Doug Hooker: failed transportation referendum is not the “final word”

By Maria Saporta

Despite the failed regional transportation referendum, the region can not give up when it comes to improving metro Atlanta’s transportation system.

That was the bottom line message that Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, shared at the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum Wednesday morning.

Hooker acknowledged that the referendum failed because of a general distrust of government and the struggling economy.

“I accept all of that, but I don’t accept that this vote represents the final word,” Hooker said. “We are going to have to find a way to move forward. Over the past four weeks, a lot of people have asked — what do we do next and what is Plan B. I don’t have an answer to those questions… But I know that vote can’t be the final answer of how we build a transportation network, not just for congestion relief, but more importantly, to build those aspirational, healthy communities.”

In response to a question from the audience, Hooker was asked what role the state would play in helping the Atlanta region improve its transportation system.

Hooker said he did not expect to see much leadership coming from the state because elected leaders don’t have a regional constituency.

“I don’t think the state is the answer,” he said. Instead, he believed that elected leaders from the region will be the ones who will lead on transportation, even though that regional cooperation has cost some of them their office. “I think there’s a reservoir of will (to work on regional transportation issues) among those that are still in office.”

After the forum, Hooker said the ARC staff will ask the broader community the question of how we get to having a more robust and effective transportation network that includes roads, trails, bike paths, sidewalks “and yes, transit.”

In his mind, the overriding question for the region is: “How do get there together?”

But he refrained from offering any suggestions.

“I don’t want to predetermine the answers,” Hooker said. “I want to have the conversation, and I want to listen to what everybody is saying. I want the ARC staff to be in an intense mode of listening in the community over the next year.”

On Thursday morning, Sept. 13, the ARC board will be holding a work session to determine what priorities it should adopt for the coming year.

Even though he doesn’t expect solutions to be coming from the state, Hooker said the region will need the state to be a partner.

“It’s very difficult for us to craft region-wide solutions without some action of support from the state in terms of enabling legislation or other actions,” Hooker said. “I still think the leadership for solutions and the will to address the issues has to come from local elected and community leaders in the region.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

3 replies
  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    {{In response to a question from the audience, Hooker was asked what role the state would play in helping the Atlanta region improve its transportation system.}}
     
    …The state will more than likely play the same exact role in helping the Atlanta region improve its transportation system that it did before which is no role at all.
     
    {{“Hooker said he did not expect to see much leadership coming from the state because elected leaders don’t have a regional constituency.”}}
     
    No leadership coming from the state on transportation, that’s a total shocker…Report

    Reply
  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    Mr. Hooker, of course, failed to acknowledge a third reason the referendum failed – the bungled, amateurish, mismanaged campaign led by the ARC and others to “sell” the referendum.
    Introspection and humility is in short supply with these “leaders.”
     Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

       @Burroughston Broch 
      The horrendous advertising campaign was just the icing on the cake as the referendum was doomed long before the advertising campaign kicked-off.
       
      In fact, the referendum seemed to be doomed as soon as people read the project list when it was completed in October 2011 and saw a bunch of things in it that they did not like, in addition to the concept of the state abdicating its transportation responsibility because it was too lazy to actually come up with a way to fund what is actually so critically-needed (long-overdue freeway interchange reconstructions, minimal road improvements, express commuter buses, commuter rail, etc).Report

      Reply

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