Rep. Lindsey: After T-SLOST — Where do we go from here?

August 2, 2012 12:08 pm

by Mike Hassinger · 139 comments

We’ve received the following from State Rep. Ed Lindsey, (R-Historic Brookhaven) in which he seeks your “constructive suggestions” on the traffic issue. This is an opportunity to offer feedback to a legislative leader in Georgia, and we welcome your comments. In the interest of improving the quality of public debate, we ask that you a) stay on topic and b) avoid gloating, name-calling and blame placing.

 

On Tuesday, Metro Atlanta voters – including many of those that post on this
blog — overwhelmingly voted down the T-SPLOST referendum. The purpose of my
post here is to consider some of the reasons why and ask for your input on where
we go from here.

Let me first start off by categorizing the main reasons the opponents gave me
over the past few weeks in correspondence for why they voted against the
referendum and provide a few example quotes from several of them to illustrate
their reasons for voting no. As you can see, there were a lot of different –
and a few seemingly conflicting — reasons given on the issues involved and one
dramatic overarching concern of just about everyone:

Transit – some said too much, others thought not enough.

“I will not vote for a tax increase, particularly because spending over 50% of
the proposed revenue on mass transit in the world’s least dense city makes
zero sense to me.”

“I oppose the T-SPLOST because its $6.2 billion spending package doesn’t
include enough rail.”

Fulton, DeKalb, the City of Atlanta, and MARTA – some said too much, others
argued not enough.

“You can’t use those of us in Cobb and Gwinnett to bail out MARTA!”

“Atlanta is getting too much of our money already. You are not tricking us
into getting any more!”

“When the State takes over Grady and the 10 county region starts paying for
MARTA AND we get a reprieve from the 1% tax Fulton and DeKalb have been paying,
then, and only then, I might [consider voting for the T-SPLOST].”

Government urging/coercing changes in people’s behavior – once again, either
too much or not nearly enough.

“The project list is too heavily focused on sprawl-inducing road expansion,
among other concerns, and will have a net negative impact from an environmental
perspective.”

“The only real solution in the mega-cities is to reduce daily commute
distances by living close to work and school and shopping locally.”

“The light-rail and streetcars, and Beltline, are all wasteful nonsense and
leftist fantasies. People want the freedom to get there in their cars.”

Distrust in Government – the one overarching critical area among dissenters
that was universal.

“I will long remember this as it again burdens us for nothing but
politicians’ pockets and their donors’ pockets.”

“T-SPLOST is horrid legislation, a 10-year boondoggle for contractors that
will inevitably lead to further taxes, overruns, corrupt waste, and a failure to
fix our roads and congestion.”

“This is a slush fund that will lead to huge waste and not help solve traffic
issues.”

“I do not trust the politicians and their support of this tax and projects. I
base this on the continued toll on GA 400 that was promised to stop but did
not!”

“I am near destroyed each year at tax time-almost like I do not own my
house—Fulton and Atlanta taxes are confiscatory—not one penny more—you are
on the wrong side of this one.”

“[I] oppose this referendum because it is unfair, short-sighted, racist and
deceitful.”

What now? Yesterday’s vote is now behind us. Many of us supported the T-SPLOST
but tens of thousands more opposed it. Nevertheless, our transportation problems
have not and will not magically disappear, and most people on both sides of
yesterday’s vote understand this reality and the seriousness of the crisis we
face.

Urban areas – even historically great ones like Metro Atlanta – are
perpetually either in a period of growth and greater prosperity or steady
decline. There is no standing still. We either attack our problems head on and
make a better future for ourselves and our children today, or we sit back and
watch our past successes slip away into the history books.

Metro Atlanta commuters have one of the worst commutes in the nation. This
translates into more time in our cars and less time for work, home, and play. It
also wastes on average in fuel for each of us over $900 per year sitting in
traffic. Atlanta is ranked 91st out of 100 among major metro regions for access
to transit. Major business prospects rank our transportation difficulties as one
of their major concerns about relocating here, and our inability to address this
problem will only further aggravate their concerns.

To many folks surprise when they look at the data closely, we are not
spendthrifts in the State of Georgia. We rank 49th in the nation in overall per
capita state spending, and have one of the lowest overall  tax rates on the
state level in the country (45th). Over the past four years, we have further
reduced our state spending by billions of dollars since the beginning of the
Great Recession. These facts demonstrate our fiscal conservatism and are
responsible for us having a very rare AAA state bond rating (higher than the
federal government). Nevertheless, we must understand that while government
cannot and should not ever be involved in everything, transportation – along
with education and public safety – is an area where government needs to roll
up its sleeves and get it right.

Therefore, there is no time to mourn or celebrate about what happened on Tuesday
regardless of which side you were on. Both sides of the debate now need to focus
on where we go from here.

Policymakers like myself need to hear from you. So start communicating. Today is
for you to talk and for policymakers to listen.  How do we overcome the extreme
mistrust that divides us and what solutions do you suggest we implement for us
to fix this traffic noose around our necks?

Tomorrow, you and I must answer this question and start moving forward again
together. I and others  look forward to your constructive suggestions.

State Representative Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta)
Georgia House Majority Whip

Edward Lindsey August 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm
zedsmith August 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Either give residents served by MARTA full control of its destiny, or fund it to a level commensurate with the State’s involvement in its affairs.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Yep. This is my main gripe with transportation via legislature. The way things are set up right now with MARTA dooms it to failure. You cannot then turn around and act surprised when it does not succeed.

Rambler1414 August 2, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Our tax dollars would be able to be stretched further and build more projects (ultimately) if the shackles of NEPA and GEPA were relinquished.

This was one of the primary benefits of TSPLOST that was never really discussed. Using local dollars, projects would be able to be delivered more quickly and at a lower cost in both the design phase and the construction phase.

Jackster August 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Ed – what are the challenges for appropriating the $200 M currently used to subsidize the general debt payments back to the DOT (or heaven forbid, transit)?

I understand you’d have to find it somewhere else, but it would seem to me that would restore a good deal of integrity to the appropriations process by having gas taxes go where they’re “supposed” to go – back into transportation.

analogkid August 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm

1. Take the non-transit projects from all of the T-SPLOST referenda and fund the most necessary ones through a combination of the general fund and the gas tax. Adjust income and gas tax rates and/or cut spending elsewhere until there’s enough money.

2. Pass a bill that eliminates the ridiculous 50/50 rule on MARTA’s spending.

3. Since we all know that the State will never contribute funding to MARTA, do a Fulton/ DeKalb referendum asking voters if they wish to increase their sales taxes by 0.5% to fund the Beltline, expand rail service, etc. It will pass. Easily.

4. Implement distance-based fares on MARTA.

CobbGOPer August 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm

“Implement distance-based fares on MARTA.”

This should be implemented asap and would increase revenue MARTA can use to maintain and expand service. MARTA is one of the only (if not THE only) major transit systems in the country that doesn’t do some form of distance-based pricing. If someone is riding from North Springs to the Airport, that should cost more than someone going from Art Center to Five Points.

Jackster August 2, 2012 at 1:16 pm

And if someone who has budgeted 2.50 to get to and from work each day can’t afford a higher fare?

i.e. if you buy the bus card at a reduced rate?

CobbGOPer August 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm

They’ll have to re-budget then. People in NYC, DC, Boston, Chicago do it every day. I did it when I lived in DC and rode Metro to work on a daily basis (on a very tight budget). People will complain to begin with, but they’ll adapt, and MARTA will be better off for it.

Chris Huttman August 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

NYC Transit is single fare.

dsean August 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

As are Boston and Chicago.

CobbGOPer August 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Then they do it by large input of revenue from the state. You’re all in favor of distance-based tolls for cars, why are distance-based fares for MARTA a problem?

dsean August 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I’m not necessarily opposed to them. If the goal is to remove cars from the road though, doesn’t it make more sense to meter the roads and not transit? That said, I think distance-based fares make a lot of sense for transit.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 3, 2012 at 6:33 pm

If the overcapacity freeway system, most specifically the Interstate system, is not expanded here in Metro Atlanta in the not-too-distant future, the type of road metering that you speak just may be what’s coming to Metro Atlanta and probably sooner than many think.

Daddy Got A Gun August 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm

MARTA is on the downhill side of the pricing curve, meaning: for every $1 increase in fares results in significantly less demand. Distance based pricing will result in higher fares (its goal) but less riders and the net effect will be to shrink MARTA revenue.

