Transportation sales tax campaign needs to target voters likely to vote yes

By Maria Saporta

Consider this constructive criticism.

The campaign to pass a regional transportation sales tax seems to be getting derailed — literally and figuratively.

So far, the campaign has been targeting Republican, conservative voters in the suburbs — people who tend not to support new taxes. And the campaign seems to be ignoring Democratic voters inside the perimeter who would be more likely to vote for the tax.

The messaging of the campaign also seems off base.

In an effort to appeal to suburban Republican voters, the campaign barely mentions the word “transit” — using oblique words like “transform Atlanta” or “untie Atlanta.”

And this is for a project list that is 52 percent transit. This is a project list that was approved unanimously by 21 metro mayors and county commission chairs who served on the Metro Atlanta Transportation Roundtable.

But the campaign, which has been led primarily by Republican operatives, does not seem to want to own the complete package of transportation projects — especially the transit projects.

Meanwhile, because the campaign has not appealed to in-town, pro-transit, Democratic and liberal-leaning citizens, there’s a lack of enthusiasm among potential voters who should be embracing the regional sales tax referendum.

It doesn’t help that South DeKalb voters have felt short-changed for having paid the one-cent MARTA sales tax since 1971 and yet they are still waiting on MARTA rail serving their communities. And the transportation project list does not include the funding for rail in South DeKalb, continuing that feeling that those residents are being left behind.

Again, these are primarily Democratic, pro-transit voters who would be more amenable to a new tax if they felt they would finally get rail.

Campaign leaders rightfully say that it is impossible to come up with a list of transportation projects that would please everyone in the metro area. They also are right to say that some believe there are too many road projects while others believe there are too many transit projects.

Of course, one approach would be to turn those sentiments around by arguing there’s something for everyone — that this is a project list that had unanimous buy-in from the top elected leaders in the region.

But unfortunately, the messaging seems muddled and muted.
Despite millions of dollars already having been spent on glossy mailings and television commercials, it’s hard to define the campaign, and it’s even harder to get voters to understand why they should go vote for the tax on July 31.

Months ago, campaign leaders had been urged to print bumper stickers with clear messaging. Imagine if the following bumper stickers had been staring you in the face when you were parked on I-75 or I-85 or I-20 or I-285 or Georgia 400 for the past six months.

HATE TRAFFIC?
VOTE YES!

MORE TRANSIT?
VOTE YES!

CLEANER AIR?
VOTE YES!

For the record, the HATE TRAFFIC? VOTE YES! message should be the dominant message, and there should be thousands of those bumper stickers and dozens of billboards broadcasting that theme.

Maybe it’s not too late for the campaign to do a 180 — to appeal to the voters who would most likely support a regional sales tax rather than try to convince voters who would tend to vote against it.

Instead of focusing on “likely voters” who have gone to the polls in previous Republican primaries, the campaign should focus on getting “likely yes voters” to the polls. That means putting together a well-funded campaign that targets your more urban and liberal communities that welcome and support transit.

There should be campaign volunteers in front of every MARTA station with fliers explaining that a yes vote would invest $600 million to help bring the transit system to a state of good repair.

It’s time for the campaign leaders to “own” the complete transportation list — especially the transit projects. Most informed voters know “we can’t pave our way out of congestion” — that we have to invest in alternative modes of transportation that encourage the development of walkable communities served by transit.

From this outside observer’s vantage point, it seems as though one of the big problems is that this is a campaign being planned by committee — that there are too many chefs with contradictory agendas and skill sets that lead to mushy messaging.

As a long-time Atlanta leader told me, the last time we tried to put together a campaign by committee was “Brand Atlanta.” I’m not sure who really refers to Atlanta these days as: “Every day is an opening day.” In short, Brand Atlanta fizzled out.

Not everyone is as worried about the regional transportation sales tax campaign as I am.

“I feel very positive about it,” Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said on Sunday. “We have got over 230 companies that have signed up to communication with their employees. The business sector is extremely strong behind this — from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500..”

Asked about why it feels like it’s a suburban, Republican-oriented campaign, Williams answered: “The Democratic campaign is totally different than the Republican campaign. They are two different teams, and that’s appropriate. We have a Republican team, and we have a Democratic team.”

Well the days are ticking away. We still don’t have a bold, clear message on bumper stickers. And while we know the strong “no” voters will turn out, we are quickly running out of time to get a campaign aimed at the people who are most likely to vote yes for the transportation tax.

For metro Atlanta’s sake, let’s hope it’s not too late.

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48 comments
KellyWoods
KellyWoods

You are always going to have the mouths of people who strongly agree or who strongly disagree more than those who are in the middle.  I think that with efforts such as the wireside chats that Susan listed and other informative measures we are still targeting people who are likely to vote yes while still trying to reach people who are likely to vote no by having the Yes voters spread the word.

KellyWoods
KellyWoods

You are always going to have the mouths of people who strongly agree or who strongly disagree more than those who are in the middle.  I think that with efforts such as the wireside chats that Susan listed and other informative measures we are still targeting people who are likely to vote yes while still trying to reach people who are likely to vote no by having the Yes voters spread the word.

inatl
inatl

We learned in the 90's that because of induced demand you can't pave your way out of congestion.  And that's what bothers me most about this ad campaign.    The phrase "Untie Atlanta" or the mailings showing the sad children waiting at home for their parents sell a false premise and makes  it harder to address the root cause of our traffic problems - that being that  because of our asphalt addiction we drive more than almost any other region and thus lead the way in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) per person.    Unfortunately "Hate Traffic?  Vote Yes" seems to also promote the misconception that we can fix the problem by building more roads.   

 

In fact I'd go so far to say that because of the far to high projected  population growth rate (3 million) and the projected placement of this new growth (largely out of reach of transit)* that is used to justify the region's transportation plans I fear that a more correct slogan would be "Hate Traffic? Vote No!"

 

I fear that because the region has not come to grips with adopting and enforcing sound and sustainable Land Use and Development policies subsidizing  and thus hiding the cost of driving by funding roads with a general sales tax (that exempts gasoline no less) is not a sound long term policy.   And thus I am convinced that future growth would happen in a better and more sustainable manner without this regressive TSPLOST sales tax.

