Untie Atlanta Responds To Sierra Club Over T-SPLOST

From a press release:

Groups’ Opposition Shows Right Mix of Road and Transit on July 31 Referendum

ATLANTA, April 30, 2012 –Citizens for Transportation Mobility registered its disappointment and dismay with the Georgia Sierra Club’s opposition to the July 31 referendum that could relieve congestion and improve our environment.

“We find it highly unusual that an organization charged with preserving and protecting our environment would oppose a transportation investment that has the potential to do exactly that,” said Che Watkins, campaign manager for CTM. “The Regional Transportation Referendum holds more promise of relieving congestion and reducing air pollution than any plan in decades,” said Watkins.

The organization, which advocates for more transit options in the region, cited “sprawl-inducing road expansion” as a major reason for its opposition. And yet, supporters believe the July 31 referendum provides unprecedented transportation options for metro Atlanta commuters, and holds the most promise for relieving air pollution, excessive tailpipe emissions and other environmental damage caused by traffic congestion.

“If the Sierra Club has its way,” said Watkins, “more harm will be done to the environment as the state continues to fund roads to the exclusion of transit. This plan generates one-third of public funding in the region for transit,” said Watkins. “Any organization that supports the environment would support this plan.”

With both supporters and opponents of transit taking aim at the $8.5 billion project list, Watkins noted that “We’ve obviously achieved the right balance of both. The one-sided supporters on either side – roads or transit – must acknowledge that the region needs a healthy mix of both to relieve congestion and give commuters options to get to home and work quicker.”

 

20 comments

  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    ““If the Sierra Club has its way,” said Watkins, “more harm will be done to the environment as the state continues to fund roads to the exclusion of transit.”

    The state of Georgia funds roads? That’s laughable.

    The last I heard, Georgia was 49th in per-capita transportation spending, which in addition to spending virtually nothing on mass transit, pretty much means that we ain’t exactly lightin’-it-up with road funding, either.

    But then again, these are some of the same people who get upset when something as simple as a road resurfacing or the long-overdue widening of a gridlocked two-lane road occurs.

    Figures.

  2. Steve Brown says:

    There’s no balance in the TIA (TSPLOST). With 52% of the funds going toward a mode of transportation (transit) used by only 5% of commuters, balance was thrown out the window.

    MARTA is approaching $3 billion in red ink for operations and maintenance and expanding the system by another $3.2 billion will further exacerbate the operations and maintenance funding imbalance. Neither state nor regional leaders can tell us how we are going to pay the future increased operations and maintenance expense when we cannot pay for what we have now.

    MARTA loses half a billion dollars a year. Worse, as our population increased from 2000 to present, MARTA ridership has decreased, another imbalance.

    There is another imbalance in that the transit projects on the list are only half-funded. How do you implement projects with only half the funding?

    The effort rates so poorly as a transportation plan that key supporters such as Mayor Kasim Reed are now “selling” the TIA as economic development instead.

    Steve Brown, Fayette County Commissioner

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “MARTA is approaching $3 billion in red ink for operations and maintenance and expanding the system by another $3.2 billion will further exacerbate the operations and maintenance funding imbalance. Neither state nor regional leaders can tell us how we are going to pay the future increased operations and maintenance expense when we cannot pay for what we have now.”

      Here’s a novel idea on how future increased operation and maintenance expenses for MARTA and other future mass transit projects could be paid for: USER FEES in the form of FARES.

      That’s right, I know, I know, it sounds like a really radical idea, but the last time I checked, unlike virtually all streets and roads (except for the GA 400 toll road), MARTA and other mass transit systems collect money to help fund its operation and maintenance in a thing called a FAREBOX.

      The $2.50 one-way fares that MARTA currently collects from most riders should be the deeply-discounted amount that is paid by special groups (the elderly, the disabled, students, etc) at the very-low end of the fare spectrum while fares for all other non-special riders should likely be no lower than $3.00 one-way, with premium costs (NOT extreme costs) paid to ride to high-traffic and special locations that are in high-demand on the system (locations like the Airport, Five Points, Buckhead, special major events, sporting events, etc) and for late-night/overnight service as the higher end of the fare spectrum (the “premium” end) should be somewhere close to $10.00 one-way.

