, 2012
6:37 am

td

May 18th, 2012
11:40 pm

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

May 18th, 2012
11:07 pm

Transit can pay for itself through user fees like zone pricing (higher more adequately-priced fares), fees on parking fines, traffic fines, sin taxes (on alcohol and adult entertainment).

………”This is not paying for itself. Name a city in the world that the transit fares pays for the
system?”………

Better yet, instead of naming only one city in the world that the transit pays for the system, I’ll name FIVE cities in the world (all in Asia, all with distance-based fare structures) where transit not only pays for the system, but also turns a PROFIT…

5-Taipei (farebox recovery ratio of 119%),
4-Singapore (farebox recovery ratio of 125%),
3-Osaka (median farebox recovery ratio of 130% on two systems),
2-Hong Kong (farebox recovery ratio of 149%),
1-Tokyo (farebox recovery ratio of 170%)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farebox_recovery_ratio#Farebox_ratios_around_the_world

And though there is no system in North America that completely pays for itself (although Toronto’s GO Trains somewhat come close by recovering just under 90% of it overall costs at the farebox), by comparison, MARTA only recovers just under 32% of its cost at the farebox, a farebox recovery rate which is clearly NOT a recipe for success in a major international metro area and population center of six million with major congestion and mobility issues.

Though the examples of systems that have turned a profit are all in Asia, at least we know that there is somewhere in the world where not only does transit actually pay for itself, but it also turns a profit.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Atlanta should try an follow the Asia transit model per se, but it does mean that we can aim to make transit a very popular service that has wide appeal to a large swath of demographic groups instead of concentrating on merely just trying to provide a bare-bones mode of transportation of last resort for those with no other choices and no place else to turn.

The “tax-subsidized, as cheap as possible, bare-bones, option of last resort for those who have no other choice” approach to transportation does not seemed to have worked for us over the last decade-and-a-half, is not working for us now and is definitely NOT a recipe for long-term success.

Ayn Rant

May 19th, 2012
6:54 am

The Asian “fare box” recovery figures include operating costs only; capital costs, including construction, acquisition, and upgrade are paid directly by municipal and national taxes without a lot of political hassle. Rapid, reliable rail transit is as essential to urban areas as veins and arteries are to the human body.

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

May 19th, 2012
7:41 am

Road Scholar

May 19th, 2012
6:07 am

Will @ 10:48:
““Heck, from GDOT’s standpoint it’s a lot easier to fund and construct divided four-lane roads in sparcely-populated rural areas,..””

“Do you realize those 4 lanes were dictated by the Governor in the GRIP (Governor’s Road Improvement Program)? And many were paid for with Bonds that are still be payed off at abut $400M a year? I agree that these roads, built as surface arterials, have had limited affect to jobs and benefits to the state. But to imply these were “easier” since they were in the “boonies” is wrong. All environmental laws and permits and approvals had to be a cleared.”

I know that environmental laws, permits and approvals still have to be cleared for road construction in rural areas, but that’s not what I was referring to.

The building of four and five-lanes out in rural areas is easier because the acquisition of land for roadbuilding and road-widening is cheaper and much-less politically-taxing.

When GDOT proposes to build or widen a road out in a remote rural area, other than maybe a handful of concerned environmentalists, there often isn’t necessarily an overabundance of loud and rambunctious angry opposition to the project.

Heck, in many remote rural areas, people may even be excited about getting a new or dramatically-improved road to ride on at the very least.

But if GDOT proposes, to let’s say, build an outer loop road (Outer Perimeter) or outer bypass (Northern Arc) through the exurbs of Metro Atlanta, or proposes to widen a SEVERELY-congested and often totally-gridlocked I-75 through Cobb County to better accommodate the already crushing vehicle traffic that is currently using the now under-capacity suburban road, then all hell breaks loose.

When proposing to widen or build a rural four-lane there’s often only sparcely-populated farmland or woodlands and maybe even the occasional swamp to consider.

But when proposing to widen an I-75 through heavily-populated and much more densely-developed Cobb County, there’s dozens of apartment complexes with thousands of people living in them, there’s hundreds, if not thousands, of single-family homes and there’s very valuable commercial and industrial property that contributes millions of dollars of property tax revenues to local governments that hugs the route of the proposed widening.

There’s also thousands of people who are concerned about increased noise from a widened freeway, there are even more environmentalists who come forward to loudly object to the road being widened yet again, there’s big city media outlets who sensationalize the proposal and make it a major news story, there’s a more densely-populated public which angrily objects to the mature and asthetically-pleasing tree line being cut down to make way for a wider road, there’s transit activists who loudly question why more transit alternatives are not being provided or considered first and foremost instead of widening the road.

When proposing to build roads in exurban areas that are in the path of approaching suburban development, GDOT has also to deal with landowners who oppose the proposed road because they want to sell their land to the highest-bidding real-estate developer who wants to build like a zillion new houses instead of having their land taken by Eminent Domain and being reimbursed not nearly as much as they would made by being able to sell to developers (…See the path of the erstwhile Northern Arc where the much of the land that was in the path of the proposed highway was quickly sold-off to developers and permitted for new homes within months of the road project being cancelled in 2003…Also see how a sitting governor and entire political party was defeated at the polls due in part to public dissatisfaction over that increasingly unpopular road project).

There’s also very uncooperative, if not downright adversarial or hostile, local politicians who don’t want to see their local property tax revenues reduced and don’t want to take the blame for letting an unpopular road-widening project occur on their watch and who will use the mounting unpopularity of the proposed project as an opportunity to grandstand to their increasingly disgruntled constituents who have whipped up into an oppositionist frenzy by said big-city media outlets.

Also, when they perform rural road construction projects, GDOT personnel often don’t get personally attacked by the public as crooked idiots and morons on the take from road construction companies, as they often do when they attempt to widen and sometimes just perform routine maintenance on urban and suburban highways.

….See what I mean about road construction projects being much easier, politically, to complete in rural areas?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward...Again)

May 19th, 2012
7:43 am

Roads are essentially 100% funded by users through gas taxes, including both capital and operating expenses.

There is no non-parasite-maintenance-based reason transit should be any different. User pays.