Citing lack of rail spending, Sierra Club comes out against transportation sales tax

As reported last week, the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club will oppose the July 31 sales tax referendum on transportation, in metro Atlanta and elsewhere.


In a just-issued press release,
the environmental group cited a lack of spending on rail – and a sneaking suspicion that the tax would allow a return of the Northern Arc link between I-75 and I-85. To wit:

Today the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club announced that it will recommend a “no” vote on the July 31st transportation sales tax referendum (T-SPLOST). “This project list is primarily a business-as-usual sprawl-inducing road program,” said Georgia Chapter Director Colleen Kiernan. “We support Plan B — a fix-it-first road strategy and a project list that emphasizes transit expansion and improvement.”

The Georgia Chapter has a long history of opposing sprawl-inducing highways like the Northern Arc and supporting increased funding for sustainable transportation including MARTA, Beltline transit, and commuter rail.

While much discussion has focused on the transit component of the project list, the T-SPLOST is first and foremost a road building initiative. Claims by pro-transit supporters that 52 percent of revenues would go to transit do not account for the 15 percent local set-aside, which is expected to go primarily to roads; the final total for transit would be closer to 40 percent. Given that existing transportation funding already overwhelmingly favors roads, passage of the T-SPLOST would only further entrench that divide.

Even the transit expansion projects that Sierra Club supports in concept, including the Northwest corridor, are vaguely defined and underfunded. Other transit projects, like the continuation of GRTA bus service, reward the state for not coming to the table to continue commuter bus service, instead electing to rely on the region step in and assume responsibility.

Other supporters of the regional T-SPLOST argue it will be make-or-break for MARTA, but passage would not address MARTA’s most pressing need, which is to raise service up from the skeletal current levels. Because the legislature didn’t suspend or remove the 50/50 split this year, further deterioration of MARTA service remains a real and unacceptable possibility. The current suspension expires just after regional T-SPLOST revenue would flow, so the supplemental capital funding would have limited impact on MARTA’s operational budget.

Sierra Club hoped that the 2012 legislature would make the regional T-SPLOST more palatable to transit supporters by creating equitable and representative regional transit governance, but unfortunately the 2012 session was the worst in recent memory for transit.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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97 comments Add your comment

Hide-n-seek

April 30th, 2012
8:50 am

[...] via Jim Galloway we have the official statement from the Sierra Club.  They’re going to oppose the tax because it doesn’t have enough transit. While much [...]

james

April 30th, 2012
8:58 am

Vote no! why would you give any more money to government
as they will just waste it…. Just say no to any new taxes period…

say no to HOT lanes

April 30th, 2012
8:59 am

I will gladly pay the extra penny for all road/transit improvements as long as HOT lanes are not part of our future. That would be like taxing me to build the road and taxing me to use the road. Hate the idea – just travel to Miami to see how confusing HOT lanes are.

Bill from Atlanta

April 30th, 2012
9:08 am

Agree with James no to T-SPLOST. More Government waste. Freeways have completely screwed up what the city of Atlanta should look and function like. Let the private sector build transportation for the public and let the users pay for it. It works for the airlines, it did work when the railroads were left alone and didn’t get subsidies, it worked for Georgia Power when the government didn’t interfere with the city wide transportation. If the government gets the money, they will screw it up.

In-town Commuter

April 30th, 2012
9:18 am

This is so unbelievably short-sighted by the Sierra Club. For the first time in history, you had pro-business Republicans trying to build enough transit to make a difference in this city’s infrastructure. There are two options on the table, increase roads and transit through this referendum, or spend nothing and continue to have this city stuck in congestion. I can’t believe the Sierra Club thinks that spending nothing is the answer.

Unfortunately, the Sierra Club is increasingly irrelevant at the State Capitol. Since they have failed to make a convincing argument at the legislative level, I guess this is their way of making a statement. Who cares if its 40% or 52% of the funding? The whole point is to give commuters more options and to get cars out of traffic, both of which benefit the environment!