What MARTA needs to do is expand its “demand”. They need to expand their rail lines to get closer to cobb and gwinnett. That would attract more riders, which increases their revenues with minimal cost. MARTA sells time. An empty seat is lost revenue and that comes with a cost. Fill the seats!

I know that having Cobb residents riding on Marta is abhorrent to Marta management but Cobb money is just as green as an ITP’er. Its a solution that could work if properly done, which means it will fail since we are talking about MARTA here.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm

I’m not sure you have it right. Cobb residents were/0are opposed to Marta extending their way (Same with Gwinnett). If I remember correctly, the fear is that it will bring riff raff into our fair county…

Daddy Got A Gun August 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Ok. Maybe its a two way street of abhorrent feelings.

If you look at the MARTA maps, you can tell their designers went out of their way to be as far from Cobb as possible. There is no way someone from Cobb could ride MARTA effectively. Its just easier and quicker to drive downtown.

I do pricing for a large telecom company in town. I deal with large companies. One of our successful ways to get customer’s to buy new services is a free trial. They use a service for a couple of months and get used to it. Then they want more of it and are willing to pay.

MARTA needs to setup an environment where Cobb riders can ride. That has a couple advantages for MARTA:

1) Its additional fare and parking revenue that they didn’t have before

2) It accesses a large pool of potential riders.

3) Its starts getting Cobb people riding MARTA, which long term will make bringing MARTA into Cobb more acceptable.

Cobb is an untapped market for MARTA. If they can get closer to Cobb and build a large park and ride lot, they should be able to grow their fare revenue very nicely. Heck, charge Cobb riders more money to get to the Cobb Park and Ride lot. BART in San Fran does this and it works really well for them. There are lots of ideas on how to increase Marta Fares, unfortunately the management of MARTA’s priority isn’t growing its fare revenue.

In 10 to 20 years, MARTA will go belly up and we’ll wonder why they didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities they have today.

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 3:06 pm

You haven’t lived here very long have you? I don’t ask that to be condescending, but there’s a long history that explains why Cobb is an untapped market for MARTA.

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 3:06 pm

And it’s not because MARTA didn’t want the extra riders.

CobbGOPer August 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm

In case you’re obtuse, Grift means racism. And he’s right.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Bingo!

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm

also the strange “transit = crime” idea. you know, like in new york and stuff. seriously, I’d rather not live directly adjacent to many marta stations, because there is a little more property crime / graffiti (notable exceptions include decatur + midtown). but to hear some people talk they think that the 30 deep gang is gonna take the bus to their house and rob them.

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Or the Baseball Furies

Stefan August 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Seriously? This isn’t even debatable.

gt7348b August 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Dad – MARTA was always originally planned to go to Cobb. The Proctor Creek Branch was supposed to be originally one additional station north of Bankhead and there is an unbuilt line that would’ve branched north of Arts Center and had stations at Peachtree/26th Street and at Northside/I-75 where the Wal-Mart is now located. Additionally, the 1976 Regional Development Plan had the NW line and PC lines meeting up and then continuing to Marietta. Additionally, the West Line was supposed to be extended further West which is why Hamilton E. Holmes has side platforms instead of the normal island platforms of a terminal station. H.E. Holmes was never intended to be a terminal station.

Why didn’t those lines get built, well, my own speculation is that the funds that would’ve been used for those extensions (plus the SE to Hapeville and Tucker to Emory and North Druid Hills), were instead used to change the North Line from a bus way up GA 400 to the rail line we have today.

Please try to remember these facts in the future.

analogkid August 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I’m glad to see so many replies to my comment, but the distance-based fares bit was kind of the throw-away part. It’s worth looking into, but it doesn’t require any action by the legislature (to my knowledge), so it’s more of a suggestion to MARTA’s governing board than anything.

I also suggested a Fulton/ Dekalb referendum to raise the MARTA tax to expand the system. Again, this (to my knowledge) doesn’t require any legislative action.

What does require legislative action are the following:

Elimination of the 50/50 rule: Judging by the comments elsewhere on this thread, I think there is widespread support ITP (and probably very little objection OTP) for eliminating the 50/50 rule. I would love it if Rep. Lindsey was the one to author that bill.

Selection and funding of road projects: This is squarely already in the Legislature’s/ Governor’s purview. You as our elected officials should determine the most necessary projects, and if it is determined that taxes must be raised, then do the right thing even if it is unpopular.

Finally, thanks for seeking input on this forum. It goes a long way toward building the trust you and we seek.

gt7348b August 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm

On distance based fares – if you go back to a presentation given to the Regional Transit Committee in November 2011 (http://documents.atlantaregional.com/committees/tp_rtc_committee_packets_2011.pdf), you’ll see that the MARTA Board of Directors and staff have examined what it would take to implement distance based fares and tried to engage in a regional discussion of fare policy since MARTA, CCT, GCT, and GRTA all utilize the Breeze system. Aside the policy implications, there is a cost implication of adding add value machines inside all 38 rail stations, connecting those machines to existing Breeze infrastructure, etc, etc. So it isn’t as simple as flipping a switch.

Dave Bearse August 2, 2012 at 11:02 pm

No it’s not as easy as flipping a switch, but tens of millions were invested over a half dozen years ago towards that end (time/distance based fares). And since then, charging the cards, tapping out, etc, adds a bit of time, and makes the system inconvenient for casual users. If time is important I’m at all running late I don’t consider MARTA (even though it is very reliable).

dsean August 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Here are the alternatives that I’ve been debating with my friends. I suspect some of them would be politically unpalatable, but I think they are necessary to reduce traffic congestion.

First, a few general propositions:

1. Traffic congestion is a negative externality – A doesn’t have to bear is the cost of the congestion he creates by driving, which instead is borne by every other driver on the road.

2. Economic incentives work.

3. The costs of congestion should be borne by those who cause it.

Here are my proposed alternatives:

1. Raise the gas tax to align the costs of these proposals to the people who both cause congestion and will most benefit from reducing congestion.

2. Introduce congestion charges or traffic tariffs that change depending on the road volume. The basic idea is that if you travel at off-peak times, you pay no toll. If you travel at peak times, your toll varies depending on volume. Essentially, this expands the HOT Lanes across all highway travel lanes in the metro area.

3. Simultaneously, introduce an off-peak traffic lottery based on the Palo Alto experiment (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/science/experimental-campaigns-pay-drivers-to-avoid-rush-hour-traffic.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all). Drivers who travel at off-peak times, car pools, bikers, and mass transit commuters are entered into a daily lottery to win small amounts (say $20-$50). I believe in Palo Alto, they did this with a smart-phone app.

4. Tax breaks for businesses who allow telecommuters. For many job, physical office presence isn’t required. If that is the case for a particular business, offer them an incentive to allow employees to telecommute several times a month.

5. Commuter tax. Encourage density by adding a tax penalty for those people who live more than 10 (15? 20?) miles from home. This tax should be waived if the person works remotely at least a certain number of days per week/month/year.

6. End restrictions on MARTA funding. Let it succeed or fail on its own.

7. Extend and expand Bus rapid transit from outlying suburbs into the Atlanta business districts.

ryanhawk August 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Stop diverting state gas taxes to the general fund. Set the state gas tax at the level that is required to fund maintenance of existing infrastructure AND add new capacity where congestion is worst. If funds are no longer diverted, this could even be a cut from current levels. And make sure that new capacity includes congestion pricing mechanisms (i.e. variable tolls) with all funding from tolls also used to maintain the roads.

The big political problem with this is that gas tax revenue from commuters has been used to subsidize schools and hospitals/doctors. Do a real “zero based budget” for education in Georgia and cut out some of the waste. And follow Rick Perry’s lead and do not expand Medicaid. In fact you should probably cut it. And if the Federal government doesn’t like it, tell them to take a hike.

Rambler1414 August 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm

“The big political problem with this is that gas tax revenue from commuters has been used to subsidize schools and hospitals/doctors.”

And this to the list of subsidies:
http://www.dot.state.ga.us/informationcenter/programs/roadimprovement/GRIP/Pages/default.aspx

which accomplishes very little when it comes to solving congestion problems

DeKalb Wonkette August 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Rep. Lindsey: I voted “NO” on the T-SPLOST because:

1) No overarching goals were ever articulated concerning the percentage of congestion to be relieved, the percentage in the region that would have access to transit and the extent to which our air quality would improve. T-SPLOST wasn’t a plan but rather a collection of projects selected for “beauty contest” value.