 

*highest growth rates are in the outer 10 counties of the 20 county Atlanta Region, out of reach of transit.  The tia tax area covers the inner 10 counties.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand   Induced demand, or latent demand, is the phenomenon that after supply increases, more of a good is consumed. This is entirely consistent with the economic theory of supply and demand; however, this idea has become important in the debate over the expansion of transportation systems, and is often used as an argument against widening roads, such as major commuter roads. It is considered by some to be a contributing factor to urban sprawl.

inatl
inatl

We learned in the 90's that because of induced demand you can't pave your way out of congestion.  And that's what bothers me most about this ad campaign.    The phrase "Untie Atlanta" or the mailings showing the sad children waiting at home for their parents sell a false premise and makes  it harder to address the root cause of our traffic problems - that being that  because of our asphalt addiction we drive more than almost any other region and thus lead the way in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) per person.    Unfortunately "Hate Traffic?  Vote Yes" seems to also promote the misconception that we can fix the problem by building more roads.      In fact I'd go so far to say that because of the far to high projected  population growth rate (3 million) and the projected placement of this new growth (largely out of reach of transit)* that is used to justify the region's transportation plans I fear that a more correct slogan would be "Hate Traffic? Vote No!"   I fear that because the region has not come to grips with adopting and enforcing sound and sustainable Land Use and Development policies subsidizing  and thus hiding the cost of driving by funding roads with a general sales tax (that exempts gasoline no less) is not a sound long term policy.   And thus I am convinced that future growth would happen in a better and more sustainable manner without this regressive TSPLOST sales tax.   *highest growth rates are in the outer 10 counties of the 20 county Atlanta Region, out of reach of transit.  The tia tax area covers the inner 10 counties.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand   Induced demand, or latent demand, is the phenomenon that after supply increases, more of a good is consumed. This is entirely consistent with the economic theory of supply and demand; however, this idea has become important in the debate over the expansion of transportation systems, and is often used as an argument against widening roads, such as major commuter roads. It is considered by some to be a contributing factor to urban sprawl.

inatl
inatl

We learned in the 90's that because of induced demand you can't pave your way out of congestion.  And that's what bothers me most about this ad campaign.    The phrase "Untie Atlanta" or the mailings showing the sad children waiting at home for the parents sell a false premise and make it harder to address the root cause of our traffic problems - that being that we because of our addiction to asphalt we drive more than almost any other region and thus lead the way in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) per person.    Unfortunately "Hate Traffic?  Vote Yes" seems to also promote this misconception.      In fact I'd go so far to say that because of the far to high population growth rate (3 million) and the projected placement of this new growth* used to justify the region's transportation plans I fear that a more correct answer slogan would be "Hate Traffic? Vote No!"   I fear that because the region has not come to grips with sound and sustainable Land Use and Development policies subsidizing more the true cost of driving by funding roads with a sales tax is not a sound long term policy.   And thus I am convinced that future growth would happen in a better and more sustainable manner without this regressive TSPLOST sales tax.   *highest growth rates are in the outer 10 counties of the 20 county Atlanta Region, out of reach of transit.  The tia tax area covers the inner 10 counties.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand   Induced demand, or latent demand, is the phenomenon that after supply increases, more of a good is consumed. This is entirely consistent with the economic theory of supply and demand; however, this idea has become important in the debate over the expansion of transportation systems, and is often used as an argument against widening roads, such as major commuter roads. It is considered by some to be a contributing factor to urban sprawl.

Purgator
Purgator

Maria,

 

Some remarkable insights you provided, but they all seem against the T-SPLOST. By example, you say:

 

- “…the campaign has not appealed to in-town, pro-transit, Democratic and liberal-leaning citizens,…”

- “It doesn’t help that South DeKalb voters have felt short-changed for having paid the one-cent MARTA sales tax since 1971 and yet they are still waiting on MARTA rail serving their communities.”

- “Again, these are primarily Democratic, pro-transit voters who would be more amenable to a new tax if they felt they would finally get rail.”

- “Campaign leaders rightfully say that it is impossible to come up with a list of transportation projects that would please everyone in the metro area.”

- “Despite millions of dollars already having been spent on glossy mailings and television commercials, it’s hard to define the campaign, and it’s even harder to get voters to understand why they should go vote for the tax on July 31.”

 

These seem compelling arguments as to why we should not support the T-SPLOST. Hey, are you really a suburban tax hater masquerading as an uptown liberal?  

Purgator
Purgator

Maria,   Some remarkable insights you provided, but they all seem against the T-SPLOST. By example, you say:   - “…the campaign has not appealed to in-town, pro-transit, Democratic and liberal-leaning citizens,…” - “It doesn’t help that South DeKalb voters have felt short-changed for having paid the one-cent MARTA sales tax since 1971 and yet they are still waiting on MARTA rail serving their communities.” - “Again, these are primarily Democratic, pro-transit voters who would be more amenable to a new tax if they felt they would finally get rail.” - “Campaign leaders rightfully say that it is impossible to come up with a list of transportation projects that would please everyone in the metro area.” - “Despite millions of dollars already having been spent on glossy mailings and television commercials, it’s hard to define the campaign, and it’s even harder to get voters to understand why they should go vote for the tax on July 31.”   These seem compelling arguments as to why we should not support the T-SPLOST. Hey, are you really a suburban tax hater masquerading as an uptown liberal?  

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Not only is it the lack of a clear and coherent message that is doing in a T-SPLOST referendum which was at best a 50-50 proposition anyways to begin with.

 

The failure of the T-SPLOST to gain any traction with Metro Atlantans both Inside and, especially, Outside-The-Perimeter has also been as a result of incompetent, unethical and even at times outright corrupt leadership in both state and local governments around the designated 10-county Atlanta Region. 

 

At the same time that the regional powers-that-be are tepidly pushing this flawed T-SPLOST referendum, the Georgia Legislature is dealing with the escalating fallout from a slate of recent ethics scandals as well as the Legislature's refusal to enact meaningful ethics reform.

 

In addition to a very well-organized ultra-strong anti-tax and anti-transit sentiment in Fayette, Cherokee and Henry counties, also having an increasingly negative effect on public support for the T-SPLOST is the continued hangover from the incredibly flawed startup of the I-85 HOT Lanes and the fallout from a slate of recent scandals and missteps by the county Board of Commissioners in heavily-populated suburban Gwinnett (garbage scandal, stadium scandals, shady land deals, endictments of county commissioners, etc), repeated missteps and extremely poor political leadership on transportation and most every other political issue by increasingly unpopular embattled County Commission Chairman Tim Lee in Cobb County, some very expensive unethical missteps by the county government in DeKalb, continuing fierce internal division and political friction revolving around the desire of the affluent North end of the county to split away from the rest of the dysfunctional county and its government in Fulton.

