The Livable Communities Coalition

Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth

Fair Share for Transit responds to proposed amendments

Livable Communities Coalition executive director Ray Christman

A message from Livable Communities Coalition executive director Ray Christman:

October 4, 2011

To members of the Metro Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable:

The purpose of this letter is to share with you on behalf of the 86 member organizations of the Fair Share for Transit Initiative our comments on the amendments to the project list that were submitted to the Regional Roundtable.  We appreciate the open and transparent process maintained by the Roundtable, and the opportunity to provide input.

Our comments are as follows:

  1. Amendments 03 – Parker Road and Northwest Transit —  We oppose this proposed reallocation of $5 million in much needed funding for the Northwest Transit project to support a local road improvement in Rockdale County.
  2. Amendment 04 – Sigman Road and Northwest Corridor Transit — We oppose this proposed reallocation of $10 million of much needed funding for the Northwest Corridor transit project to support a local road project in Rockdale County.
  3. Amendment 05 – Northwest Corridor and Multiple Cobb Projects — We would strongly prefer to see the proposed funding for light rail development (Project No. TIA-CO-035) in Cobb County remain at its originally proposed level, but we also recognize the county’s leadership is attempting to balance competing priorities. And we recognize that while the amendment will shift $271 million from the light rail project, it will also invest $110 million in providing additional much needed Cobb County Transit Xpress Bus Service in the underserved northwest portion of the county.  Further, while we understand that there are good reasons to believe that this light rail project will successfully compete for future federal funding that will allow it to be built as planned, the absence of full local funding for this project creates uncertainties and risks.
  4. Amendment 06 – Commuter Rail and Multiple Clayton Projects  —    We support the proposal to direct  $20 million of  funding in Clayton County for planning and engineering work associated with the Griffin commuter rail line (Project No. TIA-CL-002).  Clayton officials have consistently been focused on the need to develop the Griffin commuter line to facilitate easier access to its neighbors. Such connectivity is essential if the region is to prosper as a whole.  While this funding is clearly inadequate to fully build out this project, it provides valuable seed capital that can help this project continue to move forward as it seeks other funding support.
  5. Amendment 07 – I-20 East Transit and SR 400 — We strongly support the proposal to shift funding from State Route 400 projects (TIA-AR-030 and TIA-FN-014)) to develop MARTA’s rail service east along I-20 (TIA-M-023).The SR 400 projects, while very important,  have access to other funding sources,  unlike transit projects like I-20 East.  Furthermore, the I-20 rail extension has been a top regional priority for years.
  6. Amendments 09 – Douglas, Xpress, and other Regional Projects– We are strongly opposed to this amendment, which is both confusing and counter-productive for good regional transportation policy.  First, this amendment would reduce funding for much needed MARTA state-of-good-repair support by $34.5 million, and reallocate this funding to the existing GRTA Xpress bus system.  Second, this proposal appears to attempt to shift (funding) responsibility for specific existing GRTA routes from GRTA to CCT, GCT, and MARTA.,
    • Our opposition to these amendments are in no way related to lack of support for GRTA Xpress bus service.  This service is essential for the region and needs to expand, not contract.  But the region should not be weakening one set of transit projects or providers to help another.  Further, GRTA, as a state-created agency, should be supported by state funding, not local taxes.  The purpose of the TIA was not to help state government transfer its transportation funding responsibilities to local governments in the region.  As a matter of good public policy, the state should meet its funding obligations to GRTA and allow scarce TIA funds to be used to support other worthy projects.
    • Further, the shifting of funding responsibility for certain GRTA routes from GRTA to other transit providers seems to us to be the kind of governance and system integration issue that should not be decided through Regional Roundtable financial horse-trading, but in another forum where the best regional transit service delivery decisions can be made.
  7. Amendment 10 – Xpress and other Regional Projects – We are also strongly opposed to this proposal, which would significantly diminish funding to the three key proposed rail projects:  the Atlanta Beltline Streetcar circulator, the Northwest Corridor transit line, and the Clifton Corridor project.  Each of these projects has seen their funding cut through previous Roundtable deliberations (and the Northwest Corridor funding would be significantly reduced as well by Amendment 05, to be considered by this Roundtable).
    • Again, our motivation is in no way directed by opposition to GRTA Xpress bus service.  But robbing one set of transit projects to support another transit service solves no larger regional problem nor ultimately expands regional transit service.

We have no comments with respect to Amendments 08 and 11.

We all share the belief that a robust transportation system is required if Atlanta wants to remain the economic capital of the Southeast, and we applaud the roundtable in recognizing the importance of significantly expanding public transit to enable the region to move toward a 21st century system.

Transit investment remains a crucial element in attracting and developing new business. For each dollar invested, transit projects return $8 in economic benefits.

In addition, expanding transit options provides much-needed congestion relief and better air quality, improving the lives of countless residents and assuring a seamless internal transportation system for commerce.  Fifty-seven percent of respondents to a recent AJC poll said that the current proposed breakdown in the draft project list of 55 percent transit vs. 45 percent for roads was a good balance, and Fifty-one percent of metro voters would support the referendum, with its current project mix, if it were held today.

We are confident that the full Roundtable will approve a final project list that is strong, diverse, and well balanced.  We appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments.

Sincerely,

Raymond Christman
Executive Director
Livable Communities Coalition

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