2) The T-SPLOST was a “corporate/economic development” initiative masquerading as a transportation initiative, a fact that was painfully clear to the public but not to the Chamber who evidently thinks that voters are stupid. It certainly would not have relieved my commute.

3) The T-SPLOST was another attempt at double-taxing the residents of Fulton and DeKalb. I voted NO on the Trauma Care amendment for the same reason: I already pay for Grady in my property tax bill.

Why is it really so impossible to do the obvious? Amend the state constitution to authorize use of gas tax funds for transportation projects beyond roads and bridges AND increase the gas tax. We’d get cars off the road and build a market for transit and alternative transportation options.

bsjy August 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Mr. Lindsey,
1. The problem is overtaxing. So, the first imperative is to live within your means. Cut spending in one area to fund another area. By a 2-1 margin Georgians said we will live with the consequences of less government revenue. Hold us to it.
2. The problem is planners and planning. The Beltline is a great example. The GT student who dreamed it up couldn’t connect the circle with abandoned track. Did we drop the plan? No. Full steam ahead. So, the second imperative is to get out of the planning business and let the dynamic human force that is the population of metro Atlanta identify and solve its transportation problems. The role for government here is to reduce the red tape in starting a new business. Private train companies working with other private companies to share available tracks might be part of the answer. Private bus companies might be part of the solution; what is sure is that it won’t be found in the GA or ATL planning departments.
3. Liberate the people of Georgia from the strictures of government “help.” Let us be free to try new things or try old things without clearing our ideas with “the Man” beforehand.
4. Give yourself financial flexibility by breaking the back of government unions. The lesson of Wisconsin is that the 80% are not willing to feather the bed of the 20% who live off the government’s skim from the private sector. People see that the agenda of the union leader is not the same as the agenda of the union member, so crush the leaders and let the workers assemble more sensibly. If a 401k is good enough for private workers, it is certainly good enough for the folks at the DMV or any other government office.
5. Rediscover the 10th Amendment. Channel your inner Nancy Reagan and “Just say ‘No'” to the next mandate from D.C. Let the people of Georgia take care of Georgia’s sick and aged; we have different issues than do the people of Minnesota, and we should solve our problems our way.

Baker August 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm

@bsjy: I’m totally in favor of private Beltline money, sell some memberships, corp sponsors (but not in a crazy tacky way), shareholders in the real estate investment etc etc. Let’s get to it, and someone please tell when I can sign up.

taylor August 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm

4. Govt unions – How many Georgia government workers do you think are in a union? This isn’t the Northeast. The last pay raises seen by most Georgia state employees was a 3% raise on January 1, 2008. What union would put up with that?

Regarding retirement, General Assembly changed the employee retirement plans for those hired after January 1, 2009 to a hybrid. Still have a defined benefit of 1% a year after 30 years (30% of salary for two highest salary years). The 401K match maxes at 3%, if the employee puts in 5%.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 10:18 pm

But that goes against the narrative that unions have caused all of our ills. If we dont blame the unions, who else can we blame?

hmmm….

analogkid August 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm

State employee unions aren’t the problem. Teachers unions on the other hand…

I kid.

Baker August 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm

No offense to Jan Jones or Queen Emma or anyone else, but there needs to be some politician somewhere, Kasim Reed is the only one I’ve seen who is close, that will be positive and vocal and tout the partnership between Atlanta and the burbs. Without one, you don’t have the other. Part of what we’re dealing with now is still resulting from decades of pitting Atlanta against state, ITP v OTP, whatever you want to call it.

It’s a partnership and we better realize it and work together and…..gasp….compromise to get stuff done.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm

But the ITP city and the OTP suburbs did work together.

…They worked together to defeat a regional T-SPLOST that they both utterly despised.

bowersville August 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm

And when the ITP city and the OTP suburbs work together to come up with a solution let the rest of GA know. Maybe then we’ll tune in. Until then…so long.

Seriously. Why re-invent the wheel. Charlotte, Dallas and other metro areas around the country have either done this, are doing it or like us doing nothing. Look at the competitors in the SE region. How did they do it? Look at it, consider it and see how it applies to GA.

If it involved taxes and fees, accept it. Not. Going. To. Happen. In this political climate. Something has to give in the political dynamics.

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

yep. if you look at bsjy’s comment above, only item 2 (of 5) really has anything to do with transportation. the rest (and the first item) is that taxes are already too high. but we’re 45th in the country, as the representative said? whatever’s getting done is going to require new revenue, and that’s just not going to happen in most districts with the tea party climate.

Baker August 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Like Bowersville said, it’s a lot easier to tear down than to build up.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Not tearing down, just stating an obvious truth that is painful for T-SPLOST backers to acknowledge.

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm

to me, this thing was a referendum on whether itp/otp compromise was even possible. I was glad to see Reed + Deal boosting the same thing, but it just looks like a “no” to me.

I voted “yes,” but only because I thought the bill was better than nothing and I’d pay $10/month for there to exist a marta line to emory/cdc.

I think Atlanta should vote to tax itself to put in the stuff we want – beltline, pedestrian facilities, etc. the free market OTP crowd should feel free to do its thing.

I don’t think we’re overtaxed. I think 45th, as you said, is pretty darned low. particularly for sales tax in an area with a lot of tourism.

What do I want?

I would like narrower roads in downtown ATL to encourage pedestrian traffic.

I would like surface parking in ATL to be priced commensurate with other cities this size to encourage mass transit use and carpooling.

I would like streetcars on the beltline. There’s already a mini-real-estate boom building up around the Edgewood streetcar, with multiple renovated restaurants and bars. It’s good for tourism, and tourism is good for business.

How do I want to pay for it?

Big tax on surface parking. it’s a brilliant business model that leads to an awful urban environment and encourages automobile travel. it makes ATL a crap place to visit.

HOT lanes on the downtown connector. ATL should recoup some revenue with all that smog.

capital-L SPLOSTS. smaller ones for specific projects in specific locations, like beltline sections.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Man, what a mess! As to where we go from here?

Two choices. One, we can raise transportation funds by phasing out the state fuel tax on in-state motorists and replacing it with distance-based user fees on all major roads so that each major road becomes self-funding with the ability to fund its own maintenance and upgrades as needed, with each major road having its very own infrastructure bank to draw from when necessary.

We can keep the state fuel tax on out-of-state motorists and increase it substantially (but not excessively) to the level to where Georgia’s gas tax is in the neighborhood of that of neighboring North Carolina whose $0.38/gallon gas tax and $0.42/gallon diesel tax is amongst the 10 highest state fuel taxes in the country and is financing an ambitious program of long-term Interstate highway expansion. Increasing the state fuel tax on out-of-state motorists comes with very little, if any, political risk as out-of-state motorists can’t decide the outcome of state and local races.

We can also increase transit funding by decreasing taxes by eliminating the 1% sales tax that Fulton and DeKalb counties pay for MARTA operations and fund with a robust combination of distance-based user fees, public-private partnerships and Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops along transit lines) a complete overhaul of what is currently a rapidly-declining MARTA into something much more appealing, inviting, convenient, secure and effective at increasing mobility and decreasing traffic congestion stress in the Atlanta Region and North Georgia.

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Stefan August 3, 2012 at 1:17 am

The in state/out of state gas tax is interesting. However, think its difficult to implement and likely unconstitutional,

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 3, 2012 at 1:45 am

Thanks for the insight, please explain how limiting the state gas tax only to out-of-state motorists is unconstitutional, which I assume that you are not necessarily talking about according to the Georgia Constitution, but may be talking about the U.S. Constitution.

Stefan August 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

The US Constitution generally looks unfavorably upon taxing schemes that benefit in-state entities at the expense of out-of-state ones. Off the top of my head, there are three constitutional issues that come to mind: The Dormant Commerce Clause, Privileges and Immunities, and Equal Protection.

Here’s the very basic test for the Commerce Clause from Complete Auto Transit v. Brady (1977) (questions are derivative of the case text)

1. Does the activity taxed have a substantial nexus with the taxing state?
2. Is the tax fairly apportioned?
3. Does the tax discriminate against interstate commerce?
4. Is the tax fairly related to services the state provides the taxpayer?

2 and 4 are really about the level of tax rather than its existence, so could go either way. I am going to give you #1 for the time being, but I think it fails on #3. West Lynn Creamery explains this pretty well if I recall correctly.

