Region’s rail backers watching Clayton County’s MARTA vote

By Dave Williams and Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Oct. 24, 2014

The outcome of a Nov. 4 referendum calling for MARTA to expand into Clayton County will echo well beyond Atlanta’s southside.

The possibility of adding a new county to the transit agency’s service area for the first time since MARTA opened for business in the 1970s is being watched across the metro region, notably in Gwinnett County.

For the last five years, Gwinnett business leaders have been laying the groundwork for extending rail service beyond the existing MARTA Doraville station up the Interstate 85 corridor.

After Clayton, the former GM plant at Doraville is a strategic target for rail expansion, said Egbert Perry, founder and CEO of the Integral Group, which bought the property last month.

“We looked at the site and saw all of the above — 1/3 to 1/2 mile of frontage along [Interstate] 285 one exit from I-85, [a freight] rail [spur] inside the Perimeter [and] MARTA on the other side of the track,” Perry told a business audience Oct. 16 during a redevelopment forum sponsored by Partnership Gwinnett. “It … has more bones for multimodal than any other site in the region.”

The General Assembly considered a proposal to lift legal obstacles to MARTA extending heavy rail transit service into Gwinnett County without joining as a full partner as recently as 2011.

But Clayton County moved to the forefront of MARTA’s expansion planning after the county’s bus system, C-Tran, went out of business.

“Clayton is the biggest county in the region that doesn’t have transit,” said Robbie Ashe, MARTA’s board chairman. “It’s a county that desperately needs transit. … This gives them the opportunity to join a system that’s already mature and robust without an initiation fee.”

Ashe said he’s “cautiously optimistic” Clayton voters will approve the referendum to levy a penny sales tax to support bringing MARTA into the county.

MARTA buses would begin serving Clayton in March, when the county would start collecting the tax.

But Ashe said the ultimate plan is to bring MARTA rail into Clayton County, preferably through an agreement with Norfolk Southern Corp. to share the freight carrier’s tracks. He said such a deal would save on construction costs and allow MARTA to offer commuter rail service inside Clayton, making it Georgia’s first commuter rail line.

If MARTA can’t reach an agreement with Norfolk Southern, Ashe said, the alternative would be a bus rapid transit system, essentially buses that operate in dedicated lanes.

Ashe said he hopes the Clayton referendum passes by a large margin to send a strong message to the rest of the region that voters now believe MARTA finally has its fiscal house in order under the leadership of General Manager Keith Parker.

“For several decades, the news about MARTA and our budget has not been good,” Ashe said. “We’ve balanced our budget the last two years and added to our reserves. … We’re a deserving investment partner.”

In the early 1990s, Gwinnett County voters soundly rejected bringing MARTA rail into the county.

But Ashe said straw votes on transit taken in the two party primaries in Gwinnett back in 2008 left him encouraged that times are changing. While only 37 percent of voters in Gwinnett’s Republican primary that summer said they would be willing to pay an additional penny sales tax to extend MARTA past Doraville, 70 percent of Democratic primary voters supported the proposal.

Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash is not so sure.

Gwinnett voters most likely to support rail live in the densely populated cities in south Gwinnett, she said. But 75 percent of the population lives in the rural, unincorporated areas of the county.

“I think the conversation is moving” Nash said. “But south Gwinnett is not all of Gwinnett.”

Looking to its economic future, Perry said Gwinnett will need transit if the county is to prosper.

“All the Millennials care about is connections between great destinations,” he said. “You can’t do that in an area that’s totally auto-dependent. … Embrace transit, and I think Gwinnett will do well.

Dave Williams is a staff writer with the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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.

41 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    “We looked at the site and saw all of the above — 1/3 to 1/2 mile of frontage along [Interstate] 285 one exit from I-85, [a freight] rail [spur] inside the Perimeter [and] MARTA on the other side of the track,”
    It’s not a spur – it’s the Norfolk Southern main line to Charlotte.Report

    Reply
  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    “We looked at the site and saw all of the above — 1/3 to 1/2 mile of frontage along [Interstate] 285 one exit from I-85, [a freight] rail [spur] inside the Perimeter [and] MARTA on the other side of the track,”
    It’s not a spur – it’s the Norfolk Southern main line to Charlotte.Report

    Reply
  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    If Gwinnett business interests want to see passenger rail transit service expanded into Gwinnett County from Atlanta, they are going to have to use the Hong Kong model of transit funding which uses transit-owned transit-oriented development backed by private investment (and distance-based user fees) to fund transit construction and operations.
    Until Georgia business interests and transit advocates (and transportation advocates in general) realize that private investment and distance-based user fees will fund a heck of a lot more transportation needs than the limited revenues from tax referendums in counties full of tax-averse voters ever will.Report

    Reply
  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    If Gwinnett business interests want to see passenger rail transit service expanded into Gwinnett County from Atlanta, they are going to have to use the Hong Kong model of transit funding which uses transit-owned transit-oriented development backed by private investment (and distance-based user fees) to fund transit construction and operations.
    Until Georgia business interests and transit advocates (and transportation advocates in general) realize that private investment and distance-based user fees will fund a heck of a lot more transportation needs than the limited revenues from tax referendums in counties full of tax-averse voters ever will.Report