 

Not to mention continuing ethical concerns in the City of Atlanta and Clayton County, who discontinued their local bus service (C-Tran) not long ago because they did not want to fund and operate the service themselves, but instead wanted a transit-averse state government to do.

 

The T-SPLOST referendum does not exist in a vacuum.  The culmulative effects of these repeated government scandals and missteps has on the public mood towards government on the whole is continuing to have a direct negative effect on the T-SPLOST, which is basically government asking voters to let them have more of their hard-earned money.

 

If the voters don't particularly like or trust their government officials to do right by them with their hard-earned money, then they will not give it to a government that they don't like or trust to spend as they see fit, which is much of what why we are seeing this T-SPLOST campaign fail to gain traction with the public, probably even much moreso than the messaging of the campaign. 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Not only is it the lack of a clear and coherent message that is doing in a T-SPLOST referendum which was at best a 50-50 proposition anyways to begin with.   The failure of the T-SPLOST to gain any traction with Metro Atlantans both Inside and, especially, Outside-The-Perimeter has also been as a result of incompetent, unethical and even at times outright corrupt leadership in both state and local governments around the designated 10-county Atlanta Region.    At the same time that the regional powers-that-be are tepidly pushing this flawed T-SPLOST referendum, the Georgia Legislature is dealing with the escalating fallout from a slate of recent ethics scandals as well as the Legislature's refusal to enact meaningful ethics reform.   In addition to a very well-organized ultra-strong anti-tax and anti-transit sentiment in Fayette, Cherokee and Henry counties, also having an increasingly negative effect on public support for the T-SPLOST is the continued hangover from the incredibly flawed startup of the I-85 HOT Lanes and the fallout from a slate of recent scandals and missteps by the county Board of Commissioners in heavily-populated suburban Gwinnett (garbage scandal, stadium scandals, shady land deals, endictments of county commissioners, etc), repeated missteps and extremely poor political leadership on transportation and most every other political issue by increasingly unpopular embattled County Commission Chairman Tim Lee in Cobb County, some very expensive unethical missteps by the county government in DeKalb, continuing fierce internal division and political friction revolving around the desire of the affluent North end of the county to split away from the rest of the dysfunctional county and its government in Fulton.   Not to mention continuing ethical concerns in the City of Atlanta and Clayton County, who discontinued their local bus service (C-Tran) not long ago because they did not want to fund and operate the service themselves, but instead wanted a transit-averse state government to do.   The T-SPLOST referendum does not exist in a vacuum.  The culmulative effects of these repeated government scandals and missteps has on the public mood towards government on the whole is continuing to have a direct negative effect on the T-SPLOST, which is basically government asking voters to let them have more of their hard-earned money.   If the voters don't particularly like or trust their government officials to do right by them with their hard-earned money, then they will not give it to a government that they don't like or trust to spend as they see fit, which is much of what why we are seeing this T-SPLOST campaign fail to gain traction with the public, probably even much moreso than the messaging of the campaign. 

Susan
Susan

From June 4 - 14, ARC will be hosting a series of 12 Wireside Chats that will offer voters an opportunity to hear from their local officials, ask questions and get answers about the July 31 Transportation referendum--all from the comfort of their homes. Learn more and register for these unique community conversations at: http://bit.ly/JjUjXO

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

One last set of key passages from the GPPF report:

 

"The Atlanta project list has shortcomings but there are also problems with rejecting it outright. First, if the tax is voted down, the law requires the state to reduce the matching funding to local municipalities from 90 percent to 70 percent. Currently if a city wants to widen a road, the state provides 90 cents for every dollar. Areas that vote no on the transportation penny will see their matching funds reduced to 70 cents per dollar. A "no" vote could exacerbate funding problems in the metro area. As a result of congressional balancing, where GDOT is required to provide equal funds to each congressional district, and higher land and construction costs, metro Atlanta's transportation dollars don't go as far as they do in other regions."

 

"The second problem with voting no on the transportation list is the reality that Georgia ranks 49th in transportation spending. This is, in part, thanks to prudent spending and projects. But it means the state also may not have enough funds to maintain roads, let alone widen or build new ones. While a new 1 percent sales tax can be voted on in 2014, becoming effective in January 2015, these are two more years in which Georgia will underinvest in transportation. A new vote could be based on a less political and more mobility-focused project list. Meanwhile, the advantage goes to competing regions such as Charlotte, Houston and Dallas."

 

"No plan is perfect. It is clear that Georgia has underinvested in its transportation infrastructure. Around the state and in Atlanta, voters have justification for approving or rejecting the penny transportation sales tax. Is it good that it will rebuild the I-285/Georgia 400 interchange and bring the MARTA system to a state of good repair? Is it troubling to see the focus on the BeltLine, the location of the transit lines, and the large number of unconnected highway projects? Should the funding come from a sales tax, despite that not being the ideal funding mechanism for transportation? Should Georgia regions reject the sales tax and risk losing local transportation funding? Until July 31 – and likely beyond – the debate will rage on."

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Some especially key passages from page 36 of the GPPF report:

"Metro Atlanta residents will decide on July 31, 2012, whether to raise their sales tax by one penny to fund a list of transportation improvements....What should voters do?"

 

"Metro Atlanta ranks high in congestion; residents waste a significant portion of their time stuck in traffic. Transit service in Atlanta is poor. Both frequency and coverage are below other cities of similar size. The Atlanta region needs to solve its congestion issues, but the referendum faces substantial hurdles."

 

"The sales tax funding mechanism has nothing to do with transportation. It is politically easier to increase one tax, especially a tax where tourists contribute a significant amount. However, the amount of goods purchased by a person has no relationship to the number of miles driven by that person. Additionally, sales taxes are one of the most regressive taxes. If approved, sales taxes in the metro area would range from 7 percent to 9 percent. These taxes would be a significant burden on lower income residents. Gas taxes, VMT fees, value capture, tolls and bonds would be much better sources. Making greater use of these sources in the short-term would be more challenging and may take longer. Doing so, however, would provide a more robust funding source less affected by the boom-and-bust cycles in the economy..."

 

"...The metro Atlanta project list raises questions, although political challenges make creating the perfect list impossible. Regional projects such as improving the I-285 and Georgia 400 intersection and bringing MARTA to a state of good repair are excellent projects that deserve a place on the list. Many other projects should not be on the list. Many local road widening projects are included, particularly in Fayette County. And the list funds some of the most questionable rail transit projects. Compared to rail, bus capital costs are substantially lower and buses can be easily moved if development patterns change."

