ARC’s Plan 2040 passes; but two key members vote ‘No’ because of too little transit

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.

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.

7 replies
  1. Midtown_D says:

    First off, It’s plan 2040, not plan 2030. Second, 70 percent is going to maintenance and 26 percent to expansion. Please get the simple facts straight…Report

    Reply
  2. Midtown_D says:

    First off, It’s plan 2040, not plan 2030. Second, almost 3/4 of the money is going to maintenance and around a quarter to expansion, not vice versa. Please get the simple facts straight…

    If the Mayor would be more active in finding our region sources of money for transit, more would be put in in the plan. We can’t use GA gas tax for transit and the state won’t chip in at all. That leaves the region with the 2 county MARTA sales tax and some federal funds for transit. You can’t build a world-class transit system off a penny in two counties. I believe the ARC did everything they could to incorporate transit into the plan given the legal reality.

    Find us more money, Mr. Mayor. Convince your former colleagues in the GA House and Senate to stop discriminating against transit.Report

    Reply
  3. Question Man says:

    Was Eldrin Bell taking a cue from John Kerry’s playbook when he decided that he really wanted to vote “no” after he voted “yes?”Report

    Reply
  4. Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Midtown_D

    Mayor Reed could maybe find more money, but he’ll be hard-pressed to convince his former colleagues in the Georgia General Assembly to stop discriminating against transit especially his former colleagues’ constituents are so angrily opposed to funding anything that they believe to be a socialist attack on their freedoms like they believe transit to be. There has been some notable progress in recent years in the increasing amount of support for transit in conservative suburban strongholds like the rapidly-diversifying and rapidly-changing Gwinnett County and even in the traditionally ULTRAconservative suburban and exurban strongholds like Cobb and Cherokee Counties, but not nearly enough to push state lawmakers to come up with a comprehensive transit plan at the state levels as there is still ALOT of fierce and overwhelming opposition to funding regional rail and transit in the conservative-dominated areas outside of I-285.

    Overall, Fulton and DeKalb Counties are where there is the most overwhelming support for transit improvements, but for an Atlanta politician like Reed who serves the city, but has designs on statewide office (like Governor or US Senate), he may raise the issue of transit to satisfy his intown constituents, but had damn sure better demonstrate fervent support for building lots of roads to gain the support of his future automobile-crazy ultraconservative suburban constituents, especially in an area like the Cobb-Cherokee corridor, an area that has time and again proved itself to be critical to winning statewide elections.

    I hate to say it, but it looks like the Atlanta Region needs to sit stuck in gridlock traffic for another decade and watch competitors like Charlotte, Dallas, etc, gain on and pass us by before we’ll be truly ready to understand and fully embrace the utter importance of extensive transit investment. I bet after another decade of sitting in gridlock and watching Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 business avoid Atlanta like the plague because of traffic that we’ll all be ready to fully embrace transit, what do you bet?Report

    Reply
  5. Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Question Man

    Yes he was, no he wasn’t, I mean yes he was, I mean no he wasn’t, I really meant yes before I meant no…Report

    Reply
  6. Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Question Man

    Yes he was, no he wasn’t, I mean yes he was, I mean no he wasn’t, I really meant yes before I meant no…Report

    Reply
  7. Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Question Man

    Yes he was, no he wasn’t, I mean yes he was, I mean no he wasn’t, I really meant yes before I meant no…Report

    Reply

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