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Maria's Metro

It’s time for Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb to retake control of their own destinies

By Maria Saporta

During the transportation sales tax campaign, Mayor Kasim Reed was fond of saying that Atlanta has always been on the right side of history.

And then he would list any number of milestones in Atlanta’s history that catapulted the whole region into a global sphere — a major airport, a stadium that attracted the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Falcons to town; a rail transit system and the Olympic Games to name a few.

And all those investments fed off each other. Atlanta never would have gotten the Olympic Games had it not been for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport or the MARTA rail and bus system.

What Reed did not say is that just about every major initiative in metro Atlanta originated from the region’s core. It was the City of Atlanta — often joined by Fulton and DeKalb counties that lifted the region to a higher plateau.

The regional transportation sales tax was a rare opportunity for the 10-county region to invest in metro Atlanta’s future. And the tax went down in flames — 62 percent to 38 percent in the 10-county area — failing in all 10 counties.

But a preliminary precinct-by-precinct analysis of the vote by the Atlanta Regional Commission shows a slightly different story. (See map on the right, and click on it to make it larger).

Areas in dark blue passed the regional sales tax by at least 67 percent; and areas in lighter blue supported tax by between 51 to 66 percent. The breakout box shows how people voted inside the perimeter. (Draft precinct results compiled by the Atlanta Regional Commission).

In the City of Atlanta, the tax passed by 60 percent to 40 percent. Not only that, the map shows that the area inside I-285 generally favored the tax while support declined in concentric circles surrounding the core.

There’s a lesson in these results. The core of the region continues to be willing to invest in its transit and transportation infrastructure.

That is over and above the penny sales tax that the City of Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb counties have been investing in MARTA for more than 40 years.

The relationship between the City of Atlanta and the rest of region has had its ups and downs over the years. Over the past 15 years, leaders in the Atlanta region have worked tirelessly for the good of all.

Two stellar examples come to mind — the unanimous agreement for a regional transit plan known as “Concept 3,” and the ability of the 21 members of the Regional Atlanta Transportation Roundtable to agree on a list of 157 projects with about half being invested in transit and half in roads.

But the referendum was a rude awakening that people voting in the July 31 primary did not have a similar regional view.

For the City of Atlanta, it might be time to take a page out of former Mayor Shirley Franklin’s playbook.

When she was elected mayor, Franklin pledged to be a regional player — spending a great deal of time in her first two years in office building relationships with colleagues throughout the 10-county metro area.

Then in August of 2004, Franklin shifted her focus from the region to the city.

“I’ve spent a lot of time working on the region,” Franklin said at the time. “It’s time I could spend building Atlanta.”

She expressed her frustration by questioning whether the region was going to “just muddle around on this transportation plan.”

Franklin even acknowledged her shift in a 2004 talk to the Atlanta Rotary Club.

“Atlanta is going to be so clean, so safe and so wonderful that people are going to want to live here,” Franklin said. “I’ve shifted in the last six months. I’m planning to make Atlanta so great that the people who have a choice are going to live in the city.”

It’s eerie to revisit Franklin’s ruminations while we’re in this post-mortem of the transportation tax.

Eight years ago, her “to do list” is virtually identical to our current “to do list” — the multimodal station, the BeltLine, the Peachtree Streetcar, a civil rights museum, affordable housing, parks, the homeless, jobs, MARTA, schools, air quality, the arts and the hospitality industry.

Unlike many other parts of the region, the city has welcomed greater density with affordable housing built along public transit lines creating healthy walkable communities.

As Mayor Reed decides how to proceed after Tuesday’s election, he could find himself at the same place where Franklin was in 2004 — looking for ways to control the city’s destiny — with or without the rest of the region.

Maria Saporta

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.



  1. Burroughston Broch August 6, 2012 3:32 pm

    Maria, the City of Atlanta should control its own destiny, providing that it pays the tab. It should not depend on DeKalb and Fulton taxpayers to pay for improvements that benefit only the City, such as the Beltline.
    Had T-SPLOST been restricted to DeKalb and Fulton Counties, it still would have failed.
    The referendum proved that Mayor Reed has limited power to influence elections outside the City. Rather than position himself for a state-wide political run (which would fail) or a plum patronage job in a second Obama administration, I think he should follow Mayor Franklin’s lead and focus on being a good two term mayor.Report

    1. MatthewTH August 6, 2012 4:58 pm

       @Burroughston Broch 
      It is so sad that the people of the Atlanta region look at the city as a third party entity that should take care of itself.  In case you have not noticed, Atlanta is the only major MSA in Georgia and is the ABSOLUTE driving force for the Georgia economy .  As Atlanta goes, so goes Georgia.Report

      1. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 5:38 pm

         @MatthewTH  @Burroughston Broch
         It’s not necessarily that the people of the Atlanta Region look at the City of Atlanta as a third party entity that should take of itself.
        It’s that some of the suburbs surrounding Atlanta have grown so large and politically-powerful that they see themselves as major political and economic entities within their own right.
        As Ms. Saporta remarked in her article, every major initiative in Metro Atlanta originated from the region’s core of the City of Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb counties.
        But in the past when those initiatives were originating from the region’s core (MARTA, Freeing-the-Freeways, the 1988 Democratic National Convention, the 1996 Olympics, etc), the rest of the region was much less populous in relation to the core of the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County. 
        The rest of region is no longer as less populous in relation to the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County as Cobb County is now home to 700,000 residents, Gwinnett County is now home to 825,000 residents and even exurban Henry County in the I-75 South Corridor and Cherokee County in the I-575 Northwest Corridor are now home to over 200,000 residents each while North Fulton County is now home to over 300,000 residents and is in the midst of an active and continuing campaign to break apart from the rest of Fulton County and could very well take Buckhead with it out of the City of Atlanta. 