 

"...Fixed-rail transit is most effective in an extremely dense region, which Atlanta is not. Even if the region were to fund fixed-rail projects, those along the Perimeter, in Gwinnett County, commuter rail to Athens and commuter rail to Lovejoy are better projects. The BeltLine connector is an economic development project, not a transportation project, and was included to encourage residents of northeast Atlanta to approve the tax. The proposed I-75 rail line from Midtown to Cumberland serves a corridor with existing, quality express bus service while ignoring the far busier and more congested I-75 corridor from I-285 to Acworth. While this project was theoretically removed, $700 million is an extraordinarily high number to improve BRT service in the corridor..."

 

"...Several projects have purely economic development benefits while others have purely environmental benefits. Transportation projects with economic or environmental benefits can effectively solve multiple problems. But purely environmental or economic development projects have no role in a transportation project list that was to be selected for the best use of taxpayer dollars. It is not clear that the proposed solution is always the most optimal solution. Several projects propose widening when operational improvements might be better, and vice versa. A substantial number of the Atlanta projects are coded as operational with no project details. While these might be excellent projects, without more information it is impossible to know. Certainly, having exact project details for something eight years away is challenging. Yet the fact that Atlanta's list includes vague, few or no details on a number of projects is very unsettling..."

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Some more passages from the GPPF report-

 

From page 29 of the GPPF report:

"Arterials: One of Atlanta's largest transportation challenges is its lack of arterials. Arterials are the backbone of any transportation network. Many of the problems on Atlanta's highway network can be traced to its poor arterial network. Atlanta should make three significant changes to its arterial network."

 

From page 30 of the GPPF report:

"There is a misconception that extensive expressway networks exist only in the largest cities such as Los Angeles, and that these networks lead to major congestion. But Dallas is about the same size as Atlanta and Minneapolis is significantly smaller. Both cities have much more developed highway and arterial networks than Atlanta. Atlanta has several very wide expressways but does not have a well-developed highway network."

 

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Another excerpt from pages 27 and 28 of the GPPF report:

"In the past, GDOT has continually widened roads such as the Downtown Connector, from four lanes to 15 lanes in some places. Yet the connector is as congested as ever. Why? Several factors, including Atlanta's growth and the lack of a strong highway network play a role, but the biggest reason is induced demand.

Induced demand occurs when congested non-priced highways are widened. For example, I-75/85 is congested at 5:30 weekday evenings between the Brookwood Interchange and I-20. If GDOT

adds two lanes in each direction to the highway, it becomes congestion-free in the short-term. Motorists who previously used Northside Parkway as an alternative or commuted at 6:30 p.m. would start using the Downtown Connector at 5:30 p.m. After several years the highway will become congested again and GDOT will need to widen the highway again and after another two years it will become congested again, etc.

While widening highways makes travel more convenient, reduces congestion, reduces pollution and increases the number of vehicles that travel on a highway, it does not reduce congestion over the long term. This does not mean that the region should not expand highways or should invest a disproportionate amount of funds in transit. It simply means that growing metro areas cannot end the congestion by widening (expanding capacity) alone."

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Amongst the issues and items touched upon in the GPPF (Georgia Public Policy Foundation) report are both why we should and should not vote for the T-SPLOST, how poorly the T-SPLOST list was put together, as well as Atlanta's extremely poorly managed and underinvested-in transportation network and so on.

 

An excerpt from page 26 of the report:

"Metro Atlanta needs to develop a seamless transportation network of highway and transit. There are two major problems with Atlanta's network...."

"....The first problem is lack of redundancy. A redundant network offers multiple ways to travel from point A to point B. Atlanta often has just one reasonable route. Commuters traveling from downtown Atlanta to Lawrenceville take the downtown connector, I-85 and SR-316. However, if a wreck snarls I-85 northeast of I-285, there are few options. There is not another expressway to choose as an alternative. The arterial network that should serve as the backbone for transportation is underdeveloped. Atlanta has quite possibly the worst arterial network of any of the 10 largest metro areas in the country. A great deal of attention is focused on the shortcomings of the region's transit network, but the region's highway network is not much better. Creating a grid network would improve Atlanta's traffic flow. Two examples of cities with effective grid networks are Dallas and Minneapolis."

 

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

One last set of key passages from the GPPF report:   "The Atlanta project list has shortcomings but there are also problems with rejecting it outright. First, if the tax is voted down, the law requires the state to reduce the matching funding to local municipalities from 90 percent to 70 percent. Currently if a city wants to widen a road, the state provides 90 cents for every dollar. Areas that vote no on the transportation penny will see their matching funds reduced to 70 cents per dollar. A "no" vote could exacerbate funding problems in the metro area. As a result of congressional balancing, where GDOT is required to provide equal funds to each congressional district, and higher land and construction costs, metro Atlanta's transportation dollars don't go as far as they do in other regions."   "The second problem with voting no on the transportation list is the reality that Georgia ranks 49th in transportation spending. This is, in part, thanks to prudent spending and projects. But it means the state also may not have enough funds to maintain roads, let alone widen or build new ones. While a new 1 percent sales tax can be voted on in 2014, becoming effective in January 2015, these are two more years in which Georgia will underinvest in transportation. A new vote could be based on a less political and more mobility-focused project list. Meanwhile, the advantage goes to competing regions such as Charlotte, Houston and Dallas."   "No plan is perfect. It is clear that Georgia has underinvested in its transportation infrastructure. Around the state and in Atlanta, voters have justification for approving or rejecting the penny transportation sales tax. Is it good that it will rebuild the I-285/Georgia 400 interchange and bring the MARTA system to a state of good repair? Is it troubling to see the focus on the BeltLine, the location of the transit lines, and the large number of unconnected highway projects? Should the funding come from a sales tax, despite that not being the ideal funding mechanism for transportation? Should Georgia regions reject the sales tax and risk losing local transportation funding? Until July 31 – and likely beyond – the debate will rage on."

