The changing fortunes of the transportation sales tax

The cover of a flyer sent to metro Atlanta voters this week by Citizens for Transportation Mobility, the group pushing the July 31 vote for the transportation sales tax.

The cover of a flyer sent to metro Atlanta voters this week by Citizens for Transportation Mobility, the group pushing the July 31 vote for the transportation sales tax.

If opponents of a transportation sales tax for metro Atlanta seem to be flailing, perhaps it is because they have finally gotten a glimpse of the behemoth that’s headed their way.

Even a year ago, the idea that voters might approve the penny sales tax, given the state of the economy, appeared fool-hardy. Things have changed since then.

The economy has inched up. So have the stakes. The size of the push from corporate Atlanta has already begun to show itself, in fancy mailings, television commercials, websites, and robo-calls.

Another month will pass before we have a firm grasp about who has put how much money behind the campaign for what’s now called the Transportation Investment Act.

But assume that enough cash to run a respectable campaign for governor will be crammed into the 10 counties of metro Atlanta. Summer sausage, indeed.

Little things have begun to fall the way of supporters of the sales tax. Cobb County’s decision to require a mulligan on its Sunday sales vote – the issue was left off the March 6 ballot in six incorporated cities – could attract younger, non-traditional primary voters on July 31. That kind of population would likely skew in favor of a transportation sales tax.

In DeKalb County, CEO Burrell Ellis has encountered what looks to be serious primary opposition. That’s bad for Ellis, but good for sales tax supporters who want to squeeze every vote out of DeKalb that they can.

At the same time, the DeKalb County NAACP has denounced the sales tax as “racist” – pointing to a decision not to include, on the list of would-be projects, a rail line along I-20 through predominantly black south DeKalb. Yet any serious argument that this leg of I-20 is would be neglected was killed on Thursday, when Gov. Nathan Deal announced that the state had landed a $1 billion bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing plant.

Baxter International will build its 1,500-worker facility just off I-20 near Covington, about 40 miles from downtown Atlanta. The road between Atlanta and Newton County may have just become the most important developmental corridor in the state, and isn’t likely to be ignored.

But while everything has gone right for supporters of the transportation sales tax, opponents have remained fractured, disorganized – and unfunded. The Georgia Tea Party (one of many tea party groups opposed to the transportation sales tax, operating out of Cobb County) recently purged three leaders from its nine-member board in a dispute over direction.

“I don’t see any organized opposition to this. There are voices out there opposing it,” said Benita Dodd of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “I’ve heard of moves to coalesce the opposition. I’ve had some conversations with people who are planning to do that.”

The GPPF doesn’t endorse or oppose the sales tax referendum, but has raised objections to the project list for the 10-year, $7.2 billion sales tax.

But Dodd admits that the clock is running out for those who are just now fixin’ to get ready to start organizing. “It’s getting late in the game. I do see the advocates putting out a very good sell on this,” she said.

That very good sell includes a few sticks wielded by some important people. The sales tax referendums, to be held in metro Atlanta and 11 other regions across the state, have an experimental side to them – incorporating local priorities in a fashion that the state has never done before.

And if the referendums are defeated, the governor warned local officials across Georgia, the experiment is unlikely to be repeated.

“You may not get the General Assembly to be able to delegate that authority back down to local levels of government to participate in the project selection process again, if this proves to be unsuccessful,” Deal said.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who played a crucial role in passing the legislation establishing the July 31 referendums, agreed.

“The whole underpinning of the bill we passed in 2009 was for local control, for a thorough process of letting local governments and local citizens have input into what projects they thought were important to their region,” Ralston said.

“None of us always get everything we want,” the speaker said. “But if it fails, then I think it is going to be difficult to have the General Assembly go back and re-do something that’s failed. I don’t think there’s going to be any point in trying to dress up a crashed car.”

Officially, there is no Plan B, so Ralston wasn’t prepared to go much further on the topic. But the threat – no, make that a hard promise – is out there. Should the July 31 referendums fail, the next blueprints will be generated from within the state Capitol.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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70 comments Add your comment

honested

April 21st, 2012
10:08 am

I can see why the supporters want to throw so much money at it.

