Here’s something we can all agree on: Atlanta’s traffic problem is slowing us down. It slows us down on the job, since for most commuters time on the road is not time on the job. And it slows us down at home, leaving less time for family, kids and the comforts of home.
A just-completed study by the Atlanta Regional Commission shows that the July 31 referendum for a one-penny sales levy will not only unclog our roads but will pump life into our region’s economy and afford us more time at work, at home and with family.
According to the ARC study, traffic congestion is costing the average metro Atlanta commuter $924 a year. If the 157 projects on the July 31 sales levy are built, commuters will save $9.2 billion by 2040.
Traffic snarls are also expensive in lost time and wasted fuel. If the projects are completed, the ARC’s independent economists found, incomes across metro Atlanta would rise by $18 billion.
The study also points to significant jobs gains if the levy is approved. Investing $8.5 billion in transportation improvements that free up traffic throughout the region will create 200,000 new jobs, according to the economists, including jobs that are maintained year over year. That’s more than 7,000 jobs a year between 2013 and 2040 – and more than two-thirds of them are mid- to high-wage jobs.
Overall, the economists found that by building the projects on the July 31 referendum, the region would realize a $34.8 billion return on an $8.5 billion investment. But that speaks to only half of the equation. Commuters will also have more time for home and family, more productive hours at work – and a region that is far more attractive to job-seekers and jobs-producers.
The Georgia General Assembly gave voters the opportunity to invest in transportation because they know that funding levels have dropped and our needs are great. Georgia ranks 49th in the nation in transportation spending per capita — and ranks fourth in total hours the average commuter spends in traffic. Also, a recent Brookings Institute study shows Atlanta’s global economic standing is 189th, far behind our regional competitors such as Nashville at 89th and Charlotte at 145th.
Adding to the challenge are the three million more people forecast by ARC to come to metro Atlanta by 2040. Meanwhile, gas tax revenues continue to decline as cars become more fuel-efficient. Since 1980, the average fuel efficiency of a passenger car sold in America has increased by almost 40 percent.
These factors create a transportation “perfect storm” that requires us to find additional funding sources or suffer worse congestion in the future, with an added cost of time and money to Atlanta residents. The Regional Transportation Referendum is the first alternate funding source the state has offered to commuters stuck in traffic. It’s something we must all consider very carefully.
This economic impact analysis is the first of several ARC is working on to enable solid decision-making by metro residents on this opportunity to invest in our region’s future mobility, economy and quality of life.
Numbers speak loudly on Transportation Referendum
Voters in the Atlanta region have the opportunity to pass a referendum on July 31 that would raise $8.5 billion through a one percent sales tax to fund transportation projects across the region.
Based on the list of priority transportation improvements developed by a Regional Transportation Roundtable of local officials, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and a team of economists have completed an initial analysis and forecast of the economic impacts of the 2012 Regional Transportation Referendum’s passage and build-out.
The economic benefits expected to accrue through 2040 include the following, if the referendum passes:
• 4 to 1 return on investment – The $8.5 billion investment in 157 projects will result in an estimated $34.8 billion increase in gross regional product in the Atlanta region by 2040.
• 200,000 additional jobs supported – The analysis indicates that the transportation investment will create or support an additional 200,000 job years, including jobs that are maintained year-over-year.
• Almost two-thirds of those jobs will be in mid-to-high paying job sectors.
• The construction sector was hardest hit by the recession. The referendum would lead to the creation and support of 34,000 jobs in this critical sector by 2040.
• $9.2 billion in travel time savings – The average metro Atlanta commuter spends $924 each year sitting in traffic. Collectively, these projects would allow residents to save $9.2 billion by 2040.
• $18 billion increase in personal income – Due to the travel time savings and reduced fuel costs, incomes around the region will increase a collective $18 billion by 2040.
Metro Atlanta faces a transportation funding crisis. Revenues from gas taxes, the primary source of federal and state funding, are declining as cars become more fuel efficient. In fact, 70 percent of the region’s transportation funding will be spent to simply maintain the existing roads and systems over the next 30 years, leaving little room for expansion. This means that, as the region grows, congestion will worsen unless adequate investments are made.