Nearly a year later, we are still confused about why we lost regional transportation sales tax referendum

By Maria Saporta

Although 11 months have passed since the regional transportation sales tax vote, the defeat still stings.

The Atlanta region has never been comfortable with failure — partly because it has enjoyed more than its fair share of successes over the decades.

So metro leaders seem hesitant to take a diagnostic look at what went wrong last July 31 during the primary election when voters in the 10-county metro Atlanta area defeated the transportation sales tax by a 68 percent to 32 percent vote.

But others believe that a failure is too important to waste — we must learn from our past so we can know what we need to do differently in the future.

We began to scratch the surface on this all-too-sensitive topic last week when the Center for Transportation Excellence held its 2013 Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference in Atlanta from June 23 to June 26 at the Loews Midtown hotel.

During a panel discussion called: “Lessons from Atlanta,” several talking points were presented.

“It was a perfect storm,” said Dave Williams, vice president of transportation for the Metro Atlanta Chamber — a key player in the fund-raising effort and the political campaign.

Panel moderator Williams (no relation to Chamber President Sam Williams) attributed the loss to the poor economy, a lack of voters’ trust in government, a first-ever regional referendum, no obvious champion for the entire region and a greater turnout than expected (675,000 instead of an expected 375,000).

“The trust issue was huge,” said Dave Stockert, CEO of Post Properties who chaired the fund-raising campaign. “Our project list was so big, it invited more distrust.”

Nathaniel Smith, CEO of Partnership for Southern Equity, said it was problematic to have the Sierra Club, the NAACP and the Tea Party oppose the referendum, albeit for different reasons. But he said that showed a need to have more people at the table.

Kathryn Lawler, who headed the community involvement effort for the Atlanta Regional Commission, said 191,000 people from metro Atlanta did participate on public forums about the project list , but nearly a year went by between the approval of the list and the referendum, which may have been confusing.

The panel echoed what others have said — maybe the Atlanta region isn’t ready to invest as a region when it comes to transit and transportation; maybe “region” has become a dirty word; maybe the vote showed that people don’t want transit.

Here is the danger of not taking an in depth look at ourselves. We easily could be making erroneous conclusions based on faulty assumptions.

First, are the people who voted on July 31, 2012 a true representation of our region? A total of about 675,000 people in the 10-county region voted on that day.

But less than four months later on the Nov. 6 general election, a total of 1.69 million people in the 10-county Atlanta region voted — 56.4 percent casting their vote for President Barack Obama (954,829) and 43.6 percent for Republican Mitt Romney (737,081).

(While one can not assume that most Obama voters would have voted for the referendum, Democrats usually are much more open to being taxed than Republicans).

Asked if the referendum had been held on Nov. 6, would the results been different, Stockert said: “We would have come closer but we still would not have won.”

But that’s not what Ashley Robbins, campaign director of Georgians for Better Transit, believes. She thinks it definitely would have passed in November. In fact, Robbins believes the referendum could have won on July 31 if there had been a well-run campaign.

She is not alone in that belief.

Several CEOs have quietly asked: “We started at 50/50 in the polls; we spent $8 million, and we ended up at 32 percent. What happened?”

During the panel discussion, Alan Wulkan, a national transportation consultant with several wins under his belt, said: “You should be brutally honest with yourselves. You knew many of these issues before the election.”

Wulkan, managing partner for HDR/InfraConsult, said other communities facing the same issues passed transit referendums at the same time ours was defeated.

After the panel, Wulkan said he had been interviewed to run the Atlanta campaign, but he didn’t get the job. But he said his comments were not sour grapes. Instead, he said he was glad he didn’t get the job.

“When I was hired in Charlotte to run the Charlotte campaign, I told them: ‘If your are going to hire someone who has done transit elections before, you have to listen to them,’” Wulkan said. “In Atlanta, the campaign was run from the top down by people who had little or no experience in winning a transit or transportation campaign.”

St. Louis had a successful transit campaign with the following tag line: “Transit. Some of us ride it. All of us need it.”

Robbins said that 52 percent of the $6.1 billion our project list was dedicated to transit projects, yet Atlanta campaign strategists downplayed transit out of fear they would lose suburban Republican votes.

Nearly all the marketing material — television commercials and printed ads — showed roads and cars in a huge “untie Atlanta” ball. There was a commercial of a woman driver being strangled by her seatbelt, and there were virtually no images of buses or rail or messages of transit.

“Some people said the campaign did it all wrong, that we should have only gone for the people who would vote for it,” Williams said sarcastically during the panel discussion.

During the Atlanta campaign, a common refrain was that no money would be spent inside the perimeter because the money was needed in the suburbs to convince reluctant voters.

“The messaging from the get-go was road-focused with a highway sign as the logo,” Robbins said. “I remember sitting in meetings where they said the target demographic was people outside the perimeter, and it was intentional to not discuss transit until it was too late.”

In the last few weeks of the campaign, the pollsters realized they had ignored transit-friendly Democratic voters in the central city. And instead of convincing suburban voters, all they had done was alert their opponents to go to the polls to vote no.

To peel apart the onion a little more, much has been said about the Sierra Club’s opposition to the referendum. In reality, the Sierra Club’s membership was split with 50 percent in favor and 50 percent either opposed or undecided. The executive committee ended up voting 8 to 4 to oppose the referendum.

As you can see, the issues surrounding the referendum were multilayered, complex and open to interpretation and analysis.

“It is important to do a deep dive,” Nathaniel Smith said. “There’s a need for the region to understand what happened.”

Robbins agreed: “If we don’t ask what happened and learn from those lessons, we are going to repeat the same thing with the same result.”

Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, said it is important to ask voters what transportation projects they are willing to pay for in the future. It might be too late to ask voters why they voted the way they did on July 31, 2012.

In my opinion that would be a flawed poll anyway because a primary election is not as representative of the region as is a general election.

“It can never hurt to examine the way we went about things. We can learn from our setbacks,” Hooker said. “We need to have a conversation with voters and some kind of analysis of how the campaign messaging affected their decision, and what might have been a better way to go. We should do that when the time is right, and it is not right, right now.”

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126 comments
The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{{"Robbins said that 52 percent of the $6.1 billion our project list was dedicated to transit projects, yet Atlanta campaign strategists downplayed transit out of fear they would lose suburban Republican votes. Nearly all the marketing material — television commercials and printed ads — showed roads and cars in a huge “untie Atlanta” ball. There was a commercial of a woman driver being strangled by her seatbelt, and there were virtually no images of buses or rail or messages of transit. “Some people said the campaign did it all wrong, that we should have only gone for the people who would vote for it,” Williams said sarcastically during the panel discussion. During the Atlanta campaign, a common refrain was that no money would be spent inside the perimeter because the money was needed in the suburbs to convince reluctant voters. “The messaging from the get-go was road-focused with a highway sign as the logo,” Robbins said. “I remember sitting in meetings where they said the target demographic was people outside the perimeter, and it was intentional to not discuss transit until it was too late.” In the last few weeks of the campaign, the pollsters realized they had ignored transit-friendly Democratic voters in the central city. And instead of convincing suburban voters, all they had done was alert their opponents to go to the polls to vote no."}}}

...If the powers-that-be had done any degree of research, they would have realized that large-scale road expansion proposals are not necessarily received all that well in the suburbs, either.

Though overall, OTP suburban Metro Atlantans are generally SLIGHTLY more receptive to road improvements to an extent, particularly in situations where road improvements are targeted to the busiest roads and junctions (intersections and interchanges), large-scale road expansion tends to be received poorly in most circumstances in the suburbs OTP in the decade since the Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc debacle, particularly if a proposed road is perceived by the public as being purely developmental with no traffic congestion relief benefit.

This is particularly the case in politically-dominant large OTP suburban counties like Cobb and Gwinnett where many residents are fearful that more new roads will only lead to the construction of more of the type of sprawl and overdevelopment that has led to those two increasingly heavily-populated counties having some of the worst rush hour traffic in the entire nation.