It is a deeply flawed plan that primarily funds road building and road improvements. Since we already have a GASOLINE TAX intended to fund such things, why on earth would an EXTRA tax be necessary for roads? Just behave like adults and raise the gas tax.

Then, set down and develop a REAL mass transit program that will allow people to get where they need to be without becoming part of the traffic problem. Make it sufficiently broad to get between all major North GA cities (over a long period of time) and get busy with it.

There is no justification for holding so tenaciously to our quaint 1950s ‘everybody pile in the car’ mindset.

No Teabagging

April 21st, 2012
10:51 am

@honested. Unfortunately, more like one person per car mindset.

Shar

April 21st, 2012
10:57 am

@honested: Amen. The amount of money that sloshed through the GaDOT, with little public scrutiny, is mind-boggling, yet all we seem to reap is more traffic – and, of course, schemes to pad the budget with lies and sleight of hand such as the somehow permanent 400 tolls and the pay lanes on 85 (that the public has already paid for by funding their construction).

Now along comes a project that is supposed to fund new thinking on relieving traffic but in fact directs most of its funds to the same-old, same-old – roadway projects that somehow were not regarded as worthy of funding by GaDOT, a “transit study” that costs millions and Reed’s Beltway, a nice tourist attraction and pedestrian corridor that will never be a meaningful alternative to driving but which will throw millions to Reed’s supporters who bought property along the route, paid him off with campaign contributions and are pressing for their payout.

Atlanta will never be a first tier city without effective public transportation. This list of projects is just another shortsighted, backward-thinking opportunity for graft for the well-connected, and you can read their names on the list of donors to the pro-referendum marketing budget. From the plan to have as little public input as possible – voting on this in July is a dead giveaway – to the project selection process to this attempt to ram the tax through, it is business as usual and of no value to the Atlanta region.

Throw it out and start over.

Timus

April 21st, 2012
11:23 am

No longer can we put this off waiting for a perfect plan while transportation and quality of life are beginning to stall Atlanta’s prosperity. It’s a 10 year tax for goodness sake. Are the proposed projects not ambitious enough? Probably not but doing a little bit of something is better than doing a whole lot of nothing!!

Rafe Hollister

April 21st, 2012
11:30 am

It is a bad idea, kinda reminds me of Obamacare. A hodgepodge of random ideas from multiple sources, all wanting to get in on the action. It was not properly studied nor vetted with the public, just rushed through it hopes it would pass. More nonsense from the same people who gave us the mess we have now. Vote it down and put the money back into your pocket to help yourself buy this expensive gasoline.

contrarian

April 21st, 2012
11:47 am

Not surprising that all of Jim’s followers are opposed. The only reason he wrote the column is to give them all a jumping off point for more Obama-bashing rhetoric. I’m glad to see he accomplished his goal. Good work, Jim!

Going Right

April 21st, 2012
11:49 am

As my dear Irish mother (God Rest her Soul) would say, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” I actually agree with (dis)honest! He or She is spot on with the comment. The days of vehicular transit on long commutes should have been over decades ago. I came to school in Atlanta over 40 years ago and they (papers, radio, other media) were kvetching about traffic back then and the same dialogue is going on now.

Suburbanites will never agree to spending tax monies on any rapid rail that does not serve the population shifts to the northern suburbs, e.g., North Fulton, North Cobb, Forsyth counties, and so forth.

MARTA runs from Dunwoody to the Airport which serves some well but, truth be known, the companies moving to this area are choosing to opt for OTP locations rather than the downtown hi-rises. Nothing wrong with that but transit needs to extend far out North Fulton County at least; they have paid into the fund for almost 35 years and can get no further than Pill Hill on the Northside. Meanwhile, anyone living on the west side, east side and some NW areas have the transit. Population-wise, that serves far less commuters than North DeKalb, North Fulton and further out.

Two examples of idiocy asked for in the referendum: A rail line from downtown to Stonecrest Mall (to serve what constituency?), and developing the “Atlanta Beltline.” Same question as above…to serve whom?

Shar

April 21st, 2012
12:01 pm

@Timus: The 400 toll was supposed to go away, too. This one will be precisely the same.

