Reluctantly, NO on T-SPLOST

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

T-SPLOST voters will make up their minds based on what they think is in their best interests.  I live in the Atlanta region, in one of the 10 counties that make up the Atlanta Regional Commission.  The economic health of Georgia extends far beyond these 10 counties to the entire state.  As such, the transportation problems in my area are problems for all of Georgia.  The results of this vote, and the reactions to it, will affect us all for many years to come.

Atlanta is no longer the bustling little capitol of the South.  We are a major international city with respect to commerce, logistics, and with a reputation as being the birthplace to civil rights. We look forward, not backward. Growth has been part of our DNA for a half a century and we have come to take it for granted. For growth to resume, we will have to invest heavily in infrastructure. For this investment to be worthwhile, it will have to be done on a regional basis.

This will cost money, and a lot of it. These facts are not in dispute.

That’s why I had hoped to be for the T-SPLOST referendum.  I told Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed 18 months ago I looked forward to helping pass it.  And I did.  But I can’t.  Despite the fact that this may be the best option we’ll have the chance of passing, there is still too much fundamentally wrong here that the negatives, from my personal vantage point, outweigh the positives. We need to do better, and we can start by voting no.

The merits and deficiencies of Atlanta’s T-SPLOST have been the subject of months of debate, and I will not attempt to rehash all of them here.  At the end of the day, it is the tactics and threats that have been used to move this bill forward that ultimately prevent its support.  The failure of Atlanta’s T-SPLOST will set Atlanta back a couple of years, and maybe more.  It should also serve as a wakeup call to certain elected officials that demagoguery isn’t leadership.  Action, vision, commitment, and direction are required to solve Georgia’s problems that lie ahead.

Mayor Reed has done his part, and continues to do so.  He’ll be in Atlanta’s suburbs on Tuesday, in Smyrna, showing his commitment to Atlanta as a region.  His term as mayor has been marked by similar actions beyond his actual political boundaries, extending his assistance to points as far away as the Port of Savannah.  Mayor Reed has the vision, but his support costs him little. It’s not his constituents that are opposed to higher taxes.

Governor Deal is actively supporting T-SPLOST, and deserves some credit for attempting to find a solution –though his staff is very quick to point out that TSPLOST wasn’t his idea.  Regardless, at least the Governor has been willing to expend political capital campaigning for a referendum unpopular with his base.  That’s quite better than the abject cowardice coming from some quarters of the legislature.

Many “leaders” in the Georgia General Assembly have proven to be anything but.  Held out for special scorn is Senator Chip Rogers, who was Majority Leader when this bill passed the Senate, and served as an ex-officio member of the committee that gave unanimous approval to the project list.  Now in a tough re-election battle with a pro-T-SPLOST opponent, Rogers and fellow Cherokee legislator Sean Jerguson are running away from T-SPLOST as fast as they can. Cherokee voters should question this duplicity as they decide who should represent them going forward.

Several running for other offices, such as Lee Anderson running for the GOP nod in the 12th Congressional district, pass their vote for T-SPLOST off as a measure to give “the people the option” and the “freedom to choose”.  They tend to avoid follow up questions as to why the people would want to choose to penalize themselves for less state matching funds if they don’t exercise their freedom to penalize themselves with higher taxes.  These are the choices “the people” must make when leadership decisions are abdicated.

People are sick of semantic games that lead to extending and increasing taxes. They are also weary of giving a 16% increase in sales taxes to a government that rewards insiders, routinely circumvents transparency, skirts ethics laws, and funds pork projects for the well-connected from existing revenues while putting necessities like transportation infrastructure and trauma care to voters as referendums.

This isn’t how Republicans campaign, but after 10 years, it is clearly how we govern. Voting yes will merely reward a lack of leadership and enable a continuance of this system.

The hysterical cries that “there is no plan B” are insufficient to pass this bill.  Instead, it is more of a reason to vote against current incumbents.  Leadership is about contingency planning. There is always, and must always, be a plan B.  Any leader who says otherwise is either lying, or not qualified to be a leader.

Plan B should start with re-directing the 1% of motor fuels sales taxes from the general fund and to transportation projects.  It should continue by re-directing Atlanta’s hotel motel tax revenues away from an unneeded new downtown stadium and into downtown transit infrastructure that would serve more of the region than 8 games of pro football annually will.  And it must continue with suburban Atlantans and the rest of Georgia understanding that MARTA must be a regional transit system in order to effectively serve its mission.  The state must also either support MARTA, which it currently does not, or release fiscal restrictions that prohibit the agency from using fare revenues to pay for ongoing operations and maintenance.

But Plan B will only start with Plan A losing, and even then it will only start with real leadership from the Republican side of the aisle.  After all, Democrats cannot be blamed for T-SPLOST’s failure.  It is uniquely a Republican solution that will be soundly rejected by Republican voters.

Many Republicans who plan to continue their political careers better have a plan B for transportation very quickly, or everyday Georgians may very well make voting for Democrats their Plan B.


  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    You hit-the-nail-right-on-the-head about T-SPLOST with another excellent post, Charlie. The only thing is that it will not be the failure of the T-SPLOST that sets the Atlanta Region back a couple of years or more, it will be the abject failure of Georgia’s so-called political leadership to do their jobs and actually lead on anything besides their own selfish wants that sets the Atlanta Region back a couple years or more.

  2. Daddy Got A Gun says:

    Charlie, voting for a flawed plan doesn’t make it a good plan. You did right in voting against it. Remember, you are voting against THIS plan, and not against a future plan.

    There are lots of potential for Plan B’s. The argument that Georgia won’t survive without this bill is without merit. In fact, defeat will make our future transportation solutions better and stronger.