This is even moreso the case in further outlying outer-suburban counties OTP like Fayette and Cherokee where there is much strong local sentiment against overdevelopment and a fear that too much new road construction will lead to those still largely-rural outer-suburban counties becoming as urban as once-outer suburban/exurban Cobb and Gwinnett have become as the third and second-most populated counties in the state, respectively.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{{"Robbins said that 52 percent of the $6.1 billion our project list was dedicated to transit projects, yet Atlanta campaign strategists downplayed transit out of fear they would lose suburban Republican votes. Nearly all the marketing material — television commercials and printed ads — showed roads and cars in a huge “untie Atlanta” ball. There was a commercial of a woman driver being strangled by her seatbelt, and there were virtually no images of buses or rail or messages of transit. “Some people said the campaign did it all wrong, that we should have only gone for the people who would vote for it,” Williams said sarcastically during the panel discussion. During the Atlanta campaign, a common refrain was that no money would be spent inside the perimeter because the money was needed in the suburbs to convince reluctant voters. “The messaging from the get-go was road-focused with a highway sign as the logo,” Robbins said. “I remember sitting in meetings where they said the target demographic was people outside the perimeter, and it was intentional to not discuss transit until it was too late.” In the last few weeks of the campaign, the pollsters realized they had ignored transit-friendly Democratic voters in the central city. And instead of convincing suburban voters, all they had done was alert their opponents to go to the polls to vote no."}}} ...If the powers-that-be had done any degree of research, they would have realized that large-scale road expansion proposals are not necessarily received all that well in the suburbs, either. Though overall, OTP suburban Metro Atlantans are generally SLIGHTLY more receptive to road improvements to an extent, particularly in situations where road improvements are targeted to the busiest roads and junctions (intersections and interchanges), large-scale road expansion tends to be received poorly in most circumstances in the suburbs OTP in the decade since the Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc debacle, particularly if a proposed road is perceived by the public as being purely developmental with no traffic congestion relief benefit. This is particularly the case in politically-dominant large OTP suburban counties like Cobb and Gwinnett where many residents are fearful that more new roads will only lead to the construction of more of the type of sprawl and overdevelopment that has led to those two increasingly heavily-populated counties having some of the worst rush hour traffic in the entire nation. This is even moreso the case in further outlying outer-suburban counties OTP like Fayette and Cherokee where there is much strong local sentiment against overdevelopment and a fear that too much new road construction will lead to those still largely-rural outer-suburban counties becoming as urban as once-outer suburban/exurban Cobb and Gwinnett have become as the third and second-most populated counties in the state, respectively.

Old Native
Old Native

Maria, Thanks for pointing out that it's important to revisit this issue. The lively conversation here is an indication that there are lots of feelings, ideas, opinions and wisdom to bring to the table. The revisit seems a bit daunting! Who's most likely to take it on? Is this a job for the ARC?

Old Native
Old Native

Maria, Thanks for pointing out that it's important to revisit this issue. The lively conversation here is an indication that there are lots of feelings, ideas, opinions and wisdom to bring to the table. The revisit seems a bit daunting! Who's most likely to take it on? Is this a job for the ARC?

moliere
moliere

Yawn. The people who keep endlessly pointing out how MARTA is mismanaged forget one simple thing: had Cobb, Gwinnett and the other GOP (and white) run counties had joined the system - which they could have done and can still do at any time and even the GOP run counties that are not part of the MARTA charter can at any time petition the state to be added to it and they would be - then they would join the MARTA leadership. Cobb and Gwinnett joining alone would give the GOP as much representation as the intown Democrats have, seeing as the system is limited to Fulton and DeKalb at present. Getting one of the NINE Republican counties that is contiguous to either Fulton or DeKalb (in some cases both as is the case for Gwinnett) would give the GOP a majority on MARTA. That would allow MARTA to be "well managed."

But no one wants to do that. Why?
Because no one wants to pay for it. Instead of paying the penny tax, these folks want the state to take over MARTA, take the money that the intown people are contributing and use it to transform it into an agency benefit the suburbanites with the suburbanites not having to pay a penny. Basically turn its function into one whose main job would be to host an express bus service from the suburbs that would take suburban commuters downtown to work and to attend events like Falcons and Braves games. The rest of the system would be "privatized", meaning sold off to GOP contributors and to people who have business ties with GOP legislators, who would then either triple the cost of providing the same service, or dismantled for scrap. 

And of course after that is done, these very same people who would complain about how "those people downtown don't have jobs" when they will have dismantled the very agency that allowed many of them to get to work and school. 

MARTA could be an adequately funded, well run agency at any time. The sole reason why it isn't is that its critics do not want it to be. 

moliere
moliere

Yawn. The people who keep endlessly pointing out how MARTA is mismanaged forget one simple thing: had Cobb, Gwinnett and the other GOP (and white) run counties had joined the system - which they could have done and can still do at any time and even the GOP run counties that are not part of the MARTA charter can at any time petition the state to be added to it and they would be - then they would join the MARTA leadership. Cobb and Gwinnett joining alone would give the GOP as much representation as the intown Democrats have, seeing as the system is limited to Fulton and DeKalb at present. Getting one of the NINE Republican counties that is contiguous to either Fulton or DeKalb (in some cases both as is the case for Gwinnett) would give the GOP a majority on MARTA. That would allow MARTA to be "well managed." But no one wants to do that. Why? Because no one wants to pay for it. Instead of paying the penny tax, these folks want the state to take over MARTA, take the money that the intown people are contributing and use it to transform it into an agency benefit the suburbanites with the suburbanites not having to pay a penny. Basically turn its function into one whose main job would be to host an express bus service from the suburbs that would take suburban commuters downtown to work and to attend events like Falcons and Braves games. The rest of the system would be "privatized", meaning sold off to GOP contributors and to people who have business ties with GOP legislators, who would then either triple the cost of providing the same service, or dismantled for scrap.  And of course after that is done, these very same people who would complain about how "those people downtown don't have jobs" when they will have dismantled the very agency that allowed many of them to get to work and school.  MARTA could be an adequately funded, well run agency at any time. The sole reason why it isn't is that its critics do not want it to be.

Marketing Messages
Marketing Messages

The idea that a journalist has to report the fact that no one cares to learn more about why this went down by a wide margin when proponents  were willing to spend over $8 million says it all.  I saw a combination of poor /central leadership, over reaching - complex big government style solutions and poor messaging.  On the messaging ... I'm still offended by the idea that the electorate both dems and gop, both white and black are so dumb that anyone would think a vote for this was going to "untie Atlanta" ... I think that tag line was a genesis for the distrust that let the polls go from 50 -50 down to 32% in favor. It was a mockery of any intelligence in the electorate ... as if to say some magic bullet of $6 billion or even $60 billion could fix METRO Atlanta's road centric sprawl and car happy people with the snap of a single vote.  In an attempt to make this simple to understand "untie Atlanta" was gas on the fire of distrust.  

I ended up voting for T Splost after wisely getting over the marketing messages likes "untie atlanta".  I voted for it based on a comment by a fellow business owner, she said  " it is not perfect but it is something with some positives and if we don't pass this the rest of the country will see us as inept and unwilling to do anything even imperfect and partial solutions"   ...... and that pitch to me in the final week was just enough common sense to make me stop and weigh the merits as a resident, business owner and employer!  

Maria thanks for writing about this and pointing out that we still have [ the same] leaders willing to stick their head in the sand, deny the problem, point fingers and/or retire.  Like the guy said if they don't want to listen.... but next time around I hope we might be more honest about the solutions and hopefully we can start chipping away at the metro's problems that took decades to create.  

See:  All together, metro Atlanta has welcomed more than four million new residents and grown by some 6,700 square miles in the last four decades alone—rates of growth that led urban redevelopment impresario Christopher Leinberger to speculate in the mid 1990s that it was "probably the fastest-growing of any metropolitan area in the history of the world."14 -
See more at: http://southernspaces.org/2013/well-tied-knot-atlantas-mobility-crisis-and-2012-t-splost-debate#sthash.cb2I02Qs.dpuf

Marketing Messages
Marketing Messages

The idea that a journalist has to report the fact that no one cares to learn more about why this went down by a wide margin when proponents  were willing to spend over $8 million says it all.  I saw a combination of poor /central leadership, over reaching - complex big government style solutions and poor messaging.  On the messaging ... I'm still offended by the idea that the electorate both dems and gop, both white and black are so dumb that anyone would think a vote for this was going to "untie Atlanta" ... I think that tag line was a genesis for the distrust that let the polls go from 50 -50 down to 32% in favor. It was a mockery of any intelligence in the electorate ... as if to say some magic bullet of $6 billion or even $60 billion could fix METRO Atlanta's road centric sprawl and car happy people with the snap of a single vote.  In an attempt to make this simple to understand "untie Atlanta" was gas on the fire of distrust.   I ended up voting for T Splost after wisely getting over the marketing messages likes "untie atlanta".  I voted for it based on a comment by a fellow business owner, she said  " it is not perfect but it is something with some positives and if we don't pass this the rest of the country will see us as inept and unwilling to do anything even imperfect and partial solutions"   ...... and that pitch to me in the final week was just enough common sense to make me stop and weigh the merits as a resident, business owner and employer!   Maria thanks for writing about this and pointing out that we still have [ the same] leaders willing to stick their head in the sand, deny the problem, point fingers and/or retire.  Like the guy said if they don't want to listen.... but next time around I hope we might be more honest about the solutions and hopefully we can start chipping away at the metro's problems that took decades to create.   See:  All together, metro Atlanta has welcomed more than four million new residents and grown by some 6,700 square miles in the last four decades alone—rates of growth that led urban redevelopment impresario Christopher Leinberger to speculate in the mid 1990s that it was "probably the fastest-growing of any metropolitan area in the history of the world."14 - See more at: http://southernspaces.org/2013/well-tied-knot-atlantas-mobility-crisis-and-2012-t-splost-debate#sthash.cb2I02Qs.dpuf

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

I'm really surprised that no one has picked up on the root of why this failed.  The legislature designed it to fail.  No one can persuade me that Gov. Perdue  ever wanted this to pass.  He acted because he was forced to by the business interests.  All you have to do is look at his record on transit to see that he was anti-transit.  He quickly dismantled every good thing Roy Barnes had done for the areas transportation needs in his first year.  There are several things that point to this being designed to fail.  First as mentioned in the article was the date of the vote.  Having it on a primary voting date in and of itself doomed it to failure.  You had several very competitive races on the republican side and almost none for democrats.  Republicans were much more hostile to the idea of a transportation sales tax, and that was known when this passed out of the legislature.  Two, the way the region was cobbled together was totally wrong.  Fayette Co's needs are not the same as DeKalb's.  This should have been a core county region with Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Gwinette.  The additional counties being added enabled the amount of "mistrust", because these counties dont see themselves (whether correctly or not) as having anything to do with Atlanta, and wondering whether their tax money would simply be going to Atlanta.