No, something wrong is not better than nothing. If the pols don’t get the money that their handlers want, they’ll be forced to come up with something else. And hopefully gain maybe a tiny bit of respect for the voters in the meantime.

And no, @contrarian, I am not “one of Jim’s followers” or an “Obamabasher”. This transit idea shows the mindset of 40 years ago. We need public transportation, not another funnel to the GaDOT and political payoffs.

This is just plain bad. If the politicians thought it was worth public support, they would have scheduled the vote in November. They know it is bad, and are trying to slip it through with as few people as possible.

Vote this down. Please.

George P. Burdell

April 21st, 2012
12:09 pm

As a Civil Engineer (who wanted to build highways since I was a kid), I would usually support a transportation bill. But this is Georgia, recently rated the most corrupt state in America. I see this bill as never-ending source of money for our pathetic State Legislature to re-pay the developers who filled their election and personal coffers (”How about at free trip to Europe for you and your family, Mr. State Senator?). Voting for this bill will just give these sleaze bags another 1% of our money and support a corrupt State government beyond the foreseeable future. REMEMBER THE BROKEN PROMISES ON GA 400!!!

Better to continue with projects on an as-needed basis, and tell our legislators to get some morals and pass REAL ethics laws.

Linda Borchers

April 21st, 2012
12:13 pm

Do you really think if this tax is approved that it will ever end–it’s forever and I will vote NO

Shine

April 21st, 2012
12:20 pm

Boot a KOOK…..vote democrat and put an end to this bufoonery from the gold dome and abort another its just a penny forever tax before it ever lives to destroy.

yuzeyurbrane

April 21st, 2012
12:38 pm

I have mixed feelings about proposal. It has a number of good projects but it also has lots of pork. That is the “local involvement” referred to in the article. And while they had the politically correct number of public meetings, it did not seem to me that the views of the public were ever seriously considered. Besides the pork pushed by local politicians, the big projects chosen were usually beneficial to and lobbied for by powerful economic interests. A good example is the train service to Emory for which it seems like Emory should have been required to pony up a major share. They have billions in their endowment and could easily finance something so clearly in their economic self-interest. Also, we need to distinguish between “necessary” and “nice to have”, a process that families go through every day. Not sure it was done here. If it fails, I suspect the “necessary” projects will somehow come to be and that the impact of rejection will no where near as draconian as the slick ads make it appear.

Bennie

April 21st, 2012
1:11 pm

If you spend enough money maybe the voters will belive this ugly pig is really a princess. Now that the projects are all set, the supporters want to talk about traffic but while they were picking projects actual traffic relief was not the driving criteria.

Vote No and make them come up with a better plan.

mottlicher

April 21st, 2012
1:42 pm

As usual, all sorts of uninformed comments. 55% of the money from the Tsplost go towards transit projects and operations…there goes the “its all for roads and single occupancy cars” bit. It is a splost which by law has a definite termination point…there goes the “its like the SR 400 toll, it will never go away” bit.

Again, its not perfect, but its far better than what we have now. Now I have a question…the “Ga voted most corrupt”…was the methodology on that based on the number of known corruption cases and scandals…or is it based on we have very lax laws on transparency and oversight (which I agree we need to strengthen). Because I have a hard time believing we are worse in known scandals and payoffs than say: NJ, LA, W.VA., AK…..

Mark

April 21st, 2012
3:00 pm

With fuel economy standards increasing to 34 mpg and possibly to 54 mpg, the fuel tax will have to rise just to bring in the same amount of money. Also, electric cars don’t pay a fuel tax, so any shift to electrics will put further demands to raise that tax. In Atlanta, taking the sales tax to 9% is just too high. Sales taxes always become permanent, whether “splost”, or 10-year plans; they never go down. High sales taxes are regressive and drive business underground and towards tax evasion. Mostly, though, promoting this transportation tax as a way to relieve traffic and spend less time commuting, and grow the economy is simply disingenuous and dishonest. A growing economy generates more traffic. The transportation tax is bad policy. It is more of the same bad policy that created the suburbs. The way to avoid traffic and spend less time in the car is to take public transportation and promote policies that make it more attractive to live closer to work and in densified cities where a car is unnecessary or can be used sparingly, not daily.