    Here is my plan B: Instead of ramming a bailout of MARTA down our throats, lets identify 10 major road congestion areas that impact regional traffic flow. The classics and 285/400, 285/20, and 400/85. Fund improvement to those intersections by moving the 1% sales tax on gas from the general treasury back to these projects ($175M/year). In less than 3 years, we could pay for these important projects.

    The reason TSPLOST was so big was that there are alot of unnecessary projects, many projects that are more appropriately covered by a county transportation SPLOST, and the bailout of MARTA. Shoving mass transit down the throats of people who aren’t going to use it is a tremendous waste. 80% of TSPLOST is wasteful and non-regional. Get rid of the stupid, wasteful, non-regional, transit projects and we end up with a very doable and affordable list.

    As for expanding mass transit to Gwinnett and Cobb. Why not a private public partnership? The government would buy the right of way and the private developers would build the rail and operate it. If structured right, the private partnership should run their cars on the Marta lines supplementing Marta’s capacity (basically, Marta would be selling mileage and time on thier rail lines).

    Don’t run Cobb mass transit through the arts station (ROW is expensive). Extend the green line to Cumberland instead (ROW is less expensive since the area is industrial). Plus a station in South Cobb might help with economic development there and be acceptable to Cobb Commissions (Mike Boyce has been talking alot about helping south cobb, unlike Tim Lee who ignores the topic).

    There are lots of potential solutions. TSPLOST is bad because it tried to solve too many problems, over a too wide of an area, and profiting special interests. If we can localize the solutions via County driven solutions, then a future plan will actually untie Atlanta.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Excellent points and I agree with your idea of using public-private partnerships to expand rail mass transit to Gwinnett and Cobb (bus mass transit in the form of Gwinnett County Transit, Cobb Community Transit and GRTA Xpress which could also benefit through the utilization of public-private partnerships that are applied to rail transit as the suburban express bus lines can feed directly into the rail transit lines as they are extended out from the city).

      As to your suggestion that the government buy the right-of-way to build additional rail transit, not much purchase of right-of-way for rail transit expansion would be needed as the government actually already owns the right-of-way of the existing freight rail lines that run through some of the most densely-developed and densely-populated parts of the Atlanta Region and already has inactive and totally unfunded plans to run commuter rail service within those freight rail right-of-ways that they own as a way providing relief to the often-gridlocked Interstate highway spokes that they run directly parallel to.

      Heck, much of the MARTA heavy rail transit network (in particular, most of the East Line and much of the South, Northeast and West Lines) utilizes the right-of-way of freight railroad lines.

    • Charlie says:

      And your post emphasizes why I have the reluctance to vote no.

      The state doesn’t give any money to MARTA today. The state won’t be giving any money to MARTA if T-SPLOST passes. Fulton and DeKalb taxpayers pay 1% for MARTA. If T-SPLOST passes, they’ll be paying 2%, plus will remain hamstrung by additional oversight as to how that money can be spent.

      It is intellectually dishonest bordering on fraud for the opposition to continue to call this a MARTA bailout bill.

      There is a need for transit options in the 5 core counties. Suburbanites who just want more roads/lanes built to get people downtown faster have no concept of what will happen to the cars once they get there, nor any respect for Fulton & DeKalb taxpayers that have taxed themselves to install the backbone of the region’s transit infrastrucure.

      Voting no virtually dooms any chance of rail to Cobb County in my lifetime, and will severely delay rail to Gwinnett. And it will be done at the hands of those living in Cherokee and Fayette who don’t want to pay taxes for anything but raise holy hell if they’re ever stuck in traffic trying to get to an area where there’s infrastructure to support the kinds of developments where they work and shop.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:


        Voting no doesn’t doom any chance of rail being extended to Cobb or Gwinnett in our lifetimes.

        Voting no only dooms the chances of two poorly placed and ill-conceived rail lines being built in Cobb County as the two proposed rail transit lines that were under primary consideration to be at least partially-funded by the T-SPLOST were light rail lines that were being extended out as misguided economic development tools in the wrong right-of-ways as poor attempt to prop-up an almost dead Gwinnett Place Mall in Gwinnett and a declining Cumberland Mall and a Town Center Mall in the very early stages of decline in Cobb.

        The I-75/Cobb Parkway right-of-ways in Cobb and the I-85 right-of-ways in Gwinnett were the wrong right-of-ways in which to run light rail transit lines they don’t have enough density of existing development or population to support the rail lines over the long-term.

        The density of development and population to support future rail transit line extension into Cobb is found along the CSX/Western & Atlantic freight rail line that parallels I-75 (and its Georgia Northeastern Railroad spur that parallels I-575 into Cherokee County) and runs through the densely-developed and populated areas of Vinings, Smyrna, Marietta, Kennesaw and Acworth while also running directly by the Cumberland Mall area that the powers-that-be are so desperately trying to prop-up with the flawed light-rail proposal that was copycatted from Portland, Dallas, Denver and Charlotte.

        The density of development to support a future rail transit line extension into Gwinnett is found along the Norfolk Southern/Amtrak line that directly parallels I-85 & I-985 Northeast from the end of the MARTA line in Doraville up through the densely-populated and developed downtown areas of Norcross, Duluth, Suwanee, Sugar Hill, Buford, Flowery Branch, Oakwood and Gainesville. Norcross, Suwanee and Oakwood are already structuring the current and future development plans of their downtowns around future commuter rail stations, while Norcross has openly lobbied to be the site of either a future MARTA station or commuter rail station as a way to further the redevelopment of their historic suburban downtown.

