Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth
Monthly Archives: March 2011
METRO ATLANTA – William B. Hartsfield established his legacy – and Atlanta’s – throughthis fierce determination to make Atlanta an aviation center. He secured that significant transportation investment, helping fuel metro Atlanta’s growth after WWII. Figuratively-speaking he added jet-fuel to Atlanta’s ambitions and its thirst for growth.
Since that watershed period in Atlanta’s development, Atlanta has become the cultural and business capital of the Southeast.
However, that growth has come at a price: Our roads are congested beyond our ability to absorb the additional 3 million people who will call Atlanta home by 2040.
“Our transportation investments have not kept pace. Atlanta is no longer at the forefront when it comes to transportation. Nothing short of significant new investment in fresh transportation facilities will convince others that our region is serious about preparing for the population growth that the region is expected to see,” according to Livable Communities Coalition executive director Ray Christman.
In other words, metro Atlanta has reached another important crossroads.
Metro Atlanta residents will have an opportunity to steer our shared future. The region will either pass or reject a referendum intended to raise monies to fund transportation solutions.
The Livable Communities Coalition believes the area’s transportation solutions must include “A Fair Share for Transit” in order to ensure the region‘s future vitality. A “Fair Share” should set aside up to 60 percent of proposed special tax revenues for enhancing and expanding transit in the region. A “Fair Share” should also include measures to develop safe routes to transit in order to make it easier to walk or bike to transit stops.
At stake is Atlanta’s reputation as a leader in the Southeast.
“Our peer cities have all made substantial, recent investments in public transportation, including Charlotte, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, Denver and Phoenix,” Christman notes. “Atlanta was at the forefront when it bet on air transportation by building what is now the country’s busiest airport. Now, we have fallen behind our peers because they have recognized transit is essential to their futures.”
With 3 million new residents on the way, metro Atlanta can ill afford to create transportation investments that do not include transit. Traffic is already bad. This is metro Atlanta’s opportunity to do something about it.
COBB CO. – Early backers of next year’s sales tax referendum for transportation held their breath as Cobb County voters went to the polls Mar. 15 to renew – or not – a 1-cent sales tax for county government.
On Mar. 16, they exhaled.
The razor-thin victory for the sales tax renewal – 79 votes out of 43,000 cast – was widely seen as proof that rough economic times and anti-tax sentiment don’t automatically spell defeat for tax proposals.
Political observers saw at least two other lessons. First, when turnout is low (it was 11 percent Tuesday in Cobb), victory goes to the side best able to turn out its base. With next year’s transportation sales tax referendum set for summer, sandwiched between the much sexier presidential primary early in the year and November’s presidential election, the implications are obvious.
Second, it’s important to have the right list of projects. Janel Davis reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
As for the regional SPLOST, the outcome could turn on how many people see a direct practical benefit, said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.
“If you have spent enough time sitting in a traffic jam and have to do that on a regular basis, I think you will be willing to pay for that,” said Bullock. “If you are inconvenienced you are more likely to vote for it.”
The possible good news for regional sales tax backers in 2012: Who isn’t inconvenienced? But will voters see direct practical benefit in the list of transportation projects to be paid for by the tax?