      2. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 6:07 pm

         @MatthewTH  @Burroughston Broch
         The rest of the region, while already socially very conservative overall, has also undergone a very profound political shift to becoming very conservative politically, transitioning from Democrat-dominated areas to Republican-dominated areas while also becoming even more socially and culturally conservative in many, though not necessarily all, respects.
        Cobb and Gwinnett counties have grown to become two of the largest and most powerful enclaves of Republican politics in the entire nation as Cobb County is commonly referred to by most politicos as “The Center of the Republican Universe” and Gwinnett County has a large enough of population of Republican voters to almost single-handedly decide the outcome of competitive statewide elections as was the case when heavily-populated Gwinnett County and the I-85 Northeast Corridor carried Nathan Deal to a razor-thin victory over Karen Handel in the 2010 GOP Gubernatorial Primary which was decided by less than 2,500 votes as Deal only won Gwinnett and Henry counties in the 10-county core of the Atlanta region.
        With the outrage outside of I-285 over Deal’s support of what ultimately turned out to be an extremely-unpopular tax increase proposal, particularly in the very-conservative circles and the  ultraconservative base of suburban and exurban voters of the Republican Party that decide statewide elections by way of GOP primaries these days, it is far a from a given that Deal will be able to make it through the 2014 GOP Primary, especially seeing as though there is a lot of outrage still smoldering in politically-critical Gwinnett County over the I-85 HOT Lane debacle last year.
        Needless to say, Governor Deal is in a heckuva lot of political trouble after the thrashing that the T-SPLOST received at the polls and at this moment there is a very high probability that he may not survive beyond the 2014 Primary.
        There is virtually a heckuva lot more of politically-conservative Metro Atlanta, land-wise and population-wise outside of than there is of politically liberal Metro Atlanta inside of I-285 these days.  Report

      3. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 6:28 pm

         @MatthewTH  @Burroughston Broch
         Another problem is that the State of Georgia has not really been all that good or willing of a partner to both the City of Atlanta and the entire greater Atlanta Region, especially when it comes to transportation (or education or water) infrastructure planning.
        The commissioning and implementation of a regionwide transportation system, especially one that involves an ingredient in the form of regional commuter rail that is so critical to the functionability of transportation networks of metro areas of 5 million, usually requires the very-heavy involvement of state government which often owns the rail right-of-ways that are shared with freight lines that commuter must run on.
        When it comes to regionwide transportation, particularly the Interstate network and regional commuter rail service, which looms ever more conspicuously-absent from the Atlanta Region as it continues to grow in size and population, the absence of the State of Georgia as a critically-needed partner has been the main reason for the increasing perception amongst those in national and international business community that Metro Atlanta is unwilling to do what’s needed to address its increasing congestion and transportation mobility woes.
        The State of Georgia must play a dominant role in adquately addressing Metro Atlanta’s transportation woes, there just is no way around that fact of life as there is no excuse for Metro Atlanta to be the largest metro area east of the Mississippi River without critically-needed high-frequency regional commuter rail service (almost equally-sized fanatically car-crazy Houston is the largest metro area west of the Mississippi River without regional commuter rail service, but is seriously considering and is in the early stages of a massive expansion of its intracity light rail service).    Report

      4. Burroughston Broch August 6, 2012 6:57 pm

         @MatthewTH Sir, you are speaking of 50 years ago when the City of Atlanta was 37% of the metro population and 12% of the state population. Today it is 7% of the metro population and 4% of the state population (see the US Census Bureau website).  The City today has only 7% of the metro jobs and 4% of the state jobs (see the Secretary of Labor’s website).
        The population of the Augusta MSA exceeds the population of the City of Atlanta, and the Savannah MSA might well do so by the 2010 census.
        Metro Atlanta is the driving force for the state economy, not the City of Atlanta.
        It is not metro Atlanta’s or the State’s job to take care of the City of Atlanta.Report

        1. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 8:33 pm

           @Burroughston Broch  @MatthewTH
           Mr. Broch, you are very much correct, sir.
          But just as it is not the region’s job or the state’s job to take care of the City of Atlanta, it is not necessarily the City of Atlanta’s job to take care of the Atlanta Region or the State of Georgia.
          It should also be noted that with its significant continued investment in the uber-powerful jobs and economic engine that is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the City of Atlanta has played a very dominant role in helping to take care of the Atlanta Region and the State of Georgia over the years as neither the Atlanta Region nor the State of Georgia would be anywhere near the economic, social, cultural or politically-influential engines that they have become without the immense investments made by the City of Atlanta in Hartsfield-Jackson, which both directly and indirectly has been a big fat juicy succulent cash cow for both this entire region and state.
          Without the City of Atlanta’s investments in Hartsfield-Jackson, there are no Atlanta Falcons, there are no Atlanta Hawks (who moved here from St. Louis), there are no Atlanta Braves (who moved here from Milwaukee), there is no SEC Championship Game in the Georgia Dome, there are no Super Bowls, there are no Olympic games, Atlanta does not become a mega international city, there are not 6 million people in the region, there are not 10 million people in Georgia, Georgia does not become one of the 10 largest states in the union and the Port of Savannah does not become one of the busiest and fastest-growing seaports on the entire planet.
          Atlanta should not expect other municipalities within the region to want to or be willing to pay for its important economic development projects in the Beltline and the streetcars, but at the same time let’s remain mindful of just how much of the weight the City of Atlanta has pulled for the entire nearly 30-county Greater Atlanta Region with its continuous massive investments in the economic engine of this region and state in the world’s busiest airport at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
          I personally am very mindful of the overwhelming positive effects that the City of Atlanta has had on the region and the state through its massive investments into Hartsfield-Jackson Airport as I was personally employed at the airport for many years.
          If it was not for the airport, there is no way that I would have had anywhere near the quality-of-life that I have had in my life, a quality-of-life that is both directly and indirectly because of the Atlanta Airport. Report