    Reply
  5. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    It is also critically important that MARTA continue to rehabilitate its financial position and its public image.  MARTA CEO Keith Parker has done a lot of good work to help rehab the traditionally troubled transit agency’s poor public image and finances but the agency still has a heck of a lot more work to do to become a politically and financially viable option when it comes to talk of expanding passenger rail transit service into traditionally highly transit-averse areas like Gwinnett, Cobb and beyond.
    It is critically important that Keith Parker continue on the course of leasing out the development rights of the land and space that MARTA owns at, around and above existing transit stations.  It is also critically important that the transit agency utilize this potentially potent financial tool to its maximum effect as a way to become financially self-sufficient and end its sole dependence on limited sales tax revenue in the not-too-distant future.
    Becoming financially self-sufficient (and financially and operationally successful) would demonstrate that the agency was financially viable over the long-term and would make the agency much more politically viable for expansion into outlying areas that have traditionally dominated by highly transit-averse interests (…areas that remain in desperate need of transportation upgrades and alternatives because of continued high rates of population growth and limited road networks).
    But trying to convince highly tax-averse voters in outlying areas like Cobb and Gwinnett who are understandably highly skeptical about the benefits of tax-funded public transit to vote themselves a tax increase to fund a mode of transportation that remains a financial loser is a total non-starter in areas outside of Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.Report

    Reply
  6. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    It is also critically important that MARTA continue to rehabilitate its financial position and its public image.  MARTA CEO Keith Parker has done a lot of good work to help rehab the traditionally troubled transit agency’s poor public image and finances but the agency still has a heck of a lot more work to do to become a politically and financially viable option when it comes to talk of expanding passenger rail transit service into traditionally highly transit-averse areas like Gwinnett, Cobb and beyond.
    It is critically important that Keith Parker continue on the course of leasing out the development rights of the land and space that MARTA owns at, around and above existing transit stations.  It is also critically important that the transit agency utilize this potentially potent financial tool to its maximum effect as a way to become financially self-sufficient and end its sole dependence on limited sales tax revenue in the not-too-distant future.
    Becoming financially self-sufficient (and financially and operationally successful) would demonstrate that the agency was financially viable over the long-term and would make the agency much more politically viable for expansion into outlying areas that have traditionally dominated by highly transit-averse interests (…areas that remain in desperate need of transportation upgrades and alternatives because of continued high rates of population growth and limited road networks).
    But trying to convince highly tax-averse voters in outlying areas like Cobb and Gwinnett who are understandably highly skeptical about the benefits of tax-funded public transit to vote themselves a tax increase to fund a mode of transportation that remains a financial loser is a total non-starter in areas outside of Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.Report

    Reply
  7. Burroughston Broch says:

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Another thing MARTA need do is to improve service. Here’s an example of continued poor service. I arrived at the Airport station platform last night at 1015PM and arrived at Dunwoody station platform at 1145PM. That’s 90 minutes for what is a normally a 40 minute trip when I don’t have to change at Lindbergh.Report

    Reply
  8. Burroughston Broch says:

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Another thing MARTA need do is to improve service. Here’s an example of continued poor service. I arrived at the Airport station platform last night at 1015PM and arrived at Dunwoody station platform at 1145PM. That’s 90 minutes for what is a normally a 40 minute trip when I don’t have to change at Lindbergh.Report

    Reply
  9. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Georgia business interests will remain blowing in the wind and underserved by transit (and transportation in general) until they realize that private investment and user fees are the way to fund transportation needs.Report

    Reply
  10. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Georgia business interests will remain blowing in the wind and underserved by transit (and transportation in general) until they realize that private investment and user fees are the way to fund transportation needs.Report

    Reply
  11. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia  You are so very correct, sir.
    It is the increased (and maximized) revenues from transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development (revenues from rents collected from large-scale transit-oriented development on transit-owned property) and distance-based user fees that can and will fund the higher level of transit service that this city, region and state so sorely (and desperately) need.
    MARTA and other American urban transit agencies desperately need to start collecting revenue from transit-oriented real estate development as a means of funding a much-higher level of transit service….That’s because taxes can (and will) only raise so much revenue.
    Transit agencies like MARTA have a cap of how much revenue they can collect from taxes (taxes like the 1% sales tax that funds MARTA operations in Fulton and DeKalb counties…an agency like MARTA can basically only function off of what the tax collects limiting the amount and quality of service that can be provided)….But there is no cap to how much money transit agencies like MARTA can collect from transit-owned real estate development on transit-owned property along transit lines.
    Transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development is key in helping to fund the high level of transit operations that the public so desperately needs and desires (security, cleanliness, safety, frequency of trains and buses, etc).
    Without those revenues from large-scale transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development, large urban transit agencies like MARTA will continue to struggle financially and operationally.Report

