On T-SPLOST, vote your interests — not what you think others’ are

In recent weeks, a few friends have asked me for advice: How should they vote in July’s T-SPLOST referendum?

I asked them where they do most of their driving. Then I rattled off the nearby projects I could remember — and advised them to check the official map in case I had forgotten others. But one guy replied that he wanted to know what’s best for the region, not just himself.

What’s best for the region, I told him, is for everyone to decide what’s best for themselves, and vote accordingly.

Advocates of the 10-year, $7.2 billion sales tax say many of our transportation problems are regional in nature. One of their favorite illustrations is that the project most desired by elected officials in Douglas County was the interchange of I-285 and I-20 west, which sits in Fulton.

They’re right about the regional nature of many of our problems. And it might well be true that the best way to improve commutes for the people of Douglas County is to spend money on projects elsewhere.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that voting for T-SPLOST based on what I think are the interests of people in Douglas, or Cherokee, or Gwinnett, or anywhere else I don’t travel often, is foolish.

If the list includes projects that will ease bottlenecks and free up travelers from Cherokee to their jobs elsewhere in the region, then by all means those people should vote for it. The same goes for everyone else in every other county.

But if it doesn’t help them, why would I expect them to vote for it anyway with the expectation it could improve my commute — even if they don’t know much about the routes I drive and the traffic I face?

While $7.2 billion represents but a down payment toward the tens of billions in new infrastructure local transportation experts say metro Atlanta needs, it is still a large chunk of money. Not everyone in our 10-county region should expect to see all their problems disappear — not by a long shot. But if the list is as good for the whole region as advertised, a majority of voters ought to believe they’ll see enough progress to make it worthwhile.

The reverse is also true. If a majority of voters look at the list and shake their heads, it’s hard to argue the plan is really the best we could do.

It’s not as if the list reflects an obvious effort by local leaders to take a few important, congested corridors and fix them above all else. That approach might have justified spending a disproportionate amount of money in some places. Instead, the project list looks much more like a grab bag in which this county got its top 10 projects, that county got 12 it wanted, and so on.

Again: If that was the right method, it ought to show up in the vote totals.

Some people thinking regionally fret about the message a rejection of T-SPLOST would send to businesses thinking of moving or expanding here. I’d be much more worried about that message if most tax opponents were questioning the need to do anything in the first place.

Instead, the disagreements are largely about what to do and how to pay for it. Those can be resolved if the tax is axed.

Incidentally, this is one of the main ways government spending has grown so large, with so many complaints about how little we get for it. It does no good to vote more spending on education or anti-poverty programs, without recognizing education results have declined and poverty levels stayed flat.

It makes no more sense to vote for a tax that won’t ease the congestion you know, in the hopes it might help the congestion you don’t.

– By Kyle Wingfield

Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

244 comments Add your comment

Dusty

June 22nd, 2012
6:15 pm

Sorry, Kyle, I really don’t want to raise taxes for anything. Americans are going to have to figure out how to manage without handing over every problem to government. Cut! Conserve! Counteract! KOOL!

Pat

June 22nd, 2012
6:17 pm

Think of your own interests first.
Very inspiring, if you’re an Ayn Rand groupie.
Can we go ahead and order this engraved on your tombstone?

BlahBlahBlah

June 22nd, 2012
6:19 pm

Giving $7 billion to the same folks who lied about Ga. 400 is foolish. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

JR in Mableton

June 22nd, 2012
6:29 pm

You have to ask yourself if transportation infrastructure is a public or private sector responsibility. Historically, the answer has been public sector, which means tax revenue supports construction and maintenance. If you believe the private sector should be responsible, then get ready for more toll roads. The irony here is that people are mad about GA400 and the continued toll and are going to vote NO, which will actually open the door for a wave of toll roads. My vote is YES. It is a good list and a good start to addressing our infrastructure needs. This is local control!

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

June 22nd, 2012
6:37 pm

There’s like zero chance that the dummycrats will ever be voted back in control of Georgia, so this money won’t get snorted up their noses.

Why not?