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Some especially key passages from page 36 of the GPPF report: "Metro Atlanta residents will decide on July 31, 2012, whether to raise their sales tax by one penny to fund a list of transportation improvements....What should voters do?"   "Metro Atlanta ranks high in congestion; residents waste a significant portion of their time stuck in traffic. Transit service in Atlanta is poor. Both frequency and coverage are below other cities of similar size. The Atlanta region needs to solve its congestion issues, but the referendum faces substantial hurdles."   "The sales tax funding mechanism has nothing to do with transportation. It is politically easier to increase one tax, especially a tax where tourists contribute a significant amount. However, the amount of goods purchased by a person has no relationship to the number of miles driven by that person. Additionally, sales taxes are one of the most regressive taxes. If approved, sales taxes in the metro area would range from 7 percent to 9 percent. These taxes would be a significant burden on lower income residents. Gas taxes, VMT fees, value capture, tolls and bonds would be much better sources. Making greater use of these sources in the short-term would be more challenging and may take longer. Doing so, however, would provide a more robust funding source less affected by the boom-and-bust cycles in the economy..."   "...The metro Atlanta project list raises questions, although political challenges make creating the perfect list impossible. Regional projects such as improving the I-285 and Georgia 400 intersection and bringing MARTA to a state of good repair are excellent projects that deserve a place on the list. Many other projects should not be on the list. Many local road widening projects are included, particularly in Fayette County. And the list funds some of the most questionable rail transit projects. Compared to rail, bus capital costs are substantially lower and buses can be easily moved if development patterns change."   "...Fixed-rail transit is most effective in an extremely dense region, which Atlanta is not. Even if the region were to fund fixed-rail projects, those along the Perimeter, in Gwinnett County, commuter rail to Athens and commuter rail to Lovejoy are better projects. The BeltLine connector is an economic development project, not a transportation project, and was included to encourage residents of northeast Atlanta to approve the tax. The proposed I-75 rail line from Midtown to Cumberland serves a corridor with existing, quality express bus service while ignoring the far busier and more congested I-75 corridor from I-285 to Acworth. While this project was theoretically removed, $700 million is an extraordinarily high number to improve BRT service in the corridor..."   "...Several projects have purely economic development benefits while others have purely environmental benefits. Transportation projects with economic or environmental benefits can effectively solve multiple problems. But purely environmental or economic development projects have no role in a transportation project list that was to be selected for the best use of taxpayer dollars. It is not clear that the proposed solution is always the most optimal solution. Several projects propose widening when operational improvements might be better, and vice versa. A substantial number of the Atlanta projects are coded as operational with no project details. While these might be excellent projects, without more information it is impossible to know. Certainly, having exact project details for something eight years away is challenging. Yet the fact that Atlanta's list includes vague, few or no details on a number of projects is very unsettling..."

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Some more passages from the GPPF report-   From page 29 of the GPPF report: "Arterials: One of Atlanta's largest transportation challenges is its lack of arterials. Arterials are the backbone of any transportation network. Many of the problems on Atlanta's highway network can be traced to its poor arterial network. Atlanta should make three significant changes to its arterial network."   From page 30 of the GPPF report: "There is a misconception that extensive expressway networks exist only in the largest cities such as Los Angeles, and that these networks lead to major congestion. But Dallas is about the same size as Atlanta and Minneapolis is significantly smaller. Both cities have much more developed highway and arterial networks than Atlanta. Atlanta has several very wide expressways but does not have a well-developed highway network."    

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Another excerpt from pages 27 and 28 of the GPPF report: "In the past, GDOT has continually widened roads such as the Downtown Connector, from four lanes to 15 lanes in some places. Yet the connector is as congested as ever. Why? Several factors, including Atlanta's growth and the lack of a strong highway network play a role, but the biggest reason is induced demand. Induced demand occurs when congested non-priced highways are widened. For example, I-75/85 is congested at 5:30 weekday evenings between the Brookwood Interchange and I-20. If GDOT adds two lanes in each direction to the highway, it becomes congestion-free in the short-term. Motorists who previously used Northside Parkway as an alternative or commuted at 6:30 p.m. would start using the Downtown Connector at 5:30 p.m. After several years the highway will become congested again and GDOT will need to widen the highway again and after another two years it will become congested again, etc. While widening highways makes travel more convenient, reduces congestion, reduces pollution and increases the number of vehicles that travel on a highway, it does not reduce congestion over the long term. This does not mean that the region should not expand highways or should invest a disproportionate amount of funds in transit. It simply means that growing metro areas cannot end the congestion by widening (expanding capacity) alone."

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Amongst the issues and items touched upon in the GPPF (Georgia Public Policy Foundation) report are both why we should and should not vote for the T-SPLOST, how poorly the T-SPLOST list was put together, as well as Atlanta's extremely poorly managed and underinvested-in transportation network and so on.   An excerpt from page 26 of the report: "Metro Atlanta needs to develop a seamless transportation network of highway and transit. There are two major problems with Atlanta's network...." "....The first problem is lack of redundancy. A redundant network offers multiple ways to travel from point A to point B. Atlanta often has just one reasonable route. Commuters traveling from downtown Atlanta to Lawrenceville take the downtown connector, I-85 and SR-316. However, if a wreck snarls I-85 northeast of I-285, there are few options. There is not another expressway to choose as an alternative. The arterial network that should serve as the backbone for transportation is underdeveloped. Atlanta has quite possibly the worst arterial network of any of the 10 largest metro areas in the country. A great deal of attention is focused on the shortcomings of the region's transit network, but the region's highway network is not much better. Creating a grid network would improve Atlanta's traffic flow. Two examples of cities with effective grid networks are Dallas and Minneapolis."    

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl

 You are indeed correct that voting no and defeating the T-SPLOST will likely do much more to advance the cause of transit around these parts than voting yes to what many describe as being nothing more than a blatant giveaway of public funds to roadbuilders and overdevelopers.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl

Looks like you are also very much correct about how voting no to the T-SPLOST may indeed do infinitely much more to help the Atlanta Region break its very severe addiction to auto-overdependency and sprawl as the state slipped in a rather substantial poison pill that will require local governments in regions where the T-SPLOST is defeated to pay three times as much to fund road construction projects as they do currently by requiring local governments to pay a 30 percent match on state transportation grants instead of the 10 percent match that they currently pay.

 

Since so many local governments will have to pay three times as much to fund road construction projects, that will likely put the brakes on most roadbuilding by local governments for the foreseeable future, which should delight many hardcore transit and land-use reform advocate.

 

From page 23 of the Transportation Investment Act:

"(d) In the event a special district sales and use tax election is held and the voters in a special district do not approve the levy of the special district transportation sales and use tax, the local governments in such special district shall be required to provide a 30 percent match for any local maintenance and improvement grants by the Department of Transportation for transportation projects and programs for at least 24 months and until such time as a special district sales and use tax is approved."

http://www.it3.ga.gov/Documents/HB277-BreakdownbySection.pdf

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl

If you want to see a prime example of the phenomenon of Induced Demand, look no further than the example of Houston, Texas which has seemingly paved over every last bit of land that can possibly be paved with nine toll roads (some converted out of busy streets) and some freeways with as many as 26 lanes in width like the I-10 West/Katy Freeway, which may possibly be the widest freeway on the planet.

