By Maria Saporta
The board of the Atlanta Regional Commission voted today to pass its Plan 2040 — a 30-year blueprint accommodating future growth in a sustainable way.
But two board members — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and C.J. Bland, a citizen member representing DeKalb County — voted against the plan because it included only minimal amount of transit. The plan calls for an investment of $61 billion in the region’s transportation network over the next 30 years.
During ARC’s presentation of Plan 2040 and how it related to the five-year Transportation Improvement Plan, Bland asked how much of future transportation funds would go towards expanding transit in the region.
Jane Hayse, ARC’s transportation chief, said that 26 percent of the pie was going to operating and maintenance of existing roads and transit. But she couldn’t say what portion of that would go to transit.
She then explained that ARC is unable to include transit in its plan because there are limited federal, state and local funds designated for transit.
The plan did not take into account funding that could be made available through the Transportation Investment Act — a regional transportation sales tax which will go before voters next year.
But those explanations did not satisfy Reed or Bland.
“The commitment to transit was unacceptable,” Reed said. “You can’t be talking about having a 30-year plan with so little transit. You can always make the excuse about federal funding, but they didn’t make the excuse of federal funds for roads. They used an argument that I thought was disingenuous.”
Reed also said the plan is not consistent with where the region should be going — to be more sustainable development patterns.
“This is a continuing trend that is wrong and that is not at all consistent with where the future is going,” said Reed, who added that cities across the United States, Europe and Asia are all expanding rail — be it streetcars, light rail or high speed rail.
In the Southeast, Reed said Atlanta is part of a megaregion that stretches all the way to Charlotte, N.C.; and megaregions are best served by rail.
Bland said he’s been bothered by ARC’s limiting the level of transit in its plans since he joined the board in 2003, and he voted against Plan 2030 for the same reason.
“We are going to become less and less appealing as a region,” said Bland, who used to live in Chicago and ride commuter rail to get to work. “We have to find a way to not put all our dollars in roads.”
In the ARC presentation for Plan 2040, it showed that 70 percent of future transportation funds would go to maintaining and preserving roads and transit in a state of good repair and operations. It also showed that 26 percent would go to expanding transportation options for both roads and transit.
“They couldn’t say how much of that 26 percent were transit dollars,” Reed said. “That’s the opposite direction of where every leading city in the world is going.”
ARC officials on Thursday provided a breakdown on how future transportation dollars in Plan 2040 would be allocated — a breakdown that board members requested at Wednesday’s meeting.
Of the $61 billion, 9 percent would go towards managed lantes, 43 percent would go towards transit, 39 percent towards roads and bridges, 3 percent to bicycle and pedestrian investments, and 7 percent would be spent on several other categories such as traffic signalization and commuter programs.
Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell, who had voted for the Plan, said after the meeting that if he had to do it all over again, he would have voted against it.