    Reply
  12. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia  You are so very correct, sir.
    It is the increased (and maximized) revenues from transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development (revenues from rents collected from large-scale transit-oriented development on transit-owned property) and distance-based user fees that can and will fund the higher level of transit service that this city, region and state so sorely (and desperately) need.
    MARTA and other American urban transit agencies desperately need to start collecting revenue from transit-oriented real estate development as a means of funding a much-higher level of transit service….That’s because taxes can (and will) only raise so much revenue.
    Transit agencies like MARTA have a cap of how much revenue they can collect from taxes (taxes like the 1% sales tax that funds MARTA operations in Fulton and DeKalb counties…an agency like MARTA can basically only function off of what the tax collects limiting the amount and quality of service that can be provided)….But there is no cap to how much money transit agencies like MARTA can collect from transit-owned real estate development on transit-owned property along transit lines.
    Transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development is key in helping to fund the high level of transit operations that the public so desperately needs and desires (security, cleanliness, safety, frequency of trains and buses, etc).
    Without those revenues from large-scale transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development, large urban transit agencies like MARTA will continue to struggle financially and operationally.Report

    Reply
  13. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Having passenger trains and freight trains share the same trackage through Clayton County also is not the greatest idea.
    Norfolk Southern is increasingly reluctant (if not loathe) to the idea of sharing their freight tracks with what could potentially be a high volume of passenger trains, particularly with the Port of Savannah poised to expand and continue its high rates of growth.
    NS is most likely not going to agree to let passenger trains operate on its freight tracks when the company very well likely may need that trackage for increased freight operations in the not-too-distant future.
    A county as urban and as densely populated as Clayton County needs BOTH heavy rail and commuter rail service, not just some low-frequency commuter rail service that is shared with freight trains on what is mostly a single-tracked freight rail line with increasing volumes of freight trains.
    The proposal should be to extend heavy rail transit down to at least the Atlanta Motor Speedway (with commuter rail service continuing onto Middle Georgia) using private investment, real estate revenues and distance-based user fees.
    The sales tax referendum is a good start, but it should be just that: a start, NOT the sole long-term/permanent source of revenue.Report

    Reply
  14. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Having passenger trains and freight trains share the same trackage through Clayton County also is not the greatest idea.
    Norfolk Southern is increasingly reluctant (if not loathe) to the idea of sharing their freight tracks with what could potentially be a high volume of passenger trains, particularly with the Port of Savannah poised to expand and continue its high rates of growth.
    NS is most likely not going to agree to let passenger trains operate on its freight tracks when the company very well likely may need that trackage for increased freight operations in the not-too-distant future.
    A county as urban and as densely populated as Clayton County needs BOTH heavy rail and commuter rail service, not just some low-frequency commuter rail service that is shared with freight trains on what is mostly a single-tracked freight rail line with increasing volumes of freight trains.
    The proposal should be to extend heavy rail transit down to at least the Atlanta Motor Speedway (with commuter rail service continuing onto Middle Georgia) using private investment, real estate revenues and distance-based user fees.
    The sales tax referendum is a good start, but it should be just that: a start, NOT the sole long-term/permanent source of revenue.Report

    Reply
  15. gt7348b says:

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch
    LDDG – I think you completely over estimate the amount of revenues TOD leases generate. MARTA”s current TOD leases bring in approximately $5 million annually, but that is less that 1% of the operating budget. If you look at the current proposals, only Brookhaven is likely to generate significant revenues about $1+ million annually. The market for ground leases and air rights is just not here in Atlanta the way you continually compare to Hong Kong. Now, if there was a real estate transaction fee or something when property changed hands near a MARTA station in consideration of the increased value of public transit, that could make a significant difference. 
    On variable based fares, you are also under the mistaken impressions that switching to distance based fares would generate more revenues. It could, but the way the fares could be structure it could end up being a revenue neutral proposition. It all depends on how the fare structure is implemented. It is a common misperception among policy makers and lay observers that distance based fares will automatically generate additional revenue.Report

    Reply
  16. gt7348b says:

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch
    LDDG – I think you completely over estimate the amount of revenues TOD leases generate. MARTA”s current TOD leases bring in approximately $5 million annually, but that is less that 1% of the operating budget. If you look at the current proposals, only Brookhaven is likely to generate significant revenues about $1+ million annually. The market for ground leases and air rights is just not here in Atlanta the way you continually compare to Hong Kong. Now, if there was a real estate transaction fee or something when property changed hands near a MARTA station in consideration of the increased value of public transit, that could make a significant difference. 
    On variable based fares, you are also under the mistaken impressions that switching to distance based fares would generate more revenues. It could, but the way the fares could be structure it could end up being a revenue neutral proposition. It all depends on how the fare structure is implemented. It is a common misperception among policy makers and lay observers that distance based fares will automatically generate additional revenue.Report