      MARTA’s pricing structure is just simply too low for what everyone expects the service to do (you know, frivolous stuff like being clean, safe, secure, dependable, running on-time, taking heavy traffic off of the roads, going to major places that people actually NEED to go like Emory University, etc).

      I’m just sayin’..

      • Citizen Bob says:

        Recommend you review p. 6 of MARTA’s 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (http://www.itsmarta.com/reports.aspx); MARTA would have to charge ALL FY 2011 users $12.50 per boarding to break even (if you don’t consider the decade’s $2.9b of deferred maintenance).
        That’s pretty close to what car commuters are paying, when you add up gasoline, parking, add’l insurance, maintenance, and depreciation for the miles you put on commuting.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          “MARTA would have to charge ALL FY 2011 users $12.50 per boarding to break even”

          BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in the San Francisco Bay Area of California charges up to $10.90 one-way to ride crosstown to the San Francisco International Airport while it costs as much as $25.00 ONE-WAY to ride the Long Island Railroad commuter trains from one-end of the line to the other.

          Those systems may have substantially higher fares than our very own MARTA or GRTA, but they’ve also got the substantially increased and much more dependable service to show for those much higher fares so “BRING-IT-ON” because we really, really, REALLY DESPERATELY need the increased transit service.

          I know that the Intown advocates for the poor and the homeless will be howling, as they raised all hell when the fares were recently raised up to just $2.50, but so what? WE REALLY DESPERATELY NEED THE INCREASED SERVICE for everyone but just the poor because if they hadn’t noticed, Atlanta has some of the worst traffic on the planet!

          Transit fares don’t have to be raised all at once, but they certainly will have to be raised substantially in the future, maybe in increments, if this town is to get the level of transit service that it absolutely must have to stay competitive on the national and world stages.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          As for the tax side of things, a better way to collect tax revenues might be through a process called TIF (Tax Increment Financing) where the property tax revenues from future development along transit routes (from MARTA heavy rail to light rail to streetcars to commuter rail lines and even bus lines on surface streets) are used to pay for the construction, operation, maintenance and continued expansion of a particular rail line over time.

          In this way, rail transit lines pay for themselves (if properly placed in high-traffic corridors).

    • jdurrett says:

      Come on, Steve. Be honest and not self-serving. MARTA loses $500 million per year? Garbage. Why don’t more people use transit? BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T INVESTED IN IT AS WE SHOULD HAVE. Transit projects are only half funded? Garbage, again. The referendum isn’t bringing transit to your county, because you don’t want it. The knowledge economy workers, the millennials, want it, though. They and others spoke quite loudly as the list was being developed. This is supply responding to demand. Look at the transportation portfolios of successful global metropolitan economies. Theirs don’t look like ours. Theirs is diversified, and people have meaningful options. You just don’t like transit, even though you use it when you come up to Atlanta. Curious.

      • Rambler1414 says:

        Why don’t more people use transit?

        Because years ago, people in Cobb & Gwinnett were scared out of their minds about “those people” infecting their lily white neighborhoods.

        Result: MARTA doesn’t go where it should have gone.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          “Why don’t more people use transit?……….Because years ago, people in Cobb & Gwinnett were scared out of their minds about “those people” infecting their lily white neighborhoods.”

          Fear, whether rational or irrational, of mass transit spreading crime to what was then the distant suburbs (suburbs which are not necessarily so distant anymore) was a big reason that MARTA has never been embraced in those counties that are now two mega-suburbs.

          But you’ve also got to remember that in the days when the concept of MARTA was first proposed to voters back in the late 1960’s Cobb County was basically a semi-rural exurb that was the equivalent of what a Paulding or Cherokee County is today.