Junior Samples

June 22nd, 2012
6:41 pm

Now that’s being a true patriot Kyle.
Ask not what you can do for your Country?

F. Sinkwich

June 22nd, 2012
6:44 pm

As I recall, half of the money raised goes to eco-weenie, feel-good boondoggles which have no effect on the traffic issues we face.

Remove lib ilks from the decision process. Then I might vote for it.

Until then, it’s ‘no’ all the way.

C

June 22nd, 2012
6:45 pm

I agree with you, Blah. At the same time, this city is falling to pieces. The roads we have just don’t cut it. I think JR is right, voting NO will likely lead to more toll roads.

Liz

June 22nd, 2012
7:02 pm

I am voting for my own personal interests, but it great part, because those also coincident with what is best for Georgia overall, for decades to come (not the construction lobby in this state, nor the glad handers robo-calling).
Still voting no.

LC

June 22nd, 2012
7:02 pm

Just think of yourself – what a great mantra. Just use those religious right beliefs when they’re convenient and stick you head in the sand the rest of the time. Kyle’s friend seems like he would be a better person to have as a friend and Kyle is the ‘friend’ that’s always watching out for himself (we all have a few like that).

Apparently Kyle believes you can grow a bountiful harvest by just doing nothing. Cities and Counties are corporations (just look at the Georgia Constitution definition). A corporation typically invest in something to create a return on it’s investment. Kyle apparently believes that Atlanta can be the only major city in the US that doesn’t need a transit system and still thrive. If Atlanta wants to continue to grow we must create a city that gets people out of their cars more and in livable communities. This is one of the top criteria college and young professionals cite as a determinant of where they will decide to settle. This is the reason most of the medium to large companies are helping to push the T-SPLOST (those same companies that Kyle claims to be trying to help create jobs) – they know they need ample talent to fill the jobs at their companies and to continue to grow and this is an investment to help attract that talent. As Atlanta continues to grow, it creates more opportunities for everyone (even Kyle and those Cherokee County Tea-partiers).

sheepdawg

June 22nd, 2012
7:09 pm

just vote no

Third_stone

June 22nd, 2012
7:12 pm

All major cities have rail transit systems. As we stand today, even with a very weak transit system, the parking lots in the DeKalb county stations are full of cars from Gwinnett and further. Those are cars that will not be on the road in front of you.
Our Traffic and air problems are addressed either by building trains, or shrinking the population. For every car there is more air pollution, and at some point you cannot breathe. Even now, summer is full of “orange alert” when the air outside feels heavy to breathe. Shall we just ignore it and make the road wider?

F. Sinkwich

June 22nd, 2012
7:13 pm

“If Atlanta wants to continue to grow we must create a city that gets people out of their cars more and in livable communities.”

And get those cretins in Alpharetta to pay for it.

Got it.

How Inciteful Is That!

June 22nd, 2012
7:16 pm

I wonder if the Interstate Highway system would have ever been built if approval had been left solely to the tunnel-visioned, “what’s in it for me,” conservatives such as Kyle. Come to think of it, what do we need airports and airplanes for if I do not use the things. Does mail get delivered via that method of transportation? Are jobs and houses accessible along those routes? Is food delivered that way? Are there any restaurants or schools along those routes? What’s in it for me so long as I never go there or need anything manufactured there or ever want to live there.

John

June 22nd, 2012
7:16 pm

Absolutely not!!

jconservative

June 22nd, 2012
7:17 pm

F. Sinkwich

June 22nd, 2012
7:27 pm

Hey How, please demonstrate how that POS trolley is gonna do anything for anybody.

Please contrast and compare that boondoggle to the interstate highway system, ports, etc.

Thanks.

How Inciteful Is That!

June 22nd, 2012
7:29 pm

Sink,

Compare and contrast whatever floats your own boat. My comment was directed to Kyle, not you.

F. Sinkwich

June 22nd, 2012
7:37 pm

That’s fine, How.

Lib ilks have always had difficulty justifying their moronic statements.

You are no exception.

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

June 22nd, 2012
7:40 pm

Excellent advice. Checked the map–nothing for me.