I also think that not giving more focus on the S. DeKalb MARTA line was a mistake.  I think ridership on such a line would be high enough to justify it and would have settled the NAACP's problems.  They have been fighting for (and been promised) this line for an awfully long time (back to the days of Cynthia McKinney prior to her going bonkers).  There was interest in the Lindbergh line from Emory...but not much else.  Dont forget that that line had to negotiate the neighborhood of Druid Hills and similar powerful associations and I bet there were no votes stemming from this line.

Also, as has been stated. they just took the transit community for granted.  I remember several articles of The Saporta Report where Maria was questioning this strategy.  In my opinion...these were the major reasons it failed with the date being #1

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

I'm really surprised that no one has picked up on the root of why this failed.  The legislature designed it to fail.  No one can persuade me that Gov. Perdue  ever wanted this to pass.  He acted because he was forced to by the business interests.  All you have to do is look at his record on transit to see that he was anti-transit.  He quickly dismantled every good thing Roy Barnes had done for the areas transportation needs in his first year.  There are several things that point to this being designed to fail.  First as mentioned in the article was the date of the vote.  Having on a primary voting date in and of itself doomed it to failure.  You had several very competitive races on the republican side and almost none for democrats.  Republicans were much more hostile to the idea of a transportation sales tax, and that was known when this passed out of the legislature.  Two, the way the region was cobbled together was totally wrong.  Fayette Co's needs are not the same as DeKalb's.  This should have been a core county region with Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Gwinette.  The additional counties being added enabled the amount of "mistrust", because these counties dont see themselves (whether correctly or not) as having anything to do with Atlanta, and wondering whether their tax money would simply be going to Atlanta. I also think that not giving more focus on the S. DeKalb MARTA line was a mistake.  I think ridership on such a line would be high enough to justify it and would have settled the NAACP's problems.  They have been fighting for (and been promised) this line for an awfully long time (back to the days of Cynthia McKinney prior to her going bonkers).  There was interest in the Lindbergh line from Emory...but not much else.  Dont forget that that line had to negotiate the neighborhood of Druid Hills and similar powerful associations and I bet there were no votes stemming from this line. Also, as has been stated. they just took the transit community for granted.  I remember several articles of The Saporta Report where Maria was questioning this strategy.  In my opinion...these were the major reasons it failed with the date being #1

AtlantaAnnie
AtlantaAnnie

Maria:  thanks for reminding us of a very important lesson.  It doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down, the important thing is that you get up!  With all due respect to Doug Hooker, we are WAY WAY overdue for a soul-searching discussion of the Metro TIA experience.  Let the record show that most large urban regions that are "ahead" of us in transportation had to go through multiple voter referenda (including failures) before they reached their ultimate successful effort.  Our region appears to be so discombobulated that we figure we are going to give up after the first major setback!

The experience of the last five years shows that our federal and state governments are becoming more and more irrelevant to solving important regional problems.  The successful regions that have already had their collective light bulbs go on are well on their way (unlike Metro Atlanta) to get the problem-solving activity going and are way past the griping and blaming stage.  Our "regional leaders" are NOT stepping up to the plate.  To all of your Chamber leaders, the Governor, State Elected Officials, County Chairs, and Mayors:  You can only be a leader if people want to follow you.  Figure it out quick and get the work started to building a better region....my two cents....

AtlantaAnnie
AtlantaAnnie

Maria:  thanks for reminding us of a very important lesson.  It doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down, the important thing is that you get up!  With all due respect to Doug Hooker, we are WAY WAY overdue for a soul-searching discussion of the Metro TIA experience.  Let the record show that most large urban regions that are "ahead" of us in transportation had to go through multiple voter referenda (including failures) before they reached their ultimate successful effort.  Our region appears to be so discombobulated that we figure we are going to give up after the first major setback! The experience of the last five years shows that our federal and state governments are becoming more and more irrelevant to solving important regional problems.  The successful regions that have already had their collective light bulbs go on are well on their way (unlike Metro Atlanta) to get the problem-solving activity going and are way past the griping and blaming stage.  Our "regional leaders" are NOT stepping up to the plate.  To all of your Chamber leaders, the Governor, State Elected Officials, County Chairs, and Mayors:  You can only be a leader if people want to follow you.  Figure it out quick and get the work started to building a better region....my two cents....

Native Atlanta Boy
Native Atlanta Boy

Not only was this a huge tax hike the project list was not a good list.  Yes much of the money upfront was going to MARTA which already has sales tax money.  MARTA has for years mismanaged and actually stolen money from the tax payers.  MARTA, like all of government, has plenty of money.  They simply have no idea how to use it and are all corrupt why should we give them more money.  Regarding the various projects.  Many of the needed projects would not even start for 20 years.  My objection to the tax hike was and remains 1) there is money to do these projects we simply need to manage the dollars received better; 2) find other ways to fund these projects i.e. local or community investment funds or Improvement District dollars; 3) get the developers to fund these projects.  For example The GA 400/Hammond Rd Interchange was paid out of CID dollars; The Beltline was and is being built with developer dollars (developers simply wanted tax payers to fund a project to help their projects); I285/GA 400 Interchange is now getting CID money and should get GA 400 toll dollars as is the GA 400/I85 Interchange is.  How about all the road improvements around the airport magically being funded?  And for all you Dems (The Last Democrat in GA) where did all that Obama stimulus for "shovel ready" projects go?  Trust me people there is so much money available to fund MARTA, road projects, etc., that taxes need to be reduced!  These crooks keep asking for more money because stupid voters keep voting yes and they simply squander it.  Sorry, as a people, we should NEVER EVER vote to raise our taxes.  Look at the school tax hikes?  They never end!  The message that was sent is to clean up your house and manage the money you have government.

Native Atlanta Boy
Native Atlanta Boy

Not only was this a huge tax hike the project list was not a good list.  Yes much of the money upfront was going to MARTA which already has sales tax money.  MARTA has for years mismanaged and actually stolen money from the tax payers.  MARTA, like all of government, has plenty of money.  They simply have no idea how to use it and are all corrupt why should we give them more money.  Regarding the various projects.  Many of the needed projects would not even start for 20 years.  My objection to the tax hike was and remains 1) there is money to do these projects we simply need to manage the dollars received better; 2) find other ways to fund these projects i.e. local or community investment funds or Improvement District dollars; 3) get the developers to fund these projects.  For example The GA 400/Hammond Rd Interchange was paid out of CID dollars; The Beltline was and is being built with developer dollars (developers simply wanted tax payers to fund a project to help their projects); I285/GA 400 Interchange is now getting CID money and should get GA 400 toll dollars as is the GA 400/I85 Interchange is.  How about all the road improvements around the airport magically being funded?  And for all you Dems (The Last Democrat in GA) where did all that Obama stimulus for "shovel ready" projects go?  Trust me people there is so much money available to fund MARTA, road projects, etc., that taxes need to be reduced!  These crooks keep asking for more money because stupid voters keep voting yes and they simply squander it.  Sorry, as a people, we should NEVER EVER vote to raise our taxes.  Look at the school tax hikes?  They never end!  The message that was sent is to clean up your house and manage the money you have government.

MandoTrey
MandoTrey

A look at the initial funding of MARTA in 1971 shows how to barely win a transportation referendum. Make 100% of the tax money go toward the transit. To have 52% as in the 2012 is on the edge of ethical considerations to even call it transit policy. Be clear, be honest. We need transit policy, and one that plans for 100% of the funds going to the beltline, and to trains that carry hundreds and thousands of people at a time, not to buses that carry tens of people. That would win.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@Old Native If the failure of the regional referendum is revisited, it should only be to figure out what the region's transportation NEEDS REALLY are, it should NOT be to formulate reasoning and set the stage for another highly-flawed and inappropriate attempt at funding the region's transportation needs and wants with a counterproductive regional referendum.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Old Native If the failure of the regional referendum is revisited, it should only be to figure out what the region's transportation NEEDS REALLY are, it should NOT be to formulate reasoning and set the stage for another highly-flawed and inappropriate attempt at funding the region's transportation needs and wants with a counterproductive regional referendum.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@moliere  As two large suburban counties with large (but shrinking) elements that have traditionally been averse to the concept of transit expansion into their counties from Atlanta, the conservative-dominated power structure in Cobb and Gwinnett counties has never really expressed much of an interest in seeing the state takeover MARTA (though clear and rising majorities of residents in those counties have expressed growing interest in seeing an increase in transit availability because of the severity of rush hour commutes).

