Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Ending the Ga. 400 tolls now isn’t a great idea

OK, I’m going to be the bad guy today. I’m going to be the only (according to my Twitter feed, anyway) person who thinks Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to end the toll on Ga. 400 by the end of next year, which he announced today, is a bad idea. (For the record, I pay the toll going and coming every workday.)

Coming 12 days before the T-SPLOST referendum, this is an obvious pander for “yes” votes. It’s a last-ditch attempt to save what would appear to be an expensive but failed campaign to pass the $7.2 billion tax. But I highly doubt it will be an effective one.

There is no doubt the broken promise to remove the 400 toll — broken in 2010 by lame-duck Gov. Sonny Perdue — is a huge driver of opposition to the T-SPLOST. It is one of the clearest examples of why trust in government is lacking. Deal addressed this issue in a press-release quote about removing the toll, saying “it is imperative that governments build the trust of their people.”

But I will be very surprised if many voters …

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Is high-speed rail really feasible for Georgia?

The Georgia DOT recently declared “feasible” three passenger-rail routes from Atlanta to other Southern cities: a straight shot to Birmingham; a line to Louisville via Nashville; and a line to Jacksonville via Savannah. While these plans do not directly relate to the T-SPLOST, they are very relevant to the multimodal transit hub planned for “The Gulch” in downtown Atlanta. But how feasible are these routes, really?

I’ll not comment today on the cost and ridership estimates, except to say the former are almost always too low and the latter almost always too high. What I want to examine is whether the routes are likely to be attractive to passengers at the prices DOT projects for each.

First, a brief detour to Europe. The Old Continent’s high-speed rail system is the aspiration of many an American train fanatic, and I’m quite familiar with it from my time living there. In 4.5 years I traveled from Brussels to London maybe a dozen times and to Paris seven or eight times — always …

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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 …

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New poll: T-SPLOST trails by 15 points

Whatever you think of the odds of the T-SPLOST passing, there’s an opinion poll that says you’re right.

On May 21, Channel 2 Action News reported a poll by Rosetta Stone showing 42 percent for, 45 percent against and 13 percent undecided.

A day later, the group advocating passage of the tax touted a poll of its own indicating — surprise, surprise — the tax is sailing toward passage: 51 percent for, 36 percent against and 13 percent undecided.

If you thought those two results were incompatible, get a load of a new poll out today and reported by Fox 5 Atlanta:

A new InsiderAdvantage polls shows that most people oppose the penny sales tax referendum, with 47 percent saying they plan to vote against it, 32 percent said they are in favor of it and 21 percent remaining undecided.

So, it’s either 32 percent, 42 percent or 51 percent for the T-SPLOST; either 36 percent, 45 percent or 47 percent against it; and anywhere from 13 percent to 21 percent undecided. Only the Rosetta Stone …

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T-SPLOST vote comes down to time vs. money

“The tyranny of the urgent” is how Charles Hummel described the way other people’s demands can get in the way of one’s own priorities. He was talking about personal time management, but the concept also applies to those frequent calls for government to “do something … now!” Kind of like the T-SPLOST.

The latest argument from advocates of the tax, which would raise $7.2 billion over 10 years to fund 157 transportation projects, is about urgency:

“The metro Atlanta region adds one person every seven minutes to its population,” pro-tax Untie Atlanta claims in a recent email. “By 2040, we are expected to add 3 million people — three times the population of Fulton County. Now is the time to invest in our transportation infrastructure.”

The fear factor may be the campaign’s most persuasive argument. Forecasts of how much congestion will ease if the projects are built are fine, but it’s hard to know how reliable they are. Or how much congestion will improve …

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The truth about how long T-SPLOST will tax us

The T-SPLOST faces a challenging road to passage as it is. Imagine if supporters had to drum up votes for it either without the two segments of the Beltline; or without a bus/light rail line into Cobb County; or without any of the interchange improvements at I-285 and Ga. 400, I-285 and I-20 west, and I-285 and I-85 north. All while no other projects were added to the list.

Or, instead, imagine if they were asking voters to approve the same project list, with the same 1 percent sales tax for the same 10 years — while, at the same time, they were asking for another tax increase of $600 million to $850 million during the same decade.

Say hello to the T-SPLOST renewal campaign, circa 2022.

One of the hottest — and most disingenuous — aspects of the T-SPLOST debate has been the back and forth about whether the tax being put to a regional referendum in July would last only 10 years.

On the anti-tax side, some people suggest politicians will double-cross the voters and keep the tax …

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T-SPLOST backers identify future transit users

I was reading through the Untie Atlanta pro-T-SPLOST website yesterday for the umpteenth time, when I noticed this in the “Myths and Facts” section of the “Crisis” page:

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Untie Atlanta screen shot

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Read that again, with an added emphasis on certain words: “Building transit has the potential of taking the cars in front of you off the road.”

Hmmm.

I could’ve sworn I’d read something like this before…

Oh, yes. This was it:

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Onion Transit headline

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And in which publication did that headline appear?

Onion logo

– By Kyle Wingfield

Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

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T-SPLOST: Is traffic really a problem in Atlanta?

The problem the proposed transportation sales tax, or T-SPLOST, purports to solve would seem obvious. Here’s how the first advertisement by a group pushing the tax framed the issue:

“Metro Atlanta, we have a problem: one of the longest average commutes in America, over an hour a day. Five hours a week you don’t spend with your family; 260 hours a year.”

But what if the length of our commutes isn’t a problem we can solve? At least, that is, not by building new infrastructure to relieve congestion.

That’s the implication of new data from INRIX, a private company that tracks traffic information.

The latest INRIX Traffic Scorecard, updated this week with data through April, shows traffic congestion increases the average commute in metro Atlanta by only about 10 percent — less than six minutes a day.

Let me repeat that: Congestion adds less than six minutes to the average metro Atlanta commute. And to reduce — not eliminate — that six-minute problem, we are asked to tax …

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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 …

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The voters who just might decide the T-SPLOST’s fate

In any election, you’ll hear a lot about each side’s efforts to woo the woo-able. You’ve heard the names before: “soccer moms” and “NASCAR dads.” With that in mind, here’s a label for the group that might settle July’s T-SPLOST referendum: QuikTrip parents.

They live in the suburbs and have the area’s longest daily commutes. This costs them increasing amounts of gas money and family time. If you’ve seen or heard some of the advertisements about the T-SPLOST, the QuikTrip parents are the target audience.

This group may have become even more important this week when the Sierra Club said it was opposing the tax because, among other things, the project list devoted “only” 40 percent of the revenues to mass transit. In a region where only about 5 percent of commuters use transit, the Sierra Club’s stance displays a realism I’d expect from Don Quixote managing Buddy Roemer’s presidential campaign. Yet, I’ve heard the same concern from other …

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