I feel I must follow the libtard’s advice and vote WITH my own self interest, and AGAINST taxing myself to pay for someone else’s commute time reduction.

Bruno

June 22nd, 2012
8:05 pm

Hillbilly, Dusty, @@, Reporter, Tiberius–Jay chose to honor me on FNM tonight. Please all drop by and put a song up.

Lynn

June 22nd, 2012
8:19 pm

Want the “Northern Arc? This T-splost funds a piecemeal approach to the Arc project (more behind close door planning cheered by pavement lobbyist).

Michael H. Smith

June 22nd, 2012
8:25 pm

I came back for this… another plea to please vote to raise my taxes for the greater good of saving the MARTA money-bottomless-pit ?

Yeah, right! :lol:

I’ll be back to listen in on these socialist whiner democrats and laid-off MARTA gub’ment union workers rant through their tears. The more hostile and vitriolic they become in attacking me and the others who vote against this TAX by Special Deception the more I’ll laugh with a conservative victory in hand.

Oh and BTW, comrade leftwingers and “GOP closet progressives”, nothing in your boondoggle plan serves any of my transportation interests.

Ayn Rant

June 22nd, 2012
8:34 pm

Your interests are most likely to be the creation of new jobs that fuel consumer demand, which in turn provides the opportunity for profitable new private enterprise, resulting in an uptick in the economy for most everyone in Georgia.

The benefits of T-SPLOST will endure long after people have the forgotten the penny-ante tax hike that jump starts the Georgia economy.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward - Again)

June 22nd, 2012
8:39 pm

Sorry, the benefits need to be direct, not third- fourth- or seventh-party.

I want mine.

native

June 22nd, 2012
8:48 pm

The discourse here is on the levelof an elementary school playground.

Mr. Wingfield

Instead, the disagreements are largely about what to do and how to pay for it. Those can be resolved if the tax is axed.

native

June 22nd, 2012
8:50 pm

The discourse here is on the level of an elementary school playground.

Mr. Winglield:

“Instead, the disagreements are largely about what to do and how to pay for it. Those can be resolved if the tax is axed.”

Really? How, with the polarization extant in our current politics?

How Inciteful Is That!

June 22nd, 2012
8:52 pm

The opponents of taxing for the common good better get busy saving those pennies because it will take a lifetime of stuffing piggy banks just to cover the cost of paving the road in front of your own home.

How Inciteful Is That!

June 22nd, 2012
9:06 pm

That’s fine, Sinkwich.

Con ilks have always had difficulty justifying their moronic statements.

You are no exception.

It is so easy to play at your level.

Melaine

June 22nd, 2012
9:16 pm

There is so much on the TSPLOST list that will not help Atlanta’s traffic problems. ARC admits that commute time will be reduced by about 6%. The list looks like some of the roundtable members were just trying to find something they could add for their district so they could say to their constituents “look what we get!”. What has not been stressed with the press on this vote is that this is just the first installment of what the politicians want to do over the next 30 years, requiring another vote every 10 years. JR in Mabelton said “If you believe the private sector should be responsible, then get ready for more toll roads.” The problem there is the roads were built with TAXPAYERS money. We were assured that the Ga 400 toll monies would only be used for Ga 400 but there was a bit of a conundrum when MARTA wound up with some of it and got caught. We were promised that the toll would end and it did, for one day. The HOT lanes were built with TAXPAYER monies with a bit of help from the Federal Government that gets its money from TAXPAYERS. Trust is a big problem and with this much money being collected, I picture quite a few hands being rubbed together in anticipation of diving into the pot o’ gold at the end of this rainbow. Will it be spent wisely? I doubt it. Will there be corruption? I don’t doubt it.

on your level

June 22nd, 2012
9:17 pm

Love these posters who attempt to attack the mental acuity of others while they can’t figure out that it only takes one click of the submit button to make a comment.

ByteMe

June 22nd, 2012
9:22 pm

I will vote NO. Not because the projects won’t affect me all that much… they won’t because I work at home… but because I think having only a short-term flow of revenue to solve a long-term problem is a chickensh*t way out for the legislators. Make them do their job and act like leaders.

seriously folks...

