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
An Atlantic Cities writer takes a look at numbers on traffic congestion and economic output in US regions and finds that congestion (vehicle delay) does not have a negative effect on urban economies. The article points out that cities with vibrant economies always experience traffic congestion. One follows the other.
The writer goes on to say this:
"…when the streets become congested and driving inconvenient, people move to more accessible areas, rebuild at higher densities, travel shorter distances, and shift travel modes."
This is a significant concept to ponder as we approach the vote on the T-SPLOST that, in large part, makes car commuting in the region easier. If we alleviate congestion for cars, are Atlanta’s suburbanites losing the drive to live closer to work, allow higher densities and try alternative transportation modes?
I waffle on my feelings on the T-SPLOST pretty much daily. There are many things to like about it, such as funding for MARTA and new transit lines intown. But I worry about the potential for the road-funding projects to give the overall region fewer reasons to buy into a more sustainable urban form than the sprawling, car-dependent one.
Another great quote from the article:
"…automobile congestion, vehicle delay…are not measures of system efficiency. Nor are they measures of economic vitality. They are nothing more or less than measures of how convenient it is to drive an automobile."
Atlanta traffic photo by Fantinesview | Atlanta sprawl photo by jschoenwald
This could prove to be an interesting development during a year when metro Atlantans will be voting on a game-changing tax that funds roads and transit equally.
The L.A. Times reports that 2012 could bring record-high gas prices to US drivers.
Fuel price specialist Bob van der Valk said that oil prices, which have been creeping back toward $100 a barrel, eventually will boost gasoline costs.
"We started high on gasoline prices this year and we stayed high, and we are going to go higher next year," Van der Valk said. "We could be as high as $4.50 a gallon in California by Easter. The rest of the country will be above $4 a gallon by then."
"Localize Your Life" image from Flickr user Ted Ullrich