By Clark Gore
Regional Managing Principal of Cassidy Turley’s Atlanta office
The mind-numbing traffic you endured on your way to work this morning is doing more than spiking your blood pressure. It’s destroying our air quality, robbing us of precious time with family and threatening Atlanta’s economic future.
On Tuesday, July 31, metro Atlantans have a chance to stop the madness. On that day, voters will go to the polls to vote on a one-cent transportation special local option sales tax (TSPLOST) that would raise $8.5 billion over 10 years to fund transit and road improvements in metro Atlanta.
Simply put, the failure of TSPLOST is not an option. Should voters reject the proposed tax, not only will they pass up our best chance to finally untangle our unhealthy gridlock, they will tell businesses looking to relocate that our area’s traffic woes are here to stay. They will give those companies all the reason they need to choose cities like Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas instead of Atlanta.
Even with all that’s at stake, passage of the sales tax is far from certain. In fact, recent polling shows the vote is basically a toss-up right now. Over the course of these next two months, Atlanta’s business community has a tremendous opportunity to show leadership on this vital issue, to convince an often-skeptical public of the tremendous benefits of making this investment in our transportation infrastructure.
Below are just a few of the many selling points that you can make when trying to persuade business associates, neighbors, friends and family of the necessity of voting for TSPLOST:
• Breathe Deeper. A study by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) estimates that TSPLOST projects would result in an improvement in the metro area’s air quality equal to the effect produced by removing 72,000 vehicles off our roads each day. The improvement would result in part from an increase in daily transit trips from the current average of 417,000 per day to 580,000 per day.
• Better Access to Jobs. Construction of the TSPLOST projects would increase the number of workers who could reach the job-rich Emory/Clifton corridor within 45 minutes by bus or rail by 700 percent, according to ARC. It would also increase the number of workers who could reach the Cumberland-Galleria area, another important job district, within 45 minutes by car by 18 percent.
• Economic Development at Stake. Working in commercial real estate, we hear it all the time from companies looking to relocate to Atlanta: You guys have terrible traffic. Because of our gridlock, we’re losing corporate relocations and our ability to grow our economy by adding new jobs.
I’m a native of Atlanta (I can remember the days when Lenox Square was an open-air mall). I watched with tremendous pride as Atlanta grew into a first-class, international city. But now we are truly at a crossroads.
My firm Cassidy Turley has created a 10-part video series in support of TSPLOST featuring interviews with local business and community leaders. The clips appear on our company website and are mailed out weekly to our clients. However you wish to rally support for TSPLOST, I cannot urge you strongly enough to do so. Part of what has made this city so great is a sense of excitement about the future, but unless we deal with our traffic, our best days may be behind us.