I Sense a disturbance in Lovejoy

Like the Macon Hotel deal, this damn train won’t die.

A compromise plan is being floated that could put the star-crossed Lovejoy commuter rail project back on track, two weeks after Clayton County commissioners reneged on a pledge to cover the transit line’s operating costs.

Eldrin Bell, chairman of the Clayton County Commission, now says he wants the annual cost capped, though he won’t offer a figure. State officials estimate the transit line’s operating deficit at $4 million a year. The County Commission had originally agreed to cover the entire deficit, no matter how big.

A cap “will give us a greater sense of what we have to come up with,” Bell said Tuesday.

I had thought it might be a good idea, but considering the reaction of Lovejoy voters, etc., it appears it is not a very popular idea up there, but for some reason the politicians keep pushing it.

7 comments

  1. First of all, Commissioner Ralph should be commended. Clayton County was getting ripped off more than anyone else in these deal. Fulton County was NOT going to pay anything toward the rail line, and neither was any of these cities-Atlanta, East Point, Forest Park, Morrow, Jonesboro, or Lovejoy.

    This article in the AJC is exactly why Eldrin and the rail proponents did not want a referendum on the ballot! They said everyone wanted it, remember? We put a non-binding referendum on the ballot in Henry County during the Primaries this past year and over 84% supported a referendum! Commissioner Ralph and I do not completely agree on the issue of commuter rail but we both support allowing the taxpayers having a vote on the issue.

    In my opinion the train is dead and Eldrin is living in a fantasy land. He signed a 50 year deal stating he(Clayton County) would cover all shortfalls with absolutely no control over the expenses and knowing he was going to be the only one paying anything! Less than a year later and before he pays anything he now wants a cap, and as I have stated before the numbers are changing constantly and its like chasing a ghost or putting out wildfires, its a moving target the never ends.

    Lets clear this up. There will be no tax increases as suggested and no Regional tax to pay for transit or commuter rail.

  2. Gwinnett County voters were against MARTA in 1990, but I bet a lot of the people that live there now wish they hadn’t been.

    Which raises an interesting point, why should a lot of people who are now dead or live in Barrow, Forsyth, Oconee and Walton get to make long term infrastructure decisions about a place they won’t even be in 20 years later?

    I am not against public participation in most cases, but it seems like we need a little leadership on making long term planning and transportation decisions. For some reason Steve Davis likes to sit in traffic and so he’s ok with roads only (and infinitely more of them) but we have 179 other House members and countless county commissions who can hopefully come up with some sort of alternative plan.

    Let’s take the current estimate of 1,500 riders each day (although I thought I saw elsewhere that the number was higher, with each Clayton stop having 1,000+ riders?). Anyway, at $4 million, 1,500 daily riders costs the county about $2,700/year.

    I’ve been trying to find an estimate of how much a daily commuter costs the county when it comes to road repairs on average? My guess is that when you add up road repairs plus additional police costs etc you get a figure that is much greater than $0 but probably (but who knows) less than $2,700 also. So the real cost for Clayton isn’t $4 million, it is $4 million minus whatever it costs to have these drivers on the road.

    If it costs the county commission $500/year to have a daily work commuter use your roads, then the actual cost to cover isn’t $4,000,000 but $3.4 million. To break even you’d need a little less than 3,000 riders, or double the current projection. If it costs $1,000/year to the county, the shortfall drops to $2.7 million and ridership needs to be increased to about 2,400 to eliminate the cost.

    I drove from Bainbridge to Columbus on (what seemed to be) a brand new 4 lane highway and I probably saw maybe 15 other cars the entire trip. There is no way that road is paying for itself or anywhere near it, and the maintenance costs must be very high. This is a serious question for Steve — why does that road not have to justify its initial and long term operating costs and profitability the same way the Lovejoy line or public transit alternatives should have to?

  3. John Douglas says:

    With Hampton in my district, a proposed money sucking stop on the line to Macon, I remain completely opposed to the entire project. I will do what I can to keep it out of Henry County and the taxpayers wallets. I dont care how many times the AJC clicks its heals together trying to make it happen.

  4. Flatpickpaul says:

    First – a few facts on commuter rail.
    Public Support – Polling from June 2006 indicates voter support for commuter rail connecting Atlanta and Athens in Gwinnett, Barrow, Oconee and Athens-Clarke counties exceeds 70 percent. A recent state-wide poll by the AJC indicates support for the Atlanta to Athens line at 62 percent.

    Regional comparables – the Virginia Railway Express’ average daily ridership has exceeded 28,000 in less than nine years in service.

    According to the ARC’s approved Transportation Improvement Plan, the average cost per lane mile of improving Interstate Highways in Metro Atlanta is $18.19 million. One mile of commuter rail track – which can operate in both AM and PM directions – costs $5.32 million.

    AAA estimates the average cost to operate a private automobile at 52.2 cents per mile – a very conservative estimate. A round trip commute from Lawrenceville to Atlanta and back (64 miles) costs $33.41.

    Safety – A 2005 federal study showed that a person riding a commuter train is 25 times safer than a person riding in an automobile.

    Economic Development – A 1999 Texas case study (Miller, Robison & Lahr) found that within five years of the opening of Dallas’ new commuter rail line, private businesses invested over $1 billion near the line’s rail stations. The same study found that for each 1% of regional travel shifted from automobile to public transit increases regional income by $2.9 million, resulting in 226 additional regional jobs.

    Second – Mr. Davis, how can you be so certain that there will be no regional tax to pay for commuter rail?

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