        Here’s a link to Oakwood’s plans to redevelop their currently tiny and almost non-existent exurban downtown around a future regional commuter rail station:

    • wicker says:

      Folks who oppose MARTA being crammed by their throats should plan to plan, fund and implement their own transportation solution without any support from Fulton-DeKalb at all. No political capital. No help in planning and managing the project. And certainly no tax revenue. Highways do not benefit Fulton-DeKalb. They benefit the suburbs. Fulton-DeKalb is not going to invest any political or financial capital in projects that will not provide them with any benefit.

      “As for expanding mass transit to Gwinnett and Cobb. Why not a private public partnership? The government would buy the right of way and the private developers would build the rail and operate it. If structured right, the private partnership should run their cars on the Marta lines supplementing Marta’s capacity (basically, Marta would be selling mileage and time on thier rail lines).”

      Unless you can come up with a model that makes it worth the while of MARTA, they will simply say no, as well they should. Before you make proposals like this, you need to ask yourself:

      1. How does this benefit the people who run Fulton-DeKalb?
      2. Why should they go along with it if it does not benefit them?

      Do you think that the folks that run MARTA actually want a competing rail system on their tracks? And do you think that they want the suburbanites that have avoided the economic and political struggles that have been MARTA for the past 4 decades to just throw together some “public/private partnership” that is just a transparent ploy to avoid actually officially joining and being governed by MARTA? “Well, we spent the last 40 years making you go it alone, bashing and trashing you every step of the way, and we still want nothing to do with you because we despise you and everything you stand for, but here’s a check for allowing us to use the rail lines that you still have to plan for, operate and maintain to suit our own needs that have absolutely nothing to do with helping you guys out with your own transportation and economic development goals.” Wow, what a great deal! Who could turn that down!

      Sorry. If you want to be MARTA averse, then not having the regions that pay to support MARTA lift a finger to help you is part of the deal. If your “public/private partnership” is such a good idea, then build your own rail lines for it just like MARTA had to for theirs.

      • xandermac says:

        “Folks who oppose MARTA being crammed by their throats should plan to plan, fund and implement their own transportation solution without any support from Fulton-DeKalb at all”

        Hopefully you realize that works both ways. Why should the citizens in the suburbs want to finance Dekalb/Fultons mismanaged systems?

  3. you says:

    I would like to see “plan B” included commercial flights into Gwinnett, Hall or another county north and south of Atlanta. Hartsfield has to be one of the major causes of traffic and cutting the number of people heading there every hour of everyday would have to make a difference.
    A high speed rail would be great too if the 2nd airport won’t work.

  4. Calypso says:

    Calypso’s Reader’s Digest Version of the most salient parts of Charlie’s excellent post:

    “These are the choices “the people” must make when leadership decisions are abdicated.”

    “They are also weary of…putting necessities like transportation infrastructure and trauma care to voters as referendums.”

    “Voting yes will merely reward a lack of leadership and enable a continuance of this system.”

    “The hysterical cries that “there is no plan B” are insufficient to pass this bill. Instead, it is more of a reason to vote against current incumbents. Leadership is about contingency planning. There is always, and must always, be a plan B. Any leader who says otherwise is either lying, or not qualified to be a leader.”

  5. seekingtounderstand says:

    Well stated Charlie. Still I do worry about the CTM quest going after for new and low-propensity primary voters as stated by CTM in AJC today. That and electronic voting machines/billions of $ makes me think it will pass. Bet it passes in Atlanta region and Savannah.

  6. Engineer says:

    While your argument regarding it funding MARTA may be well and good for the Atlanta region, you don’t really say anything regarding the T-SPLOST for areas outside the Atlanta region.

  7. Baker says:

    “These are the choices “the people” must make when leadership decisions are abdicated.”

    Well then for goodness sakes, let’s vote some of these jokers out of there. Starting with pretty much everyone in Senate leadership. I’m no Cagle fan either, but knowing what we do now about them, wow, Cagle’s foibles are nothing.

  8. wicker says:


    ” It should continue by re-directing Atlanta’s hotel motel tax revenues away from an unneeded new downtown stadium and into downtown transit infrastructure that would serve more of the region than 8 games of pro football annually will.”

    Sorry, no deal. Atlanta’s hotel-motel tax revenue do not belong to “the region”. They belong to Atlanta to be spent how Atlanta sees fit. Because you oppose the stadium, it is easy to propose that this revenue be grabbed to fund transportation, but take the T-SPLOST (Plan A or Plan B) off the agenda, and the whole idea of grabbing Atlanta’s hotel tax revenue for regional transportation issues becomes ridiculous.

    Another point: Atlanta/Fulton already does its share – and more than what any other city/county in the region does – by paying for and running MARTA and Hartsfield, and also paying for a lot of the road projects that feed into the interstates. They also subsidize what is left of the Barnes regional express bus service that the non-MARTA counties get for free. It is fair to say that right now, Atlanta-Fulton (and DeKalb, and yes part of Atlanta is in DeKalb) IS the regional transportation system, and the ONLY entities that are serving that function, and the other regional governments are producing NOTHING but opposition and getting a free ride.

    So you want to take even more money from the people that are already contributing practically everything that is being contributed to regional transportation, while the folks who aren’t contributing squat right now only get the gas tax that they are currently paying redirected to where it should have been to begin with? So, Atlanta A) pays the same gas tax that everybody else, B) pays the penny tax for MARTA that 8 of the other 10 counties don’t, C) chips in for projects that help out mightily on I-75, I-85, I-285 and Georgia 400, D) runs Hartsfield and E) on top of that has to give up their own hotel taxes “for the region” instead of funding their own priorities?

    Here’s another idea: why don’t Cobb, Gwinnett and the other 8 counties that aren’t currently contributing squat to the region’s transportation contribute THEIR hotel taxes? Or better yet, why don’t they pay an extra penny for 40 years to either support MARTA or build their own highways? THEN we can talk about what Atlanta gets to do with their own revenue.