        2. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 8:50 pm

           @Burroughston Broch  @MatthewTH
           It should also be noted that just as it is not the region’s job or the state’s job to take care of the City of Atlanta, it IS the State of Georgia’s job to take care of the Greater Atlanta Region as a whole, especially since the Atlanta Region stretches over close to 30 counties in the northern third of the state.
          The Atlanta Region has also grown so large that it stretches into about at least four different distinct geographical regions of the state (West Georgia, Northwest Georgia, Northeast Georgia and East Georgia).
          A metro region as large as 30 counties and approximately 8500 square miles requires the active and on-going constructive cooperation and participation of the state government of the state in which it presides to come to a regional solution on issues of transportation mobility, there is just no way around that, especially when a metro region has become as so overwhelmingly large as the Atlanta Region.
          The only problem is that state government is so overwhelmingly disfunctional that it is effectively in no position to even really attempt to solve the transportation problem of the state because just as MARTA is in a death spiral in Fulton and DeKalb counties, the Georgia Department of Transportation is in such a state of severe disarray that it can barely keep up with the state’s existing road network and has an extremely difficult time handling the simplest of basic accounting functions.
          The extreme dysfunction of state government and the extreme organizational disarray of the Georgia Department of Transportation that also played a massive role in last week’s overhwhelming defeat of the Metro Atlanta region T-SPLOST.Report

        3. Hopeful ATLANTAN August 6, 2012 8:56 pm

           Atlanta will be fine!Report

        4. Burroughston Broch August 6, 2012 8:58 pm

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia
          I understand what you’re trying to sell, but I’m not buying. I’m looking forward, not backward. I’ve already paid my share of Willie B Hartsfield, Ivan Allen, and Maynard Jackson accomplished.
          If the City became a ghost town tomorrow, City government would continue and the airport would still operate and grow because of the metro area and state. It is a cash cow that keeps the City alive. For another example, look at Detroit. We’ll see what happens when it finally gasps and files for bankruptcy. It could set a model for the City unless the leaders are prudent.
          As far as the professional sports teams, they cost the taxpayers more than they contribute in terms of taxes and permanent jobs. The main beneficiaries are the politicians and their buddies who get free rides in the sky boxes.Report

        5. Hopeful ATLANTAN August 6, 2012 8:58 pm

          I have all the confidence in the world in Mayor Reed!Report

        6. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 9:40 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           But looking forward, it is the Atlanta Airport, not the government of the City of Atlanta or any state government nor any shadow regional government, that will continue to be the main driver of economic growth for the Atlanta Region and the State of Georgia.
          Any transportation solution, especially when it comes to a rail-anchored transit solution, must be developed and implemented with providing fast and direct connectivity from the farthest reaches of the Atlanta Region and at least the northern half of the State of Georgia to the mega-economic engine that is the Atlanta Airport.
          The Atlanta Airport is where the main so-called multi-modal transportation focus should be on establishing a direct connection to. 
          Downtown Atlanta, Midtown Atlanta, Buckhead, the Perimeter and Cumberland Mall, while still very, very important to the overall logistical big-picture of transportation mobility, should not necessarily be the absolute main focus of a regional transit network that the Atlanta Airport should and must be.Report

        7. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 10:34 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           As far as the professional sports teams, I guess that they are just an outgrowth of being a major city, though, personally, I think that a major residential research university and its amateur sports teams, a la a University of Washington in Seattle or a University of Texas in Austin, contribute infinitely much more to a city’s culture and quality-of-life than professional sports teams do as it is the continued overwhelming presence of youth that a community benefits from rather than, let’s say, the eight times a year presence of the Atlanta Falcons.
          If the Atlanta Falcons left town tomorrow and moved to L.A. (a town by the way that has done just fine after losing two NFL teams at the same time 17 years ago as most of the Southern California has virtually not even noticed that their two NFL teams are gone and have been gone for nearly two decades), Atlanta might be much better for as the city would likely invest in a commodity that could benefit it much more in Georgia State University, which IMHO has the potential to be the next great urban university in the mode of a New York University.
          It is the Atlanta Region’s institutions of higher learning (the University of Georgia and the strong SEC affiliations that come with it, Georgia Tech and its ACC affiliations, the fast-growing Georgia State University which has already had a very positive effect on the City of Atlanta by continuing to replenish what might be an otherwise dying downtown with an overwhelming amount of youth, Emory University and its Ivy League-caliber education and potential, the historic Atlanta University Center and the role that it played in the Civil Rights Movement, the up-and-coming Kennesaw State University in Cobb County, the up-and-coming Georgia Gwinnett College in Gwinnett County, etc) that have infinitely much more to offer and will bring infinitely more to the city and the region than any greedy cost-prohibitive NFL team and its bloodsucking narcissistic sociopathic self-centered owner will ever offer to bring to the table.Report

        8. Burroughston Broch August 6, 2012 10:37 pm

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia Then why did the City and MARTA choose not to make a rail connection to the International Terminal, but instead focus on the fluffy downtown streetcar for tourists, future streetcars around the Beltline that will help no one’s commute, and a light rail connection from only Lindbergh to Emory? Because they don’t think that the airport is as politically significant as these other projects. Because the Beltway projects have developers swarming with incentives for politicians.
          The South Line is already prepared for a switch between College Park and East Point for a branch line to the International Terminal and a future Hapeville station. It was part of the original plan. And it would have cost $300million.
          Instead, they want to build a $1.1billion light rail line ($400million more than T-SPLOST would have provided)  from Lindbergh to Emory; forget a short connection to the East Line where lower paid staff could have used it also. If they made only the connection from Emory to the East Line, the cost would have been less and the ridership probably about the same.
          Don’t tell me that the City and MARTA are interested in increasing transportation access to the airport. It’s not true. Don’t listen to what they say – watch what they do.Report