Most of the impetus to see the state play a much-greater role in the management and operation of MARTA has come from the Republican-dominated areas of North Fulton and North DeKalb counties where affluent residents are already paying the 1% sales tax on purchases and want to see much more transit service to and from rising employment and activity centers in Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Alpharetta and Johns Creek.

Also, much of the reason why MARTA is not an adequately-funded well-run agency does not have to do with Cobb and Gwinnett (and Clayton) counties refusing to join MARTA and pay the 1% sales tax on purchases that Fulton and DeKalb counties pay...With the exception of transit service to and from the Atlanta Airport, MARTA provides virtually no transit service to either of those 3 non-member counties and therefore has no expenses in those counties.

Much of the reason why MARTA is not an adequately-funded and well-run agency has to do with MARTA failing (and often just outright refusing) to collect enough in revenues from fares to fund the agency outside of sales tax revenues (the state-imposed "50-50 restriction" that required the agency to set aside 50% of its revenues for capital expenses only applies to sales tax revenues, not farebox revenues...and even with the state requiring that MARTA set aside 50% of its sales tax revenues for capital expenses MARTA still does not have enough for capital expenses...MARTA still needed $600 million from the failed T-SPLOST to attempt to catch up on capital expenses because of an intentionally-depressed fare structure that has made the agency too overdependent on limited sales tax revenues). 

In addition to not collecting enough revenues from the farebox during its existence, MARTA also has not necessarily been the best manager of the sales tax revenues it collects and the real estate assets it has around its stations.

Also, in all fairness, in addition to the traditionally white conservative power structure in suburban counties like Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton traditionally not wanting to be apart of MARTA, the traditionally black-dominated liberal power structure in Fulton and DeKalb counties has not necessarily been all that eager to expand MARTA into those suburban counties out of fear that they would have to share or even concede political power over MARTA to those predominately white and conservative counties after doing so.

The political restrictions to MARTA being expanded beyond Fulton and DeKalb counties have not just come from outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties, but from INSIDE Fulton and DeKalb counties as well.

Anytime that parties in Cobb and Gwinnett counties make serious inquiries into expanding MARTA out into their counties from beyond Fulton and DeKalb, MARTA often tells them that those counties would have to pay the 1% sales tax for upwards of 15 years before receiving any transit service. 

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

@moliere

"MARTA could be an adequately funded, well run agency at any time. The sole reason why it isn't is that its critics do not want it to be."

LOL. As my grandfather said, "If wishes were horses then beggars might ride."

No amount of funding would ever be adequate to satisfy MARTA. The established fact it is not a well-run agency is not due to its critics, but is instead due to:

1. A top heavy, unimaginative bureaucracy focused on keeping their perquisites,

2. An intransigent and over-compensated employee union, and

3. Failed public relations and planning departments that discourage and alienate many patrons, resulting in reduced ridership (down 15% on trains and 31% on buses since 2001).

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

moliere  As two large suburban counties with large (but shrinking) elements that have traditionally been averse to the concept of transit expansion into their counties from Atlanta, the conservative-dominated power structure in Cobb and Gwinnett counties has never really expressed much of an interest in seeing the state takeover MARTA (though clear and rising majorities of residents in those counties have expressed growing interest in seeing an increase in transit availability because of the severity of rush hour commutes). Most of the impetus to see the state play a much-greater role in the management and operation of MARTA has come from the Republican-dominated areas of North Fulton and North DeKalb counties where affluent residents are already paying the 1% sales tax on purchases and want to see much more transit service to and from rising employment and activity centers in Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Alpharetta and Johns Creek. Also, much of the reason why MARTA is not an adequately-funded well-run agency does not have to do with Cobb and Gwinnett (and Clayton) counties refusing to join MARTA and pay the 1% sales tax on purchases that Fulton and DeKalb counties pay...With the exception of transit service to and from the Atlanta Airport, MARTA provides virtually no transit service to either of those 3 non-member counties and therefore has no expenses in those counties. Much of the reason why MARTA is not an adequately-funded and well-run agency has to do with MARTA failing (and often just outright refusing) to collect enough in revenues from fares to fund the agency outside of sales tax revenues (the state-imposed "50-50 restriction" that required the agency to set aside 50% of its revenues for capital expenses only applies to sales tax revenues, not farebox revenues...and even with the state requiring that MARTA set aside 50% of its sales tax revenues for capital expenses MARTA still does not have enough for capital expenses...MARTA still needed $600 million from the failed T-SPLOST to attempt to catch up on capital expenses because of an intentionally-depressed fare structure that has made the agency too overdependent on limited sales tax revenues).  In addition to not collecting enough revenues from the farebox during its existence, MARTA also has not necessarily been the best manager of the sales tax revenues it collects and the real estate assets it has around its stations. Also, in all fairness, in addition to the traditionally white conservative power structure in suburban counties like Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton traditionally not wanting to be apart of MARTA, the traditionally black-dominated liberal power structure in Fulton and DeKalb counties has not necessarily been all that eager to expand MARTA into those suburban counties out of fear that they would have to share or even concede political power over MARTA to those predominately white and conservative counties after doing so. The political restrictions to MARTA being expanded beyond Fulton and DeKalb counties have not just come from outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties, but from INSIDE Fulton and DeKalb counties as well. Anytime that parties in Cobb and Gwinnett counties make serious inquiries into expanding MARTA out into their counties from beyond Fulton and DeKalb, MARTA often tells them that those counties would have to pay the 1% sales tax for upwards of 15 years before receiving any transit service.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

moliere "MARTA could be an adequately funded, well run agency at any time. The sole reason why it isn't is that its critics do not want it to be." LOL. As my grandfather said, "If wishes were horses then beggars might ride." No amount of funding would ever be adequate to satisfy MARTA. The established fact it is not a well-run agency is not due to its critics, but is instead due to: 1. A top heavy, unimaginative bureaucracy focused on keeping their perquisites, 2. An intransigent and over-compensated employee union, and 3. Failed public relations and planning departments that discourage and alienate many patrons, resulting in reduced ridership (down 15% on trains and 31% on buses since 2001).

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@Marketing Messages EXCELLENT comments!

But with how much of a political disaster the T-SPLOST turned out to be, there very likely is no next time for the regional referendum approach to transportation funding.

As you alluded to, we will chip away at Metro Atlanta's problems, but the way that we chip away at those transportation-related problems is much more likely to be with the very-gradual introduction and expansion of congestion pricing, user fees and private financing than it is to be with convoluted transportation referendums.

You are also very unlikely to hear much from the powers-that-be (particularly politicians in the State Legislature, Governor Nathan Deal who is running for re-election in 2014, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed who is running for re-election and wants to run for Governor in 2018, etc) because no one in political power wants to go back and hash-up and openly examine under a very-public microscope one of the biggest political failures/debacles in Georgia political history.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Marketing Messages EXCELLENT comments! But with how much of a political disaster the T-SPLOST turned out to be, there very likely is no next time for the regional referendum approach to transportation funding. As you alluded to, we will chip away at Metro Atlanta's problems, but the way that we chip away at those transportation-related problems is much more likely to be with the very-gradual introduction and expansion of congestion pricing, user fees and private financing than it is to be with convoluted transportation referendums. You are also very unlikely to hear much from the powers-that-be (particularly politicians in the State Legislature, Governor Nathan Deal who is running for re-election in 2014, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed who is running for re-election and wants to run for Governor in 2018, etc) because no one in political power wants to go back and hash-up and openly examine under a very-public microscope one of the biggest political failures/debacles in Georgia political history.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@ScottNAtlanta You make some very good points.

But even though many observers are of the belief that holding the vote in November might have helped the referendum to perform much better if not pass, I'm of the belief that holding the vote in November possibly could have made things even worse and here's why, two words: NORTHERN ARC.

One of the main reasons why the Sierra Club opposed the referendum was because the T-SPLOST would have funded a road construction project in Gwinnett County that many people around the region and throughout North Georgia thought was a resurrection of the very-unpopular erstwhile Northern Arc, which the State of Georgia cancelled a decade ago due to intense public opposition to the project.

The project in question, the Gwinnett County government-commissioned extension of Sugarloaf Parkway from GA 316 in Dacula to Peachtree Industrial Blvd in Sugar Hill, was not actually a resurrection of the unpopular and much-hated Northern Arc, but because it was proposed to be constructed in the right-of-way of the cancelled Northern Arc (which Gwinnett County had mostly kept free of development for the purpose of one day building a local connector road through the Mall of Georgia area between Dacula and Sugar Hill), a growing number of people around the region thought that the road was indeed a resurrection of the much-hated erstwhile Northern Arc.

Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, even wrote an article right here in the Saporta Report about this particular project that many including the Sierra Club, the NAACP, South Metro Atlanta residents and even Gwinnett County residents, Cherokee County residents, North Metro suburban Atlanta residents and North Georgia residents thought was a resurrection of the Northern Arc with T-SPLOST funding.

http://saportareport.com/blog/2011/10/metro-atlanta-turning-winning-season-for-transit-into-a-losing-one/

Just the presence of this one controversial road project alone that a growing number of voters thought was a resurrection of a very-unpopular Northern Arc highway from a decade ago was enough to send an already very-negative public opinion of the T-SPLOST spiraling even further out-of-control.

At least with the referendum being held on July 31st, the transportation policy debacle was ended early and not allowed to carry on for 3 more months.

Also, at the time that the State Legislature commissioned the 2012 T-SPLOST referendum back in 2010, the outgoing Sonny Perdue was (obviously for good reason) concerned about his legacy as governor and wanted to pass something so that he would not be regarded as a total failure on transportation (something that in the aftermath of the overwhelming failure of the T-SPLOST now looks to be the case).

So in a last-ditch attempt to avoid being regarded as a total and complete failure on transportation and going down in history as one of Georgia's worst-ever governors, Sonny Perdue pushed for the legislature (a legislature with whom he had very-poor relations, a legislature that itself would teeter on the verge of a total meltdown in one way or another for at least 2 more years) to pass something, anything on transportation as an attempt to savage his legacy.

With the piss-poor way that the referendum was poorly thought-out and put together and with the State Legislature's historical hostility to any transportation solution that does not involve laying down new pavement (preferably in rural areas of the state), it is completely understandable why you and many others would think that the legislature designed the referendum to fail.

But the State Legislature did not intentionally design the T-SPLOST referendum to fail. 

The State Legislature unintentionally designed the T-SPLOST to fail basically because as a group they were a bunch of highly-dysfunctional morons who wanted the public, the media and the business community to leave them alone so that they could go back to chasing lobbyist money and gifts without the public pestering them to do something about traffic.

So they slapped something together and passed it and declared that something big had been done about transportation so that their perennial pursuit of sex, money and power would never again have to be interrupted by people demanding they do they their jobs.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

ScottNAtlanta You make some very good points. But even though many observers are of the belief that holding the vote in November might have helped the referendum to perform much better if not pass, I'm of the belief that holding the vote in November possibly could have made things even worse and here's why, two words: NORTHERN ARC. One of the main reasons why the Sierra Club opposed the referendum was because the T-SPLOST would have funded a road construction project in Gwinnett County that many people around the region and throughout North Georgia thought was a resurrection of the very-unpopular erstwhile Northern Arc, which the State of Georgia cancelled a decade ago due to intense public opposition to the project. The project in question, the Gwinnett County government-commissioned extension of Sugarloaf Parkway from GA 316 in Dacula to Peachtree Industrial Blvd in Sugar Hill, was not actually a resurrection of the unpopular and much-hated Northern Arc, but because it was proposed to be constructed in the right-of-way of the cancelled Northern Arc (which Gwinnett County had mostly kept free of development for the purpose of one day building a local connector road through the Mall of Georgia area between Dacula and Sugar Hill), a growing number of people around the region thought that the road was indeed a resurrection of the much-hated erstwhile Northern Arc. Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, even wrote an article right here in the Saporta Report about this particular project that many including the Sierra Club, the NAACP, South Metro Atlanta residents and even Gwinnett County residents, Cherokee County residents, North Metro suburban Atlanta residents and North Georgia residents thought was a resurrection of the Northern Arc with T-SPLOST funding. http://saportareport.com/blog/2011/10/metro-atlanta-turning-winning-season-for-transit-into-a-losing-one/ Just the presence of this one controversial road project alone that a growing number of voters thought was a resurrection of a very-unpopular Northern Arc highway from a decade ago was enough to send an already very-negative public opinion of the T-SPLOST spiraling even further out-of-control. At least with the referendum being held on July 31st, the transportation policy debacle was ended early and not allowed to carry on for 3 more months. Also, at the time that the State Legislature commissioned the 2012 T-SPLOST referendum back in 2010, the outgoing Sonny Perdue was (obviously for good reason) concerned about his legacy as governor and wanted to pass something so that he would not be regarded as a total failure on transportation (something that in the aftermath of the overwhelming failure of the T-SPLOST now looks to be the case). So in a last-ditch attempt to avoid being regarded as a total and complete failure on transportation and going down in history as one of Georgia's worst-ever governors, Sonny Perdue pushed for the legislature (a legislature with whom he had very-poor relations, a legislature that itself would teeter on the verge of a total meltdown in one way or another for at least 2 more years) to pass something, anything on transportation as an attempt to savage his legacy. With the piss-poor way that the referendum was poorly thought-out and put together and with the State Legislature's historical hostility to anything transportation solution that does not involve laying down new pavement, it is completely understandable why you and many others would think that the legislature designed the referendum to fail. But the State Legislature did not intentionally design the T-SPLOST referendum to fail.  The State Legislature unintentionally designed the T-SPLOST to fail basically because as a group they were a bunch of highly-dysfunctional morons who wanted the public, the media and the business community to leave them alone so that they could go back to chasing lobbyist money and gifts without the public pestering them to do something about traffic. So they slapped something together and passed it and declared that something big had been done about transportation so that their perennial pursuit of sex, money and power would never again have to be interrupted by people demanding they do they their jobs.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@AtlantaAnnie {{"Let the record show that most large urban regions that are "ahead" of us in transportation had to go through multiple voter referenda (including failures) before they reached their ultimate successful effort."}}

...That is true, but most of the areas where the voter referendum-approach to transportation-funding have ultimately been successful have been west of the Mississippi River in large urban regions where the winning referendum was held mostly in one or maybe 2 or 3 counties at the absolute most.

If a metro region has a transportation issue where MORE than only one, two or three counties are affected (not to mention 10, 20, 30 counties as is the case in the Greater Metro Atlanta which stretches over an area of roughly 30 counties in North Georgia), state government is usually involved, NOT by way of voter referendum, but with actually funding and oversight of a large metro regional network of streetcars, buses, heavy rail transit, commuter rail transit, and multiple user fee-funded/toll roads (as is the case in multiple large urban regions in the Eastern U.S. where the referendum approach to transportation funding is not popular because funding of multimodal transportation options is NOT optional in large highly-populated road infrastructure-challenged Eastern urban regions like Philadelphia, Washington-Baltimore, Boston, Chicago and ESPECIALLY, New York-New Jersey-Connecticut.

{{"Our region appears to be so discombobulated that we figure we are going to give up after the first major setback!"}}

...The problem is not necessarily that the Atlanta region is discombobulated, the problem is that 10 metro counties is entirely too many counties to involve in transportation funding referendums that work best when only ONE highly-populated urban county with one transportation agenda is involved, NOT 10 highly-populated metro counties with 10 differing transportation agendas.

And it is not the Atlanta region that is going to give up after one very-major setback, it is the wayward Georgia State Legislature that is going to give up after the public overwhelmingly rejected the referendum approach to transportation funding that the Georgia State Legislature hastily commissioned apparently without much nuanced thought or consideration of what they were setting in motion.

After the overwhelming rejection of the referendum approach to transportation funding by an angry public, the State Legislature, for its own political good, is highly-unlikely to ever again commission a series of or even one regional transportation referendum.

It MIGHT be different if the transportation referendum had failed by only 1 or 2 points, but the failure of the transportation referendum by nearly 25 percentage points (with much doubt by many of those in the minority who voted yes) makes it crystal clear that the regional referendum approach to transportation funding is clearly not compatible with or appropriate for the unique political climate in the Atlanta region and the state of Georgia.

There are many ways to fund transportation needs, a severely-flawed and poorly thought-out regional referendum with entirely too many counties is NOT one of them.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

AtlantaAnnie {{"Let the record show that most large urban regions that are "ahead" of us in transportation had to go through multiple voter referenda (including failures) before they reached their ultimate successful effort."}} ...That is true, but most of the areas where the voter referendum-approach to transportation-funding have ultimately been successful have been west of the Mississippi River in large urban regions where the winning referendum was held mostly in one or maybe 2 or 3 counties at the absolute most. If a metro region has a transportation issue where MORE than only one, two or three counties are affected (not to mention 10, 20, 30 counties as is the case in the Greater Metro Atlanta which stretches over an area of roughly 30 counties in North Georgia), state government is usually involved, NOT by way of voter referendum, but with actually funding and oversight of a large metro regional network of streetcars, buses, heavy rail transit, commuter rail transit, and multiple user fee-funded/toll roads (as is the case in multiple large urban regions in the Eastern U.S. where the referendum approach to transportation funding is not popular because funding of multimodal transportation options is NOT optional in large highly-populated road infrastructure-challenged Eastern urban regions like Philadelphia, Washington-Baltimore, Boston, Chicago and ESPECIALLY, New York-New Jersey-Connecticut. {{"Our region appears to be so discombobulated that we figure we are going to give up after the first major setback!"}} ...The problem is not necessarily that the Atlanta region is discombobulated, the problem is that 10 metro counties is entirely too many counties to involve in transportation funding referendums that work best when only ONE highly-populated urban county with one transportation agenda is involved, NOT 10 highly-populated metro counties with 10 differing transportation agendas. And it is not the Atlanta region that is going to give up after one very-major setback, it is the wayward Georgia State Legislature that is going to give up after the public overwhelmingly rejected the referendum approach to transportation funding that the Georgia State Legislature hastily commissioned apparently without much nuanced thought or consideration of what they were setting in motion. After the overwhelming rejection of the referendum approach to transportation funding by an angry public, the State Legislature, for its own political good, is highly-unlikely to ever again commission a series of or even one regional transportation referendum. It MIGHT be different if the transportation referendum had failed by only 1 or 2 points, but the failure of the transportation referendum by nearly 25 percentage points (with much doubt by many of those in the minority who voted yes) makes it crystal clear that the regional referendum approach to transportation funding is clearly not compatible with or appropriate for the unique political climate in the Atlanta region and the state of Georgia. There are many ways to fund transportation needs, a severely-flawed and poorly thought-out regional referendum with entirely too many counties is NOT one of them.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