    Reply
  17. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @gt7348b The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch  Those are some really good points.
    To get collect and maximize revenues from transit-oriented development along transit lines, large urban transit agencies like MARTA will have to be very aggressive in seeking outleases of the property and air rights they own at, around and above transit stations. 
    Large urban transit agencies like MARTA will also have to be aggressive in making new property acquisitions along transit lines by raising funds from private investors, something that American urban transit agencies (and local and state governments) are not accustomed to at this point in time….But raising funds from private investors is something that American urban transit agencies are going to have to get accustomed to in this 21st Century climate of increasingly scarce transportation funding from traditional revenue sources like sales taxes for transit and fuel taxes for roads.
    At this point in time, MARTA has not been very aggressive in seeking to sell the development rights at, around and above stations and MARTA has no portfolio of transit-owned properties outside of its rail transit stations.  To compensate for that lack of revenue-generating transit-owned properties, a large urban agency like MARTA could collect Value Capture taxes from commercial properties along transit lines.
    Value Capture taxes (revenues collected from targeted Community Improvement Districts (CIDs), Tax Allocation Districts (TADs), Tax Increment Financing (TIF) property and sales taxes on commercial properties along transit lines) will serve as the “real estate transaction fee” that you speak on properties that have increased values because of their location near transit lines.Report

    Reply
  18. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @gt7348b The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch  Those are some really good points.
    To get collect and maximize revenues from transit-oriented development along transit lines, large urban transit agencies like MARTA will have to be very aggressive in seeking outleases of the property and air rights they own at, around and above transit stations. 
    Large urban transit agencies like MARTA will also have to be aggressive in making new property acquisitions along transit lines by raising funds from private investors, something that American urban transit agencies (and local and state governments) are not accustomed to at this point in time….But raising funds from private investors is something that American urban transit agencies are going to have to get accustomed to in this 21st Century climate of increasingly scarce transportation funding from traditional revenue sources like sales taxes for transit and fuel taxes for roads.
    At this point in time, MARTA has not been very aggressive in seeking to sell the development rights at, around and above stations and MARTA has no portfolio of transit-owned properties outside of its rail transit stations.  To compensate for that lack of revenue-generating transit-owned properties, a large urban agency like MARTA could collect Value Capture taxes from commercial properties along transit lines.
    Value Capture taxes (revenues collected from targeted Community Improvement Districts (CIDs), Tax Allocation Districts (TADs), Tax Increment Financing (TIF) property and sales taxes on commercial properties along transit lines) will serve as the “real estate transaction fee” that you speak on properties that have increased values because of their location near transit lines.Report

    Reply
  19. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @gt7348b The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch  You also make some really good points about variable-based and/or distance-based fares.
    (…In this case, fares would not be variable, but would only be distance-based in nature, meaning that fares would be levied by the mile at a rate of about $0.20-0.30 per-mile in 2014 dollars with no increased rates for rush-hour and peak-hour usage….Fares would also be discounted to a rate of as low as $0.10/mile in 2014 dollars for economically disadvantaged and special groups and fares would be increased to a rate of as high as $0.50/mile in 2014 dollars for premium rail service (first-class, express commuter trains, etc).)
    You make a great point that a distance-based fare structure alone will not necessarily generate more revenue for a transit system. 
    A distance-based fare structure will generate more revenues, but primarily only if much more transit-oriented development is built to generate many more transit trips (and much more fare revenue) along transit lines (both rail and bus transit lines).
    A distance-based fare structure and large-scale transit-oriented development compliments each other (large-scale TOD generates increased transit trips while a distance-based fare structure generates more revenue by charging less for shorter trips and more for longer trips than the current $2.50 flat-rate fare that charges $2.50 no matter the length of the trip) while revenues from targeted Value Capture taxes supplement the increased revenues from distance-based fares and transit-owned transit-oriented development along transit lines.Report

    Reply
  20. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @gt7348b The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch  You also make some really good points about variable-based and/or distance-based fares.
    (…In this case, fares would not be variable, but would only be distance-based in nature, meaning that fares would be levied by the mile at a rate of about $0.20-0.30 per-mile in 2014 dollars with no increased rates for rush-hour and peak-hour usage….Fares would also be discounted to a rate of as low as $0.10/mile in 2014 dollars for economically disadvantaged and special groups and fares would be increased to a rate of as high as $0.50/mile in 2014 dollars for premium rail service (first-class, express commuter trains, etc).)
    You make a great point that a distance-based fare structure alone will not necessarily generate more revenue for a transit system. 
    A distance-based fare structure will generate more revenues, but primarily only if much more transit-oriented development is built to generate many more transit trips (and much more fare revenue) along transit lines (both rail and bus transit lines).
    A distance-based fare structure and large-scale transit-oriented development compliments each other (large-scale TOD generates increased transit trips while a distance-based fare structure generates more revenue by charging less for shorter trips and more for longer trips than the current $2.50 flat-rate fare that charges $2.50 no matter the length of the trip) while revenues from targeted Value Capture taxes supplement the increased revenues from distance-based fares and transit-owned transit-oriented development along transit lines.Report

    Reply
  21. Lunaville says:

    I think a lot of folks south of Clayton would like a pro-Marta vote in Clayton because they hope it will eventually be extended. For decades, people in Baldwin county, for instance, have wondered when there would be high speed rail linking Milledgeville to Atlanta and Savannah. Such a line will NEVER be a possibility so long as the counties ringing Dekalb and Fulton are able to block MARTA from progressing further. If those same counties had been given that kind of power over highway construction, most of the roads outside of the perimeter would still be red clay. At this point, it really is ridiculous that we don’t have a statewide plan for public transit.Report

    Reply
  22. Lunaville says:

    I think a lot of folks south of Clayton would like a pro-Marta vote in Clayton because they hope it will eventually be extended. For decades, people in Baldwin county, for instance, have wondered when there would be high speed rail linking Milledgeville to Atlanta and Savannah. Such a line will NEVER be a possibility so long as the counties ringing Dekalb and Fulton are able to block MARTA from progressing further. If those same counties had been given that kind of power over highway construction, most of the roads outside of the perimeter would still be red clay. At this point, it really is ridiculous that we don’t have a statewide plan for public transit.Report

    Reply
  23. Lunaville says:

    I very quickly read the thread and really like all the ideas here from distance based fees to deriving income from transit owned real estate. I also have an idea or two that I like to think would benefit transit.
    1. A dime per gallon tax on gasoline, in addition to those taxes already levied, dedicated to mass transit throughout the state. This would in a small way encourage the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles and the use of alternative transit methods such as carpooling, walking, and taking transit where available. I would like to see initial expenditures from the fund go toward making sure there is adequate transit for the elderly, the blind, and other groups blocked from driving.
    2. Creation of a state agency charged with determining the best configuration for a statewide transit system, building that system, and maintaining that system. I would prefer that there was a hiring preference for veterans because that population has a much higher unemployment rate than other sub-groups and it would be nice to give something back to those who were so willing to give to America while we build something nice for everyone.
    3. I would eventually like to see the following passenger rail lines constructed:
     Asheville – Athen – Milledgeville – Valdosta
      Marietta – Sandy Springs – Athens
      Birmingham – Atlanta
      Columbus – Macon – Milledgeville – Augusta
      Roswell – Sandy Springs – Atlanta – Milledgeville – Savannah
      Columbia – Augusta
      Dahlonega – Roswell – Marietta – Columbus – Albany – Valdosta – Savannah – Augusta – Athens – Dahlonega
           This idea makes more sense if you get a map of Georgia and “connect the dots.” Each of these places has one or more of the following: a university, a military base, a major medical installation, a large manufacturing base,or  a concentration of government facilities. I think we could build these things with an eye toward powering our economy and creating beautiful public spaces where people would want to gather to eat, shop, or celebrate even when they are not traveling. Traveling very efficiently, however, should be the utmost goal so that busy people will opt for mass transit first.Report

    Reply
  24. Lunaville says:

    I very quickly read the thread and really like all the ideas here from distance based fees to deriving income from transit owned real estate. I also have an idea or two that I like to think would benefit transit.
    1. A dime per gallon tax on gasoline, in addition to those taxes already levied, dedicated to mass transit throughout the state. This would in a small way encourage the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles and the use of alternative transit methods such as carpooling, walking, and taking transit where available. I would like to see initial expenditures from the fund go toward making sure there is adequate transit for the elderly, the blind, and other groups blocked from driving.
    2. Creation of a state agency charged with determining the best configuration for a statewide transit system, building that system, and maintaining that system. I would prefer that there was a hiring preference for veterans because that population has a much higher unemployment rate than other sub-groups and it would be nice to give something back to those who were so willing to give to America while we build something nice for everyone.
    3. I would eventually like to see the following passenger rail lines constructed:
     Asheville – Athen – Milledgeville – Valdosta
      Marietta – Sandy Springs – Athens
      Birmingham – Atlanta
      Columbus – Macon – Milledgeville – Augusta
      Roswell – Sandy Springs – Atlanta – Milledgeville – Savannah
      Columbia – Augusta
      Dahlonega – Roswell – Marietta – Columbus – Albany – Valdosta – Savannah – Augusta – Athens – Dahlonega
           This idea makes more sense if you get a map of Georgia and “connect the dots.” Each of these places has one or more of the following: a university, a military base, a major medical installation, a large manufacturing base,or  a concentration of government facilities. I think we could build these things with an eye toward powering our economy and creating beautiful public spaces where people would want to gather to eat, shop, or celebrate even when they are not traveling. Traveling very efficiently, however, should be the utmost goal so that busy people will opt for mass transit first.Report

    Reply
  25. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Lunaville  Those are some really good points, particularly about the pressing need for a statewide plan for public transit.
    Though, one thing to note is that making MARTA financially self-sufficient and financially and operationally successful makes it much less likely that expansion of heavy rail transit service beyond Fulton and DeKalb counties will be blocked.
    If a transit agency like MARTA becomes financially and operationally successful, not only will outlying counties be much less likely to block a much-needed expansion of the passenger rail transit network, but those outlying areas will likely eagerly want to become part of the passenger rail transit network in a 21st Century economy where access to transit is key to economic growth and success in large major metro regions.Report