    • Charlie says:

      You’re correct, “No deal”.

      It’s my vote, and this doesn’t sell me.

      The state puts all kind of restrictions on MARTA, but you don’t think they should have any say over how hotel/motel taxes are distributed? Despite the fact that they are created/extended via acts of the legislature?

      No, no deal. I’m tired of playing this “we’re spending this revenue stream on pork because it already exists and has paid off it’s original project; please go raise taxes to pay for current priorities”.

      No deal indeed.

      • wicker says:

        “we’re spending this revenue stream on pork because it already exists and has paid off it’s original project; please go raise taxes to pay for current priorities”

        Excuse me, but what’s this “we’re” that you are speaking of? There is no “we’re.” It is “they’re.” It is not your money. It is Atlanta’s money. It is tax revenue collected in Atlanta, and the elected representatives of Atlanta should get to decide how it is spent. Yes there is state oversight (why it exists for Atlanta when the same doesn’t exist for other local governments is another question for another day) but if the city and the state sign off on it – and they have – sorry, it is none of your business.

        Put it this way: if you get to decide how tax revenue collected in Atlanta is spent, then what power should Atlanta have over the tax revenue that is collected in your municipality is spent?

        Plus, it is a lose-lose scenario for Atlanta. They A) still have to fund MARTA by themselves. B) They still don’t get the extra regional help for MARTA that this T-SPLOST represents. C) They don’t get the new stadium. Meanwhile, the suburbanites get much improved transportation without paying an extra penny. Atlanta will still be paying more than everybody else while getting the same or less than everybody else. Great deal for you, for Atlanta, not so much.

        That’s a bad deal for Atlanta. And it is also a bad deal for “the region” because they get something for nothing. Great politics – for those OTP – but bad policy.

  9. bgsmallz says:


    I’ll save a discussion about hotel/motel taxes and other particulars for another day. While I differ over some of the particulars, this is an excellent post and an incredibly well thought out opinion.

    I’m just so utterly disappointed in the lack of leadership. I got to the same spot but instead voted yes. The cries of no plan B and the opinion of Clark Howard 🙂 were too much for me. I’ve seen the same group come up with nothing and in fact tear down plans of commuter rail, transit and the like for the past 10-12 years that I’m worried we will not see another possible solution for several more years.

    But I agree with you on most everything else…I think I made the point in the comments a few days ago. Most of the time with failures like this, the incumbents don’t get to stick around for Plan B. There are at least 1.5 Million people in and around the Perimeter that are going to be buzzing like a swarm of bees about this failure. Transportation is a pretty sturdy rung to build a platform on…and there are smart independents/Dems that will jump all over it.

    • griftdrift says:

      “I’ve seen the same group come up with nothing and in fact tear down plans of commuter rail, transit and the like for the past 10-12 years that I’m worried we will not see another possible solution for several more years”

      This is the bear I’m wrestling.

      • Calypso says:

        “…I’m worried we will not see another possible solution for several more years”

        But it can’t help but be a better solution, grift.

        • griftdrift says:

          It took four years and the resignation of Glenn Richardson to get this flawed plan. I think people who think they will suddenly see the light and that we’ll get all the major regional leaders to agree again are being, to be kind, optimistic.

          • bgsmallz says:

            It might not be a better solution. The odds are probably more like this:

            Better solution: 1 in 4
            Worse solution: 1 in 6
            No solution: EVEN

            That’s my issue. When the same arguments that were used in 1970 to defeat the MARTA tax are being recycled in 2012 AND WORKING…you have to wonder.

            • CobbGOPer says:

              “When the same arguments that were used in 1970 to defeat the MARTA tax are being recycled in 2012 AND WORKING…you have to wonder.”

              And for my response I’ll borrow from Boortz’s show this morning:

              When the state said in 1970 – or thereabouts, according to Boortz – that part of their traffic solution was synchronizing stoplights, and they’re STILL promising to do it in 2012 (because it has yet to be done)… You have to wonder…

              Wonder why on Earth we would even consider giving these thieves more money to make more pie-in-the-sky promises they’ll never keep.

              • bgsmallz says:

                “According to Boortz”…that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. When has Boortz had to actually come up with reasonable public policy?

                Anyway, your reasoning boggles the mind. So we elect leaders and reject bonds so that we can have traffic lights instead of real infrastructure improvements…and that is the government’s fault?

                It’s your vote and your choice to continue to choose people who want to give us the same answer that clearly doesn’t and hasn’t worked. Traffic lights has not worked. Ignoring the problem has not worked.

                Here is what it is like….

                We are arguing whether a person or a monkey would be a better bus driver.
                You choose the monkey.
                When the monkey crashes the bus, you retort that the bus must be broken anyway.

                It’s petulant. Good for ratings…but petulant.

                There are too many places that have done too many good things with infrastructure for the last 50 years for me to say the bus is completely broken.

                • CobbGOPer says:

                  My contention was that our fearless leaders have been promising what should be a relatively painless action – synchronizing stoplights – to help traffic congestion for over 30 years. And it has yet to be implemented.

                  If they can’t even get this done – which involves zero pavement, construction, or serious labor, other than computer programming – why should I vote to raise my own taxes to give them more money to do… nothing. Nothing useful, at least.

              • Calypso says:

                If you’d have used a chimp or gorilla instead of a monkey, the bus would have never crashed. Monkeys are too small and weak to drive a bus. A Mini-Cooper, SmartCar or Fiat 500 perhaps, but never a bus.

                I learned that lesson the hard way.