Privileges AND Immunities
Generally, the Privileges and Immunities Clause provides that the state may not impose a tax scheme, the practical effect of which is that nonresidents pay higher taxes than the state’s residents.

A state may discriminate against nonresidents where (1) there is a substantial reason for the difference in treatment, and (2) the discrimination practiced against nonresidents bears a substantial relationship to the state’s objective.

The problem here is a) no other state does this so it isn’t a reciprocity situation, and b) it will be very hard to show that out of state drivers are using Georgia’s roads above and beyond what they pay in state gas taxes already in order to pass (1) above. Your defense is that this is a use tax, and not a sales tax, but I think as a use tax it fails, too. As a use tax tolls are much less discriminatory and accomplish the same purpose.

Equal Protection
So, yeah, I think this tax scheme gets by Equal Protection.

And so ends my Con Law Lunch, back to what I actually do…

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Excellent Constitutional critique of my harebrained scheme idea to raise road funding revenues without raising taxes on the in-state motorists who decide elections and often get kind of bummed about anything that resembles a tax increase on them.

Stefan August 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm

It’s not a terrible idea, mind you, just probably unconstitutional.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

If that idea has problems passing constitutional muster, another suggestion would be to drop the current state gas tax completely and in some way try and tie usage of each individual road, especially major roads, to fuel purchases so that each motorist pays for their use of each major road when they pay for gas.

Or we could completely drop the state fuel tax and levy distance-based user fees on every major road on both in-state and out-of-state motorists, my only concern is that we be able to collect those fees from out-of-state motorists who help cause an inordinate amount of wear-and-tear and delays to the Interstate system in Georgia.

Gacitizen August 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Rep. Lindsey,

One huge thing is that the people do not trust GDOT to handle projects in a responsible and efficient manner (true or not it was mentioned as a main point to vote no). Metro Atlanta and our other urban areas of the state have an ongoing public planning, prioritization, and public input process. Our rural and suburban areas do not have anything of the sort, and a GDOT person just comes around once a year to “consult” with locals on projects while asking them to sign a form to confirm the visit in order to satisfy some federal requirement. In short, there are no open and transparent procedures for our non metro areas to have regular input and dialogue, and GDOT is just seen building projects that make people scratch their heads. Sometimes those projects are over 20 years old, and someone at GDOT just seems to decide to advance it because it was next on a checklist. That project may have been submitted 30 years ago, and the locals might have no idea it even exists.

Governor Deal stated that the Plan B for TSPLOST was to prioritize our existing funds, reevaluate projects, and to make smarter transportation investments with the dollars available. Short of a new revenue source, I do believe that is about the most we can hope for unless we start putting toll booths up on every state route. However, the public has no confidence in GDOT and if it is GDOT Atlanta or the nebulous District Office making these decisions then distrust will just continue. If transportation project identification and prioritization is going to be done more often then it should be a process that starts at the local level, and then a priority list is sent to the state. Local officials and citizens know more about which projects are “must haves as Gov. Deal said” much better than someone sitting in Atlanta.

While they are not perfect, our neighboring states have a locally driven rural/suburban planning process that is much better than our state’s “sign here once a year” 60 minute consultation. A good example just to our north is Tennesee ( http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/longrange/rpo/ ), and it is a process that gives local citizens and elected officials a good amount of input into the project selection process. At least there they are able to work in conjuction with the state to jointly decide what projects are important to local communities, and then work to keep their lists up to date.

Georgia’s alternative is what we have now……no process for non metro areas, GDOT wasting time and money on 30 year old projects no one wants, and a public that won’t trust GDOT without a major overhaul in how we identify, prioritize, and plan for projects in an environment where every dollar has to go as far as it can. This isn’t a perfect example but we have virtually nothing in place today, and GDOT basically decides what project to do when it feels it is good and ready.

Thank you for your willingness to take comments.

sipster August 2, 2012 at 2:58 pm

1. Get rid of the current gas tax structure that has a 7.5 cent/gallon excise tax and a 4% sales tax (with 1% going to general fund). Set the gas tax at a flat 20 cent/gallon and then increase it by 3% every year, with all proceeds going to roads and bridges.
2. Make the state take back GDOT’s debt service. This was supposed to be a one time trade off in Zell Miller’s administration but the State never took the debt service back after the initial year. One of the worst mistakes ever made in transportation in this state.
3. Bring SRTA back under GDOT. They were made their own bureaucracy in the early 2000’s. Frankly, it’s an unneeded state agency.
4. Revamp the GDOT Board. The time is ripe anyway, because they are about to have 14 members with the new Congressional Districts and there would not be an ability to break a tie. The Governor deserves an appointee to the Board, and then you could do away with the Planning Director.
6. GRTA should take over MARTA. Suburbanites love GRTA Express buses but hate MARTA. Both are transit providers, so obviously, it’s an image issue with MARTA.
7. Enough with the 50/50 split on MARTA already. Get rid of it.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

We can get out in front of things with the first choice of financing critically-needed upgrades to our transportation network with distance-based user fees and substantially-increased state fuel taxes restricted only to out-of-state motorists on roads and distance-based user fees, public-private partnerships and Tax Increment Financing on transit or we can go with a much less-desirable second choice which is likely looming off in the distance.

That much less desirable second choice that is likely looming off in the distance is federally-imposed congestion pricing on all lanes of Atlanta Region interstates to clear them of excess local traffic so that out-of-state (Interstate) and through traffic continue to flow through the area without getting stuck in the extremely-severe traffic congestion caused by too many local vehicles trying to cram onto a freeway network in the Atlanta Region that the State of Georgia has both refused to provide any reasonable transit alternatives to and expand to accommodate a regional population that has more than doubled over the past two decades.

The Feds are not going to sit around while a crucial section of the nation’s transportation grid becomes perceived to be (and actually is at times) virtually completely impassable to the outside logistical world, they’re likely going to want to push excess local traffic off of the roads and they are likely not going to be very nice about when they do it with exorbantly-priced adjustable fares to make sure that excessive local traffic stays off the Interstates, meaning that if the Interstates aren’t expanded probably within the next five years, the only that Metro Atlantans will be able to ride on the Interstates is in a three or more-person carpool, a bus or by paying a ridiculously-high toll to ride in a single-occupant vehicle.

afterdecker August 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Good Afternoon,

Just like any family or business that struggles to overcome adversity by tightening the belt and reducing spending, our government should do the same by getting back to the basics.

Audit departments’ operations, expenses, processes, staff, and revenue. Then, identify ways to improve operations, reduce expenses streamline processes, maximize staff, and right size operations to fit the existing revenue stream. I would also suggest renegotiating contracts along with an open bidding opportunity for other businesses to provide services on behalf of the department.

These activities can produce exceptional financial results. There are several private organizations that can provide the auditing services and recommend areas of financial improvement that are compensated exclusively upon a percentage of the amounts they are able to save government entities.

Then, you can announce these reductions and cost saving activities to the public letting them know of the steps taken to care for their tax dollars. It’s also quite a feather in your reelection hat. If you need any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at [email protected].

Best regards,
David

joe August 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Ed,

The answer to one of your questions is simple, it just takes several years. “How do we overcome the extreme mistrust that divides us…?” You read the answer on PP daily. Stop being corrupt. No more Go Fish, no more padded expense accounts, no more pushing T-SPLOST because that is what your developer buddies want. This list could go on and on, but I think you should be able to see why there is mistrust.
The other question of Atlanta congestion is a little more complicated to answer, and will take even more time to fix. If congestion is the problem, then the solution must address congestion. We have several sections of interstate that have in excess of 250,000 cars daily. If you want to reduce congestion, you do not want to look at solutions that reduce the number of cars by 25, or even by 2,500. You want to look at solutions that reduce the number of cars by 25,000 or more. That should be the threshold. If a project cannot show that it will improve any given area by 10%, then it is not worth considering.
If you have a 5 lane highway that you increase to 6 lanes, you will decrease congestion by about 20%. Many cities have accomplished this not by adding lanes, but by making existing lanes dual purpose, e.g. northbound in the AM, and southbound in the PM.
A second alternative is to add a second loop outside of 285. An Arc might work in limited areas, but would not benefit the entire metro. I live on the south side, not too far from I-685. When I need to take I-85 to the south, I have to travel north, then west, then south. Not only does that add 15-20 miles to my trip, but it means that I am a part of the congestion for an additional 30 minutes.
Finally, MARTA cannot remove 10% of the congestion from a side street, much less an interstate. Drop all state connection to it and let it die a slow death. If Fulton and DeKalb want to flush more money down that hole, it is their money, let them do as they want

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm

“If you have a 5 lane highway that you increase to 6 lanes, you will decrease congestion by about 20%’

Yeah. How’s that working at Hudson Bridge?