Sounds a lot like a child taking their ball and going home because they got picked second in kickball instead of first.

gadem

April 30th, 2012
9:19 am

I will vote yes because there needs to be improvements to the highways to ease traffic congestion. In some cases, taxes are necessary in order for development and the state to move forward. If a private company was going to come in and build a rail system, they would have done it by now…

southern hope

April 30th, 2012
9:23 am

I don’t always agree with the Sierra Club but I do on this one….there’s no way I’m going to have my taxes raised to build more roads…if the small-thinkers in this state literally can’t see a way to solve our transportation issue without more pavement (even though they have literally scores of other cities they could copy…they wouldn’t even need to come up with an original idea) then there is no way I’m going to reward these guys by giving them my money.

Road Scholar

April 30th, 2012
9:31 am

I guess the Sierra Club wants us to breathe more pollution since both the transit and roadway improvements proposed will address congestion.

I wonder if they are in favor of just increasing the gas tax and not improving transit?

View From Midtown

April 30th, 2012
9:45 am

Given the Sierra Club’s influence in Georgia, this could position could sway literally dozens of (or maybe just A dozen) votes.

The biggest problem with voting no on TIA is that it will impose years more suffering on metro Atlanta residents and the region’s economy while counting on the craven cowards of the GOP legislature to do something to fix transportation when the TIA mess was the best they could come up after years of inaction.

If the Sierra Club really thinks defeating the TIA will somehow cause the know-nothing, do-nothing GOP legislature to fund mass transit for the region, they should change their name to the High Sierra Club, because they’re obviously smoking something.

gadem

April 30th, 2012
9:47 am

I guess some people wanted taxes to be 0% and private industry to run everything. That is not logical nor feasible. I don’t think that I would want private company controlling the police force, the military, or fire department.

Aquagirl

April 30th, 2012
9:49 am

Let the private sector build transportation for the public and let the users pay for it. It works for the airlines

What kind of dim bulb thinks airlines aren’t subsidized? Did you leave your one remaining brain cell at the Tea Potty meeting?

Georgiavet

April 30th, 2012
10:04 am

It pains me to have to vote with the Sierra Club, but I just HAVE to oppose this effort to continue forever the extra tax on Fulton/DeKalb residents to impose MARTA on ourselves.

[...] via Jim Galloway we have the official statement from the Sierra Club.  They’re going to oppose the tax because it doesn’t have enough transit. While much discussion [...]

Moneet

April 30th, 2012
10:12 am

I will vote NO. this way too much money for the state to dip their finger into with waste and fraud. They should be doing more with current funds: there are lots of ways to get creative: http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/traffic_congestion/ideas/index.html?lnk=ussph2.56

Dumb and Dumber

April 30th, 2012
10:12 am

The biggest problem with voting for the tax is that the legislature will take the position that “our work is done here” and leave major issues unaddressed such as:

(1) Lack of coherent governance of regional transit outside Fulton/DeKalb. That GRTA runs buses that compete with MARTA, Gwinnett and Cobb lines is a head-scratcher. Government funded agencies should complement each other, not compete with each other;

(2) There will be zero relief for MARTA from the arbitrary 50/50 funding split. The GOP Gold Domers are very antagonistic towards MARTA and if the tax is passed, they will refuse to give MARTA any relief and say “we are not anti-transit, see the tax bill that got voted into law? We are just against MARTA”. That will play very well in the suburbs; and

(3) The transit tax is only for 10 years and only covers capital expenditures, there is no plan to pay for long-term operation and maintenance. Without dedicated funding for O/M, the Georgia projects will fare poorly in competition for federal funds against other regions that have dedicated funding (its part of the USDOT’s analyis of who wins the grants).

Vote no on this Turkey and compel a “do-over”. Should I even mention that the tax funds generated by this vote do not, by law, have to be spent on the intended projects? The legislature has to vote to spend the money as the voters were told it would be spent. Have you ever paid into the “solid waste trust fund” when you get new tires? Guess what happens to that “trust fund”? It sure isn’t spend on reducing illegal solid waste dumps.

If you believe for one second the promises that the legislature will address 1 – 3 above, you are a glutton for disappointment.

The Austrian Brotherhood

April 30th, 2012
10:16 am

Well Pizz girl, explain it to us. Let your pseudo brilliance shine. We want to hear what the Progressive has to say about it beyond weak verbal sissy hair pulling.

[...] Citing lack of rail spending, Sierra Club comes out against transportation sales tax | Political Insider [...]