    Reply
  26. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Lunaville  Those are some really good points, particularly about the pressing need for a statewide plan for public transit.
    Though, one thing to note is that making MARTA financially self-sufficient and financially and operationally successful makes it much less likely that expansion of heavy rail transit service beyond Fulton and DeKalb counties will be blocked.
    If a transit agency like MARTA becomes financially and operationally successful, not only will outlying counties be much less likely to block a much-needed expansion of the passenger rail transit network, but those outlying areas will likely eagerly want to become part of the passenger rail transit network in a 21st Century economy where access to transit is key to economic growth and success in large major metro regions.Report

    Reply
  27. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Lunaville  Those are some really good comments and some excellent ideas.
    Though the idea for a dime gallon tax on gasoline would likely be problematic because in this current political climate that is completely dominated at highly tax-averse factions at both the state and federal levels of government, any proposal to increase taxes would be a non-starter.  Any suggestion to increase taxes for any reason, no matter how seemingly important, is D.O.A. (Dead-On-Arrival) before it is even heard or considered by policymakers and their highly tax-averse constituents.
    Support of tax increases of any kind are major political liabilities that are enough to get almost all politicians immediately and angrily voted out of office in this current political environment. 
    It is because of the overwhelming unpopularity of even the mere suggestion of tax increases that it is so critically important that we find and utilize ways to fund our overwhelming transportation needs without increasing taxes. 
    The almost total political inability to increase taxes is a major reason why paying for transportation improvements with revenues from real estate development, private investment and distance-based user fees will be so critically important in the 21st Century….Because the traditional options of increasing taxes to pay for transportation improvements will likely be a political impossibility for the foreseeable future.Report

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  28. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Lunaville  Those are some really good comments and some excellent ideas.
    Though the idea for a dime gallon tax on gasoline would likely be problematic because in this current political climate that is completely dominated at highly tax-averse factions at both the state and federal levels of government, any proposal to increase taxes would be a non-starter.  Any suggestion to increase taxes for any reason, no matter how seemingly important, is D.O.A. (Dead-On-Arrival) before it is even heard or considered by policymakers and their highly tax-averse constituents.
    Support of tax increases of any kind are major political liabilities that are enough to get almost all politicians immediately and angrily voted out of office in this current political environment. 
    It is because of the overwhelming unpopularity of even the mere suggestion of tax increases that it is so critically important that we find and utilize ways to fund our overwhelming transportation needs without increasing taxes. 
    The almost total political inability to increase taxes is a major reason why paying for transportation improvements with revenues from real estate development, private investment and distance-based user fees will be so critically important in the 21st Century….Because the traditional options of increasing taxes to pay for transportation improvements will likely be a political impossibility for the foreseeable future.Report

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  29. Lunaville says:

    The Last Democrat in Georgia
    I agree, we do seem to be in a period of anti-tax hysteria. For all our cultural glorifying of the “Greatest Generation” we don’t seem to follow their example very well. My own grandparents were members of that generation and they were avid supporters of initiatives like raising money for schools long after they no longer had children in the school system. They were careful to avoid waste before the term “environmentalist” had been coined. They voted to tax themselves when they thought it would benefit the community at large. As an example, I remember when what was then a new feature of 9-1-1 was proposed. When a person called in, his location would be automatically identified for emergency services even if he had lost consciousness. I remember how outraged my grandparents were that anyone would vote against that.
    Sadly, I also remember them living in area with no public transportation and attempting to cling to their driving privileges long, long after it was safe. Our parents did not intervene in anyway. We were teens and did not understand how dangerous the situation was. My grandmother used to take us into the DMV with her to distract the officers. Her vision was so poor she would ask us who the youngest looking officer on duty was. Then she would insist that he call her Granny. We would create minor chaos as instructed and she somehow cheated the vision test while we did so. I am not sure how she did it. I suspect she memorized the order of the objects she was supposed to name or something. Anyway, providing transportation to the elderly and the blind is kind of a big deal to me. Ideally, we would provide mass transit for everyone, but certainly the elderly and the blind should have a way to get about with relative independence.Report

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  30. Lunaville says:

    The Last Democrat in Georgia
    I agree, we do seem to be in a period of anti-tax hysteria. For all our cultural glorifying of the “Greatest Generation” we don’t seem to follow their example very well. My own grandparents were members of that generation and they were avid supporters of initiatives like raising money for schools long after they no longer had children in the school system. They were careful to avoid waste before the term “environmentalist” had been coined. They voted to tax themselves when they thought it would benefit the community at large. As an example, I remember when what was then a new feature of 9-1-1 was proposed. When a person called in, his location would be automatically identified for emergency services even if he had lost consciousness. I remember how outraged my grandparents were that anyone would vote against that.
    Sadly, I also remember them living in area with no public transportation and attempting to cling to their driving privileges long, long after it was safe. Our parents did not intervene in anyway. We were teens and did not understand how dangerous the situation was. My grandmother used to take us into the DMV with her to distract the officers. Her vision was so poor she would ask us who the youngest looking officer on duty was. Then she would insist that he call her Granny. We would create minor chaos as instructed and she somehow cheated the vision test while we did so. I am not sure how she did it. I suspect she memorized the order of the objects she was supposed to name or something. Anyway, providing transportation to the elderly and the blind is kind of a big deal to me. Ideally, we would provide mass transit for everyone, but certainly the elderly and the blind should have a way to get about with relative independence.Report