 

But even though Houston has virtually maxed totally and completely out on road infrastructure investments, the infamously road-crazy car-worshipping Texas city is still seriously considering implementing commuter rail due to severe traffic congestion on its notoriously built-out freeway network.

 

Some of thoroughly car-crazed, car-fanatical Houston's plans for commuter rail:  http://www.hgaccommuterrail.com/docs/HGAC%20Commuter%20Rail%20-%20Relative%20Demand%20Potential_2.pdf 

 

If a car-crazed and fanatical town like Houston, which has a much more built-up road infrastructure than topography-challenged Atlanta could ever hope for or dream of, admits to the pressing need to compliment its ultra-built out freeway system with increased rail transit options and regional commuter rail service, then it's more than obvious that Atlanta, which overall has only a fraction of the road infrastructure of Houston, is in extremely-critical need of increased rail transit options, ESPECIALLY commuter rail.

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl

"I fear that because the region has not come to grips with adopting and enforcing sound and sustainable Land Use and Development policies subsidizing and thus hiding the cost of driving by funding roads with a general sales tax (that exempts gasoline no less) is not a sound long-term policy.   And thus I am convinced that future growth would happen  in a better and more sustainable manner without this regressive TSPLOST sales tax."

 

As you are well aware, I'm a maximum multmodal infrastructure guy (way moreso than most around these parts can even imagine), which means that not only do I think that we should max totally and completely out on building rail transit infrastructure (like making massive upgrades and targeted expansions to MARTA, implementing light rail and streetcars on selected high-density corridors and building a comprehensive regional commuter rail network with extensive reach around North Georgia and even into Middle Georgia and surrounding states like TN, SC & AL), I also think that we should max-out on making targeted road infrastructure investments (like making GA Hwy 6 West/Thornton Rd/C.H. James Pkwy/Camp Creek Pkwy and the Sugarloaf Pkwy Extension, both road projects that appear on the T-SPLOST list, into toll-roads as well turning US Hwy 19-41 South/Tara Boulevard and US Hwy 41 North/Cobb Parkway into super-arteries with free local surface lanes and tolled express lanes, turning South Fulton Pkwy into a toll road that also serves as a South Bypass around Carrollton and an alternative route to I-20 West to Birmingham and turning GA Hwy 316 into a controlled-access expressway built to Interstate standards and funded with tolls to get it completed quicker), a point on which we are both diametrically opposed on this transportation issue, even though we both very much solidly agree on the critically-pressing need for dramatically-increased, if not maximum, investments in rail transit infrastructure.

 

You were correct in everything you said as even a maximum road-infrastructure guy like me agrees that this region has not come to grips with reality and how the world is changing when it comes to the need to encourage sustainable land-use and development policies over the long-term.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl  You are indeed correct that voting no and defeating the T-SPLOST will likely do much more to advance the cause of transit around these parts than voting yes to what many describe as being nothing more than a blatant giveaway of public funds to roadbuilders and overdevelopers.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl Looks like you are also very much correct about how voting no to the T-SPLOST may indeed do infinitely much more to help the Atlanta Region break its very severe addiction to auto-overdependency and sprawl as the state slipped in a rather substantial poison pill that will require local governments in regions where the T-SPLOST is defeated to pay three times as much to fund road construction projects as they do currently by requiring local governments to pay a 30 percent match on state transportation grants instead of the 10 percent match that they currently pay.   Since so many local governments will have to pay three times as much to fund road construction projects, that will likely put the brakes on most roadbuilding by local governments for the foreseeable future, which should delight many hardcore transit and land-use reform advocate.   From page 23 of the Transportation Investment Act: "(d) In the event a special district sales and use tax election is held and the voters in a special district do not approve the levy of the special district transportation sales and use tax, the local governments in such special district shall be required to provide a 30 percent match for any local maintenance and improvement grants by the Department of Transportation for transportation projects and programs for at least 24 months and until such time as a special district sales and use tax is approved." http://www.it3.ga.gov/Documents/HB277-BreakdownbySection.pdf  

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl If you want to see a prime example of the phenomenon of Induced Demand, look no further than the example of Houston, Texas which has seemingly paved over every last bit of land that can possibly be paved with nine toll roads (some converted out of busy streets) and some freeways with as many as 26 lanes in width like the I-10 West/Katy Freeway, which may possibly be the widest freeway on the planet.   But even though Houston has virtually maxed totally and completely out on road infrastructure investments, the infamously road-crazy car-worshipping Texas city is still seriously considering implementing commuter rail due to severe traffic congestion on its notoriously built-out freeway network.   Some of thoroughly car-crazed, car-fanatical Houston's plans for commuter rail:  http://www.hgaccommuterrail.com/docs/HGAC%20Commuter%20Rail%20-%20Relative%20Demand%20Potential_2.pdf    If a car-crazed and fanatical town like Houston, which has a much more built-up road infrastructure than topography-challenged Atlanta could ever hope for or dream of, admits to the pressing need to compliment its ultra-built out freeway system with increased rail transit options and regional commuter rail service, then it's more than obvious that Atlanta, which overall has only a fraction of the road infrastructure of Houston, is in extremely-critical need of increased rail transit options, ESPECIALLY commuter rail.  