June 22nd, 2012
9:26 pm

This isn’t a plan to relieve congestion! This is a growth initiative. IF passed, we get the privilege to pay to endure 3-5 years of construction agony for 2-3 years of slightly less traffic before the roads fill back up. Not a good use of my money.
.
A better use of the money would be to relocate government jobs and private sector jobs further away from the current bottlenecks. Offer housing relocation assistance to incentivise the relocations. This will take cars away from the congested areas AND stimulate the housing market.

Never allow incentives to bring jobs to the city, Buckhead, or the perimeter area. This only makes the problem worse.

And the bigger question is… where are we going to get drinking water for all the new people moving here?

Don't think so

June 22nd, 2012
9:30 pm

I would like to take the train and get off the highway. I have been paying the 1-cent tax for 30 years and I am 10 miles away from a train station. Now they want to double my transit taxes, and when the $7.2B is spent, I will still be 10 miles away from a train station. I don’t think so….

@@

June 22nd, 2012
9:39 pm

From Kyle’s June 11th column:

Depending on how one defines the region, the data show “congestion” (vs. mere distance) accounts for six to 10 minutes of the average, hour-a-day commute. So, the data suggest T-SPLOST projects would shrink the average daily commute by less than 150 seconds.

What’s 150 seconds worth?

schnirt

yuzeyurbrane

June 22nd, 2012
9:49 pm

Kyle, your statement is not exactly a profile in courage. But I probably would punt, too. I’ll probably decide in the voting booth. . . if I decide to vote at all. On a tangent, I do not understand why some righties see everything as a leftwing conspiracy and engage in vitriolic name-calling. The prime pushers of this proposal are the Chamber of Commerce, Governor Deal and the political establishment, both Democrat and Republican. Hardly wild-eyed revolutionaries leading an attack on the Bastille. Some issues, such as this one, are simply non-partisan old-fashioned what is for the civic good issues on which reasonable people can have reasonable disagreements. My wish is that we could all return to that level of discourse.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

June 22nd, 2012
10:14 pm

Voting for T-Splost is like voting for Oblamer’s Stimulus bill, because your library will get a new book, if it passes.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

June 22nd, 2012
10:34 pm

Not quite sure how those aviation projects on the list are going to help anyone’s commute.

TSPLOST: Denied.

Mark in mid-town

June 22nd, 2012
10:37 pm

Kyle, I often agree with much of what you write. But I disagree with you here 100%. I think people should vote for or against this based on whether they think it’s best for the region, or whether they think the region will be worse for it. If we view it solely in terms of what’s in it for “me”, then I think not only is that incredibly selfish, it’s also incredibly short-sighted.

native

June 22nd, 2012
11:11 pm

Mr. Wingfield,

How do you choose to vote for your principles and when for your interests, or do you consider them to be entirely the same?

Atlanta mom

June 22nd, 2012
11:23 pm

Wow! I’ve never heard it expressed so bluntly. If it doesn’t help me today, well just don’t vote for it. What about tomorrow? What about your children? Kyle, by the time your children are grown, Georgia will be just another Alabama . And you will be able to take a bow and explain how you helped to make it so .

ragnar danneskjold

June 22nd, 2012
11:34 pm

Simple wisdom. Well considered argument, no dispute here.

Hillbilly D

June 23rd, 2012
12:14 am

In my region, which isn’t Atlanta, the most populous county will get back $1.45 for every $1.00 it spends on the T-SPLOST. All the Chamber of Commerce Crowd and County Politicians in that county are pointing this out and what a great investment it will be for them. Two counties in my region have enough votes to vote it in for the rest of us to pay. We’ve got enough roads already. More roads will bring in more people and we’ve got enough of them, too. So screw the two most populous counties. If they want roads, they can pay for them. I’m voting “NO”.

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

June 23rd, 2012
12:42 am

This T-SPLOST referendum is going to be an unmitigated political disaster and rightfully so.