@Native Atlanta Boy  

First of the plethora of misinformation you spew is that projects would not start for 20 years.  As I recall, the tax only lasted for 10 years so that is blatantly false.  The CID contribution to the 400/285 interchange is less than 1%.  Also, as I recall, the tolls are coming down on GA400 quite soon so it would be hard to see it funding 285/400 unless you are saying the tolls should continue, and the 85/400 interchange money was allocated previous to the vote and was not included in the list of projects.  You advocate for Tax Allocation Districts (TADS) , and then malign the Beltline for doing just that.  Just screaming "no new taxes" isnt going to cut it if a reasonable plan is put forward.  Also, because you say/hear it...doesnt make it true

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@Native Atlanta Boy You also make a good point about MARTA having access to more financial resources than may be apparent as MARTA has substantial land holdings around many of its transit stations that it could (and should have) been leasing-out to private interests for the construction of revenue-producing mixed-use transit-oriented development like has been the case around the Lindbergh MARTA Station.

MARTA also could have (and should have) been taking in far more in operational revenues over the years if the transit agency had utilized a inflation-indexed distance-based fare structure instead of utilizing a flat-rate fare structure and intentionally depressing that flat-rate fare structure while demanding increased funding from a state government that already vastly underfunds the road network.

MARTA's peer transit agency, Northern California's BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) funds 78% of its operating costs with a combination distance-based/zone-based fare structure that charges as much as $11.05 for a one-way ride of nearly 50 miles between the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station in the Sacramento River Delta area of the East Bay region and San Francisco International Airport.

{{"Fare-paying customers account for 78% of the operating funds in the FY13 budget. The second largest source of operating revenue, dedicated money from sales taxes, is expected to increase by 5%."}}

http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2012/news20120614a.aspx

JB
JB

@Native Atlanta Boy The Atlanta region didn't get much in the way of competitive stimulus dollars (TIGER grants, etc.) because as a region it doesn't have its act together.

Schools do NOT get enough money. Unless you consider 48th in the nation for graduation rates and SAT scores "success." Look to the North - higher taxes, better results. You get what you pay for (or don't pay for).

Developers are not going to fund roads if they do not get something in return - private roads are not any cheaper for the public because they have to turn a profit somehow.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@Native Atlanta Boy Good comments, but don't ask me where the Obama stimulus money went because I'm a political Independent.  The word "Democrat" is only part of my screen name, NOT my political affiliation.

Otherwise, I completely agree that there are other ways to raise funding for transportation improvements other than simply raising taxes...Other ways like user fees (tolls on major roads and adequately-priced distance-based and zone-based fares on bus and rail transit, private financing, etc).

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Native Atlanta Boy   First of the plethora of misinformation you spew is that projects would not start for 20 years.  As I recall, the tax only lasted for 10 years so that is blatantly false.  The CID contribution to the 400/285 interchange is less than 1%.  Also, as I recall, the tolls are coming down on GA400 quite soon so it would be hard to see it funding 285/400 unless you are saying the tolls should continue, and the 85/400 interchange money was allocated previous to the vote and was not included in the list of projects.  You advocate for Tax Allocation Districts (TADS) , and then malign the Beltline for doing just that.  Just screaming "no new taxes" isnt going to cut it if a reasonable plan is put forward.  Also, because you say/hear it...doesnt make it true

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Native Atlanta Boy You also make a good point about MARTA having access to more financial resources than may be apparent as MARTA has substantial land holdings around many of its transit stations that it could (and should have) been leasing-out to private interests for the construction of revenue-producing mixed-use transit-oriented development like has been the case around the Lindbergh MARTA Station. MARTA also could have (and should have) been taking in far more in operational revenues over the years if the transit agency had utilized a inflation-indexed distance-based fare structure instead of utilizing a flat-rate fare structure and intentionally depressing that flat-rate fare structure while demanding increased funding from a state government that already vastly underfunds the road network. MARTA's peer transit agency, Northern California's BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) funds 78% of its operating costs with a combination distance-based/zone-based fare structure that charges as much as $11.05 for a one-way ride of nearly 50 miles between the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station in the Sacramento River Delta area of the East Bay region and San Francisco International Airport. {{"Fare-paying customers account for 78% of the operating funds in the FY13 budget. The second largest source of operating revenue, dedicated money from sales taxes, is expected to increase by 5%."}} http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2012/news20120614a.aspx

JB
JB

Native Atlanta Boy The Atlanta region didn't get much in the way of competitive stimulus dollars (TIGER grants, etc.) because as a region it doesn't have its act together. Schools do NOT get enough money. Unless you consider 48th in the nation for graduation rates and SAT scores "success." Look to the North - higher taxes, better results. You get what you pay for (or don't pay for). Developers are not going to fund roads if they do not get something in return - private roads are not any cheaper for the public because they have to turn a profit somehow.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Native Atlanta Boy Good comments, but don't ask me where the Obama stimulus money went because I'm a political Independent.  The word "Democrat" is only part of my screen name, NOT my political affiliation. Otherwise, I completely agree that there are other ways to raise funding for transportation improvements other than simply raising taxes...Other ways like user fees (tolls on major roads and adequately-priced distance-based and zone-based fares on bus and rail transit, private financing, etc).

Wishing for Milton County
Wishing for Milton County

@MandoTrey  Can I ask you and others a question - It is hypothetical - How are you going to get a transit rail line that runs from Norcross (Technology Park) to Alpharetta / Roswell (Northpoint Parkway to Marietta (Platinum Triangle). All large office / economic complexes. Many employers, jobs, both direct & ancillary. 

There are no historic railroad right of ways.  No space to put the lines.  

To have someone travel all the way to Limburgh to catch a North Springs train, then a bus that runs up NorthPoint Pkwy is not a real option.  Same holds to go down to a MARTA station to catch a Cobb Transit bus.  Or reverse the route and try to travel to Technology Park in Norcross.

People have to travel by car, van, car pool something to travel from where they live to the jobs at the three mentioned mega office parks.  And there are dozens of office parks ringing Atlanta.

We have had millions of dollars wasted trying to prop up MARTA.  Economic development along the lines has been weak.  BellSouth was politically brow beat to build at Limburgh.  No development on any of the west line, save the GWCC, DOME, Phillips Arena (all government).  Nothing really on the southside or downtown.  Underground has floundered and it is next door to MARTA's CROWN - Five Points.

So MARTA has really no economic draw.  Political correctness & necessity yes, economics, no.

So why would anyone want to tax taxpayer money from around the REGION and spend it on Beltline (Atlanta), Streetcars (Atlanta), and many of the Atlanta centric projects. I WILL TELL YOU - Politicians, because it is politically correct to bow the Atlanta's desire.  All politicians must bow to Atlanta.  Hail Atlanta!!!

Well T-SPLOT was a cold slap of reality.  Atlanta is but one piece in the metro puzzle.  A big piece to be sure, but just one.  Atlanta must sit down with all the other pieces and work out a plan that benefits the REGION not a PIECE.  And Atlanta doesn't like it.  Know how I know.

Because Atlanta can't even agree on how to divide the sales tax revenues with the 13 other cities in Fulton County.  It is currently based on population.  Atlanta has not grown that much.  Roswell has.  Roswell wants it fair share.  Atlanta disagrees.  Roswell and others are suing.  Guess who set up the formula to divide the sale tax revenue - ATLANTA!  Guess who complained the last time - Atlanta. Guess who lost in court - Atlanta.

Atlanta is not a "REGIONAL" player.  Atlanta wants to play with the "REGIONS" money!  Ain't gonna happen!!!

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@MandoTrey Those are excellent points, as the Atlanta region most definitely needs a much larger and much more consistent revenue funding stream for transit, particularly for an upgraded and expanded rail-anchored transit network over the long-term.

But the critical importance of funding bus transit upgrades and expansions should not and cannot be discounted.

That's because upgrading and expanding bus transit in the immediate and near-term builds ridership and sets the stage for rail transit expansion in the long-term, particularly in the dominant but highly-populated and congestion-plagued suburbs outside of I-285 where there is a severe need for transit to be expanded but not necessarily the most intense want for transit to be expanded from the most-dominant quarters.

