WHAT THE T-SPLOST MEANS TO ME

Like you, my friends and family have differing perspectives about the effectiveness of government and the necessity for more or less taxes to support local government, infrastructure investments and quality of life concerns.  Hardly anyone that I know believes the traffic congestion and air pollution in Atlanta is an acceptable living standard for a great city like ours.  Yet some of my friends voted for the T-SPLOST and others didn’t.

Now that the vote is over I have been asked what I think. Before I even begin to offer an answer to such a heady question, I should probably do a recap on what the T-SPLOST vote means to me.

It means almost 670,000 metro Atlanta voters have been paying attention to the mailings, e-mail blasts, radio, and television coverage. Most of them weren’t passive or uninformed. They differed in their views but they cared enough about this region, about the cities they live and work in to vote.

It means metro voters listen but don’t automatically follow business, civic or political leaders. Social media, smart phones and global internet access puts information at the fingertips of everyday voters, which allows them to conduct their own facts check and rally their “friends” and associates around their beliefs.

It means that while almost 670,000 metro voters differ on how to fund transportation and transit improvements, they know what matters most to them. Some voters, such as those along the proposed Emory MARTA and Beltline, believed there was a direct benefit to their neighborhood and voted to support the referendum.  Others in South Fulton, Cherokee and South DeKalb didn’t see a direct benefit to them and responded accordingly.

It means metro voters tried to educate themselves on regional issues and, coincidentally, the more information they get the more discerning they become.  As the public debate and media coverage increased there was increased discussion and public dialogue in barber shops, churches, and at office water coolers about the pros and cons of the T-SPLOST referendum.

It means not every opportunity to advance the city and the region will be seized by the majority of the people when it is presented.

That is a snapshot of what the T-SPLOST means to me.  But what doesn’t it mean?

It doesn’t mean metro Atlantans will never support alternative transportation funding models in the future.

It doesn’t mean the State of Georgia is off the hook for leading the development, planning and funding of a metro Atlanta comprehensive transportation and environmental plan. Or that the Governor doesn’t have the obligation and responsibility  to do everything in his power to invest in a transformative, smart transportation network of trains, rail, buses, roads, bridges, trails, sidewalks and highways. Transit is worthy of state funding in a smart transportation plan.

It doesn’t mean metro Atlanta should play second fiddle in the race for state funding for its needs  – to clean the air we breathe or to improve transportation accessibility and mobility.

Finally, the issue of resolving the region’s transportation problems is back on the shoulders of the State and Governor Deal, which is where I think it should have been all along.

Comments

  1. tracie sanchez says:

    my main hope was that the vote results would complement and reward the collaborative work of the last 2 years such that ONE lesson learned would be that we CAN collaborate and come to agreement, that we CAN think of others and design solutions for all.
    another hope, during the campaign, was that the ATL voices of support would have addressed the rest of the state in their campaign messages given that they are broadcast across the state. yes, every region had a different project list, but they had the same TV – Radio stations, so to only speak about ATL when being broadcast in SAV or COL or MAC seemed confusing, excluded, and biased.

    • Susan Barmon says:

      It was an extremely flawed bill filled with political pandering. Until the legislature stops tying Marta’s hands, and the voters outside of Fulton and Dekalb stop voting it down, as a City of Atlanta resident for the past 30 years, I choose not to support their quest for new roads. It pained me to vote against tsplost but it was too flawed to vote for it. I also do not think a new tower at the Cobb County Airport will do much for our transportation woes( In the bill). At this point I think paying a toll on 75, 85 and 400 and I-20 to come into to the city, as they do in San Francisco and NY, would go a long way for the outlyers to pay their way and stop hitting up the City of Atlanta residents. Almost a 10% sales tax?? For what? For 10 years? Outrageous for more roads to Gwinnett? No! Use the toll money to expand Marta and build their roads.

