Commentary: Time for region to be MARTA smart

Originaly Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

MARTA train

MARTA, which hasn’t had a major expansion plan in decades, would like a 40-year, half-penny sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb counties. (credit Wikipedia)

Here we go again. Another year. Another transportation debate.

This time, Fulton County wants a five-year penny sales tax for transportation.

The idea is gaining steam among the mayors of the various Fulton cities who want new funding — primarily for roads.

The exception is Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who wants funding to expand the city’s streetcar network — especially along the Atlanta BeltLine.

Meanwhile, MARTA, which hasn’t had a major expansion plan in decades, would like a 40-year, half-penny sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb.  It would help expand rail to Alpharetta, the Clifton Corridor, high-capacity transit to South DeKalb and possible investments in the BeltLine.

Both proposals have valid arguments. But both proposals are headed to a head-on collision where everyone could lose. Even Reed says voters are unlikely to pass both taxes.

There are few options to fund transit since the state constitution restricts gas tax revenues to roads and bridges.

Yet year after year, whenever new taxes are passed, roads get funded and transit gets left behind. One official described it as being “stuck on stupid.”

Let’s be MARTA smart for a change.

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