Selectively expanding bus transit (WITH GREAT CARE) in these traditionally transit-averse areas outside of I-285 can make transit use increasingly more politically, socially and culturally acceptable there and set the stage for rail transit expansion into those areas at a future date when it becomes politically, socially and culturally feasible in those areas.  

Buses can play a very-important role in making use of public transit much more acceptable in outlying areas where use of public transit has traditionally been frowned on and looked down upon with great derision.

AtlantaAnnie
AtlantaAnnie

@The Last Democrat in Georgia @AtlantaAnnie 

Interesting points, but our "institutional infrastructure" has been based on the 10 ARC counties for many years - none of what you stated is new or should have been news to our so-called regional leaders.  Pointing the finger at a bunch of do-nothing state legislators is not new either....regions that are on the upswing DO NOT wait for the dawn to break over their State House...what I'm saying is we keep trying the same old things led by the same old people with the same old perspectives and we're getting nowhere fast.....time for some re-thinking of our processes, institutions, and leaders.......

AtlantaAnnie
AtlantaAnnie

The Last Democrat in Georgia AtlantaAnnie  Interesting points, but our "institutional infrastructure" has been based on the 10 ARC counties for many years - none of what you stated is new or should have been news to our so-called regional leaders.  Pointing the finger at a bunch of do-nothing state legislators is not new either....regions that are on the upswing DO NOT wait for the dawn to break over their State House...what I'm saying is we keep trying the same old things led by the same old people with the same old perspectives and we're getting nowhere fast.....time for some re-thinking of our processes, institutions, and leaders.......

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@Native Atlanta Boy The 78% of operating costs that a prospering BART covers with a much more adequately-priced combination distance-based/zone-based fare structure that automatically rises with inflation (so that fare revenues always cover close to 80% of operating costs) is in contrast to a severely financially-struggling MARTA which only covers about 30% of its operating costs with a depressed flat-rate fare structure that does not keep up with inflation.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@JB @Native Atlanta Boy Those are good points, particularly the point you made about school funding.

You also make a good point about developers not funding roads unless they get something in return in the form of profits.

But there are many cases where private developers will agree and have agreed to fund improvements to public roads in the immediate area of their developments so that people can get to and from their developments and they can make a profit.

There are also cases where private interests are funding public roads (through public-private partnerships) by term-leasing major roads from the public.

Examples:  In 2004, Cintra-Macquarie, a Spanish-Australian transportation consortium, paid $1.8 billion to lease the 7.8 mile-long Chicago Skyway from the City of Chicago for 99 years. 

In 2006, Cintra-Macquarie also paid $3.8 billion to lease the 157 mile-long Indiana Toll Road from the State of Indiana for 75 years.

In exchange for getting to keep all toll revenues and set toll rates as they please, Cintra-Macquarie is responsible for all design, construction, operational and maintenance costs.

You make a good point that private roads are not any cheaper for the public because private roads have to turn a profit somehow.

But public roads are really not necessarily that cheap either as much of the costs of public roads has been and continues to be financed with extremely-heavy borrowing, particularly by federal and state government.

Federal and state government has had to finance road construction with heavy borrowing because they have refused to raise fuel taxes to keep pace with inflation of construction and maintenance costs pretty much employing the same per-gallon fuel tax rates that were employed 40 years ago when the population was much less, the economy was much smaller, there were a lot fewer drivers and much less transportation needs than today.

Like private roads, public roads are not necessarily cheap either, its just that the government has been hiding the TRUE COST of what it actually takes to design, build, operate and maintain those roads by not collecting enough in user fees as a means of attempting to keep voters happy (the old "Something for Nothing" political trick...make voters think that they're getting something for nothing and they'll keep voting for you and your party).

Heck, the State of Georgia by way of the Georgia Department of Transportation has so much in debt service payments on past debt (mainly on former Governor Sonny Perdue's $15.5 billion Fast Forward mostly-rural transportation initiative from the mid-2000's) that it is threatening to eat the state's entire transportation budget alive.

That's because the State of Georgia collects far too little in fuel tax revenues (and user fees, etc) to fund the growing transportation needs of a centrally-located fast-growing state of 10 million people.

Collecting far too little in fuel tax revenues is something that the State of Georgia has done throughout most of its existence, particularly during the post-World War II era during a time when the state has experienced exponentially explosive population growth.

Georgia has always been behind in transportation funding during the post-World War II era, particularly when it comes to funding transportation needs in and around the state's largest and fastest-growing metro region of Atlanta (the money to reconstruct Metro Atlanta's freeway system in the 1980's came from the Feds in exchange for the State of Georgia agreeing to install HOV-2 carpool lanes on the reconstructed freeways at a later date).

The lack of adequate transportation funding in the Metro Atlanta region has become even more apparent now that Greater Atlanta's regional population has eclipsed the 6 million mark and there seems to be a dramatically decreasing amount of space for automobiles on the roadways.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Native Atlanta Boy The 78% of operating costs that a prospering BART covers with a much more adequately-priced combination distance-based/zone-based fare structure that automatically rises with inflation (so that fare revenues always cover close to 80% of operating costs) is in contrast to a severely financially-struggling MARTA which only covers about 30% of its operating costs with a depressed flat-rate fare structure that does not keep up with inflation.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@JB Native Atlanta Boy Those are good points, particularly the point you made about school funding. You also make a good point about developers not funding roads unless they get something in return in the form of profits. But there are many cases where private developers will agree and have agreed to fund improvements to public roads in the immediate area of their developments so that people can get to and from their developments and they can make a profit. There are also cases where private interests are funding public roads (through public-private partnerships) by term-leasing major roads from the public. Examples:  In 2004, Cintra-Macquarie, a Spanish-Australian transportation consortium, paid $1.8 billion to lease the 7.8 mile-long Chicago Skyway from the City of Chicago for 99 years.  In 2006, Cintra-Macquarie also paid $3.8 billion to lease the 157 mile-long Indiana Toll Road from the State of Indiana for 75 years. In exchange for getting to keep all toll revenues and set toll rates as they please, Cintra-Macquarie is responsible for all design, construction, operational and maintenance costs. You make a good point that private roads are not any cheaper for the public because private roads have to turn a profit somehow. But public roads are really not necessarily that cheap either as much of the costs of public roads has been and continues to be financed with extremely-heavy borrowing, particularly by federal and state government. Federal and state government has had to finance road construction with heavy borrowing because they have refused to raise fuel taxes to keep pace with inflation of construction and maintenance costs pretty much employing the same per-gallon fuel tax rates that were employed 40 years ago when the population was much less, the economy was much smaller, there were a lot fewer drivers and much less transportation needs than today. Like private roads, public roads are not necessarily cheap either, its just that the government has been hiding the TRUE COST of what it actually takes to design, build, operate and maintain those roads by not collecting enough in user fees as a means of attempting to keep voters happy (the old "Something for Nothing" political trick...make voters think that they're getting something for nothing and they'll keep voting for you and your party). Heck, the State of Georgia by way of the Georgia Department of Transportation has so much in debt service payments on past debt (mainly on former Governor Sonny Perdue's $15.5 billion Fast Forward mostly-rural transportation initiative from the mid-2000's) that it is threatening to eat the state's entire transportation budget alive. That's because the State of Georgia collects far too little in fuel tax revenues (and user fees, etc) to fund the growing transportation needs of a centrally-located fast-growing state of 10 million people. Collecting far too little in fuel tax revenues is something that the State of Georgia has done throughout most of its existence, particularly during the post-World War II era during a time when the state has experienced exponentially explosive population growth. Georgia has always been behind in transportation funding during the post-World War II era, particularly when it comes to funding transportation needs in and around the state's largest and fastest-growing metro region of Atlanta (the money to reconstruct Metro Atlanta's freeway system in the 1980's came from the Feds in exchange for the State of Georgia agreeing to install HOV-2 carpool lanes on the reconstructed freeways at a later date). The lack of adequate transportation funding in the Metro Atlanta region has become even more apparent now that Greater Atlanta's regional population has eclipsed the 6 million mark and there seems to be a dramatically decreasing amount of space for automobiles on the roadways.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@Wish for MIlton County @MandoTrey If one wanted to get from either the Windward Parkway/GA 400 or North Point Mall areas they would board a local circulating bus shuttle or a local vanpool shuttle directly out in front or near their originating location at a local business and ride to a train/bus station either at Windward Parkway & GA 400 or in the North Point Mall area where they would transfer to a southbound GA 400 heavy rail train.

One would ride that GA 400 Southbound heavy rail train down to a station in the Perimeter Center area (at either Perimeter Mall or Pill Hill) where they would exit the train and transfer to a westbound I-285 heavy rail train that would take them to the Cumberland/Galleria area where one would exit the train and transfer to a local circulating shuttle bus or local vanpool shuttle that would take them very-near or to their final destination.

The State of Georgia actually has long-term plans to construct and implement a rail transit across the I-285 Top End Perimeter corridor between the Cumberland Mall/Galleria area and the Doraville MARTA Station.

