There’s an informative article this week titled Defunding Mass Transit is Not Good for the Tea Party, Whatever They May Think and I highly recommend it as a good post-TSPLOST read that compares current problems in transportation funding with ones from Georgia’ past.
Here’s a quote:
Since the introduction of the automobile created the demand for modern road construction a hundred years ago, political infighting has defined debates over transportation. What today is a conflict between city and suburban folks over roads versus rails was once a contentious battle between urban dwellers and rural farmers over highway construction, and one that exploded every bit as intensely as it has today.
The article’s author is currently writing a book about the history of the Dixie Highway. Some good parallels are drawn here between the rural/suburban/urban divides that existed during that century-old project and the ones that still run deep today — and quite probably affected the TSPLOST vote.
Photo of opening of Dixie Highway in Calhoun, GA (1928) from Georgia’s Virtual Vault
I’ve been waiting for the Creative Loafing editorial board to take a Yes or No stance on the T-SPLOST vote for a transportation tax in the Atlanta region. Today they published their opinion: Yes. Read it here:
Atlanta transit: Envisioning our future CL’s stance on the T-SPLOST, or how to kill a beast that won’t die
I’ve mentioned briefly in comments here and elsewhere that I’ve reluctantly decided to vote Yes. I have a lot of misgivings about this tax and whether or not the road projects on it promote the sprawling, inefficient land use of the last few decades that has caused so much environmental damage.
In the end, I got tired of the stress that larger view was causing me and decided to take a more narrow view. I looked at what the tax does for me and my immediate neighborhood and I liked what I saw, particularly the pedestrian & cycling improvements on the list of projects from the tax’s allowance of 15% for local spending.
Still, I won’t be crying if the tax doesn’t pass, because I see a silver lining: a lack of a fix for the region’s traffic might make people think twice about living 20 miles from their job in a car-dependent area.
Atlanta traffic photo by Instagram user cj_mainor
I almost spewed my coffee when I read this morning’s AJC article on Metro Atlanta voter approval of mass transit.
You know those Tea Partiers’ rants at recent public forums on the upcoming transportation sales tax referendum? The ones where they oppose the funding of rail transit lines on the grounds that trains are somehow “archaic” or that terrorists might want to pull a Snidely Whiplash and sabotage our choo-choo lines?
It turns out those hysterical tirades don’t represent the way most people in the metro feel about transit. According to the article, a recent poll reveals that:
- 51 percent of metro voters would vote for the referendum if it were held today
- In Cobb and Gwinnett counties alone, at least 48 percent were in support, with an additional 10 percent undecided
- 82 percent said it was important to do more to encourage everyone to commute to work by bus or train (coffee spew!)
- 57 percent of voters said they don’t agree an increase in mass transit means more crime in new areas
- 57 percent also said if the referendum passes, it is likely to reduce metro Atlanta’s traffic and congestion significantly
Bottom line: the public histrionics from fear-mongering Tea Partiers represent a minority opinion when it comes to transit. A fringe belief. My best guess to the reason why they had such a loud voice in forums is that these people are so rabid in their cause they gave up a work day (assuming they have jobs) to get to the microphone. Meanwhile, average metro Atlantans were busy being stuck in traffic.
Which begs the question: will the media (AJC included) now decide that they no longer need to give a platform to Tea Party anti-transit ramblings in every single news piece on this tax proposal? Time will tell.
Atlanta traffic photo from Flickr user wojciech.felendzer
Thomas Wheatley reports in the Fresh Loaf blog that people of Gwinnett County are not keen on transportation tax if Beltline gets slice of funding.
The Beltline will do great things for the intown neighborhoods, but I kinda sympathize with anyone who doesn’t see the it as a project that would be appropriately funded with general transportation money for the metro.
My initial reaction to the Beltline as a transportation route was negative — the Beltline path neither passes through an established jobs center (like the downtown, midtown & buckhead office districts) nor connects well with MARTA as a way of feeding people to those jobs centers. Given this, it can logically be seen as more of an amenity for intowners (yes, a really great one that provides needed park space, connectivity, and community projects to neighborhoods) rather than a transportation tool that benefits commuters.
I do think that the Beltline is a route worth funding with tax money and I’ll personally be happy to have an extra tax added to do this. But to convince people across the metro of it’s transportation worth, I think we need to see a master plan for both the route and the new commercial/office/residential density it will serve.
It’s no longer good enough to plan transportation alone. We need to plan the areas the transportation will serve and move away from the lazy ‘let it sprawl’ attitude of the past — one where transportation routes are constantly trying to keep up with the moving targets of a sprawling metro. Sure, fund the Beltline, but please plan for added density to make that funding pay off in the long run.
Beltline photo from the Flickr stream of Jason Eppink
Thomas Wheatley provides some nice coverage of the current state of metro Atlanta’s effort to fund transportation improvements in a blog post on the Creative Loafing site.
I’ve got mixed feelings on this tax.
Transportation funding is an important goal, but I’m having trouble getting excited about the tax since, I assume, it only addresses how to fund transportation that serves an existing development pattern. This pattern is one that encourages sprawling land use and the building of little nodes of density (office parks and mixed-use projects) that are not well-connected to transit lines. In other words: the usual Atlanta car-dependency.
My big problem with this is that transportation funding in metro Atlanta shouldn’t exist on an island outside the concern of development patterns. A policy of smart-growth development, with more densely built residences and mixed-use zoning, should be tied to transportation funding. Otherwise, the area continues to sprawl and transportation proposals are continuing (and failing) to try to hit a target that moves in every direction.
From the seven-year study by SMARTRAQ (Strategies for Metropolitan Atlanta’s Regional Transportation and Air Quality):
Long-term solutions to the growth in traffic congestion will require the metro region to coordinate transportation investment and development.
The region’s activity centers and major corridors have far more jobs than housing or services. These areas provide great opportunities for increasing the mix of uses (and thus walkability) within the region, as they have existing transportation access, water/sewer infrastructure and underused parcels, such as failing strip retail centers that are ripe for redevelopment. SMARTRAQ’s results show that more housing opportunities closer to jobs will reduce the distances workers must travel. Clustered, higher density, walkable development that combines jobs, housing and services in appropriate places can also support better transit service.
Photo from the Flickr collection of tableatny