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl "I fear that because the region has not come to grips with adopting and enforcing sound and sustainable Land Use and Development policies subsidizing and thus hiding the cost of driving by funding roads with a general sales tax (that exempts gasoline no less) is not a sound long-term policy.   And thus I am convinced that future growth would happen  in a better and more sustainable manner without this regressive TSPLOST sales tax."   As you are well aware, I'm a maximum multmodal infrastructure guy (way moreso than most around these parts can even imagine), which means that not only do I think that we should max totally and completely out on building rail transit infrastructure (like making massive upgrades and targeted expansions to MARTA, implementing light rail and streetcars on selected high-density corridors and building a comprehensive regional commuter rail network with extensive reach around North Georgia and even into Middle Georgia and surrounding states like TN, SC & AL), I also think that we should max-out on making targeted road infrastructure investments (like making GA Hwy 6 West/Thornton Rd/C.H. James Pkwy/Camp Creek Pkwy and the Sugarloaf Pkwy Extension, both road projects that appear on the T-SPLOST list, into toll-roads as well turning US Hwy 19-41 South/Tara Boulevard and US Hwy 41 North/Cobb Parkway into super-arteries with free local surface lanes and tolled express lanes, turning South Fulton Pkwy into a toll road that also serves as a South Bypass around Carrollton and an alternative route to I-20 West to Birmingham and turning GA Hwy 316 into a controlled-access expressway built to Interstate standards and funded with tolls to get it completed quicker), a point on which we are both diametrically opposed on this transportation issue, even though we both very much solidly agree on the critically-pressing need for dramatically-increased, if not maximum, investments in rail transit infrastructure.   You were correct in everything you said as even a maximum road-infrastructure guy like me agrees that this region has not come to grips with reality and how the world is changing when it comes to the need to encourage sustainable land-use and development policies over the long-term.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Vaguely-defined project descriptions like this (I-85 North Transit Corridor) don't do very much to assure the public that their money will be spent wisely, especially when it may not be necessarily all that clear exactly what is being proposed for funding:

 

"This project funds existing and committed express bus services, in addition to corridor planning, engineering, environmental review and assessment, and possible initial right‐of‐way acquisition and construction elements for the implementation of I‐85 North Transit Corridor.  During the preliminary engineering phase of project development, local project sponsors refine the design of the proposal, taking into consideration all reasonable design alternatives. Preliminary engineering results in estimates of project costs, benefits, and impacts at a level of detail necessary to complete the NEPA process. This project will carry forward the Locally Preferred Alternative for a premium

transit improvement in the I‐85 North corridor with the evaluation and decision‐making based on the requirements of the FTA New Starts and NEPA project development. The major steps will include preliminary engineering, economic and environmental analysis, and final design. The total TIA funding committed to advancing the scope of this project is $95,000,000."

http://documents.atlantaregional.com/tia/pdf/TIA-GW-031.pdf

 

Just what exactly is the I-85 North Corridor?  Is it a MARTA North Line extension?  Is it a light rail line?  Is it a commuter rail line?  Is it new HOT lanes in which express and commuter buses will run?  Is it just a study to see which of the aforementioned options are the best to be implemented in the corridor?  If it is just a study, then why does a study cost as much as $95 million freaking dollars?  What role will the wildly-dysfunctional and institutionally inept money pit that is the Georgia Department of Transportation play in the management, execution and delivery of this and other T-SPLOST projects?...These are the questions that the taxpaying public is asking about how their hard-earned money will be spent, questions that take on an even more heightened level of importance in the face of continuing reports of corruption and scandals involving the repeated misuse of public funds in and amongst the very local and state governments that helped to put together this list and tax referendum....Questions to which the authors and supporters of this T-SPLOST don't necessarily always seem to have the correct and complete answers to. 

 

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Again, this statement is especially reflective of much of why the T-SPLOST is having trouble gaining traction with the public:

 

"A substantial number of the Atlanta projects are coded as operational with no project details. While these might be excellent projects, without more information it is impossible to know. Certainly, having exact project details for something eight years is challenging.  YET THE FACT THAT ATLANTA'S LIST INCLUDES VAGUE, FEW OR NO DETAILS ON A NUMBER OF PROJECTS IS VERY UNSETTLING..."

 

One of the reasons why this thing is having so much trouble getting traction with the public, not only with hard-core transit and substainable land-use advocates Inside-the-Perimeter, but also and, especially, with fiscally-conservative right-leaning suburban and exurban voters Outside-the-Perimeter, is because many of the project descriptions are so vague or undefined.

 

It is the multiple vague and substantially undefined project listings that make voters think that their political leaders are trying to pull a fast one on them just so that they may gain easy access to a big pot of public money to split amongst themselves and, of course amongst where else but as usual, their land spectulating, overbuilding real estate developer cronies.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Vaguely-defined project descriptions like this (I-85 North Transit Corridor) don't do very much to assure the public that their money will be spent wisely, especially when it may not be necessarily all that clear exactly what is being proposed for funding:   "This project funds existing and committed express bus services, in addition to corridor planning, engineering, environmental review and assessment, and possible initial right‐of‐way acquisition and construction elements for the implementation of I‐85 North Transit Corridor.  During the preliminary engineering phase of project development, local project sponsors refine the design of the proposal, taking into consideration all reasonable design alternatives. Preliminary engineering results in estimates of project costs, benefits, and impacts at a level of detail necessary to complete the NEPA process. This project will carry forward the Locally Preferred Alternative for a premium transit improvement in the I‐85 North corridor with the evaluation and decision‐making based on the requirements of the FTA New Starts and NEPA project development. The major steps will include preliminary engineering, economic and environmental analysis, and final design. The total TIA funding committed to advancing the scope of this project is $95,000,000." http://documents.atlantaregional.com/tia/pdf/TIA-GW-031.pdf   Just what exactly is the I-85 North Corridor?  Is it a MARTA North Line extension?  Is it a light rail line?  Is it a commuter rail line?  Is it new HOT lanes in which express and commuter buses will run?  Is it just a study to see which of the aforementioned options are the best to be implemented in the corridor?  If it is just a study, then why does a study cost as much as $95 million freaking dollars?  What role will the wildly-dysfunctional and institutionally inept money pit that is the Georgia Department of Transportation play in the management, execution and delivery of this and other T-SPLOST projects?...These are the questions that the taxpaying public is asking about how their hard-earned money will be spent, questions that take on an even more heightened level of importance in the face of continuing reports of corruption and scandals involving the repeated misuse of public funds in and amongst the very local and state governments that helped to put together this list and tax referendum....Questions to which the authors and supporters of this T-SPLOST don't necessarily always seem to have the correct and complete answers to.     

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Again, this statement is especially reflective of much of why the T-SPLOST is having trouble gaining traction with the public:   "A substantial number of the Atlanta projects are coded as operational with no project details. While these might be excellent projects, without more information it is impossible to know. Certainly, having exact project details for something eight years is challenging.  YET THE FACT THAT ATLANTA'S LIST INCLUDES VAGUE, FEW OR NO DETAILS ON A NUMBER OF PROJECTS IS VERY UNSETTLING..."   One of the reasons why this thing is having so much trouble getting traction with the public, not only with hard-core transit and substainable land-use advocates Inside-the-Perimeter, but also and, especially, with fiscally-conservative right-leaning suburban and exurban voters Outside-the-Perimeter, is because many of the project descriptions are so vague or undefined.   It is the multiple vague and substantially undefined project listings that make voters think that their political leaders are trying to pull a fast one on them just so that they may gain easy access to a big pot of public money to split amongst themselves and, of course amongst where else but as usual, their land spectulating, overbuilding real estate developer cronies.

inatl
inatl

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia Yes, the fact they slipped that in kind of flies in the face of giving the voters the right to make the decision.  Its kind of like holding a gun to our head.   Though in the case of DeKalb I'm trying to remember how many local road projects we've had recently.  Perhaps in South DeKalb there have been some. 