Another Voice

April 21st, 2012
3:01 pm

I’m voting NO … I already pay significant amounts of money for transportation through the gas tax, and I don’t see that having “local control” is going to address any of the transportation issues that matter to me… such as expanding transit to No. Fulton/Forsyth area and implementing a real 400S to 85N interchange. The idiotic toll lane exercise on 85N proves to me that these people do not deserve more money to spend. Now the powers-that-be (such as the power-crazed Gina Abrams and the rest of the addled GA DOT board and chamber of Commerce leaders) want to implement more of that crap? I’d rather see low-cost solutions like the shoulder-lane for rush hour that’s been proposed for 400, before we lay more asphalt. It’s a TAX, just like the toll lanes on 400 that should have been eliminated, or the new tolls on 85. And these people call them selves Republicans? No is my voite, and I hope to run most of these yahoo’s out of office as soon as possible.

Shar

April 21st, 2012
3:04 pm

@mottlicher: When 55% of the GaDOT budget goes to public transportation, your point will be vaild. As far as I am concerned, none of this additional money should be spent on projects that clearly didn’t make sense even to the free-spending DOT.

It is not better than what we have now. It will be a permanent slush fund for pet projects chosen by those very same venal, corrupt legislators who earned us the bottom of the national integrity rankings. They will schedule more votes when voters are least likely to go to the polls (just as they do with education SPLOSTs) and keep as much of the money for themselves and their cronies as possible with little or no consideration of the public interest or the original intent of the funding – again, just like the 400 toll money, which has been squirreled away in land funds and other areas that have no relationship to paying off 400 construction costs.

Not a penny more.

Mary

April 21st, 2012
3:24 pm

So they promise us it will improve traffic? For how long and by how much? “If you build it, they will come” holds true–the better the transportation infrastructure, the more subdivision developers will come to the new areas, building tons of houses, even without jobs available if they can get the financing. Then we are overbuilt, have even more traffic, etc. It is an endless cycle. We should maintain the infrastructure we have instead of deceiving people with talk about additional infrastructure generating more jobs. Can a city every get too big where its size and never-ending traffic messes cause companies to consider smaller cities? You bet! VOTE NO!

Centrist

April 21st, 2012
3:33 pm

Yes, we know Galloway and the AJC have never seen a tax they don’t like. It is automatic that they will paint it as being popular.

This is April. Voters at the end of July are traditionally government employees (good for the tax) and dedicated voters (bad for the tax). It will depend on turnout – mostly from those dedicated voters (government voters turn out a their offices keep up the drumbeat and offer time off to vote). I doubt the campaign funds from supporters will motivate many other pro-tax voters to the polls – overall turnout will be low as usual during summer vacation months when school is out.

The opposition (Tea Party) is NOT in disarray as Mr. Jim Galloway would like to believe. They have purged some of the conservatives who want to dilute tax and spending issues with social issues. That is going to help, rather than hurt their opposition to the behemoth waste of T-SPLOST. They are keeping their powder dry until July. Polls are mostly useless (and not even mentioned here for that reason), because “likely voters” in a low turnout are too hard to predict.

Jimmy

April 21st, 2012
3:33 pm

Never and I mean Never vote for another “temporary”tax.They never go away.The con men keeping talking the voters into it and the voters never quit paying.

td

April 21st, 2012
3:38 pm

If you want to do mass transit then it has to be from east to west in the north metro area to make any sense at all. The line should run from Lawrenceville to Roswell to Marietta. Since I do not see it then I will vote no.

td

April 21st, 2012
3:42 pm

Mary

April 21st, 2012
3:24 pm

You are absolutely right Mary. On top of all your good comments there is one other thing to consider. The Atlanta area can not sustain more growth because we are out of water. The last drought showed us this and to think there will not be another drought or to think a few small lakes will take care of the problem is just nuts.

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

April 21st, 2012
4:01 pm

George P. Burdell

April 21st, 2012
12:09 pm

RIGHT ON! Mr. Burdell

Centrist

April 21st, 2012
4:11 pm

There is no sense in discussing what SHOULD have been in the T-SPLOST for logical reasons. It was solely set up to maximize votes.