        9. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 10:41 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           And, hypothetically, if the City of Atlanta became a ghost town tomorrow, not only would Atlanta city government not continue, but the question of who would continue to operate the airport or whether the airport would continue to operate would the least of all of our worries.
          The Atlanta Region does not benefit from just a strong and vital central core.
          The Atlanta Region does not benefit from just a strong ring of suburbs and exurbs.
          The Atlanta Region benefits immensely from BOTH a strong central urban core and a strong ring of suburbs and exurbs.
          …I should know, I’ve lived in both.Report

        10. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 10:47 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           Well actually, BOTH a direct rail connection with the International Terminal and rail transit access to the relatively-isolated campus of Emory University should be transportation priorities.
          The direct rail connection to the International Terminal would be, at least in theory, easier to pull-off in many ways logistically because of a direct connection to and from the existing MARTA South Line, as you pointed out.Report

        11. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 10:58 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           A rail connection to Emory is a bit more complicated because the stretch of existing freight rail right-of-way that was proposed to carry the light rail line between Lindbergh and Emory is also proposed to someday possibly carry the proposed “Brain Train” rail transit line between Atlanta (preferably the Atlanta Airport) and the University of Georgia in Athens, which is a proposed rail transit that could generate a heckuva lot more ridership and sustainable financial return and positive impact on land-use patterns and quality-of-life than a segmented, ill-fitting, under-funded and incomplete low-speed light rail line between Lindbergh and Emory.
          Such a rail line between the ATL Airport and UGA by way of the AUC, GSU, GT, Emory and Georgia Gwinnett College would, of course, require the direct involvement of the State of Georgia who owns the rail line and would need to coordinate the service that would run through about at least seven different counties between the ATL Airport and Athens, something is impossible at the moment because the State of Georgia is pretty much almost completely missing-in-action on transportation issues right now, especially when it comes to rail transit planning, development and implementation, something that is an absolute requirement for a metro region of nearly six million people.Report

        12. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 11:10 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           As for MARTA, unless they magically find some way to get their finances in order without further accelerating the severe death spiral that they are in, it won’t matter what MARTA does or doesn’t want to do as with a nearly $3 billion long-term operating deficit, MARTA will likely not make it another decade, meaning that the walking dead-man financial problem that is MARTA will likely become the state’s problem.
          It is not even a question of if MARTA will collapse, but when as the state can takeover MARTA either before or after it financially collapses and ceases operations.
          MARTA would have had to have had a distance-based/zone-based fare collection structure in place many years ago with fares pegged to rise with inflation like a system that is similar to that of BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in Northern California to avoid financial ruin and what is likely a pending financial collapse that will likely see MARTA go the way of the old Atlanta Transit Company and be supplanted with something much better the way that MARTA supplanted the old Atlanta Transit Company about 40 years ago.Report

        13. Bob Munger August 7, 2012 11:10 am

          @The Last Democrat in Georgia
          The referendum passed in the East Central Georgia and Augusta areas thanks to high support in the City of Augusta which is over 60% African American. This despite the fact that less than 5% of the spending goes to transit.  Despite the support of the Chambers of Commerce, the suburbs voted it down.
          The Augusta Greenway Alliance seeks to make Augusta a successful laboratory for the overlay of sustainable, affordable transportation systems onto Augusta’s urban environment, providing a valuable example for others to follow.  The city is the global capital of the low speed electric vehicle industry. If it leads to economic vitality in Augusta, it will be of great interest to other communities.
          Demographic and population trends predict that global, urban population will reach 6 billion people by 2050. This is nearly double the earth’s urban population at the dawn of the 21st Century, and twice the total human population of only 3 billion in 1960.
          The advent and proliferation of automobiles in the 20th Century has hugely impacted the planning of cities, and resulted in highly automobile-dependent lifestyles.  Rapid auto proliferation continues in developing nations, with global autos set to double in 20-25 years. The overwhelming majority of these automobiles utilize climate-altering, internal combustion engines reliant on dwindling resources. Clearly these trends are not sustainable.
          Atlanta has historically been a leader in transportation, and would be wise to heed this in planning it transport systems for the 21st Century. MARTA should plan for much higher multi-modal connectivity with sustainable transport, which will boost livability,transit ridership and economic growth.Report

        14. ScottNAtlanta August 7, 2012 6:20 pm

           @Burroughston Broch  @The Last Democrat in Georgia 
          Here is where you are completely wrong.  A lot of the traffic in Atlanta originates in Atlanta.  Short trips that could be provided by the beltline (which I might add also has lines that feed E/W across downtown).  The streetcar project is more than tourist transit.  It is a beginning of a more intricate system that actually provides a way for people to get closer to their DESTINATIONS, thus making transit more usable.  I’m really tired of all these people who scream about “I’m not paying Atlanta’s way” who also bitch about no MARTA connection to Turner field, fill the park/ride lots paying the same rate as those of us who actually contribute, and a state government that is going to hold MARTA hostage until they privatize every part of it (which will destroy it).  I’m also sick of these new “cities” (not counting Sandy Springs which doesn’t apply to this comment) who cherry pick the best tax producing areas leaving the poor areas to the county and taking a good part of the tax revenue with it…just take a good look at “Brookhaven” if you are not clear about it.  This region is not coming together anytime in the near future…its just becoming more balkanized…which will help no one long run…but we live in a time of short term gain…not long termReport

