The pro-business Georgia Public Policy Foundation has released an analysis of the upcoming TIA T-SPLOST referendum, and the observation from the group is akin to the sound of one hand clapping. From their press release:
- Funding transportation infrastructure with a sales tax is not optimal, primarily because such a tax has no relationship to usage of the transportation system. At the same time, while a mix of taxes and userfees would be a better solution, it is politically challenging and may take longer to enact.
- Transit is important to metro Atlanta and deserves some funding in the project list. Transit is inadequate in frequency and coverage. But the 52 percent of funding allocated to transit in the list is“proportionally excessive.” Increasing transit service is a laudable goal but should not come at the expense of developing and maintaining a quality highway network. Bringing MARTA to a good state of repair deserves a place on the project list, but the list also would fund some of the most questionable rail transit projects. Even if the region were to fund fixed-rail projects, routes along the Perimeter, in Gwinnett County, commuter rail to Athens and commuter rail to Lovejoy would be better options.
- If the tax is voted down, the state must reduce matching funding to local governments from 90 percent to 70 percent. A“no” vote could exacerbate funding problems in the metro area. As a result of congressional balancing that mandates equal funds to each congressional district, and higher land and construction costs, metro Atlanta’s transportation dollars don’t go as far as funds do in other regions. The region could vote on a different project list in 2014, but that list may not be any better.
- Widening highways alone will not reduce congestion over the long term. Pricing helps by ensuring commuters pay the accurate costs for their trips. A network of High-OccupancyToll (HOT) lanes should be added, which will improve traffic flow and be of enormous value to transit by offering reliable travel speed to buses.
- Metro Atlanta needs to enhance its arterial network, using overpasses and underpasses to bypass congestion at signalized intersections on major arterials; lengthen the duration of traffic lights; lengthen turn lanes and judiciously add raised medians to prevent lane clogging and wrecks.
Shorter GPPF: Something clearly needs to be done, but we’re thinking this isn’t it.
You can read their full analysis here.