The very biggest unknown surrounding the vote is uncontrollable – the weather. Pro-tax voters tend to be Democrats, but their turnout drops precipitously with bad weather. The more motivated voters tend to vote against tax increases and show up “Hell or High Water”.

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

April 21st, 2012
4:14 pm

td

April 21st, 2012
3:42 pm

Some lakes, both large and small, would take care of the problem if they would’ve ever been built.

The state was warned about this our current water problems over 40 years ago, but opted to ignore it as some far out fantasy and bury the report on the shelf, where it was found 40 years later in the middle of the worst drought this region has ever seen (2006-09).

Dallas and North Texas started building their own locally-funded reservoirs for flood control and water supply over 60 years ago right after the end of World War II and have since built more than a dozen reservoirs while the Atlanta Region remains dependent on two federally-controlled reservoirs.

If a Dallas region that averages more than 20 fewer inches of rainfall per year (30 inches/yearly) and is much, much, MUCH more drought-prone can build a system of over a dozen locally-funded and locally-controlled reservoirs to supplement the two federal reservoirs they had, then why can’t an Atlanta region that averages more than 50 inches of rainfall per year at least do the same?

The only reason why the Atlanta region is running out of water is because we have managed our more than abundant water resources so poorly.

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

April 21st, 2012
4:21 pm

Likewise, just as this region and state has managed its water resources so miserably to the point that an area that receives MORE THAN 50 INCHES OF RAIN PER YEAR is running out of water, the reason that our traffic and transportation mobility is so horrendously bad is because we’ve managed our transportation system about as miserably as a growing metro area of six million could ever possibly manage it.

How is it possible that a metro area of just under six million people can have no commuter rail (the largest metro area east of the Mississippi River to have no commuter rail service), has a p!ss-poor surface road network and has not expanded its freeway network in more than twenty years during a period in which the population has more than doubled from 2.9 million in 1990 to 5.8 million at present?

Dave

April 21st, 2012
4:38 pm

From Shar about Noon today: “This is just plain bad. If the politicians thought it was worth public support, they would have scheduled the vote in November. They know it is bad, and are trying to slip it through with as few people as possible.”

I hadn’t thought about that, run the vote quick at a time when people aren’t into “political mode.” Only the dedicated will turn out.

The “this is the best we can do” stuff in the comments is disappointing. The projects in the proposal are a list of local largesse. That being the case, the local folks should pay for them. If a real live regional transportation plan and tax were to be proposed, I’d be a supporter. Until then, I think Cobb’s I-75 whatever and South DeKalb’s I-20 whatever should be paid for by the good folks that benefit, just like we’ve been doing for decades. Though, if we build rail to Stonecrest Mall, I’m going once, on the second train, the first will be filled with the folks who snookered us into building the line.

Centrist

April 21st, 2012
4:48 pm

@ Last Democrat in GA posted “How is it possible that a metro area of just under six million people can have no commuter rail?”

Because MARTA has been a political boondoggle of corruption, waste, abuse, cronyism, and inept management that none of the other Counties would consider signing on.

Fulton and Dekalb Counties (ITP Democrats) will overwhelmingly support the T-SPLOST in the low turnout vote. The question will be the OTP suburb vote, and whether it will overcome Fulton and Dekalb. It will all boil down to turnout/ weather.

Dave

April 21st, 2012
5:03 pm

Oh my lord, I’m voting on the side of Centrist, even though I’m a liberal, commie, pinko and live in the heart of ITP. Though I would offer the following minor revision to part of Centrist’s last comment:

Because [pick your poison, any City or County governing body, the Georgia Legislature, Congress, etc.] has been a political boondoggle of corruption, waste, abuse, cronyism, and inept management [no one in their right mind] would consider signing on.

All of that holds for the effort we are about to vote on. Beyond the proposal being not well thought out, i don’t trust any of them as far as I can through one, to resort to old invective sort of talk.

Dave

April 21st, 2012
5:04 pm

Through = throw. Sorry.

GoldenChild

April 21st, 2012
5:24 pm

Say No to ANY new tax because the corrupt downtown bros will mis-use it and steal from it. Just look what they do at city hall and the airport.