        15. ScottNAtlanta August 7, 2012 6:25 pm

           @The Last Democrat in Georgia  @Burroughston Broch 
          You keep saying death spiral which is so far from the truth…the only think hurting MARTA is the State and its obnoxious restrictions which have nothing to do with anything but busting the unions at MARTA…thats what most of it is about.  Problem with that line of thinking is that to get the federal funds which keep MARTA going the workforce has to be allowed to be unionized.  I think the states micromanaging has been what is ailing MARTA but its nowhere close to “death spiral”Report

        16. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 7:30 pm

           @ScottNAtlanta  @Burroughston Broch
           MARTA’s trains have headways as high as every 20 minutes (up from 7-10 minutes in the past), the system has a nearly $3 billion long-term operating deficit and both ridership and maintenance are in a very noticeable state of decline.
          Every time that MARTA has to cut service in an increasingly-futile attempt to balance its books, its loses riders and when MARTA loses riders it loses revenues in a vicious cycle that repeats itself increasingly…Service cuts leads to loss of riders which leads to loss of revenues which leads to more cuts in service which leads to losing more riders which leads to more revenues losses which leads to more service cuts which leads to more ridership losses which leads to more revenues and so on and so on.
          …If an increasing sea of red ink, increasing service declines, increasing revenue declines, increasing ridership declines and building maintenance issues are not clear evidence of a death spiral, then what is? Report

        17. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 7:32 pm

           @ScottNAtlanta  @Burroughston Broch
          MARTA’s trains have headways as high as every 20 minutes (up from 7-10 minutes in the past), the system has a nearly $3 billion long-term operating deficit and both ridership and maintenance are in a very noticeable state of decline.
          Every time that MARTA has to cut service in an increasingly-futile attempt to balance its books, its loses riders and when MARTA loses riders it loses revenues in a vicious cycle that repeats itself increasingly…Service cuts leads to loss of riders which leads to loss of revenues which leads to more cuts in service which leads to losing more riders which leads to more revenues losses which leads to more service cuts which leads to more ridership losses which leads to more revenues losses and so on and so on.
          …If an increasing sea of red ink, increasing service declines, increasing revenue declines, increasing ridership declines and building maintenance issues are not clear evidence of a death spiral, then what is?Report

        18. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 7:45 pm

           @ScottNAtlanta  @Burroughston Broch
           The state imposed restriction that requires that MARTA set aside 50% of its sales tax revenues for capital improvements is not the problem and has never been the problem as the 50% restriction only applies to sales tax revenues, not revenues from other sources, including fares, which only covers between 17-32% of operations & maintenance compared to BART in Northern California where farebox revenues cover 78% of O&M.
          The problem is that MARTA simply does and has never taken in enough revenues at the farebox, where the 50% revenue restrictions do not apply, to even come anywhere near remotely close to covering the cost of O&M as it has tried to artificially keep its fares too low with a continued flat fare structure that was not pegged to rise with inflation or set up to cover the majority of its cost of O&M.
          Despite being required to set aside 50% of its sales tax revenue for capital improvements, MARTA still cannot keep up with the capital improvements that it has been required to save up for over its 40-year existence, being dependent upon $600 million for rehab in the failed T-SPLOST, a $600 million boost that still would have left MARTA with a long-term operating deficit of over $2 billion dollars.Report

  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 6, 2012 5:17 pm

    Ms. Saporta, your article underscores a very good point that Mayor Reed would be better to work on the interests of the City of Atlanta first and foremost rather than by to directly work on the interests of a regio outside of his jurisdiction that may look on his regional actions as interference in their local affairs.
    If Mayor Reed really wants to be a leader for the entire Atlanta Region, the absolute best thing that he can do is lead by example and making sure that the City of Atlanta is headed in the right direction as a destination to in which to live, work, play and do business.
    Despite the overwhelming failure of the T-SPLOST referendum in the Atlanta Region, the referendum would have passed if just confined to the corporate limits of the City of Atlanta.
    And despite the political lightning rod that projects like the Atlanta Beltline and the streetcar projects became in being a very major source of motivation for regional voters to vote against the tax, the Beltline and the streetcar projects, most particularly the Peachtree Streetcar, which did not appear on the list of projects to be funded by the proposed regional T-SPLOST, are still damned good economic development projects that are vital to the future of the City of Atlanta.
    It made no sense to leave the fate of such projects that are so critical to the City of Atlanta up to the whims of voters throughout the region outside of the City of Atlanta who have their own political, social, cultural, financial and economic interests they are understandably looking to protect.
    If the regional T-SPLOST referendum had only been a citywide referendum for the voters and taxpayers of the City of Atlanta to fund the Beltline and the Peachtree Streetcar, the City of Atlanta would be in much better shape and, by extension, so would the region, when it comes to overall economic development as the referendum would have likely passed within the City of Atlanta by at least 20 points.
    By concentrating of all his time, attention and focus into making the City of Atlanta the best city that it can be, Mayor Reed can indirectly, but very strongly, encourage the entire Atlanta Region to take a step in the right direction.  Report

  3. TRICE August 6, 2012 9:05 pm

    Mayor Reed time to head back to Washington to get more federal dollars!Report

  4. RKarter August 6, 2012 9:11 pm

    I just woke up from a nap and I just recognized that “PLAN B” stands for BULL_ H _ T!Report

  5. No Patience in Politics August 6, 2012 9:17 pm

    The Tea Party, John Sherman, Chip Rogers and the Dekalb County NAACP promised they would get everyone to the table.  Report

  6. Napolean Complex August 6, 2012 9:38 pm

    We voted down the T-SPLOST and now my grandmother can’t get bus service in Clayton County and No Light Rail to Dekalb.  Can’t someone give her a ride!?Report