Glenn

April 30th, 2012
10:20 am

The northern arc will do nothing to ease congestion in Atlanta . A total waste of tax payer money . Its building simply to build .

zeke

April 30th, 2012
10:28 am

No surprise! these left wing anarchist and others like it are a scourge on our great country! The reason to vote against the tax IS THE RAIL FUNDING OF MARTA AND SUCH USELESS AGENDA DRIVEL AS THE BELTLINE! PLUS, and the GA400 toll, tax should be a prime example, the powers that be will renew, renew, renew or expand it without voter approval! IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY!

PMC

April 30th, 2012
10:33 am

The Sierra Club is against any and all progress. They would prefer we all go back to hunter gatherer societies and live in mud huts

They are the environmental PETA

driver

April 30th, 2012
10:36 am

I never thought I would see the day when I would agree with those crazies, but VOTE NO!!!
Gas is too high.
Check out the prices in neighboring states on gas buddy. Wow!!

gunga din

April 30th, 2012
10:37 am

VOTE NO !! can’t trust the SOBs will do what they say (toll on GA 400 for example). just another money pit ripe for corruption (minority participation ripoffs). they waste what they already get. just more of the same gimme, gimme, gimme, ten year tax will never go away !!!

pb

April 30th, 2012
10:37 am

Well, hate to admit it, but if Sierra Club is against the referendum, that is another reason I am for it. All these people that say they don’t want their taxes spent to build more freeways- OK. What is the answer ? Easy to criticize, but come up with somethng better. To ignore the situation is not an answer; it will only get worse. And this isue goes beyond partisan Democrat or Republican politics.

Intown

April 30th, 2012
10:38 am

Stupid Sierra Club. Typical ideologues whose inabilty to compromise makes them completely ineffective. Rather than get half a pie, they’d rather have no pie at all. Dummies.

SmartaMarta

April 30th, 2012
10:40 am

Don’t know if I’m surprised or not. One one hand, it’s business as usual for this region — not being able to see the forest for the trees. So no surprise there.

But has anyone who opposes this stopped to ask what Plan B is, and how long it will take to put Plan B to a vote, and how long it would take to do the environmental studies and preliminaries for said Plan B? Because right now, as it stands, there IS NO Plan B.

forums.smartamarta.com

Eric

April 30th, 2012
10:47 am

I agree with Sierra Club and voting “no.” Our gov. has undermined public trust (GA 400, etc.), so I wouldn’t pay a dime more for increased taxation.

@pb: The other problem I have with the transportation tax is that even if we could unclog our freeways by building more freeways, we’re chasing our tail since there’s no curbing of land development and population increase. So the “come up with something better” is to “dis”courage further growth in metro Atlanta. There’s plenty of land and opportunity in Nashville, Birmingham, Charlotte.

InTown

April 30th, 2012
10:49 am

I say raise gas taxes and let the people who want to drive all over creation pay for it….I moved ITP and drive only a fraction of what I drove before. If $4/gallon a gas is going to break you then you have much more financial issues you need to address….

Midtown

April 30th, 2012
11:03 am

Just stop being cheap and support it. Atlanta desperately needs the improvements and no the private sector won’t be building it anytime soon. You may not like the plan but the alternative, 5 or 10 years down the road, is much much worse. Traffic in this city is a nightmare and that’s when the roads/bridges aren’t just crumbling from neglect. Have some civic pride!

SmartaMarta

April 30th, 2012
11:23 am

@InTown: I agree about the gas taxes. But the thing is, people’s viewpoints down here don’t change much, until it affects them personally. People are for transit when gas is high, against it when it goes back down.

I guess people haven’t noticed that gas is over $3/gallon? That is the new normal. Until we are back at the $1.50/gallon level (or even $2.50/gallon to match the price of MARTA), then ther eis still much to be unhappy about (especially since demand is lower than it used to be.

@pb: Love it! They have no other solutions, yet they want to vote it down. REAL responsible.

@Eric: I agree about the GA400 thing. GREAT way to win public support by paying off the very thing the tax was made for, then keeping the tax around. I would be wary too.

BUT, I will say that TIA 2012 is most likely not going to be different. We WILL have to keep paying for it after 10 years, this is not a one & done thing. Anyone who thinks we can build and complete all of the projects, then let the tax sunset is sadly mistaken. But that’s not to say we shouldn’t vote for it. Basically we need to invest in the future, and this is just the FIRST step. Since everyone who said NO hasn’t given a viable alternative, we need to think of the greater good.