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

pfft. heheh.

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 4:05 pm

or the good ole 20 lane expanse of the downtown connector. that has obvs worked out.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

That 16-lane expanse of the Downtown Connector could have and would have worked out much better had there actually been a viable mass transit alternative to accompany it all these years.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I hate that intersection with the fire of a thousand suns. It is one of the reasons I dread driving home to visit my family in South GA. It boggles the mind how you can have congestion in that area at both 3pm in the afternoon and 3 am in the morning everyday of the week!

joe August 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

The problem at Hudson Bridge is because I-75 and I-675 merge, and go down to less lanes than the two combined. Less lanes + same number of cars = more congestion. You have to increase the lanes or decrease the cars.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Interesting that you raise that point as there is an interchange in Southern California in Orange County south of L.A. that is very similar in logistical function to the I-75/I-675 merge/split where the I-405 San Diego Freeway splits off from the I-5 Santa Ana Freeway to go through the Westside of L.A. while the I-5 continues into Downtown L.A.

That interchange where I-5 and I-405 split apart northbound and merge together southbound is known as the “El Toro Y” and south of the interchange the I-5 is many as 26 lanes wide to better attempt to handle the combined merging southbound traffic from both the I-5 & I-405 and to enable northbound traffic to provide an easier exit for NB I-405 traffic from the I-5 NB.

In addition to the I-5 roadway being up to 26 lanes in width south of the interchange, there is a bypass around the westside of the busy interchange of sorts between I-5 & I-405 in the form of the CA State Hwy 73 San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor toll road and there is also substantial Metrolink commuter rail and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner passenger rail service on a rail line that parallels I-5 between Downtown L.A. and San Diego.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Toro_Y
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_State_Route_73
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrolink_(Southern_California)

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm

The point is that if there is not going to be a strong and concerted effort to increase the capacity of such an interchange that is as busy as the I-75/I-675 spilt/merge Interchange by expanding it to better accommodate the increasingly heavy amount of traffic that it handles, then there had damned sure better be a very strong mass transit alternative to take local traffic off of the roads that feed into that interchange.

The problem is that neither the I-75/I-675 interchange has been expanded nor has there been a mass transit alternative added in the area that was strong enough to take traffic off those roads, despite the increasingly-heavy traffic volumes over the years that have turned that area into a parking lot during much of the day and sometimes at night.

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm

It has been expanded. Several times.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

But it hasn’t been expanded to anywhere near the extent that it has needed to be expanded to handle the extremely-heavy traffic volumes that the interchange actually currently handles and will handle in the future with the heavy resort traffic to and from Florida and the increasingly heavy freight truck traffic to and from the Port of Savannah, which has grown into one of the busiest ports on the planet in recent years, not to mention the growing commuter traffic as I-75 is only 6-8 lanes in width both north and south of the interchange and I-675 is only four lanes in width north of the interchange.

Not to mention that although there are now GRTA Xpress commuter buses that serve the area (for the time being, anyways), a critically-needed mass transit option in the area is still almost virtually non-existent after all these years of ballooning population growth and massive traffic growth.

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Well that’s not the same as “The problem is that neither the I-75/I-675 interchange has been expanded” now is it?

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 10:17 pm

With all of the entering southbound traffic from Hwy 138 to I-75 from both the I-75 and I-675 interchanges with 138 and all of the severely-heavy through traffic headed south on 75 to various locales (Macon, Savannah, South Georgia, Florida, etc), one extra southbound lane between I-675 and Hudson Bridge hardly counts as expansion on a road that attempts, often unsuccessfully, to handle much more traffic than it was designed to handle.

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Firstly, it’s been more than one lane since 675 opened.

Secondly, that’s still expansion. Which is not what you said.

I like it better when you talk about death spirals.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Are you talking about from how I-75 has been expanded over the years from its original 4 lanes to the current grand total of 7 lanes between I-675 and Hudson Bridge? Well, whoopty-doo!

We’re still talking about a stretch of roadway that at about 145,000 vehicles per day, handles well more than twice the amount of traffic than it is designed for or was intended to handle.
http://www.dot.state.ga.us/statistics/stars/Pages/HenryTraffic.aspx

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I don’t know if you remember, but that Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc thing was tried before and it didn’t work out too well as it was a coalition that was not too dissimilar from the one that came together to defeat the T-SPLOST because they thought that it built too many roads that also came together to defeat the Outer Perimeter and the Northern Arc a decade ago.

That means that any proposals that involve the construction of new roads, especially any that are thought to be even remotely-related to the Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc concept, are deader-than-a-doornail upon arrival as transportation proposals down at the Gold Dome where much of the state’s political power structure now resides largely in and near many areas close to the erstwhile path of the cancelled Northern Arc.

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

us marta riders would actually LOVE it for GA to “drop all state connection” to marta.

it’s the biggest transit system in the country that gets 0 state dollars. zip. goose egg. and yet the legislature still holds it for ransom every couple of years.

if the state dropped all connection and just let fulton and dekalb handle it, it would be much better off. so yes please.

Three Jack August 2, 2012 at 3:15 pm

1. Eliminate HOV lanes — at least during high traffic times in the a.m. and p.m.
2. Synchronize traffic signals as promised by Perdueless 10 years ago.
3. Get rid of ramp traffic signals, what a freakin waste of millions!
4. Raise speed limits (or even better, eliminate them on expressways)
5. Reduce cop radar/laser traps on expressways, especially conducted by local police/sheriff

CobbGOPer August 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm

“2. Synchronize traffic signals as promised by Perdueless 10 years ago.”

They’ll get around to this just before Armageddon.

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

6. install high-speed full-service gas stations along the side of 75/85 to do tire changes and oil
7. repeal all gasoline taxes levied on fuel > 110 octane
8. get corporate sponsors for individual commuters
9. redevelop the gulch downtown into a “victory lane” with champagne and babes
10. profit!

bsjy August 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Your points 4 and 5 would free the officers of the peace to be that instead of revenue agents. I was driving on I-95 from Baltimore to Philadelphia, a stretch that includes 55mph, construction zones, and 65mph zones. Nobody paid any attention to the posted speed limit, and there were no police troopers, so traffic flowed as fast as it could safely, deftly incorporating construction areas, ancient elevated highways marked by potholes, toll booths, harbor tunnels and long, high bridges. Where it was safe to go 70-75, people did; where it was only safe to go 55-60, people did so. Freedom works.

CobbGOPer August 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm

“Finally, MARTA cannot remove 10% of the congestion from a side street, much less an interstate. Drop all state connection to it and let it die a slow death. If Fulton and DeKalb want to flush more money down that hole, it is their money, let them do as they want…”

It’s either that or the state commits to properly funding MARTA and pushing to expand its coverage into useful areas with serious plans and negotiation. But your option is the more likely scenario.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

And if MARTA goes what is the alternative? A major city like Atlanta, with major businesses and the busiest airport in the world needs to have an outlet for transportation. The roads are clearly not cutting it now, even with MARTA. What makes anyone think that getting rid of the only major transit unit in the state will make things better?

And I am asking seriously asking here.

mountainpass August 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm

How many business people a day use MARTA to get to and from the airport? How many paying riders a day on MARTA? Is MARTA worth the transfusion of cash?

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 4:03 pm

it’s about a half-million riders a day.

mountainpass August 2, 2012 at 4:21 pm

How many are paying riders?

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm

you can get a reduced fare of $0.95 (vs. $2.50) if you’re on medicare or a senior citizen. other than that I believe everyone pays per trip (or their employer pays). I buy them in packs of 20 for $42.50, and probably commute via marta 2-3 days / week. are you asking about fare evasion?

mountainpass August 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

No I’m just trying to see how much money they take in per day in fares. It would be $1,250,000 if all half million paid the full fare.

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm

that’s probably about right. their operating budget is around $400,000,000, which is ≈365*1.25,000,000.

but they aren’t allowed to spend more than 50% of revenues on operations due to intentional hamstringing by the legislature – the so called “50/50″ rule.

as a comparison, the downtown connector carries about 270k vehicles per day (wikipedia), so marta is almost certainly moving more people, assuming single occupancy vehicles.