  7. L Bullord August 6, 2012 9:55 pm

    Lee May promised us he would fight for light rail, its time to start fighting.Report

  8. Frustrated Voter August 6, 2012 10:06 pm

    Vincent Fort and Derrick Boazman promised us increased Marta service in Atlanta, Marta to Clayton, light rail to Dekalb , increased minority contract participation at the DOT and jobs for all.   I promise we will be watchingReport

  9. Rob Augustine August 7, 2012 11:11 am

    Pretty obvious that in order to perhaps achieve for the first time a fully defined Metro Region working together on transit, roads, and infrastructure that the politicians went a bridge too far. The outlying areas should have been excluded based on the chart in this article. That leaves Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton along with their municipalities and the City of Atlanta as the advancing core of the new Atlanta Region. A core where the densities may exist for a more focused investment in transit. It is worrisome, however, that the south DeKalb residents voted against the penny tax. Clearly, they want and deserve rail out to Stonecrest, so maybe there’s still hope for this area. So the big question raised here is will these interior counties, or perhaps just the City of Atlanta, go for some plan that improves the core and costs them more money? Well, for 40 years we’ve been paying that extra cent for MARTA. It would seem worthwhile to add to the rail system with a light rail line to Emory and the Clifton corridor; a line east to Stonecrest; and an inner connecting system for the central downtown area. Why not add some type of shuttle service at the CID’s in Midtown, Perimeter, and elsewhere to help this picture. Something that would pull in more destinations and make riding MARTA rail more available across the city, allowing you to get where you want to go primarily on a train and by walking.

    I’m not sure the existing, all too convenient, and tempting belt line route is really the complete answer to that part of the puzzle. What about providing light rail in major corridors like Northside Drive, across the connector to Turner Field, and then out East to the zoo, and Southeast DeKalb. It seems to me that connecting what already exists should be the paramount objective. Not building rail in the beltway and then waiting for development to occur there. If you look at other cities they’ve got light rail in their high density areas — in the core and in the center of the streets.

    If we don’t get Emory-Clifton Corridor on transit, we suffer further demise there and lose a great deal of potential. And someone, I think it was Last Demo, mentioned this routing could be a conflict with the Brain Train. All I can say is, if we cannot build lines that serve both the Brain Train and a light rail to Clifton Corridor, then we are complete idiots. In fact, an intermodal transfer station there between the Brain Train and the light rail to Clfton Corridor would be the perfect solution. I think a lot of this will happen some day. Mainly because it has to. If it doesn’t happen, we Atlantans will be the big losers.

    And as far as funding, who knows. A penny tax or some type of transportation Community Improvement District, or some combination of mechanisms to provide base funding. Certainly sources of state funding are important as well. Perhaps with the new interest in an intermodal facility downtown, you know where we used to have a couple real train stations, and with federal funding some of this may happen. But if you have a central intermodal connecting to MARTA, it would be even better to add the Brain Train and the Griffin Macon and points south commuter rail as well. Unless we are going to end up somehow totally different than other American cities, this is how things will wind up being done. And, hey, tell the Sierra Club to get with the program too! Assuming they and ATL has another chance.Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 1:21 pm

       @Rob Augustine
       The reason why the Sierra Club opposed the T-SPLOST is because they thought that the project list contained too much funding for road construction, an opinion that ironically was supported by a great deal of very conservative suburbanites and exurbanites Outside-the-Perimeter who think that the T-SPLOST was a publicly-funded bailout for roadbuilders and land developers who are politically well-connected with the state government powers-that-be at the Gold Dome and that the construction of more roads will only create more automobile-overdependent sprawl which will only create more traffic and make traffic worse.
      It was the opinion of the Sierra Club and many on both sides of the political spectrum (even opposite sides of the political, cultural and social spectrum) that the T-SPLOST may have well been a last gasp for what many regard to be excessive roadbuilding for the purpose furthering real estate development.Report

    2. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 1:45 pm

       @Rob Augustine
       I also suspect that many of the light rail extensions that were proposed for the existing MARTA system in the T-SPLOST (like the aforementioned proposed Lindbergh-to-Emory light rail line) as well as the regional commuter rail lines proposed to be operated in state-owned freight rail right-of-ways (like the aforementioned proposed ATL Airport-Athens “Brain Train” commuter rail line) may very well likely end up being heavy rail-type lines (NOT Marta heavy rail service as we currently know it) with their own set of tracks with grades separate from intersecting roads to accommodate a much higher frequency of train service (headways of between 2-7 minutes) and higher train speeds over longer distances in the long run.Report

      1. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 1:49 pm

         @Rob Augustine
         The separate tracks for regional train service will also help to separate high-frequency regional passenger rail service from already-existing very high-frequency freight rail service that operates on existing tracks within existing state-owned right-of-ways in a metro region in Atlanta that has some of the busiest stretches of freight rail tracks on the entire planet.Report

    3. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 2:14 pm

       @Rob Augustine
       The problems with the Lindbergh-Emory Clifton Corridor as it was proposed to be funded in the T-SPLOST were that it was only partially-funded at best and that it did not necessarily fit into a larger clearly-defined vision that provided transit connectivity not only to Emory from the City of Atlanta and the current MARTA system mainly to the west and partially to the southeast, but also to the heavily-populated suburbs and exurbs and points east out through the US Hwy 29/GA 316 Corridor through DeKalb, Gwinnett and out to Athens by way of the long-awaited CSX/Brain Train rail right-of-way.Report

    4. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 2:20 pm

       @Rob Augustine
       It is also highly-probable that most transit upgrades will not be funded through highly politically-contentious tax increases and dwindling federal funds, but through new funding sources like distance-based user fees, zone-pricing, public-private partnerships and Tax Incremental Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines). Report

      1. Rob Augustine August 7, 2012 2:32 pm

        @The Last Democrat in Georgia

        Great details Last Demo. I knew you would have some good plans Last Democrat. Thanks, and just like the Sierra Club, this is may be the last chance, assuming we have one, to get something done in the core area sans Tea Party, et al. I think the dueling editorials in today’s paper set up and summarily dismissed the enhancement of arterials with over/under intersections as a partial solution. That would do a lot to rent the urban fabric, for sure, as the Sierrans pointed out.