I’ve heard that some women don’t like mammograms, but they help protect you in the long run… (and so that guys aren’t left out, same thing with the prostate check).

forums.smartamarta.com

say no to HOT lanes

April 30th, 2012
11:23 am

Glenn – That’s the same backward Sonny thinking. The Northern Arc will help remove long haul trucks from I-285. The Northern Arc will need to be expanded as a full belt line. When they deepen the Savannah Port where do you think those containers will go? Yes, that’s right, on trucks through Atlanta.

I don’t trust the monies will go to the proper projects, but something has to be done. We’ve now had 10 years of no improvement and dozens of “killed” projects that the city is being crippled. Look at any growing city in the US and you’ll see transit/road improvement projects

honested

April 30th, 2012
11:26 am

Paving projects should be paid for with fuel taxes, period.
Modify the fuel tax, adjust for inflation and keep the PERCENTAGE per gallon sufficient to fund all necessary paving projects.
Keep the revenue in the areas where it is generated which is easily demonstrated to be the areas where paving projects are necessary.
Doing so will help those who insist on single car commuting comprehend the COST of continuing sprawl behavior.

Then, next January, GET SERIOUS about intra-city transit an a statewide sales tax increase to pay for it!

I have no problem with either tax proposal but an increase in Sales Tax needs to be at least 80% transit oriented with no fudge-factor.

Refusal to tax according to the service need is a philosophical mind game that has exceeded it’s shelf life. The insistence to hold tightly to a ’50s era fuel tax structure by a misguided few does a disservice to ALL Georgians.

Vanbren5

April 30th, 2012
11:31 am

I will be voting YES. This state has been in decline since the knuckledraggers took over. I yearn for the day when Atlanta will be so politically powerful that it will dominate the political agenda much like Seattle does in WA and Chicago in IL. Nobody (who has anything going for them) wants to live in Disgusta or Macon. So, it is critically important that we get back to building a great and beautiful city
.

honested

April 30th, 2012
11:31 am

Pardon, should have been ‘inter-city’ transit.

Vanbren5

April 30th, 2012
11:33 am

Try driving from Lawrenceville to Roswell and tell me we don’t need a Northern Arc. Insanity and ignorance prevails among the tea potty crowd. They deserve what they get.

Clark

April 30th, 2012
11:44 am

There is absolutely no way Atlanta can afford to vote no to the T-SPLOST. The groundwork and plans that are being funded through this won’t move anywhere if they don’t receive the T-SPLOST funding. I agree, there isn’t enough rail projects on the T-SPLOST, but you can’t just put “rail” as an item on the project list, there has to be specific projects, and the only three that are there yet, are I-20 East, Clifton Corridor, and the (admittedly useless) beltline. The only other projects I know of, haven’t actually selected rail yet as the preferred alternative (they’d be stupid not to of course): the Georgia 400 North corridor, and the US41/I75 corridor. The problem isn’t the T-SPLOST, it’s the bureaucrats that didn’t plan for rail earlier than now, and can’t just produce a rail plan out of their hat.

ed

April 30th, 2012
11:53 am

I am voting against the Transportation proposal for one simple reason. I’m tired of the promoters claiming the projects are vital to the future growth of the Atlanta area. Growth is the refrain civic and public officials have been singing for five decades. Look what the helter skelter growth has given us: the most costly traffic chaos of any large city in the nation. What is needed is a halt to the growth and all the woes that come with it. Growth in and of itself is ruining a once great city.

Road Hard

April 30th, 2012
11:55 am

…but the IS a Plan B; It’s called “status quo!” The user-fee (it’s not a tax) we pay at the pump isn’t going anywhere, since the legislature lackes the political will to lend the appearance that it’s raising taxes on an increasingly expensive comodity. But it IS a user fee, paid for by those who consume motor fuel on our roads. However, since more people are investing in fuel-efficient vehicles, it’s a formula that is designed to fail: the more economical our commuts, the less revenue it generates to build and maintain the system. A regional sales tax is; therefore, the only way to ensure that all system users (whether buying fuel for their cars or tires for their bicycles) will be a party to its construction an maintenance.