                    • Charlie says:

                      You’re both clearly forgetting about the chimp from BJ and the Bear. If a chimp can drive a semi (at least we have to assume he did when BJ tied one on), then why not a bus?

                      (Those of you not alive for 70’s television please just move along.)

                    • Calypso says:

                      You’re making my point for me, Charlie. A chimp is more than capable of driving a bus, as evidenced by the 70’s TV show chimp piloting the semi-truck . I maintain that it takes a greater ape i.e., chimpanzee, orangutan, bonobo, or gorilla to drive something as large and unwieldy as a large bus or semi.

                      Monkeys, such as howlers, capuchins, spider, squirrel, or proboscus are just too dang little. Their muscular weakness and slower learning processes should restrict their driving to nothing more than a Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius.

                      Perhaps Buzz, or one of our other esteemed legislators, can introduce such a bill next session. Think of the children.

                    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                      “Perhaps Buzz, or one of our other esteemed legislators, can introduce such a bill next session. Think of the children.”

                      Calypso, the bill that you describe has already been introduced and passed into law.

                      …It’s called the T-SPLOST and, by the looks of it, it is some legislation that was clearly penned by a bunch of wild animals.

    • wicker says:

      I am sorry. I can’t agree with calling something being excellent or very well thought out when it A) avoids the issue of raising additional taxes or other revenue from the suburbs but instead merely calls for the gas tax to be redirected (not raised) and B) sanctimoniously attempts to dictate what the voters and leaders of Atlanta should be allowed to do with their own money. It has more conciliatory, unifying window-dressing, but at its core is the same old OTP stuff.

      The reality is that transportation is a regional issue, which means that the region will have to pay for it. Instead of embracing that fact, Charlie took the position that this issue can be solved by better managing existing resources, and forcing Atlanta to shoulder an even larger financial burden for regional transit issues than it already does. Even if increasing the gas tax is a nonstarter – and why should it be by the way – then at the very least demand that ALL the counties in the ARC region fork over their hotel/motel taxes (or some substantial equivalent) also. If the only funding mechanism is ending the diversion of the gasoline tax from the general fund, then what compromise or sacrifice do taxpayers outside of Fulton-DeKalb have to make? Folks paying for MARTA being double-taxed for T-SPLOST is one thing, and considering the long term benefits to MARTA isn’t really that bad. (Also, despite their claims otherwise, folks in DeKalb and Fulton do plenty of driving on the interstates too and will also benefit from the new highways.)

      Folks in the suburbs getting their highways without having to pay a cent of additional taxes while folks in Atlanta A) pay for MARTA, B) pay for a lot of projects that benefit the local highway system, C) pay the same gasoline tax and D) have to give up their hotel-motel revenue is a whole other deal, and a very bad one.

      • bgsmallz says:


        Completely disagree with you. I have issues with the hotel/motel tax issue, but I think if you focus on those kind of differences, you miss the point.

        The point, IMHO, is that with better or actual leadership, a real commitment to funding transportation, and a real plan (not one that solves the problem of marketing a plan but actually solves the problems related to transportation), we could be in much better shape than the current offering.

        Again, I’m not sure I agree with the idea that we should expect a real Plan B just because there will be an absence of Plan A, but I agree with the idea that we should be able to do better.

        Can anyone answer this question…could a city opt-in to Marta? For example, could Norcross or Smyrna opt-in to Marta in order to extend rail there? Would that inevitably set up an ‘opt-out’ for cities like Johns Creek, Alpharetta, etc.?

        To me, that’s where you start….you get the edge cities to say ‘forget you’ to the rest of the county, give cities like Johns Creek, Alpharetta, etc. the leverage to demand rail now or they will opt out, etc. and go from there. The regional coalition is going to have to build from the inside out…cities are the best avenue to do that.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        You wanna raise additional revenue from the suburbs for transit? Abandon and abolish the 1% sales tax that Fulton and DeKalb counties pay for MARTA and switch to a distance-based fare structure that charges by the mile, meaning the farther one travels, the more one pays.

        That distance-based structure would also have a premium charge added to it for entering or exiting the system at the busiest stops on the rail transit network (like the Airport, the Georgia State/State Capitol, Five Points, Buckhead/Lenox, etc) and for late-night, overnight and rush hour/peak hour and special event service.

        The user fee/distance-based fare-based structure approach to transit-funding would be complemented with fees on parking spaces and fines (as is common in many transit-heavy cities), fees on traffic fines (to be paid by the people that are often responsible for most of the crippling traffic delays to our road network), Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops up along a transit line) and public-private partnerships (like the kind that the state was going to use originally finance the I-75/I-575 NW HOT Lane project in which a private investor provides up to one-half of the cost of construction and ongoing maintenance and operation of the piece of transportation infrastructure).

        The future of transit financing is not necessarily through the use of the sales tax, especially in a tax-averse region where any proposals to increase taxes can often be met with overwhelming rejection by the public.

        You can stick to trying to fund transit with increased sales tax revenues in one form or another, but it is not necessary, nor it is really all that productive.

        • Progressive Dem says:

          Washington Metro has had distance and ToD fares since its inception. They’re more equitable, but the system still requires other revenue sources beyond the fare box. How about if we base the gas tax on miles driven. Users placing the greatest demand on highways pay the most. All we need is your odometer reading when you fill ‘er up. Easy technology and has nothing to do with fuel economy.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            Basing the gas tax on miles driven is an excellent idea, though the Republican leadership that is likely going to catch hell from their tax-averse and government-averse base in future elections for the current unpopular T-SPLOST proposal will likely not want to even broach the idea of a tax increase of any kind in the foreseeable future.