    Reply
  31. gt7348b says:

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch There’s a reason that MARTA and other US transit agencies don’t own large tracts of land not around transit stations – it is either illegal or against federal regulations. I’m most familiar with MARTA, but MARTA may only acquire land needed for construction or operation of the rapid transit system. While it was settled that MARTA can develop land that it already owns and acquire some land help facilitate developed in the Lindbergh Lawsuit with Peachtree Hills and other neighborhoods, there has to be a clear nexus with operation and construction of the rapid transit system. I won’t even begin to get into the requirements of the Federal Transit Administration if trying to use federal money. While the ideas of value capture are sound, it ignores the realities of the restrictions MARTA operates under due to the enabling legislation that governs what powers MARTA actually has available. As far as not being aggressive, since January of 2013 MARTA has released four stations for development and requested interest in development of air rights at four others. GIven that the joint development team at MARTA is only about 2 to 3 people, I would suggest that they are doing about the best they can within the environment they have to operate.Report

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  32. gt7348b says:

    The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch There’s a reason that MARTA and other US transit agencies don’t own large tracts of land not around transit stations – it is either illegal or against federal regulations. I’m most familiar with MARTA, but MARTA may only acquire land needed for construction or operation of the rapid transit system. While it was settled that MARTA can develop land that it already owns and acquire some land help facilitate developed in the Lindbergh Lawsuit with Peachtree Hills and other neighborhoods, there has to be a clear nexus with operation and construction of the rapid transit system. I won’t even begin to get into the requirements of the Federal Transit Administration if trying to use federal money. While the ideas of value capture are sound, it ignores the realities of the restrictions MARTA operates under due to the enabling legislation that governs what powers MARTA actually has available. As far as not being aggressive, since January of 2013 MARTA has released four stations for development and requested interest in development of air rights at four others. GIven that the joint development team at MARTA is only about 2 to 3 people, I would suggest that they are doing about the best they can within the environment they have to operate.Report

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  33. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @gt7348b The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch  But many large urban/metropolitan/regional transit agencies do own somewhat large tracts of land around transit stations, particularly in suburban and semi-suburban settings where rail transit stations may be surrounded by large park-and-ride lots like the large park-and-ride lots that sit adjacent to many stations throughout the MARTA heavy rail system.
    It is those large park-and-ride lots that offer some of the greatest opportunities for a traditionally cash-strapped transit agency like MARTA to generate significantly increased revenues from transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development.  MARTA already owns the land (along with GDOT which also owns some of those park-and-ride lots at suburban and semi-suburban MARTA stations), they’ve just got to start putting those to use….Like MARTA has already started the process of doing.
    The airspace above urban stations in more densely-developed areas of the system (like Midtown, Downtown, Buckhead, etc) also offer some great opportunities to generate large amounts of revenue from transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development because of the prime location of the stations.
    Also, your mention of the joint development team at MARTA consisting of only about 2 or 3 people illustrates the need for a large urban transit agency like MARTA to partner much more closely with and utilize the resources of Metro Atlanta’s robust private real estate development sector….That’s because transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development is a revenue stream that could potentially generate as much as $100 BILLION in revenues if utilized correctly….Potential revenues that are nothing for a traditionally severely cash-strapped transit agency like MARTA to sneeze at.
    Hong Kong has maximized the transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development revenue stream to the extent that its transit agency is reported to be worth an estimated $250 billion in value….With that kind of revenue, we could extend transit service all over the Atlanta region and likely throughout much of the state of Georgia….But without that robust revenue stream from transit-oriented real estate development we will continue struggle to operate trains and buses at a minimal level of service (like Burroughton Broch’s example of a 40-minute trip taking 90 minutes to compete just to ride no more than 25 miles from the world’s busiest airport at 10pm at night to one of the metro area’s most important business and residential districts in Dunwoody…transit service that should operate at a prime level at any hour of the day).Report

