Atlanta weighs guidelines for proposed transportation taxes, deadline on Atlanta Streetcar

By David Pendered

Atlanta’s project list for the possible 1 percent hike in the city’s sales tax, to expand transit and transportation, may be devised and implemented under guidelines the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee is slated to discuss Wednesday.

Complete streets

Atlanta is building bicycle lanes and sidewalks as part of the Complete Streets program funded by a bond referendum voters approved in 2015. Maintenance could be funded by possible transit/transportation sales taxes. Credit: City of Atlanta

In addition, the committee is to consider a proposal that calls for MARTA to maintain and operate the Atlanta Streetcar through Dec. 30. The existing contract expires June 30, according to the legislation.

One proposed guideline calls for dedicated lanes to be provided for rapid bus or a light rail system, such as a streetcar.

Another proposed guideline addresses where the city is to get the money to maintain anything that gets built. This guideline calls for a portion of proceeds from the proposed to be set aside to pay for maintenance of any improvements built with sales tax funds.

The same guideline calls for this portion of earmarked sales tax funds to pay for maintenance of improvements made with proceeds of the $252 million infrastructure bond that Atlanta voters approved in 2015.

Resolution 16-R-3721 was introduced by Transportation Committee Chairperson Yolanda Adrean. Adrean is the only sponsor of the resolution.

The resolution speaks to projects that may be funded by up to two pots of money.

The transit tax is expected to generate $2.5 billion over 40 years. The transportation tax is expected to generate from $280 million to $320 million over five years, presuming the tax rate increase would be 0.5 percent.

Atlanta Streetcar

Any new light rail systems, such as a streetcar, would operate in dedicated lanes under legislation submitted by Yolanda Adrean, chairperson of the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee. File/Credit: Maria Saporta

Here is the specific language proposed in the legislation Adrean submitted:

  • “NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA that the Atlanta City Council has formulated the below guiding principles the Administration will consider while working with MARTA, and other entities, on proposed project lists for both the MARTA and TSPLOST referendum:
  1. “Balanced portfolio of projects serving short term, medium term and long term investments which provide multiple modes of transportation reaching the most citizens in the most cost efficient manner;
  2. “Dedicated lanes for transit including rapid bus and light rail;
  3. “Leverage opportunities, wherever possible, to connect existing transportation modes and the BeltLine;
  4. “All projects must be funded equitably across the 12 Council Districts. This amount should represent 75 percent of projected revenue;
  5. “25 percent for citywide projects/administration [with] minimum 5 percent for storm water capital projects;
  6. “Should not include any Renew Atlanta projects without the approval by the Councilmember of the district;
  7. “Council should see all list of potential projects under consideration that will comprise Administration’s proposed list;
  8. “Council shall approve project list annually for consideration of changes and future projects to be funded in future years;
  9. “A portion of the proceeds shall be escrowed for the future maintenance of said improvements. Consider amending Public Infrastructure Maintenance and Improvements account legislation (14-O-1513 – Shook) to include TSPLOST projects [this legislation authorized the 2015 bond referendum];
  10. “Percent of funds per district can be used to leverage other funds.

This legislation is in a basket of measures on the committee’s agenda that are related to the proposed transit and transportation referenda.

One resolution calls a referendum on Nov. 8 for a 0.5 percent sales tax to expand transit – the MARTA tax. Resolution 16-R-3710 was sponsored by Councilmember Kwanza Hall, vice chair of the Transportation Committee, and Councilmember Alex Wan, chair of the Finance Committee.

Another resolution addresses a referendum for a sales tax to expand transportation projects that are not related to transit. It does not set a date for a referendum or set the amount of the proposed tax increase. The tax would sunset after five years.

The measure specifies that if Fulton County’s Board of Commissioners approves the list of projects crafted by the city, the commission is to have the list and proposed sales tax hike, “presented to the qualified voters within the City at the next scheduled election.”

Resolution 16-R-3712 was sponsored by councilmembers C.T. Martin, chair of the Public Safety Committee; Ivory Lee Young, Jr.; Cleta Winslow; Carla Smith and Hall.

Hall was the sole sponsor of the paper related to the Atlanta Streetcar.

The paper states that if no other transition plan is approved by Dec. 30, MARTA will continue to maintain and operate the streetcar for an additional six months.

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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