            I would also tread very lightly on any attempt to use gas tax revenues to finance transit as that might be a transit funding proposal that would likely not be politically feasible in a state with a history and political tradition of not using gas tax revenues to finance transit operations, maintenance and expansion.

            And the use of fees on parking fines and spaces and traffic fines, Tax Increment Financing and public-private partnerships are the other revenue streams that would cover the transit costs that the increased revenues from the increased fare structure would not.

            Hopefully, the revenues from an increased fare structure would be able to cover upwards of close to 80% of the cost of operations and maintenance as is the case with BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) where transit fares cover 78% of the cost of O&M.

            “Fare-paying customers account for 78% of the operating funds in the FY13 budget.”

            • bgsmallz says:

              You are going to have to subsidize it with some other sort of revenue stream besides just fares. That’s true of roads, transit, whatever…it takes taxpayer dollars to provide infrastructure services to tax payers.

              Distance fares are common sense. The fact that it is the same price to ride from the airport to North Springs as it is to ride from Arts Center to 5 points is stoopid. Also, looking into fare increases during events might not be such a bad idea. If Marta charged an extra $1 per person during ‘game’ days, I doubt the demand for the service would decrease that much. Based upon the packed trains, my guess is that the tickets are woefully underpriced during event times.

              However, the key for sustaining a robust system is (a) does it go where you need it to go and (b) getting folks to buy into using the system regularly.

              Let’s look at (b)…that’s easy. You need a robust monthly pass system just like they have in Chicago, etc. You incentivize folks to ride regularly by offering discounted monthly passes.

              (a) is the biggest issue we have. You can’t increase ridership if the trains don’t go to and from the right places, they don’t run on a schedule, or if they are supposed to go places and run on a schedule but don’t do so reliably.

              If the defeat of T-Splosts helps us to focus on where we need transit to go…we need to focus on the northern “W”…namely 75-400-85…folks from the northern suburbs should be able to commute from the burbs, head east or west across the perimeter for access to the huge employment centers on the northern loop OR continue heading into town to access Midtown/Downtown/Emory /OR continue through town to the airport.

              It’s so simple its stupid.

        • CobbGOPer says:

          “Abandon and abolish the 1% sales tax that Fulton and DeKalb counties pay for MARTA and switch to a distance-based fare structure that charges by the mile, meaning the farther one travels, the more one pays.”

          Like almost every other major transit/subway system in the US…? Nah, that’s too complicated for these guys. Easier to just tax people. o_O

  10. DeKalb Wonkette says:

    4:30 pm and still no disclosure report of contributions to “Citizens for Transportation Mobility” up on the Ethics’ Commission website. (Yes, I know we don’t have an Ethics Commission anymore.)

    Charlie has written a great post. +1000!

    I am not willing to be double-taxed – once for MARTA and again for T-SPLOST. Plus, the only project that would allegedly “benefit” me is the rail line to the Clifton Corridor. It won’t because the traffic is all coming from further out into the Emory area. Plus I wonder:

    1) Who the dolts were on DeKalb’s zoning board and BOC that allowed so much development in the Emory area?
    2) Why I should have to pay taxes to provide transportation services to what amounts to an entire neighborhood that is EXEMPT from property taxes? No free rides!

      • Progressive Dem says:

        A vast over simplification of reality. CDC and Va Hospital are exempt from local planning, zoning and permitting. That was greatest growth. Emory enrollment is flat. Georgia Certificate of Need process determines hospital sizes for Emory and CHoA.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      The problem is not necessarily too much development in the Emory area as dense development at or very near the center of a very large metropolitan area is not at all uncommon in major cities around the globe, the problem is the total lack of a very dependable and very frequent transit option (preferably heavy rail and/or commuter rail transit) to serve a very densely developed area that includes one of the major job, medical and higher education centers in the region as is common in virtually every other major metropolitan area in the world that calls themselves an “International city”.

      And you should not necessarily have to pay taxes to provide transportation services to a neighborhood that is exempt from property taxes as a relatively major nerve center like Emory in most major cities would be normally be served by a rail transit station that would have a slightly higher fare to enter/exit the transit network in a zone-pricing structure because of the importance of non-vehicular transportation to that very road infrastructure-limited area.

  11. Three Jack says:

    Agreed Charlie, good non-endorsement.

    I too will reluctantly vote no. My reluctantcy comes from growing up in the de facto capital of the south where no obstacle was too big to overcome. When Metro Atlanta needed more asphalt, we found a way to get it done. When Atlanta decided it was an international city worthy of hosting the Olympics, we banded together and beat out the rest of the world. No matter what it was, we as Georgians living in Metro Atlanta found a way to accomplish the goal. TSPLOST moves the goal post even further away making the voting decision fairly easy.

    Hopefully we will have some new blood in the legislature next year untarnished by lobbyist handouts. At that point they will know what not to do (see TSPLOST projects) so it will be much easier to conjure up the so-called Plan B. Either way, TSPLOST is not the best we can do, not even close. Atlantans are better than this and deserve a plan that looks to the future.

  12. Bob Loblaw says:

    I don’t see the corolation between a local, hotel-motel sales tax in the City of Atlanta, a piece of LOCAL legislation, and the T-SPLOST vote. Why don’t we just go into every city and county budget in Georgia, identify things we don’t like and look at their revenue sources and then, tell them to levy a tax in their own city to fund what I want! I want transportation projects with your money to be built far away from your city.

    Seriously. A hotel-motel tax is a decision for a local legislative delegation to approve and pass onto the General Assembly for consideration. Its so far removed from transportation funding matters that its laughable for all these commenters who have been railing against T-SPLOST for its lack of “local control” to sit there and tell Atlanta what to do with a local hotel-motel tax.

    Beam me up.