        And wasn’t there a spur at one point going to the NE off the east MARTA line to serve the corridor you speak of? But clearly, given the vote, Gwinnett, Cobb, and the other outliers can’t be in on this next vote. Although perhaps Gwinnett would want the MARTA rail extensions and Cobb as well from Arts Center to Kennesaw. I wonder if that’s doable, along with Emory Clifton corridor and east into South DeKalb. Yes, I could see some big long TIF’s sprouting up along these routes. It’s not the Union and Southern Pacific type deal, but it would be a start. Report

        1. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 7, 2012 3:34 pm

           @Rob Augustine  @The
           Some of these seemingly dormant and unattainable transit plans may get a really big boost in the not-too-distant future if the Feds decide to impose congestion pricing on the Atlanta freeway system as a way to virtually clear the Interstates of excessive local traffic so that the out-of-state and longer-distance through traffic that the Interstates were primarily designed for can flow much better through the Atlanta metro area since the State of Georgia has pretty much outright refused to either expand the Interstate network to accommodate the increasingly extremely heavy volumes of through traffic (especially the very heavy freight truck traffic that is a constant feature of Metro Atlanta interstates) or its local and regional mass transit network.
          Whomever thinks that the Feds are just going to sit around and let a critical part of the nation’s transportation grid become virtually impassable because the State of Georgia refuses to do its constitutionally-mandated job in maintaining and tending to the transportation network that it is responsible for is likely very much mistaken.
          If the State of Georgia continues to refuse to do its job in helping to maintain, upgrade and expand the state’s overall transportation network as needed (a la, the Interstates and mass transit), then the Feds are going to force the issue and do it for them and they may not be very nice about it when they do it.
          The freeway system in the Atlanta Region has not been meaningfully expanded in over two decades while the population of the Atlanta Region has more than doubled in that time.
          At the same time, access to transit has either stagnated or declined in most cases while the Atlanta Region has grown to become the largest metro area in the country east of the Mississippi without regional commuter rail service.
          If the Feds intervene and impose congestion pricing on the freeways, driving on those freeways is going to become a heckuva lot more expensive as Metro Atlantans and North Georgians can expect to pay rates of up to $40 daily to get to-and-from work  as the unpopular concept of the I-85 HOT Lanes is imposed on all lanes of all major Metro Atlanta freeways and Interstates.Report

  10. Rick Z August 7, 2012 12:08 pm

    Thanks for that map, which makes it clear that T-SPLOST failed for one of two reasons (really the same reason, depending on which end you view it from):
    1) The 10-county region that voted was too broad an electorate to support the list of projects that was offered, or
    2) The list of projects offered was perceived as too heavily geared to Atlanta’s interests to attract enough support in the 10-county region.
    I understand the city’s unique importance as the hub of the region, but the political realities must be faced. Views on what kind of transportation projects are needed are sharply divided in this region, much more than in others in the state. Now that Atlanta voters have shown their willingness to do so, they should be given an opportunity to vote to fund the ones that pertain directly to them without having to rely on support from outside the Perimeter..Report

  11. DH-ATL August 7, 2012 4:41 pm

    YES– I couldn’t agree with this more– and this time its 75% transit–Report

  12. AtlantaOwner August 8, 2012 12:58 am

    Considering the controversy over how airport concessions were awarded, I would assume Reed is avoiding doing an “Atlanta-only” type of tax for transit construction.  Reed is alleged to have a lot of friends in the construction business, and he has already made a comment to reporters about awarding contracts to minority businesses – instead of simply implying that the best company at the best price quoted would get these jobs, as it should be.  Some folks are having a deja vu where the name “Bill Campbell” pops into their head – they do not want a repeat of that.  There is simply A LOT of mistrust in both regional, State, and local government today as was reflected in the recent vote.  I think a lot of good behavior is needed first before even intown residents are willing to fork over more to transit construction.Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 8, 2012 1:11 am

       There effectively already is an “Atlanta-only” type of tax for transit construction…The 1% sales tax that residents of Fulton and DeKalb counties pay to fund MARTA.Report

      1. Burroughston Broch August 8, 2012 9:13 am

        How do you justify this statement? The City of Atlanta was only 26% of the combined population of DeKalb and Fulton, and that perecentage drops every day.Report

        1. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 8, 2012 12:16 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           I’m saying that the City of Atlanta doesn’t need to pay an additional 1% transit tax because it, along with the rest of Fulton County and all of DeKalb County already pays for MARTA with the 1% sales tax.
          And even if the City of Atlanta accounts for only 26% of the combined population of DeKalb and Fulton counties, at roughly 420,000 residents, the City of Atlanta is still the largest single incorporated municipality in those two combined counties and, for that matter, in the State of Georgia.Report

        2. Burroughston Broch August 8, 2012 12:24 pm

          Where is additional funding for MARTA going to come from, assuming that MARTA focuses on DeKalb and Fulton only? No sales tax increase in Fulton and DeKalb. Not from the state. Not from the other metro counties. The Feds are a sporadic and unreliable source. Raising fares will reduce ridership.
          Maybe the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus?Report