GaBlue

April 21st, 2012
5:41 pm

Can we write in that we want ALL that money to go toward public transit?

Centrist

April 21st, 2012
5:52 pm

@ Dave,

I can’t disagree with your post.

But you will be on the minority side of the vote ITP. I think you know that, though.

L Flux

April 21st, 2012
5:54 pm

The penny sales tax is too big. A penny sales tax roughly doubles the DOT’s spending, so it is like raising the gas tax 30 cents per gallon. Isn’t that overkill? Instead raise the tax on gasoline from the current 7.5 cents per gallon plus 4% of the price to 10% of the price. That way the tax adjusts with inflation and gives a reasonable increase in spending that allows DOT to pay off bonds, perform the maintenance it has been neglecting, and build only the most critical projects. And a gas tax is a true user tax (well, except for electric vehicles, but remember that electric vehicles reduce demand for gasoline, making it cheaper for everyone else; pass a mileage-based EV tax if you must). The sales tax is a disincentive to buy from Georgia stores and is regressive to boot. It taxes people who don’t even drive! Our sales taxes are already too high.

The fact that there is a well-funded campaign to get people to vote for this tax should tell you that contractors and politicians will be lining their pockets with money at the expense of everyone who shops locally. Georgia spends less on roads than most states and needs to spend more, but not double. This tax is so big that it funds every piece of pork that every politician in Georgia could think of, and will usher a new era of rushing to spend insane amounts of money before it runs out in 10 years. Don’t feed this monster.

Bill

April 21st, 2012
6:05 pm

Make all government hours from 7:00AM to 4:00PM and it will not cost one dime to correct the problem. After all, they work(?) for us.

Going Right

April 21st, 2012
6:19 pm

Mottlicher: (quote) “It is a splost which by law has a definite termination point…there goes the “its like the SR 400 toll, it will never go away” bit.”
Apparently you have been testing life in a vacuum. Would like to remind you of the criticism that Governor “Fish Georgia” took by extending the 400 toll AFTER its expiration date.

Z

April 21st, 2012
7:20 pm

There should be rapid rail running North to Gwinnett and even beyond through ATL and South to Newnan. From there other transit can take over the East West routes. Until this happens, the Atlanta area will continue to be a second class city. Raise the Gas TAX and just build it for crying out loud. It’s not rocket science. Vote NO on this July boondoggle of a bill that does nothing but waste the peoples money.

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

April 21st, 2012
7:21 pm

The reason why North Georgia doesn’t have commuter rail is more than just MARTA, which has its own issues of incompetency handling Intown bus and rail transit service.

The bigger (biggest) reason why the Atlanta Region has no commuter rail service to relieve pressure from the congested freeway system falls more on the even more wildly incompetent state government as commuter rail service needs the coordination of the state because the existing freight rail right-of-ways that regional commuter rail service operates in runs through multiple counties sometimes as far away as 100 miles from the city center of the region the lines serve.

As for MARTA, the state has definitely played its part in the wrecking transit service with its repeated moves to undermine Intown transit service over the years, but most of the responsibility for MARTA’s current degenerative state falls on the City of Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb Counties whom, along with the state, all are very dysfunctional governmental bodies, so what more should we expect when it comes to transportation (mis)management in this town.

For a city and state to have its “coming out” party on the world stage with the Olympics in 1996 and then regress, RAPIDLY, during a period of extreme population growth over the next decade or so while the population explodes by 2.5 million people between the end of the Olympics and the 2010 Census is simply pathetic.

honested

April 21st, 2012
7:59 pm

Will the last…..

The bogus ‘regions’ is problem one.
The lack of leadership shown by Jill Chambers and then Mike Jacobs in MARTA oversight for the LAST DECADE is problem 2.
MARTA should have been slowly expanding to Gainesville, Chattanooga, Macon, Athens, Augusta and Carollton, this plan does not even consider the real need.
A PERMANENT 1% sales tax should have been a given for each of the counties through which the expanded commuter rail system would be built. The system would increase the value of businesses in the Transit Accessible counties and would eventually be welcomed even by the ‘anti-tax first’ crowd.
Aside from the two mis-leading political opportunists I already mentioned, the MARTOC Committee has been consistently populated by a majority of members who would like nothing but to defund MARTA if they had the opportunity, for the last DECADE.