          Meanwhile at the time MARTA first came up for a vote in the five-county area, Gwinnett was so rural at the time that the only four-lane highway in the entire county at the time was I-85.

          At that time, Gwinnett only had a population of about 70,000 people, which is only about 9 percent of what it is today (810,000 people) while the county often struggled to convince industry and commerce to move out there because people thought that Gwinnett was so far removed from the city at the time. Heck, I don’t think that Gwinnett may even been officially considered to be part of the metro area by the Census Bureau, yet (think of a Jackson County up I-85 about 40 miles from town and that’s how Gwinnett actual was in relation to Atlanta at the time).

          Just because Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton didn’t accept MARTA into their county when they were still very exurban to even rural over 40 years ago doesn’t excuse the less-than-satisfactory state of MARTA in the two counties that it does serve today (from what I can remember, even DeKalb, which was the metro area’s super-suburb at the time, voted down MARTA in the very first vote back in the mid-late 1960’s).

          Even though it was rejected in Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton Counties back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, MARTA would still go on to serve most of Fulton (the City of Atlanta) and DeKalb Counties relatively well for about the next 25 years or so until after the Olympics when a major spike in the population of the metro area combined with mismanagement, neglect and rising construction and operational costs would work to render MARTA increasingly obsolete over the next decade-and-a-half (from the late 1990’s to now).

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          “Result: MARTA doesn’t go where it should have gone.”

          The type of high-frequency bus and heavy rail service that MARTA (supposedly) utilizes is not necessarily the best transit option for suburbs that, while they may be heavily-populated, are not necessarily as consistently densely-populated as the areas inthe urban core of the metro area are (City of Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb Counties).

          The better transit option for those counties (Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton) that are clearly in a transition from suburban to urban might be to increase the amount of park-and-ride commuter bus service and to and to implement park-and-ride commuter rail on the freeway spokes and existing freight rail lines that connect those outlying areas to the major job centers that are at the core of the metro area.

          Even though Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties are rapidly urbanizing, the transit lines that have the absolute most success operating in those counties are express commuter transit lines that utilize major surface and freeway routes in and out of the city during peak hours as opposed to the type of local bus routes that may fare much better in the densely-populated areas of the urban core.

  3. NoTeabagging says:

    This issue could be Georgia’s version of SOPA, a bill killed by massive disinformation, probably from both sides in this instance.

  4. ATLGAL says:

    Shame on you Commissioner Brown, for throwing out 1/2 truths like you have said something real and profound. Shame on you for your shortsightedness and lack of vision. I know Atlantans are smarter than you give them credit for and they will not let you throw out misinformation and then simply swallow whole. 52% of the funds go to transit because the State of Georgia funds ZERO to transit so if we are going to have any chance to advance a fully functional transit system to get cars off the street and draw much needed tourism then we need a funding source.

    MARTA loses HOW much each year?? Why in the world you make up such a thing and not expect to be called out on it?

    Really, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  5. saltycracker says:

    TLDG’s comments of a scale of increased user fees are right on point. While 100% of MARTA costs might not be covered by fares a much greater share must be borne by the users. The current approach is a major contributer to mismanagement, poor route selection and guarantees continued financial losses.

  6. Jimmie says:

    I always thought MARTA was a steal for service vs. fare charged. Not the steal like when hoodlums steal your personal belongings or the Pan Handlers guilt you into giving them money. The fares are very low compared to many parts of the Country’s Rail lines.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “The fares are very low compared to many parts of the Country’s Rail lines.”

      And so is the service….

      We get what we pay for in this region.

      Higher fares and more tolls = more transit service and more expressways to drive on (except for the I-85 HOT Lanes…they SUCK!)

      Lower fares and few, if any tolls = well, you know….

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “Not the steal like when hoodlums steal your personal belongings or the Pan Handlers guilt you into giving them money.”

      At least you didn’t think that MARTA was a “blast” (and not the kind of blast during an armed robbery or stick-up).

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