The current plans (which are completely unfunded and inactive) call for either bus rapid transit or light rail transit to implemented on a new transit right-of-way (that has yet to be secured or purchased) between Cumberland Mall and Doraville MARTA Station.

But with further large-scale widening or expansion of I-285 being somewhat unlikely and maybe even impossible at this point because of heavy existing development that sits close to a right-of-way that is lined with thickly-wooded tree buffers whose destruction the politically-powerful young cities of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody might object heavily to, it seems highly-likely that the proposed transit line across the Top End I-285 Perimeter will likely be upgraded to a heavy rail transit line over the long-term because of the inability to further expand the I-285 roadway on a large-scale.

The lack of a high-capacity rail transit line along the severely heavily-congested I-285 Top End Perimeter between Cobb County and Gwinnett County on the project list was one reason (of many) that often and repeatedly came up as to why Northside voters did not support the T-SPLOST.

Here is a link to a page that describes plans for proposed transit stations along the proposed I-285 Top End Perimeter rail transit line in detail as part of the currently unfunded and inactive revive285 plans to expand the Top End of the I-285 Perimeter in some way, shape or form:

http://www.revive285.com/f/TSPSAInfoSheets.pdf

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@Wish for MIlton County

@MandoTrey

{{{"Can I ask you and others a question - It is hypothetical - How are you going to get a transit rail line that runs from Norcross (Technology Park) to Alpharetta / Roswell (Northpoint Parkway to Marietta (Platinum Triangle). All large office / economic complexes. Many employers, jobs, both direct & ancillary. 

There are no historic railroad right of ways.  No space to put the lines.  

To have someone travel all the way to Limburgh to catch a North Springs train, then a bus that runs up NorthPoint Pkwy is not a real option.  Same holds to go down to a MARTA station to catch a Cobb Transit bus.  Or reverse the route and try to travel to Technology Park in Norcross.

People have to travel by car, van, car pool something to travel from where they live to the jobs at the three mentioned mega office parks.  And there are dozens of office parks ringing Atlanta."}}}

...That is an excellent question and an excellent point asking how one would get from the Technology Park area of Norcross to the emerging employment center in the North Point Parkway area of Alpharetta/North Fulton to the Platinum Triangle/Cumberland/Galleria area on transit.

Under a much-improved transportation scheme where all forms of transportation (bus transit, rail transit and roads) are improved between those 3 large regional employment centers, if one wanted to get from the Technology Park area of Norcross to the Platinum Triangle area on transit, one would:

Board either a bus (as part of the much-improved bus service that ran down GA Hwy 141 from the Cumming area) or make use of a vanpool or local circulating shuttle service that would feed into an underground multimodal transit station (that was located under a mixed-use transit-oriented development that would help subsidize the transit line it is located on with revenues from real estate leases and excess property taxes only on that one building that were dedicated to transit) in or near the historic village area in Downtown Norcross on a high-capacity rail transit line (likely a heavy rail transit line) that ran roughly between Downtown Gainesville in the I-85/I-985 NE corridor and Downtown Cartersville in the I-75 NW corridor;

After exiting the GA 141 bus or Technology Park area circulating shuttle at the underground multimodal transit station in historic Downtown Norcross one would transfer to a heavy rail train headed from an origination point in Downtown Gainesville and headed towards a final destination of Downtown Cartersville by way of a combination above-grade (elevated)/below-grade heavy rail line that follows across the I-285 Top End Perimeter corridor.

The portion of the line that ran along the I-285 Top End Perimeter area would stations in Doraville (near the current Doraville MARTA Station), Dunwoody, Perimeter Center, Northside/St. Joseph/Scottish Rite Hospitals (Pill Hill), near Downtown Sandy Springs, Northside Drive/Powers Ferry Road area and in the Cumberland/Galleria area.

It is in the Cumberland/Galleria area where one would exit the Gainesville-Cartersville I-285 Top End Perimeter heavy rail train and transfer to a local circulating bus shuttle or vanpool that served the Cumberland/Galleria business district.

If one wanted to get from the Technology Park area of Norcross to the North Point Mall or Windward Parkway areas of Alpharetta, they would board a local vanpool or local circulating bus shuttle in Technology Park and ride to a stop on GA Hwy 140 where they would transfer to a westbound bus on a GA 140/Holcomb Bridge Road bus rapid transit-like bus line that they would ride over to a multimodal transportation station near the junction of GA Hwy 140 Holcomb Bridge Road and GA Hwy 400.

It is here at the multimodal station at GA 140 & GA 400 where one would transfer to a northbound heavy rail train located within (likely elevated over) the GA 400 right-of-way headed towards Cumming and take that northbound train to either a stop at North Point Mall or a stop at Windward Parkway where one would transfer to either a local circulating bus shuttle or a local circulating vanpool shuttle that connected people with local stops at businesses and the regional train/bus station.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

@AtlantaAnnie

"what I'm saying is we keep trying the same old things led by the same old people with the same old perspectives and we're getting nowhere fast.....time for some re-thinking of our processes, institutions, and leaders"

I couldn't agree more. Our existing institutions and leaders are too content in their comfortable berths, and are more focused on keeping their berths than they are in progress. But, Sam Williams' retirement is a hopeful sign. Now, if the City voters would oust Hizzoner...

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

AtlantaAnnie "what I'm saying is we keep trying the same old things led by the same old people with the same old perspectives and we're getting nowhere fast.....time for some re-thinking of our processes, institutions, and leaders" I couldn't agree more. Our existing institutions and leaders are too content in their comfortable berths, and are more focused on keeping their berths than they are in progress.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@ScottNAtlanta @The Last Democrat in Georgia @Native Atlanta Boy Those are excellent points.

I agree that Governor Deal was right to back the state out of a long-term lease deal on the I-75 toll lanes due to the non-compete clause that would financially penalized the state for making improvements to parallel routes like US Hwy 41 (Cobb Parkway) and the state-owned Western & Atlantic Railroad where passenger trains are likely slated to run someday.

Your comments underscore the need to properly apply long-term lease agreements with care on the proper modes, preferably on multiple parallel transportation modes (like on all lanes of Interstates 75 & 575, US Hwy 41, high-capacity passenger rail service within the W&A Railroad right-of-way, bus/shuttle service in Cobb and Cherokee counties as opposed to only applying a term-lease agreement with a non-compete clause to a couple of reversible toll lanes on I-75).

The State of Texas is slowly moving forward with a "supercorridor" concept where parallel existing roads (freeway and surface road), future toll roads, future high-speed intercity passenger rail lines and adjoining high-profile real estate assets are term leased-out to a private investor/operator as a means of paying for large-scale multi-modal transportation improvements that the state likely would not be able to pay for otherwise.

Why should the state only get improvements in the form of a couple of reversible tolled lanes when the state can get improvements to so much more in the form of tolled carpool lanes, general purpose lanes, parallel surface routes, local and express bus service and passenger rail service on existing rail right-of-ways?

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

@The Last Democrat in Georgia @Native Atlanta Boy  

The only problem I have with these agreements is "non-compete" clauses that say the state cannot build out any new transit alternatives that might be seen as competing  with the tollway in question.  I know this has become an issue in Indiana, but not sure about CHI.  It was a major reason for delay on the I-75 toll lanes.  Gov Deal rightly refused due to such a clause being added by developers

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

ScottNAtlanta The Last Democrat in Georgia Native Atlanta Boy Those are excellent points. I agree that Governor Deal was right to back the state out of a long-term lease deal on the I-75 toll lanes due to the non-compete clause that would financially penalized the state for making improvements to parallel routes like US Hwy 41 (Cobb Parkway) and the state-owned Western & Atlantic Railroad where passenger trains are likely slated to run someday. Your comments underscore the need to properly apply long-term lease agreements with care on the proper modes, preferably on multiple parallel transportation modes (like on all lanes of Interstates 75 & 575, US Hwy 41, high-capacity passenger rail service within the W&A Railroad right-of-way, bus/shuttle service in Cobb and Cherokee counties as opposed to only applying a term-lease agreement with a non-compete clause to a couple of reversible toll lanes on I-75). The State of Texas is slowly moving forward with a "supercorridor" concept where parallel existing roads (freeway and surface road), future toll roads, future high-speed intercity passenger rail lines and adjoining high-profile real estate assets are term leased-out to a private investor/operator as a means of paying for large-scale multi-modal transportation improvements that the state likely would not be able to pay for otherwise. Why should the state only get improvements in the form of a couple of reversible tolled lanes when the state can get improvements to so much more in the form of tolled carpool lanes, general purpose lanes, parallel surface routes, local and express bus service and passenger rail service on existing rail right-of-ways?

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

The Last Democrat in Georgia Native Atlanta Boy   The only problem I have with these agreements is "non-compete" clauses that say the state cannot build out any new transit alternatives that might be seen as competing  with the tollway in question.  I know this has become an issue in Indiana, but not sure about CHI.  It was a major reason for delay on the I-75 toll lanes.  Gov Deal rightly refused due to such a clause being added by developers