      • Burroughston Broch says:

        Susan, I agree with you on most points, but not all.
        1. MARTA’s hands are tied for a good reason since it is first and foremost a jobs program that happens to operate a transportation system. If given more funds, the first thing that MARTA would do is grant pay raises for the top executives and hire more staff. Their customers would see no improvement in service. A change in top-to-bottom MARTA leadership would be a help.
        2. I drive on occasion in the Bay Area (SF airport to SF, Oakland, and points east) and have never paid a toll.
        3. Remember that tolls work both directions. Judging from much observation on 400, there is an equal amount of traffic in both directions. For every person who lives up 400 and commutes into the City of Atlanta, there is a City of Atlanta resident who works up 400 or around 285. You will be taxing City residents also.
        4. I think that your comment that outlyers don’t pay their way and are hitting up City residents is bogus. When City residents start providing 100% of the support for 400 and the Interstates, I’ll listen. At this time, every Georgia taxpayer pays.
        5. Since the City has almost no population growth in the last 20 years and has 15% fewer residents than in 1970, why does the City need more roads and streets?

        • To expand on Susan’s point re tolls. If you come into the city of San Francisco across any bridge, you do pay a $5 toll to enter the city–Bay Bridge, Richmond Bridge and Golden Gate. There is not a toll leaving the city.

          Therefore, those who do not live in San Francisco and come into the city for work or play are providing income to the region for transportation. It is also a great motivator for not driving. $5 a day for a 20 day work month adds up. Most people choose to ferry or BART in which helps the environment.

          Finally, there is a transportation infrastructure in place in San Francisco, which Atlanta does not have. Unless you are on the limited North/South, East/West MARTA lines, there are no options other than vehicles.

          In my view, lessening our dependency on cars by having accessible public transportation is the vision our region needs. I hope we will evolve into having the political will to make it happen.

    • tracie sanchez says:

      another wake up call from the ABC that GA isnt ready for regionalism, sigh:
      http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/print-edition/2012/08/03/regionalism-gets-run-over-by-metro.html?ana=e_ph

  2. Debra Greenwood says:

    I think the foundation of any viable regional transportation is the expansion and support of MARTA. We have to release the stipulation about how MARTA must spend half its budget on operations (a stipulation placed by Lester Maddox, no less). We have to examine the transit systems of cities such as Washington, DC, to determine: a) how they were able to achieve a first-class transportation system; b) what works well and what could be improved; and c) what has been the regional economic benefit of having a first-class transportation system. We can get this right as long as we have the political will and cooperation.

    • Burroughston Broch says:

      Debra, I agree that MARTA is a foundation, but not the only foundation. As an example, consider Shanghai with 25million people living in 40% of the area of Metro Atlanta (over 11 times our Metro population density). They have a large rail system but also make very extensive use of highways, 3 levels high in places. To think that highways should not be a foundation in our Metro transportation is unrealistic.

      There are two keys to making MARTA a better foundation, (1) complete shakeup and reorganization of leadership from top to bottom, and (2) reduction (or better yet elimination) of the influence of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Once these are accomplished a rider service improves, the riders will provide the political will and muscle.

      I live in DeKalb OTP, ride MARTA quite a bit, and feel that I have an ownership stake in MARTA. The situation with the union is like being in a business partnership with a partner who has nothing invested in the business and stifles every attempt to improve it.

  3. Where is the accountability for the failure of the T-SPLOST? Vincent Fort and Derrick Boazman promised they would immediately bring everyone back to the table. Vincent Fort and Derrick Boazman promised that they would deliver MARTA to Clayton County if theT-SPLOST failed. Lee May promised he would get light rail in Dekalb if the T-SPLOST failed. The NAACP promised it would institute a new Women and Minority Business Program at G-DOT. This is day 3 and counting! Where is the accountability? When will the promises be delivered? We are waiting and watching!

  4. Yes, despite the outcome and however one feels about that, the TSPLOST referendum was a big win for creating a whole new level of communications and political engagement – for all Georgians. It certainly has brought a new wave of players and participants into the Georgia media/political environs. Let’s hope they all, and more, stay this engaged and active through November.

  5. Tom Cullen says:

    There is much that we can do without TSPLOST, even though I am still mad and hate to admit it. Safer streets for cyclists don’t cost a lot (google “complete streets”). Giving MARTA authority to spend its funds as it sees fit should be attainable. Beltline Lottery?

    • Burroughston Broch says:

      Don’t hold your breath for the handcuffs on MARTA to be removed.
      A lottery is a tax on the mathematically challenged. How about being honest and raising the sales tax inside the City of Atlanta?