(http://www.itsmarta.com/uploadedFiles/MARTA_Matters/Finances/Efficiency%20Brochure%202nd%20revision%20060710.pdf)

mountainpass August 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I work in North Fulton and the buses around the Windward area are empty. I just don’t see the demand. If it can’t break even now, it won’t by expanding. Are the parking spots at the North Springs station full daily?

Stefan August 3, 2012 at 1:26 am

Why not make the same arguments about roads? Roads are immensely unprofitable, but nobody says let’s let them live or die on their own. The entire car culture is being subsidized. If I go to a restaurant and walk there, and you go and drive and park in their attached lot for free, or worse,use their valet, somewhere in the price of my meal is the cost of your free parking!

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

With a nearly $3 billion long-term operating deficit, MARTA is in such extremely-severe financial trouble that the only likely option for the rail and transit service to continue may be for the state to take over operations either before or after MARTA collapses financially.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm

There is no alternative to MARTA unless the state takes over what is left of it as with is nearly a $3 billion long-term operating deficit, MARTA is in a vicious death spiral from which it likely will never be able to recover and will likely be out-of-service within a decade.

The state taking over what increasingly little remains of MARTA is a risky proposition in and of itself as the state is having its own extreme troubles merely accomplishing the simplest of operational functions at the moment in its operation and oversight of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Can we all be genuine for a second and admit that part of the reason MARTA is where it is can be attributed to the way the state set it up and then didnt fund it (50/50 rule for ex)? I am of the mindset that if the state would step in and remove some stupid requirements and make a concerted effort to reorganize the bureaucracy (and not stack the deck with political cronies but those who know what they are doing), MARTA could be saved and made 10000 times better.

I am an admittedly naive person though. I know this isnt going to happen.

*le sigh*

gt7348b August 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Lea – most of the MARTA staff I personally know are professionals and well respected in their industry as Civil Engineers, Rail Operations, etc. etc. If they didn’t know what they’re doing then it wouldn’t have been possible for the Laredo Solar Bus Canopy to have gone from concept to open in less than three years (to provide one example). Most of the issues facing implementation at MARTA are either political interference, the need and time of intergovernmental cooperation, or other such things. Please try to remember that it is truly insulting to people who chose to work in the public sector BY CHOICE when you paint them with a broad brush as political cronies.

Also, GRTA has less than 50 employees and runs a peak hour, 5-day a week service that carries less than 10,000 boardings/day. To be frank, the state (meaning either GDOT or GRTA) has neither the experience nor expertise on immediate hand to take over a 365-day system of over 500 buses and 38 rail stations operating for 18+ hours a day with over 450,000 boardings/day.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

I hear you. And I feel the same. I am not talking about the workers in the trenches. I am talking about the top. Board of directors, political appointees with no experience etc. The ones ultimately deciding how money will be sent.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

If MARTA cannot pay for its own capital improvements with the rule that requires it to keep 50% of its sales tax revenues in reserve for those capital improvements, how can MARTA be expected to pay for those improvments if it is not required to put aside money for capital improvements?

The problem is not the 50-50 rule that requires MARTA to put aside half of its sales tax revenues for capital improvements, the problem is that MARTA has not collected enough for operations at the farebox over the years.

MARTA has tried to keep its fares as low as possible for as long as possible while begging, to no avail, for the state to contribute to its operation, something that clearly is not and never was not going to happen in a highly tax-averse and highly transit-averse political climate under the Gold Dome.

MARTA has never made any real effort to do what it needed to do compensate for the lack of financial support from the state by raising its own fares with inflation to be able to survive in a hostile political climate in which outside help from the state was never going to come, which is a major part of the reason that MARTA is in a severe death spiral from which it is not likely to recover.

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm

MARTA has one of the highest fares in the country. But keep going. I haven’t heard “death spiral” enough today.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm

yep…

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 8:23 pm

$2.50 one-way fares, the one of the highest in the country? Really?

The DC Metrorail charges as much as $6.00 one-way to exit/enter its system at the busiest stations in the system.

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) charges up to $11.05 one-way to ride from one end of the system to the San Francisco International Airport and covers up to 78% of its operating costs with its distance-based fare structure.

The Long Island Railroad east of NYC charges $31.00 one-way to ride from one end of the line to the other during peak hours.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Links to BART’s fare calculator (11.05 / $4.10*…One-way from Pittsburg/Bay Point to San Francisco Int’l Airport…*Senior, Youth and RTC Clipper fare.)-
http://www.bart.gov/tickets/calculator/index.aspx

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Link to the Long Island Railroad’s zone fare map and chart-
http://mta.info/lirr/about/TicketInfo/Fares2011.htm

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Link to a news release in BART brags about its financial health-
http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2012/news20120614a.aspx

Key excerpt from the BART news release:

“Increased Ridership Helps the Bottom Line…..
….BART’s $672.1 million operating budget is benefiting from ridership that is projected to increase by 3% in FY13 to an average weekday ridership of 376,000 for the year, which would be an all-time high. Fare-paying customers account for 78% of the operating funds in the FY13 budget. The second largest source of operating revenue, dedicated money from sales taxes, is expected to increase by 5%.”

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Dude. LIR is not even close to comparable to MARTA.

But

Do. Goooooo on.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Don’t you mean that MARTA is not even close to comparable to LIRR or for that matter, BART?

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Sorry, I meant whats left of MARTA. My apologies.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm

The point is that MARTA, or at this point, the successor to MARTA, should be aiming to be as popular and as highly-utilized as a Long Island Railroad or a BART or a DC Metrorail, especially in a region that is as extremely severely-challenged in its overall road infrastructure as is the Atlanta Region.

But then again, that would take at least some minimal degree of interest (and competence) from the state in transportation infrastructure management, planning and investment, now wouldn’t it?

griftdrift August 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm

LIR is commuter rail that stretches the equivalent distance of Atlanta to Perry. That’s what I meant. Sorry if that’s difficult for you to comprehend.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 11:32 pm

The Long Island Railroad may be commuter rail, but to some stations on its lines, LIRR trains run as often as every 3-7 minutes with its service mimicking that of a heavy rail service.

On the other hand, BART is a system whose heavy rail trains serve the same function as a regional commuter rail service with trains that service some stations as often as every 2 minutes during much of the day.

bowersville August 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I read Erick’s “Arrogance” column on Redstate. One the “comments read this way, “Atlanta needs to suck it up and copy Dallas or Chicago.” And then went on to explain difficulties traveling in Atlanta and taking alternate routes. Several comments were made following suit.

http://www.redstate.com/erick/2012/08/01/arrogance/#comment-191290

The question is will Alanta(metro-region) suck it up or keep b@#$%ing

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm

We just saw the results of what happens when Atlanta tries to copy other places as Atlanta tried to copy Dallas who passed a regional referendum to fund DART light rail trains and buses back in 1983.

Atlanta can’t copy Dallas or Portland or Charlotte or Denver or any other region that the Atlanta Region powers-that-be have foolishly been trying to make Atlanta into.

Atlanta is a politically, socially and culturally unique region with an almost uber-liberal very left-wing inner-urban core that is more liberal and left-wing than more than just a select few urban cores in the nation that is surrounded by some of the most hardcore ultraconservative suburbs and exurbs in the nation with a libertarian streak that runs wide and deep and is one of the absolute strongest in the nation that is overlaid on a visible (and somewhat strange) layer of environmentalism all of which ABSOLUTELY MUST be taken into consideration when plotting transportation policy.

Just ask the backers of the Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc and the backers of the T-SPLOST how successful a transportation initiative is when Metro Atlanta’s unique political climate is not taken into consideration.

bowersville August 2, 2012 at 10:24 pm

The problem is that the Atlanta Region and the State of Georgia has been unwilling to invest in both the road and transit infrastructure to move people to and from

I’ll close with your words.

Jackster August 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask what everyone’s really forgetting:

Where is my flying car?!?

Anyone on here support a grant to invest in a georgia company to develop the flying car?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqdJkFM3pSM

Calypso August 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I have one word for you son, jetpacks.

Lea Thrace August 2, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Personally, I am waiting on my teleporter machine…

Calypso August 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm

They’ll have consumer models of those on the market in 2268. I got mine at Sam’s Club. That’s how I got here. The problem is, soon as I arrived in 2012, my teleporter disappeared because they haven’t been invented yet. It’s complicated.