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  34. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @gt7348b The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch  But many large urban/metropolitan/regional transit agencies do own somewhat large tracts of land around transit stations, particularly in suburban and semi-suburban settings where rail transit stations may be surrounded by large park-and-ride lots like the large park-and-ride lots that sit adjacent to many stations throughout the MARTA heavy rail system.
    It is those large park-and-ride lots that offer some of the greatest opportunities for a traditionally cash-strapped transit agency like MARTA to generate significantly increased revenues from transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development.  MARTA already owns the land (along with GDOT which also owns some of those park-and-ride lots at suburban and semi-suburban MARTA stations), they’ve just got to start putting those to use….Like MARTA has already started the process of doing.
    The airspace above urban stations in more densely-developed areas of the system (like Midtown, Downtown, Buckhead, etc) also offer some great opportunities to generate large amounts of revenue from transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development because of the prime location of the stations.
    Also, your mention of the joint development team at MARTA consisting of only about 2 or 3 people illustrates the need for a large urban transit agency like MARTA to partner much more closely with and utilize the resources of Metro Atlanta’s robust private real estate development sector….That’s because transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development is a revenue stream that could potentially generate as much as $100 BILLION in revenues if utilized correctly….Potential revenues that are nothing for a traditionally severely cash-strapped transit agency like MARTA to sneeze at.
    Hong Kong has maximized the transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development revenue stream to the extent that its transit agency is reported to be worth an estimated $250 billion in value….With that kind of revenue, we could extend transit service all over the Atlanta region and likely throughout much of the state of Georgia….But without that robust revenue stream from transit-oriented real estate development we will continue struggle to operate trains and buses at a minimal level of service (like Burroughton Broch’s example of a 40-minute trip taking 90 minutes to compete just to ride no more than 25 miles from the world’s busiest airport at 10pm at night to one of the metro area’s most important business and residential districts in Dunwoody…transit service that should operate at a prime level at any hour of the day).Report

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  35. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @gt7348b The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch  A large urban transit agency like MARTA also would not need to use federal money to purchase new tracts of land to cultivate into revenue-generating transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development.
    Using the extremely lucrative and wildly successful Hong Kong model, a large urban transit agency like MARTA would raise the money to acquire new properties to develop as needed by raising money from the private sector by selling shares of its agency and real estate development futures (Hong Kong’s highly-profitable transit agency, MTR, is 24% privately-owned).
    Also, the idea of using Value Capture taxation as a means of supplementing revenues from maximized transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development could potentially be a much more palatable one (if not a popular one) with Georgia’s tax increase averse legislators in this current highly tax averse climate because Value Capture taxes would be targeted only at commercial properties along high-capacity transit corridors, NOT residential properties (particularly single-family residential properties which are occupied by voters who are much more loathe to support and vote for tax increases for transit).
    Value Capture taxes do not require the utilization of highly-controversial countywide (or regionwide) sales tax referendums which are often dominated by highly tax averse voters and staunchly anti-tax political factions.  Value Capture taxes only require the agreement and approval of the business community and private commercial property owners who are much more willing to support a tax increase to pay for transit infrastructure that will vastly increase the monetary value of their private property holdings.Report

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  36. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @gt7348b The Last Democrat in Georgia Burroughston Broch  A large urban transit agency like MARTA also would not need to use federal money to purchase new tracts of land to cultivate into revenue-generating transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development.
    Using the extremely lucrative and wildly successful Hong Kong model, a large urban transit agency like MARTA would raise the money to acquire new properties to develop as needed by raising money from the private sector by selling shares of its agency and real estate development futures (Hong Kong’s highly-profitable transit agency, MTR, is 24% privately-owned).
    Also, the idea of using Value Capture taxation as a means of supplementing revenues from maximized transit-owned transit-oriented real estate development could potentially be a much more palatable one (if not a popular one) with Georgia’s tax increase averse legislators in this current highly tax averse climate because Value Capture taxes would be targeted only at commercial properties along high-capacity transit corridors, NOT residential properties (particularly single-family residential properties which are occupied by voters who are much more loathe to support and vote for tax increases for transit).
    Value Capture taxes do not require the utilization of highly-controversial countywide (or regionwide) sales tax referendums which are often dominated by highly tax averse voters and staunchly anti-tax political factions.  Value Capture taxes only require the agreement and approval of the business community and private commercial property owners who are much more willing to support a tax increase to pay for transit infrastructure that will vastly increase the monetary value of their private property holdings.Report

    Reply
  37. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    kevinalynch  There are some very interesting ideas proposed in the article that you linked to.
    The proposed Vancouver model of charging each citizen a dollar a day, likely would not work in Atlanta, particularly on a regional/multi-jurisdictional/multi-county scale because it would be viewed as a tax and would take money from many citizens who do not support transit.
    What is really interesting is that the article cites Hong Kong’s malls inside transit stations as a model, not to replace fares (Hong Kong employs a distance-based fare structure of roughly about $0.40/mile), but as a way to generate much additional revenue (Hong Kong transit stations are developed as large-scale transit-owned mixed-use transit-oriented real estate developments expressly for the purpose of generating revenues to fund maximum amounts of transit service as needed).Report

    Reply
  38. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    kevinalynch  There are some very interesting ideas proposed in the article that you linked to.
    The proposed Vancouver model of charging each citizen a dollar a day, likely would not work in Atlanta, particularly on a regional/multi-jurisdictional/multi-county scale because it would be viewed as a tax and would take money from many citizens who do not support transit.
    What is really interesting is that the article cites Hong Kong’s malls inside transit stations as a model, not to replace fares (Hong Kong employs a distance-based fare structure of roughly about $0.40/mile), but as a way to generate much additional revenue (Hong Kong transit stations are developed as large-scale transit-owned mixed-use transit-oriented real estate developments expressly for the purpose of generating revenues to fund maximum amounts of transit service as needed).Report

    Reply

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