 

Something tells me if we voted no and didn't come up with a new list in 2 years they would end up changing that provision in the legislation.

inatl
inatl

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia  Though we are only partially opposed.  Induced Demand is not a bad thing for rail transit since rail actually functions better with increased demand as capacity can be added by increasing train lengths or frequency at a small incremental cost.   You don't get an economy of scale with roads.   And in fact each additional lane added to a road makes the other lanes handle less capacity.    For example a lane in a 2 lane road (one in each direction) handles more cars per hour than a lane in a 4 lane road (2 in each direction).   And some have said that once you are at 4 or 5 lanes adding a lane can actually lower the total capacity of the road if there is not some sort of grade or barrier separation.

 

Though there is a fiscal limit to how rapidly one can expand rail.   Though I agree implementing commuter rail on all 5 or 6 previously identified GDOT lines would be transformational for the region and well worth the investment.

inatl
inatl

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia Yes, the fact they slipped that in kind of flies in the face of giving the voters the right to make the decision.  Its kind of like holding a gun to our head.   Though in the case of DeKalb I'm trying to remember how many local road projects we've had recently.  Perhaps in South DeKalb there have been some.    Something tells me if we voted no and didn't come up with a new list in 2 years they would end up changing that provision in the legislation.

inatl
inatl

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia Its been a while since I checked the VMT figures for the various regions, I wounder how Houston stacks up.  

inatl
inatl

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia  Though we are only partially opposed.  Induced Demand is not a bad thing for rail transit since rail actually functions better with increased demand as capacity can be added by increasing train lengths or frequency at a small incremental cost.   You don't get an economy of scale with roads.   And in fact each additional lane added to a road makes the other lanes handle less capacity.    For example a lane in a 2 lane road (one in each direction) handles more cars per hour than a lane in a 4 lane road (2 in each direction).   And some have said that once you are at 4 or 5 lanes adding a lane can actually lower the total capacity of the road if there is not some sort of grade or barrier separation.   Though there is a fiscal limit to how rapidly one can expand rail.   Though I agree implementing commuter rail on all 5 or 6 previously identified GDOT lines would be transformational for the region and well worth the investment.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl

"Something tells me if we voted no and didn't come up with a new list in 2 years they would end up changing that provision in the legislation."

 

That something is telling you right as there is already a movement under way in the Legislature to overturn the provision of the T-SPLOST that makes local governments pay three times the amount that they would pay for road projects if their region votes down the tax. 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl

With their extreme roadbuilding approach to attempting to relieve congestion, Houston is pretty much in the same orbit as Atlanta when it comes to Vehicle Miles Traveled.

 

The most recent figures that I could find on hand are from this Brookings Institution study from 2006 that shows Houston having a total VMT ranking of fifth overall and driving a total of 31,509 miles compared to Atlanta which ranked eighth and drove a total of 27,356 miles that year, meaning that car-crazy Houston spends even that much more time on the road than Atlanta.

 

With Atlanta suffering through a much deeper economic downturn and struggling with a much slower economic recovery than Houston, one can infer that Houston's VMT is still higher than Atlanta's.

 http://www.scribd.com/doc/9199883/Brookings-VMT-Cities-Ranking

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl

 There is not as much of a fiscal limit to expanding rail as you think.

 

If the same financing concepts of public-private partnerships and user fees that are applied to toll roads are are applied to rail transit lines, our extremely underdeveloped rail transit network could be expanded on a rapidly-accelerated timeline.

 

The recently cancelled private-public partnership that was orginally going to be used to finance the construction and continued long-term operation and maintenance of the I-75/I-575 NW HOT Lane project demonstrates that P3's (Public-Private Partnerships) and user fees (fares and fees from parking surcharges,and parking and traffic fines, sin taxes, etc) can be used as a much more effective means of financing transportation projects than traditional methods of financing such as sales tax increases.

 

Tax Increment Financing (using property tax revenues from future development that pops up around transit stations) can also be used along with P3's and user fees to be a much more effective financing tool for transit over the long-term than traditional sales tax increases which are limited and very difficult politically to enact.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl "Something tells me if we voted no and didn't come up with a new list in 2 years they would end up changing that provision in the legislation."   That something is telling you right as there is already a movement under way in the Legislature to overturn the provision of the T-SPLOST that makes local governments pay three times the amount that they would pay for road projects if their region votes down the tax. 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl With their extreme roadbuilding approach to attempting to relieve congestion, Houston is pretty much in the same orbit as Atlanta when it comes to Vehicle Miles Traveled.   The most recent figures that I could find on hand are from this Brookings Institution study from 2006 that shows Houston having a total VMT ranking of fifth overall and driving a total of 31,509 miles compared to Atlanta which ranked eighth and drove a total of 27,356 miles that year, meaning that car-crazy Houston spends even that much more time on the road than Atlanta.   With Atlanta suffering through a much deeper economic downturn and struggling with a much slower economic recovery than Houston, one can infer that Houston's VMT is still higher than Atlanta's.  http://www.scribd.com/doc/9199883/Brookings-VMT-Cities-Ranking

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl  There is not as much of a fiscal limit to expanding rail as you think.   If the same financing concepts of public-private partnerships and user fees that are applied to toll roads are are applied to rail transit lines, our extremely underdeveloped rail transit network could be expanded on a rapidly-accelerated timeline.   The recently cancelled private-public partnership that was orginally going to be used to finance the construction and continued long-term operation and maintenance of the I-75/I-575 NW HOT Lane project demonstrates that P3's (Public-Private Partnerships) and user fees (fares and fees from parking surcharges,and parking and traffic fines, sin taxes, etc) can be used as a much more effective means of financing transportation projects than traditional methods of financing such as sales tax increases.   Tax Increment Financing (using property tax revenues from future development that pops up around transit stations) can also be used along with P3's and user fees to be a much more effective financing tool for transit over the long-term than traditional sales tax increases which are limited and very difficult politically to enact.

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