The (often corrupt and inept) legislature has punted away their constitutional responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the road network to the voters, who rightfully don’t trust the state legislature as far as they can throw them, by putting critically-needed road improvements on a list of optional improvements that is laced heavily with purely economic development pet projects (the Beltline, poorly-placed proposed transit lines, airport runway improvements, walking and biking trails, etc) that probably don’t belong in a referendum that should be strictly focused on relieving Metro Atlanta’s very severe traffic congestion.

By placing critically-needed traffic relief road projects like the reconstruction of the I-20/I-285 West and GA 400/I-285 North interchanges and critically-needed transit upgrades like the MARTA line extension from Lindbergh to Emory University on a list with economic development (the controversial Cobb taxpayer-funded Midtown-Cumberland light rail line and the Atlanta Beltline) and bailout projects (bailout payments to help fund neglected MARTA maintenance items) for voter approval in a tax referendum to be voted on regionwide in a very politically and socially-polarized metropolitan region, the legislature has set this region up for a huge political and economic failure by punting their responsibility to take care of the state’s transportation to the voters.

If you ask the voters if they would like to raise their taxes to give more of their hard-earned money to a state government that they don’t particularly like, respect or trust, what do you expect?

tjatl

June 23rd, 2012
1:03 am

Kyle, if that’s the way you feel, then the logical conclusion is that local jurisdictions should be responsible for their own transportation infrastructure. If what is most important is what is beneficial to your immediate vicinity, you should pay city and county taxes to make the improvements that most benefit you.
Unfortunately, that would make for a potential mess of an uncoordinated supposedly interconnected system of transportation.
Since a regional approach supported by spreading the funding across the region (regardless of whether all or most of the projects benefit “you”) is not what you seem to advocate, would you please articulate why it is not then preferable for local jurisdictions to tax *themselves* to enact the “local control” that would create the most beneficial transportation improvements specific to your own community. I also invite ragnar danneskjold to weigh in.

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

June 23rd, 2012
1:24 am

seriously folks…

June 22nd, 2012
9:26 pm
.
{{”A better use of the money would be to relocate government jobs and private sector jobs further away from the current bottlenecks. Offer housing relocation assistance to incentivise the relocations. This will take cars away from the congested areas AND stimulate the housing market……Never allow incentives to bring jobs to the city, Buckhead, or the perimeter area. This only makes the problem worse.”}}

Though I agree that vehicles need to be taken away from congested areas, it would be a VERY bad idea to attempt to run away jobs and housing investment from urban centers of activity like Downtown (State Capitol, etc), Midtown, Buckhead, Perimeter, Emory University (Centers for Disease Control) and even Cumberland just because a locality does not want to adequately invest in its transportation infrastructure.

Boston is an example of a severely road infrastructure-limited very major metropolitan area and population center of 7.5 million people that has attempted to accommodate its status as the State Capital of Massachusetts and the educational, business, industrial, commercial and political center of New England with an expanded and comprehensive mass transit network that includes water ferries (coastal city), an extensive network of regional commuter rail transit lines and heavy rail transit (the Boston “T”).

Atlanta should not and cannot run some of its major employers (like the state government, the Centers for Disease Control, etc) out of the city just because it does not want to invest in a multimodal transportation network that includes roads, buses and rail transit just like every other major population center on the planet.

{{”And the bigger question is… where are we going to get drinking water for all the new people moving here?”}}

Though water conservation and the construction of man-made lakes and reservoirs that this region and this state should have been building 50-60 years ago like the Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas Region in conjunction with the State of Texas has done in building more than a dozen major locally-controlled and operated flood control and water supply reservoirs to supplement their two federally controlled and operated reservoirs.

The reservoirs don’t have to be as large as federally-controlled Lakes Allatoona and Lanier, especially considering the political environment that makes the construction of such large reservoirs impossible with Georgia’s ongoing water feuds with neighboring Alabama and Florida as any new water supply and flood control reservoirs can be as small as a neighborhood lake (we can more efficiently build 30-40 small neighborhood and municipal reservoirs as opposed to a dozen Lake Laniers), but additional man-made lakes, preferably smaller neighborhood ones, will have to be built if the Atlanta Region is to remain economically-viable.