The Ghost of Lester Maddox

April 30th, 2012
11:57 am

That loud “thud” that you hear ain’t thunder from the Almighty…it’s the sound of bond lawyers, local politicians, and well-connected construction company owners falling upon their knees in prayer that you will vote “YES” to the new tax.

Hell, even the MARTA big-wigs are taking time away from their (taxpayer funded) health clubs and junkets to pray that you will vote “YES” to the tax.

Just don’t call the new tax a “tax” – use anywords you want, but please don’t call a tax a tax.

Amen

Bill from Atlanta

April 30th, 2012
12:07 pm

Hey aquagirl who’s the dimwit?? Zillions of tax dollars go to the toilet because of idiots like you who don’t care what new taxes or programs are in vogue. You Dummys shoot and forget and we are left with additional government waste and higher taxes. Yeah I guess people like me are lightheaded…thanks for your guidance I’ll remember next 15April.

Michael

April 30th, 2012
12:14 pm

I say central Atlanta focus only on the beltline, and let everyone outside of the perimeter continue to be miserable with homes they can’t sell, and horrible traffic.

Michael

April 30th, 2012
12:17 pm

As a world traveler, Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore, Madrid, NYC, Nice, etc Atlanta transit is more woefully behind, I’m voting yes.

voting no but not because of this.....

April 30th, 2012
12:19 pm

I’m voting no for a host of reasons, among those: No benefit for my area, another tax that will never go away, can’t trust the GDOT or Governor to hold to promises, nothing shovel ready so will be years to see anything happen, does nothing for rail service OTP, does nothing for getting rid of the HOT lanes, need I go on?

Bobby

April 30th, 2012
12:22 pm

I’m voting no but not because I support the Sierra Club as much as I distrust Georgia politicans using the money for what they say we are voting it for. We saw dishonesty with Georgia 400, the car tire cleanup tax and others along the way. Perhaps when Georgia legislators show us they can use the money for what we vote it for I’ll reconsider, but it’s too late for this year.

Bill from Atlanta

April 30th, 2012
12:22 pm

Ghost of Lester…thanks for your wisdom, wishing you were still the Gov. We had a great rail system once and a great mass transit for the times about 60 years ago. FDR’s SEC mortally wounded it when in their wisdom, they said GA Power and mass transit were monopolistic and had to break up. WWII gave GA Power and Light (Rail) life support but sadly, it was closed up in 1949. When rails came back in the 70s; MARTA made terrible mistakes: 1.Creating a “Concrete Berlin Wall” through the rail corridor from South Atlanta through College Park. This destroyed many business in the area. 2. Not allowing commercial development in the Stations throughout the city. Marta didn’t get this right until Lindbergh station was created. Decades after rail was first put down.
It would be better if the city zoned mass transit and the needs/restrictions/guidelines required and let private developers build with there own investments and of course let them take the risks and reap the rewards.
Let the threat of the outer perimeter and the states lie in regards to the 400 toll be an example of why this SPLOST should not pass.

findog

April 30th, 2012
12:22 pm

Midtown, starve the beast
Make the republican’s make due with no new taxes
I’d consider voting for it except that fuel is not taxed under this plan
Some GOP supporter want to explain that logic?

NO BAD TAXES

April 30th, 2012
12:25 pm

This is a huge subsidy to driving. It builds far more roads than new transit.
The only transit that is a done deal is the streetcar in Atlanta. The Emory line is underfunded and the ROW is not even secured yet. The line to Kennesaw is for enhanced bus service which means it may very well go to the I75 HOT lanes.

This is not a pro transit bill by any sense of the imagination. And I predict if passed we will be lucky if even 25% of the revenues collected end up going to transit.

Don’t be an enabler, providing more money to the addicts without addressing our poor development patterns won’t fix anything.

Rhett Butler

April 30th, 2012
12:26 pm

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

NO BAD TAXES

April 30th, 2012
12:26 pm

findog, yea isn’t that bizarre? they tax a gallon of milk to build more roads but don’t tax a gallon of gas? and why exempt the cost of a car over $5000 from the tax is that some tax break for people who buy expensive cars?

findog

April 30th, 2012
12:26 pm

In 2008 there was to be $200M sent to local governments for transportation
The state took those funds and used them to balance the general fund
While this tax revenue is slated for work that’s needed; do you think they will not reduce transportation funding to fill other budget gaps, like more tax breaks for energy consumption?
JUST VOTE NO!