By the way, Ryan Secrest is still hosting American Idol.

Edward Lindsey August 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

All:

I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and comments. Your posts demonstrate the complexity of the issues before us and the differences of opinions on how to fix our transportation difficulties.

Without prematurely launching into solutions too quickly, I do have a couple of preliminary thoughts based on what I have heard here and in response to an e-newsletter I sent out.

1. Trust is essential and we need to aggressively seek ways to restore it. This is an issue for not only local, state, and the federal governments but also for many of our private institutions from the financial sector, media, businesses in general and even chambers of commerce to our political parties, universities, various trade organizations, unions, interests groups, etc. I’m not crazy about being called “corrupt” by joe but recognize that this sentiment is widely out there and must be addressed directly in a way that gives people in these difficult times a belief that those of us in leadership positions are on their side and trying to do the best we can.

2. Small steps may be the best way forward. From fixing MARTA to selecting the most urgent transportation road projects, we need to focus on the details. Money is hard to find these days and must be spent wisely. Singles and doubles can produce runs and often lead to a lot less strikeouts than swinging for the fences.

Please feel free to continue the conversation here or to e mail me at [email protected].

Take care,

Representative Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta)
Georgia House Republican Whip

p.s. My neighbors will like Mike’s designation of my home being in “Historic Brookhaven.”

Harry August 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Your small steps way forward – that’s good.

trainsplz August 2, 2012 at 9:34 pm

+1 for just trying to get on base. thanks for the attention, representative!

joe August 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm

When I say that you are corrupt, I mean “you” in the plural form. If I meant it in the singular, directed against you, I would have had to give specific examples.

vote no tsplost August 2, 2012 at 8:22 pm

My family was in the interstate bus business, and remember mother talking about this. You can blame General Motors for your transportation problems. Maybe many do not know this,.In my youth I could ride a trolley/bus from college Park to Decatur Ga. All for .25.
Well along came GM, and in evil corporate mode, went around the country buying up city transitt lines, and quickly running them into the gorund, simply so they could sell more cars.

Now as for what to do about death of the Tsplost, why do anything special, I mean really all our elected officals need to do is get a backbone and raise their hand to vote,and double the fuel tax, maybe even allocate the collected $ to the distrcits it comes from.
But a sales tax will never stand for road use, it is not fair, User tax is the only way to go.

Maybe Hotlana needs a subway system, y’all could even get Bloomburg down here as Mayor.
I live in Atlanta 3 times, in 56 is twas an hour drive from Buckhead to school in college park. I doubt that deive time has changes much, and, I doubt all the TSPLOST would have changed it that much.

you August 2, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I know I am in an unusual situation since I live only 3 miles from my business (that was a choice). I like roads being tied to gas, that way those who use them pay but it seems that it not enough.
The only times I head towards Atlanta (from Gainesville) is on the rare occasion I show up for a PP party or I am going to the airport. Does anyone think another airport would reduce traffic? Perhaps serveral smaller airports? Or is Atlanta’s control too strong to release any power?
We have the world’s busiest airport….it has to be a huge part of the problem.

Calypso August 2, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Please direct your question to the near-sighted NIMBYs that blocked the privatization and limited commercialization of flights at Gwinnett’s Briscoe Field several months ago.

you August 2, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I thought privatizing Briscoe was a great idea. The area needs help and that could have been a huge boost. “But the noise”….empty commercial building and foreclosed home are so much quieter. :)

I would like to see it happen here.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 2, 2012 at 9:51 pm

The problem is that the Atlanta Region and the State of Georgia has been unwilling to invest in both the road and transit infrastructure to move people to and from the World’s Busiest Airport as being the site of the World’s Busiest Airport and a major center of job and economic activity should absolutely NEVER be considered a burden.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of cities on the planet that would kill to have the kind of economic asset that the Atlanta Region has in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and it’s 90 million passengers per year and the 60,000-plus jobs that it provides.

you August 3, 2012 at 7:02 am

Why more roads when we could have satellites in the north and south? It would relieve traffic plus create growth and jobs in the areas with the smaller airports. Most people hate having to drive through Atlanta to get to the airport. When I go, I must leave four hours before my flight to ensure I arrive at the gate in time. I think it is time we think outside the box and stop funneling everyone into Atlanta.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 3, 2012 at 8:17 am

We could have satellite airports in the north and south, but most people in the area see the negative side-effects that Hartsfield has had on its immediate surrounding community (noise, vibration, jet fuel fumes, etc) and often decide to almost literally fight to the death any attempts at putting an airport in or near their communities, especially in or near heavily-developed residential areas as was the case during the recent ongoing Gwinnett airport controversy.

Unless you live immediately near one of those satellite airports that you are suggesting (which is a thought that many people in residential areas don’t often relish), fighting through heavy traffic on the roads when going to or from the airport is a way of life in every major metropolitan area on the planet of five million or more people, even those with more than one major airport.

The only difference between Atlanta with its mega-airport and many of those other major metro areas on the planet with their mega-airports is that Atlanta does not necessarily have a very strong mass transit alternative to its built-out freeway system between its mega-airport on the Southside and where much of its population lives in its Northern suburbs.

Daddy Got A Gun August 3, 2012 at 9:44 am

I’d expect that most of the users of the Airport come from north of town.

One of my “if I was emperor what would I do” thoughts was to have a high speed-limited station rail line between Atlanta Airport and Chattanooga Airport. That solves several problems:

1) It relieves capacity limitations at Atlanta Airport and around Atlanta’s airspace
2) The linked major airports would make both cities stronger economically because flight availability would increase.
3) Airfares would be more competitive since more airlines could serve the region. Plus, traveling would more convenient in bad weather since you could easily divert to the other city.
4) the rail line could be used by commuters all along the line and paid for with distance based pricing
5) An efficient connection to ATL airport would help attract new businesses to North Georgia

griftdrift August 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

Been tried

Shot down

Cue the Jeff Mullis haters.

But you’re right. May be worth trying again.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm

DGAG, I very much agree with your suggestion for a high-speed rail line between the Atlanta Airport and the Chattanooga Airport and all of your points.

Grift, I very much agree with you that high-speed rail service is worth trying as Jeff Mullis has the right idea about establishing a high-speed rail link between the Chattanooga Airport and the Atlanta Airport, as IMHO all proposed commuter rail lines that originate from north of I-20 should end at the Atlanta Airport instead of the proposed multimodal terminal near Five Points so that airport users and employees can ride straight to the world’s busiest airport.

The only problem with Mullis’ high-speed rail idea is that the right-0f-way in which he proposes to use for it is not necessarily all that clear as high-speed rail service within the right-of-way of the historic Western & Atlantic (CSX) is a much better option than high-speed rail service within the right-of-way of I-75 as high-speed and commuter rail service within an existing rail right-of-way like the W&A/CSX would able to sustain and even fund itself over the long-term with the Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops along a transit line) and the density of population and development that already exists in the historic downtowns and neighborhood centers that line it while passenger rail service within the middle of the right-of-way of an Interstate highway would have no immediate density of development or population to draw from.

There’s already unfunded and mostly inactive plans to establish regional commuter rail service within the right-of-ways of existing rail lines along North Georgia, including, of course, unfunded but still somewhat active plans for commuter service between Atlanta and Macon, which at just over 100 miles in length, would be almost as long as a commuter rail or high-speed rail line of sorts (preferably high-speed commuter rail line) between Atlanta and Chattanooga via the old-W&A/CSX which would be roughly about between 120-130 miles in length which is similar in length to the aforementioned Long Island Railroad line between Penn Station in Manhattan in NYC and Montauk out on the very eastern edge of Long Island.
http://www.dot.state.ga.us/travelingingeorgia/rail/Documents/CommuterRailMap.pdf
http://atl-chatt.org/

seekingtounderstand August 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Trade: Release of all control of Marta in exchange for new northside airport, far north.
Rebrand Marta, make a new start with a new name. The Peach Train……….or ?
Reward telecommuting to give citizens instant relief while we work solving transportation issues.
It will add to their quality of life and be great vote getter. Working moms would love you.
Tax breaks for living close to work. Good ones would spure real estate development and sales.
Move state workers out of Atlanta. Real estate is at an all time low price you would get a deal and save money. Gainesville, ga has lots of space.
Move GA Legislature to somewhere boring so that those elected have nothing to do but go to a Dairy Queen. It will save us a ton of money. Try Hiram, Jessup, Haselhurst, Douglas…….heck rotate locations each year and give them with a giant tent like a circus does.
I am pretty sure we can sell the gold dome to Donald Trump.
This would make everyone happy and we will have have a good laugh.

seekingtounderstand August 2, 2012 at 10:59 pm

How many would run for office if they knew they would be Hiram for three months straight?
Might get a different kind of public servant.