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

June 23rd, 2012
2:03 am

Lynn

June 22nd, 2012
8:19 pm

{{”Want the “Northern Arc? This T-splost funds a piecemeal approach to the Arc project (more behind close door planning cheered by pavement lobbyist).”}}

Nor am I a big fan or supporter of this haphazard government cash grab T-SPLOST referendum approach to supposed transportation planning, but the project in question that you speak of, project number TIA-GW-060, the “Sugarloaf Parkway Phase 2 Extension from SR 316 to SR 20 (Buford Drive) – New Alignment”, is NOT a resurrection of the erstwhile-Northern Arc which was cancelled as a state-funded road project by Governor Sonny Perdue shortly after he took office back in 2003 as a result of the public backlash against the Democrats who supported the Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc project.

Project number TIA-GW-060 is an extension of the Gwinnett County government locally-funded and maintained Sugarloaf Parkway local loop around Gwinnett’s county-seat Lawrenceville that is being built in the right-of-way of the old Northern Arc as Gwinnett County never permitted any development to be built in the right-of-way of the cancelled road in anticipation of using the land to build its own locally-funded road which would serve as a bypass to take traffic away from congested historic Downtown Lawrenceville and the severely-congested Mall of Georgia area.

In addition to being a bypass link for Hwy 20 around the eastside of Lawrenceville and a link between Hwy 316, I-85 NE, I-985 and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Gwinnett County also needs the road to serve as a connector road/transition road between I-85 Southbound and I-985 Northbound and between I-985 Southbound and I-85 Northbound to take traffic off of busy GA Hwy 20 which goes right by the heavily-congested Mall of Georgia area.

West of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, where the proposed extension of the Sugarloaf Parkway Loop around Lawrenceville will end, and west across the Chattahoochee River into fervently anti-Northern Arc Forsyth and Cherokee counties, the right-of-way of the old Northern Arc has been filled in almost completely with heavy residential development, making a return of the Northern Arc on that right-of-way totally impossible as there are tens-of-thousands of more people that live in the right-of-way of that erstwhile proposed road today than when the road was an active proposal as local landowners and the local governments in Forsyth and Cherokee counties would collect more profit and tax revenue by turning that land into housing development rather than having the land taken through Eminent Domain and sitting under a highway producing nothing in tax revenue.

The Northern Arc is dead and it ain’t coming back, the Sugarloaf Pkwy Extension only utilizes the right-of-way of the erstwhile proposed road in Gwinnett County as a locally-commissioned thoroughfare that should be fully-funded as a toll road between 316 and P.I.B. as opposed to a partially-funded untolled road that only runs from Hwy 316 to Hwy 20 through the T-SPLOST.

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

June 23rd, 2012
2:13 am

The proposed T-SPLOST only funds a mere fraction of our actual transportation needs (at least the part that is not going to fund questionably-placed economic development boondoggles, bailout initiatives and political favors).

Our multimodal transportation needs can be much more, if not virtually totally, funded by raising the gas tax on all out-of-state drivers and vehicles while abolishing the gas tax for all Georgians, abolishing the 1% sales tax that Fulton and DeKalb counties pay to fund MARTA and instead levying distance-based user fees on each individual major road and each individual bus and rail transit line thereby making each piece of transportation infrastructure financially self-supporting.

Ol' Timer

June 23rd, 2012
5:12 am

I’m older, retired and don’t have a daily commute; but let’s see how this selfish self=interest plays out over time. Five years down the road just ask yourself how that little bit of selfishness worked out for you and your fellow commuters.

Even if you don’t drive the I-20/I-285 corridor, anyone with a modicum of common sense knows it’s a huge problem and needs to be fixed. So to reject it or ignore it because you don’t drive it is not only selfish but stupid.

Typical Republican/Tea Party irrationality.

Road Scholar

June 23rd, 2012
5:52 am

Conservatives have no vision of the future, let alone the present!