        3. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 8, 2012 12:54 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           Well, ideally, in the absence of increased tax revenues which are not and never were coming from either the state or the locals, a transit service like MARTA would normally have a distance-based and/or zone-based fare-collection structure that is similar to that of their more successful peers in Northern California (BART) and Washington DC (DC Metrorail).
          Otherwise, one of the very few options for MARTA to obtain additional funding at this point would be through partial or full privatization of their operations and even that option could only go so far at this point as MARTA seriously should have been collecting more farebox revenues and managing those increased farebox revenues and existing sales tax revenues much more wisely over the years in place of the additional tax funding from the state and locals that they were not going to get.
          Unfortunately, we have likely reached a point where MARTA is such deep financial trouble that they likely will not be able to recover without a really big miracle of some kind.
          Absent that really big miracle, right now it appears that MARTA is poised to go the way of the old Atlanta Transit Company that preceded it over four decades ago.Report

        4. Burroughston Broch August 8, 2012 1:38 pm

          So much for the pipe dream about Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb retaking control of their public transport destiny. Easy to say but difficult/impossible to accomplish.
          This also doesn’t bode well for the regional rail pipe dream, or the need for a multi-modal terminal in the Gulch downtown.Report

        5. The Last Democrat in Georgia August 8, 2012 3:06 pm

           @Burroughston Broch
           The State of Georgia is going to have to play a dominant role in most, if not all, of the prospects for a regional rail system as it is the state that owns the freight rail right-of-ways that a larger regional rail system will operate in.
          The state would also have to find a way to either coordinate activity between future high-frequency passenger rail service and the existing exceptionally-heavy freight rail service on existing tracks or expand the existing trackage within those rail right-of-ways to accommodate both high-frequency passenger rail service and fast-growing exceptionally-heavy freight rail service.
          Contrary to popular belief, the state does not necessarily need to create a new regional transit authority to coordinate and manage regional transit service as most of the ability to do so already exists through the legislation that created GRTA and GRTA Xpress regional commuter bus service almost a decade-and-a-half ago.Report

        6. ScottNAtlanta August 8, 2012 10:10 pm

           @Burroughston Broch Here’s an idea…let MARTA use the money it has and remove this stupid 50/50 rule that makes no sense.  Also, extend the MARTA sales tax in the current area to at least 30 years so MARTA can issue long term bonds to finance construction of new routes…that would be a good start.  Also, the constant demonizing of MARTA for reasons that are far from accurate would also be a nice changeReport

        7. ScottNAtlanta August 8, 2012 10:12 pm

           @Burroughston Broch The gulch was not included in the TIA…and your anti-Atlanta tone is getting old…how about contributing some good ideas…since we know you wont be contributing anything else (not any of my damn tax money)Report

        8. Burroughston Broch August 8, 2012 11:19 pm

           @ScottNAtlanta I pay City sales tax when I am in the City or at the airport (which is often) so, if the City were to add 1%, I would pay it. The difference is that it’s my decision to pay it. I don’t like government taking taxes from me in DeKalb to spend on the BeltLine that will never benefit me.
          I am well aware that the Gulch was not included, but you and I both know that it’s in the Mayor’s plans since it’s a developer-driven project.
          Looking for good ideas for MARTA? Here are a few.
          1. Institute a distance-based fare system. I would gladly pay $10 instead of $5 to get to the airport. It costs me $30 to drive round trip to the airport.
          2. Get new, energetic management composed of skilled problem solvers.
          3. Get rid of the ATU union.
          4. Focus on building ridership on the existing lines.
          5. Expand the East Line into South DeKalb and the South Line to the International Terminal at the airport.
          6. Build the Clifton Corridor segment from the East Line to Emory first. It should cost much less and have more riders than the segment from Lindbergh.
          And your ideas, sir?

        9. Burroughston Broch August 8, 2012 11:48 pm

           @ScottNAtlanta One more thing, my “anti-Atlanta tone”.
          I lived in Atlanta in the late 60s and early 70s when Ivan Allen and Sam Massell were Mayors. City government was corrupt (it’s always corrupt because it’s spending other people’s money) but it worked. Things started coming unglued when Sam Massell caved in to the sanitation worker’s union and Jerry Wurf. Then came Maynard Jackson who promised that things would get better, and I took him at his word. Instead it has been all down hill, with Bill Campbell being a particularly low point. City government is now monumentally corrupt and nothing works. I feel betrayed and see no improvement on the horizon.
          Add to it the snotty, snide, condescending remarks of City dwellers who look down their noses at anyone residing outside the City, and yet proclaim an attitude of entitlement that metro Atlanta must prop up the City. They think it’s 50 years ago and  the City is the keystone of the metro area and the state. Times have changed. 93% of people in metro Atlanta who don’t live in the City resent the tone and the attitude. This could be improved.
          It hurts me and makes me angry to ride through Atlanta and see a great resemblance to Detroit and North Philadelphia. What has happened there will happen here unless City dwellers make some big changes.
          Hence my “anti-Atlanta tone”, as you call it.Report

        10. ScottNAtlanta August 10, 2012 8:35 pm

           @Burroughston Broch 
          hows about some links to those numbers you consistently misrepresentReport

        11. Burroughston Broch August 10, 2012 9:31 pm

           @ScottNAtlanta How do you know if I misrepresent them if you don’t know where I got them? Which ones do you want?
          While we’re at it, how about your good ideas for MARTA? You challenged me for some,  I responded with 6 and asked for yours.Report

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  14. entry mats April 24, 2016 4:39 pm

    The referendum proved that Mayor Reed has limited power to influence
    elections outside the City. Rather than position himself for a
    state-wide political run (which would fail) or a plum patronage job in a
    second Obama administration, I think he should follow Mayor Franklin’s
    lead and focus on being a good two term mayor.Report


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