    • Daddy Got A Gun says:

      The connection is that Atlanta complains about not having enough money to maintain its basic infrastructure, but then turns around and gives $400M to enrich Arthur Blank and build an unnecessary stadium. Then, it expects all of the other counties to subsidize the building of Atlanta’s sidewalks, installation of street lights, repair of bridges, and repaving streets. (The non-MARTA counties get projects worth 2/3rds of the money they pay in taxes)

      Unlike Atlanta, Cobb has invested and properly maintained its infrastructure. We’ve had a 1% Transportation SPLOST for nearly 10 years (expiring in 2015). Those Transportation SPLOST’s payed for everything Atlanta has in the TSPLOST list plus some and at a CHEAPER price. For Cobb, the payback on TSPLOST is worse because many of the projects on the TSPLOST list were previously REJECTED by the county because of their low priority and effectiveness. They made the list because that was bottom of the barrel of potential projects, hence airport runway lights.

      Fulton and Dekalb has made a decision that 100% of their transportation money go to MARTA. Don’t look to me to cry when MARTA is as mismanaged as city government. If they had an ounce of fiscal responsibility, they wouldn’t have to have Rockdale County to pay to fix their tunnels and escalators.

      As long as my tax dollars are subsidizing Atlanta, as it will with TSPLOST, I’ll make sure my Representative and Senator oppose every diversion of money away from Atlanta’s infrastructure toward stadiums and other unnecessary frills.

      • Self_Made says:

        MARTA has been in place for over 40 years, being at the core of the economic engine that IS Metro Atlanta that helped FUEL this “smart growth” of Cobb during that time. CCT also gets to transfer to MARTA free of charge and is utilized even more when there are events and when folks need a cheap ride to the airport…ALL without any investment from those “wise public investors” in the northern suburbs. Oh…and the state STILL gets to tell us how to spend it.

        You’re right…it’s all because you guys are that much smarter. Nothing else.

        I still haven’t decided how I will vote on TSPLOST, in fact, it’s the only reason why I haven’t voted yet. There needs to be a regional solution. It will be years before we get another plan if this one fails. Still, I’m not convinced that this one is worth the freight.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        “The non-MARTA counties get projects worth 2/3rds of the money they pay in taxes.”

        Cherokee and Fayette will recieve 90% or more. Please provide supporting information to name even one county reciveing anywhere near the two-thirds you cite.

        Residents of outlying counties drive more miles within Fulton and DeKalb than Fulton and DeKalb residents drive in outlying counties so you your idea of subsidy is misinformed. It’s Fulton and DeKalb that subsidize outlying counties based on vehicle miles.

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Can’t compare Cobb. I’m sorry Daddy, but the military-industrial presence in Cobb funds the artificially low property taxes Cobb residents enjoy. Move a mile inside the river and your taxes increase six or seven fold. the Cobb T-SPLOST has been a great success.

        Sticking your nose in Atlanta’s local legislation flies in the face of most T-SPLOST’s opponents’ cries for “local control”. When you understand that local legislation is a constitutionally protected and organized matter in the legislature, you’ll understand that you should have been, along with most TEA party folks, plugged into politics in 2010 when this law was being written.

        Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock in Texas got it right when he said that legislation is only affected by those that show up. Where were you?

  13. joe says:

    The problem with T-SPLOST is in the execution of the regional concept. In the 30 comments before this one, there has been a lot of talk about Fuulton, dekalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett. But as designed, it is a ten county region, not a four county region. If you want a plan B, start over with the regions. Make your 4 county region, and split the other 6 of us off other regions.

    • Charlie says:

      5 County Region – You’re forgetting Clayton.

      And then pull that $1Billion out of Cherokee that the Governor just promised to add lanes to I-575 and I-75 and put it to work where the folks understand what it means to rely on the counties next to you.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        The construction of those HOT lanes on I-75 and I-575 may be even more in question after the T-SPLOST is defeated as there is a lot of conjecture that those lanes were going to be built with the aid of funds from the $689 million proposal for “Enhanced Premium Transit Service”, especially with Governor Deal proposing to use an entire year’s worth of state roadbuilding funds to build the lanes and especially after Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee publicly tried to shift the funds specifically to the I-75/I-575 HOT Lanes project in a desperate attempt to save his political career after an attempt to fund a proposed Midtown-Cumberland light rail line with $857 million in Cobb T-SPLOST funds early on was extremely unpopular with his core constituents.–Lee-asks-to-switch-funds-for-reversible-lanes?instance=home_news_left

      • saltycracker says:


        ” And then pull that (Interstate) $1Billion out of Cherokee….”
        Explain please.

        • Charlie says:

          The Governor decided a few months ago not to put the I-75/575 project to run new HOT lanes along I-575 and I-75 out to private bid for construction operation. Instead, it will be built with roughly $1BN of DOT and federal funds.

          This so the folks in Cheorkee that think they aren’t part of a region when it comes to transportation can get out of Cherokee faster, and likely thru Cobb, to get to the area that already pays 1% in transit taxes and is being asked to pay another.

          So they’re getting theirs out of the current budget, and continue to scream “MARTA bailout” with respect to other projects funded by TSPLOST, as if Cherokee residents will generate as much as Fulton County residents, or as if MARTA was actually receiving any actual assistance other than more state handcuffs.

          Cherokee’s legislators had a front row seat in crafting this T-SPLOST. They’re now running away from it as fast as they can. The result should be that they suffer first. They’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

          • saltycracker says:

            Citizens suffer first for a weak delegation ? How about we start in Fulton, Dekalb or Atlanta ?

            Our local delegation did exhibit poor leadership on TSPLOST and they’d oppose a gas tax increase even it was dedicated for local roads. The options on the ballot aren’t so good either.