These are the issues that should have been addressed as a STARTING POINT before the millions were wasted in ‘planning’ for the tsplost. Until the State Government is willing to accept the real needs and LEAD there is no reason to reward them for small-mindedness.

td

April 21st, 2012
8:05 pm

honested

April 21st, 2012
7:59 pm

When are you going to get it that the majority of the residents of metro Atlanta and the surrounding counties do not want MARTA expansion. I think the majority of native born Georgians do not even want any more growth in the region.

honested

April 21st, 2012
8:32 pm

td,

Then stay in your backward little counties and quit clogging the roads with your 7 mpg vehicles.
Quit whining about gas prices when your behavior is the root cause.
Stop complaining about ‘traffic’ and ‘commute times’ when that is apparently what you prefer.

Because, building more roads is not the answer for people stupid enough to spend 2 hours a day driving back and forth to the same place and assuming it is the responsibility of the STATE to give them a private lane.

By the way, I am a multi-generational native born Georgian who moved ITP 35 years ago after realizing that commuting 35 miles one way a day was insane. I enjoy taking the train when it goes where I need to go.

Tenzing Norgay

April 21st, 2012
8:35 pm

How any regional transportation plan could NOT include a MARTA extension in to Gwinnett is beyond me. For that reason alone I am voting against this idiotic bill.

We do not need more roads. We need more and better regional rail transportation. Until the power brokers (and their financial cronies) realize that, I will vote down every transportation bill that they put on the ballot.

George P. Burdell

April 21st, 2012
10:43 pm

To Mottlicher:
GA wasn’t “Voted” the most corrupt state, it was “Rated” the most corrupt state, based on review of states’ transparency of government and ethics laws. Ironically, New Jersey (my home state) was rated the best, due to strong rules and legislation passed after years of graft and corruption. If Jersey can do it, so can Georgia. The best way to do that is to STOP GIVING OUR STATE LEGISLATURE WHAT THEY WANT, and send the sleaze-bags packing. BTW – there was a decent bill for ethical standards put forward in the recent session. It was watered-down to uselessness.

Raymond

April 21st, 2012
11:02 pm

The streetcar plan for Atlanta just killed it for most folks. No body truly believes that is a viable transportation solution for Georgia’s problem. Why didn’t the Atlanta Development Authority take that on as a possible tourism project?!!!

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

April 21st, 2012
11:05 pm

Tenzing Norgay

April 21st, 2012
8:35 pm

An extension of MARTA heavy rail to Gwinnett wouldn’t necessarily be as practical or as effective as the implementation of regional commuter rail service on the existing Amtrak/Norfolk Southern rail line between Atlanta and Gainesville (and eventually points beyond) would be.

The Northeast MARTA line could only be extended so far into Gwinnett because of limitations due to cost while commuter rail implementation would be far less costly and much more effective at providing critically-needed traffic relief to the severely-congested suburban and exurban sections of I-85 & I-985 outside of the I-285 Perimeter.

bu2

April 21st, 2012
11:08 pm

Its not the rules that uncover the corruption. Its the greedy corrupt politicians. Eventually they get too greedy. This is a corrupt list of gifts for real estate developers. They don’t really even try to sell it as relieving traffic. Its “economic development.” I’m not raising my taxes for government to simply help fund real estate developers who are underwater because of their previous bad decisions.

And this tax is a disaster for mass transit. They have these light rail projects that move few people and require lots of operating costs. It will suck all the money out of the bus service and the existing MARTA backbone.

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

April 21st, 2012
11:25 pm

td

April 21st, 2012
8:05 pm

honested

April 21st, 2012
7:59 pm

“When are you going to get it that the majority of the residents of metro Atlanta and the surrounding counties do not want MARTA expansion. I think the majority of native born Georgians do not even want any more growth in the region.”

Outlying counties may not want or necessarily need MARTA expansion into their counties, but they do need a combination of transportation improvements that includes high-frequency commuter rail on existing freight rail right-of-ways, express commuter bus service that makes use of major roads and targeted improvements to heavily-used roads.