Dave Bearse August 2, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Road funding should be based on road use insofar as practicable. I favor a combination of fuel and general sales tax funding of transit.

Funding wise, general sales taxes should not be used to fund roads widely. Change the state tax to a fixed amount per gallon, and index that amount to a combination transportation inflation / vehicle fuel economy factor, i.e. a factor that adjusts for both transportation cost inflation and the increasing fuel economy of motor vehicles over time.

Fight the anti-tax crowd once and get it over with.

I liked the local return element of T-SPLOST. I think the state fuel tax should be increased, and the proceeds returned to localities with the only string that it be used for transportation (roads, transit, ped, airport as they see fit). Localities can choose to reduce property taxes and/or sales taxes or other revenues used for transportation, or increase transportation spending, or some combination of reduced property taxes and increased spending.

This is important with respect to business. Commerce and industry is taxes based on its road use. Property tax cuts would nominally benefit low road use businesses, or the increased transportation funding would be more born by high road use businesses.

Don’t even think about increasing maximum allowable truck weights. (I understand SC did it, and I understand there were proposals for GA to do so too.) Tax subsidies for trucks increase expotentially with increasing weight. e.g. 10% more weight per vehicle results in much more than 10% more wear and tear on pavements and bridges by the vehicle.

Dave Bearse August 2, 2012 at 11:43 pm

“How do we overcome the extreme mistrust that divides us and what solutions do you suggest we implement for us to fix this traffic noose around our necks?”

Can’t say I read all the comments closely, but it seemed very few (me included just above) were addressing this question. The mistrust has been 25 years and a big bubble and bust in the making. I don’t see the mistrust going away for years. While many proponents are focused on objective facts, opponents are focused on non-supported generalities, that only time and prosperity can address. It’s pretty gloomy for doing anything in the near term.

Self_Made August 3, 2012 at 12:43 am

Introduce a strong tax credit for businesses offering telework. Rep. Lindsey, I’m sure you’re aware that MANY people, particularly in South DeKalb and South Fulton did not CHOOSE to live so far away from their jobs in N. Fulton and S. Forsyth, but rather had their jobs relocated to those areas from ITP or Perimeter Center locations. Schools that performed well 10-15 years ago suffer from lack of parental involvement because parents are commuting until 7-8pm, and other aspects of neighborhood life suffer as well.

It’s very clear that we aren’t mature enough in this region to work together. Everybody has to get everything they want or nobody gets anything. Offer a strong incentive to employers to allow employees to telework. Offer additional incentives for employees who live over 40 miles from the office. Perhaps, in the era of rapid technological advancement, searching for “transportation” solutions includes looking beyond wheels on the road or rails.

Daddy Got A Gun August 3, 2012 at 6:48 am

I telecommute for work. My boss is in Albany (telecommuting as well) and our customers are wall street banks and in the NYC area. I drive in rush hour maybe 3 to 4 times a YEAR.

I don’t know if incentives are needed for companies that allow telecommuting, but they should get regulatory and liability relief for allowing it. Workplace safety rules, zoning restrictions, and a company’s liability for what happens in the house during work discourage companies from allowing it.

Telecommuting has the potential to take just enough cars off the road at the right times, to reduce congestion, basically reduce the peak load.

seekingtounderstand August 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Dear Governor Deal and The Ga Legislature: Working moms and working dads and many children would benefit greatly if telecommuting was given a priority and tax incentives.
Please help us have a better life.

The Last Democrat in Georgia August 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Seems like small stuff like telecommuting, synchonizing the traffic signals, etc, would be a no-brainer because it’s low-hanging fruit and an easy place to start.

I hear people asking about telecommuting all the time.

By no means is it the end-all be-all to the traffic problem, but it’s just such an obvious place to start, along with getting the traffic signals in-synch.

bowersville August 3, 2012 at 6:41 am

The House made an attempt to revamp the tax code and Grover Norquist ruled the tax revamp wasn’t revenue neutral. So the tax code changes weren’t made. It has been said that those legislators that signed the pledge of allegiance to Grover Norquist rather than to their districts backed down.

I’m with George H W Bush. When asked about a tax pledge he responded, “Who the h&ll is Grover Norquist?”

jbgotcha August 3, 2012 at 8:38 am

I hope this conversation will serve as a model for our legislators on how to have a civil discussion about transportation issues moving forward. I see good ideas, healthy debate, and compromise as possibilities after reading this thread. One questi0n though: Where’s the tea party? Now that it’s time to give a legislator ideas and feedback they are nowhere to be found. Not that I’m surprised. Anyway, I appreciate Peach Pundit at times like these.

Nixonstheone August 3, 2012 at 9:16 am

My friends who opposed it almost all said “that’s a function of government: to address transportation needs. It shouldn’t take an additional revenue source to do what elected officials are supposed to do with the money they are given.”

I could pose many arguments, but that’s what they asserted – fyi

Dave Bearse August 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

The General Assembly’s recent redistricting is among those things that have increased distrust. It’s a distrust that may only just be beginning.

The loud and clear word from both sides of the aisle at the redistricting public hearings was that districts reflecting communities of interest and existing units of government. The Dems screwed up in 2002, and the GOP has followed in its footsteps. The Dems were trying to hold on. For the GOP, it was the fact there’s no such thing as too much political power.

Dems can’t trust the GOP government of a 55-45 state where all state offices and near GOP supermajorities are enough. The Fulton and DeKalb County districts are a travesty. Why even ask an individual Democrat citizen what they think about transportation, when clearly Dems don’t matter as a group.

GOP Dunwoody, the largest city in DeKalb, was placed in a single House district, natch. Doraville, Chamblee, and Decatur were chopped to pieces. Chamblee and Doraville are competitive for Pete’s sake, but why allow a competitive districts based on existing political boundaries if that conflicts with maximization of GOP Gold Dome power? Then get as many GOP districts as possible with only a very few Fulton County precincts to control local legislation.

You were the lead spokesman that this redistricting was good redistricting. Forgive me if I don’t trust you after reading here at PP http://www.peachpundit.com/2011/08/20/addressing-objections-to-georgia-house-redistricting-map-q-and-a-with-rep-ed-lindsey/ that districts don’t have unduly odd shapes or unduly pair Democrat incumbents. Your citing that the districts met VRA and were better than the Dems plan was self-serving.

Get back to us Dems when you’ve decided you know what’s best for us. We after all won’t have any representation in the back rooms where the real decisions are made.

Who would have thought that T-SPLOST would fail in Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton? Democrats were shut out of the drafting of the legislation. Dems were under-represented at a Roundtable so blatantly overweighted to outlying low population GOP counties that Gov Deal had to intervene to get Reed on the executive committee.

The handling of T-SPOLST at nearly every step ignored or alienated the necessary bedrock supporters for a balanced approach that includes transit. Re-read the T-SPLOST opposition comments you received. The misinformation on the Tea Party fringe has now infected core support.

Gov Deal’s thrown in the towel. (Of course like the GA400 toll, everything’s subejct to change based on re-election prospects. A Plan B, if any, will be a lot harder than Plan A.

vote no tsplost August 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

While the TSPLOST fight has been won in 75% of the districts, 113 counties are now left with a 2 year, 20% penalty on any further Federally funded road work.
In essence, the TSPLOST bill, contained a coercive poison pill, I call it extortion. Those counties within the districts that voted, no will have their Federal matching funds share, increased to 30%, for two years for any future federally funded projects, instead of the normal 10%.

I write this asking, is this is not extortion on the state’s part??? Why can’t the 113 NO VOTING counties, not launch a class action lawsuit to over throw this odious arm twisting, and in my opinion, illegal penalty?

Also, while the big fight has been won, now there is moping up to be done. Hopefully, any pro TSPLOST Senators and representatives, standing for reelection, will be defeated, and I hope everyone that will use any new found, anti TSPLOST contacts, to help defeat these elected officials.

OUR state employees have taken notice, and some of their kind have already fallen at the ballot box. We have momentum lets not loose it now. Use it, and lets vote these unscrupulous supporters of this sneaky TAX out of office.

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