            For many, they are a lot less concerned with MARTA than getting a long term fair shake out of a process with some 800 lb. gorillas.

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Again folks, you can’t create a 5 County Region without going to Washington and having the USDOT re-draft the MPO that is the ARC. You are suggesting a violation of federal law. All counties and cities in the MPO must be part of the plan.

        And the idea that you can leave out Henry County out of this wannabe region is laughable. It was only the fastest growing county in the United States a few years ago. Do the transportation needs stop at the county line now? Didn’t we learn that doesn’t work in 1997?

    • Rambler1414 says:

      and Douglas!
      oh wait, their #1 project is the I-20 interchange inside Fulton County.

      Personally, I’m glad the list was based on traffic congestion and employment centers vs. each county getting 1/10th of the tax proceeds.

  14. GTKay says:

    I don’t have a lot of hope that the legislature will take up any kind of plan, better or worse, next session if this doesn’t pass, because the various groups who have come out against it will be heavily involved in the process. Even though they’re allies now, they actually have diverging goals, and any provision satisfying one will necessarily be opposed by the others.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Don’t spit the milk out of your nose, but I agree.

      In the aftermath of the failure of the T-SPLOST, the Republicans who backed this thing will likely not want to even remotely broach the subject of anything transportation-related for awhile and will likely move to the right on many political as they are taken to task by their base for backing a massive tax increase proposal that turned out to be so extremely unpopular, both within the general population that includes Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans, and, ESPECIALLY, within the conservative base of the Republican Party where any mention of a tax increase is a no-no and where this particular tax increase proposal has gone over like a lead balloon.

      • Calypso says:

        Just because I don’t want to go to bed with an ugly woman doesn’t mean I don’t want to get laid.

        Dump this ugly broad of a TSPLOST and bring me a hottie.

        And yes, I am crude, sophomoric, and utterly crass–and yet, refreshingly, not a politician.

          • Calypso says:

            🙂 Good one!

            If TSPLOST supporters want it to pass, they need to supply those goggles to the electorate.

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              Sorry, but there just aren’t any beer goggles anywhere near strong enough for this one as even a blind man would likely run the other way from this one.

  15. seekingtounderstand says:

    Plan B put congressional balancing of transportation funds on hold and then raise the gas tax
    2 or 3 cents per gallon. Do all this in the 2013 session at first opportunity with funding to start immediately.
    Why do people make things so complicated. This is why government gets nothing done.
    People will accept this plan. There are too many roads all over Ga that go no where and no one uses them much.

    • GTKay says:

      The chair of the house transportation committee is from Ocilla. Might be more complicated than you think.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        The prospect of putting congressional balancing of transportation funds on hold and raising the gas tax 2 0r 3 cents per gallon to help pay for road improvements in Metro Atlanta may not necessarily go over all that well down in South Georgia, especially they played by the convoluted rules set out by the State Legislature and are likely going to pass the T-SPLOST in that part of the state while the T-SPLOST fails and the severe road construction funding penalties go into effect in Metro Atlanta and in much of the rest of the state.

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        With all do respect to Ocilla. As we have been told GEORGIAs FUTURE is hell without transportation funding. Lets put him in the spot light of the entire state. Will he be the one person destroying our future? Will he go in front of the entire state and say that.
        Would he stand against the whole state who is in such need accourding to every elected offical supporting TSLPOST.

        • GTKay says:

          No, he’ll have a whole bunch of south Georgia legislators standing with him saying Atlanta squandered their opportunity and won’t be getting any of their gas tax money, especially if some of their regions pass the TIA.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Congressional balancing is now so riddled with exceptions that it has little effect. That’s not to say that motor fuel taxes are being applied where they are generated.

      “There are too many roads all over Ga that go no where and no one uses them much.”

      Even worse, those roads were built with borrowed money. Perdue’s “Fast Forward”, approved by so-called fiscally conservative General Assembly leadership, significantly escalated borrowing over the course of the last decade. Over a third of Georgia’s motor fuel taxes are now used to service debt. The GOP leadership would be screaming if they weren’t the ones that did it.

  16. oompaloompa says:

    From back in May. I just love how government uses non-profits to support the government…… Ugh.

    You are cordially invited to a
    benefitting the
    with Special Guest

    Monday, May 14, 2012
    5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
    Governor’s remarks at 6 p.m.

    The Chatham Club
    Hilton DeSoto Hotel
    14th Floor
    15 East Liberty Street
    Savannah, Georgia

    Please RSVP to Eliza McArthur, 770-435-5586
    [email protected]

    See the attached form for contribution levels,
    suggested minimum contribution of $500 to attend

    Paid for by Georgia Transportation Alliance, Inc. (the “Alliance”), Doug Callaway, President. The Alliance operates as a social welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to the Alliance are not tax deductible. The Alliance is located at 233 Peachtree Street, Suite 2000, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. Upon request, the Alliance will provide a full and
    fair description of its programs and a financial statement or summary.

  17. seekingtounderstand says:

    Take a IRS class on non-profits. After that you will see how corrupt they can be with no oversite or accountability. Non-Profits are destroying our country and they get away with never being audited. The IRS told our class that.

  18. JStrom says:

    You said a mouthfull:
    “People are sick of semantic games that lead to extending and increasing taxes. They are also weary of giving a 16% increase in sales taxes to a government that rewards insiders, routinely circumvents transparency, skirts ethics laws, and funds pork projects for the well-connected from existing revenues while putting necessities like transportation infrastructure and trauma care to voters as referendums.”

    Ask yourself who benefits (and who already are) from this? This is one of the main reasons I’ll be voting on the 31st, and voting ‘no’.

Comments are closed.