The problem with this region and state over the last two decades is that instead of having a transportation system that is multimodal (roads, rails and bus), we have had a transportation system that is overly-dependent on an increasingly undersized and overstressed road network.

It takes all three modes of transport (roads, rail and buses) to move people around effectively, not just an aging freeway system and a neglected surface road network.

Also, it’s important that the Atlanta Region continues to grow, but in ways that are much more sustainable than building development that encourages an overdependency on the automobile.

If Atlanta attempts to purposely sabotage itself by trying to run away growth then it will only succeed in running away high-paying jobs and the college-educated people that work in them which amounts to running away property tax revenues and economic activity, which that we’ll be stuck with a bunch of low-income people who cannot properly take care of themselves in the jobs that are provided by people with high-incomes and we’ll slowly die-off like Michigan, but only we’ll be the Detroit of the Sunbelt.

Art

April 21st, 2012
11:39 pm

Deeply flawed project list. Instead of only consisting of projects that will make a real regional impact such as should have been created we get a list of projects that make sure as much as is generated in taxes from a county gets spent back in that county. It totally ignores the fact many people live, work, and play in counties other than where they live and mainly in the regions core. Yet instead of getting key projects listed to fix major transportation corridors and interchanges and to build and expand alternatives to driving which also would lessen congestion we get a list of projects where many are best suited to a local SPLOST. Projects totalling an estimated $120B will be needed in the next 20-30 years yet all we got from the legislature was funding for about 5% of that amount in the next ten years. You could say that $7B is more than 5% but many of the projects on the TIA list are not those identified as part of the $120B by the ARC but are local projects that were submitted by a counties DOT for consideration. The local projects should ahve been considered only for the 15% of tax collections that are to be spent locally in the county not the 85% that was for regional projects. Being in either case transportation needs are underfunded I have yet to see any leadership at the state level discuss any plans for the additonl funds we will need in the next ten years on top of the money that the TIA tax would raise. Georgia is already rated 48th in the country for transportation spending per capita and I don’t see any push to improve it. Meanwhile many companies and you can read that as jobs are telling us they are avoiding this area because we aren’t doing enough. This TIA still isn’t enough and we will continue to be bypassed until we get leaders willing to make the tough choices such as raising the gas tax.

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

April 21st, 2012
11:41 pm

honested

April 21st, 2012
7:59 pm

An even better way to fund critically-needed exurban-to-urban core commuter rail lines than assessing more un-popular and politically-unpalatable and politically-unviable sales taxes would be through the use of a financing method called T.I.F. (Tax Incremental Financing) in which a transit line is financed using the property taxes revenues from the increased development along the proposed route in addition to using the revenues from user fees on the line (user fees in the form of adequately-priced fares).

Also, exurban-to-urban core commuter rail transit is usually managed indirectly by state government through the use of a regional commuter rail authority that is different from the more local regional authority that manages the urban local bus and heavy rail service in most large urban regions.

In some urban regions, some individual commuter rail lines even have their own transit authority with the Chicago South Shore commuter rail line, which is managed by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, being the prime example.

honested

April 22nd, 2012
12:03 am

Will the last…..

Using existing rail would suit me fine (however the folks at Norfolk-Southern don’t share my enthusiasm). T.I.F. might face the same Constitutional hurdles as T.A.D. (and it probably should) but the money has to come from somewhere.
When I was in elementary school, there was still Southern Passenger Service from Atlanta to at least Gainesville. I-85 was under construction and when it came to Suwanee, the limited capacity was sufficient for the early ’60s traffic load. This also provided a personal vehicle access to the B.O.P. Plant (G.M. Doraville) as well as downtown and made a big dent in the daily rail traffic, so soon the rail availability was eliminated.
In short, people from the auslands have had rail available before and used it. Unfortunately, once the load on I-85 exceeded capacity (in about 1970) there was not an available alternative for the same people to make the same trip to the same place every day except to drive, park and drive back.

The current Gwinnett bus system is a sad joke but the powers that be in this state share a party affiliation with the same failed leadership of Gwinnett County. Substitute Cobb, Henry, Clayton and the result is still the same.