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OPINION: TSPLOST needs to pass to spur economic growth

July 25, 2012
Society has rarely been as polarized, hyper-politicized and ultra-sensitive as it is now.

It has become so widespread that a referendum aimed at reducing traffic – the Transportation Investment Act, more commonly known as T-SPLOST -- has become the biggest hot-button issue in the state. Sadly, this impassioned argument will only intensify like the heat on the tarmac people sit on for hours on the way into the city. Blame it on misinformation or disinformation, but blocking this bill will hold this city and state back as the economy begins trending locally and at a much faster pace.

T-SPLOST will increase mobility around Atlanta. The proposals improve the desperately-in-need-of-improvement MARTA rails, expand bus routes and install a street car system. Each of these measures will unite and untie the city of Atlanta by connecting places where people live, such as the Virginia Highlands, to places where people work, eat, and spend money on entertainment.

Local transportation will become increasingly vital to economic success as businesses pop up in cities across the country – companies that rely on interest from nearby citizens to grow. The Atlanta Food Truck coalition is a fine example. Using Twitter to send out its location, customers flock to some of Atlanta's best up-and-coming chefs. It's a brilliant business model aimed at helping young cooks achieve their dreams with little overhead cost. Reviews are fantastic and lines are long. But you can't get to the food truck park in Midtown if you live in the Highlands without getting in your car. So they don't because few want to sit in Atlanta traffic.

Part of this also illustrates a cultural difference between the city and the suburbs. Urban dwellers are much more likely to go out and invest time and money into these new ventures. The rush and adventure is why many of us move to the city in the first place. So it came as little surprise when someone tweeted at me that MARTA was only useful for Braves games. Maybe that's how suburban folks use MARTA, but in the city we use it to get around and to get home after we've had a drink or two. And we'd like to use it more often.

Improving traffic in and around the city will raise Atlanta's chances of getting major companies to open offices here. According to the AJC , traffic was listed as a reason one major-research firm took 100 high-paying jobs to Dallas instead of Atlanta. It will help food chains get food on the shelves faster. It will reduce the cost of driving oil around the state which could help reduce gas prices. It will make Georgia more efficient, something that is critical.

The arguments against T-SPLOST are misguided. You shouldn't vote against something because it's a tax, and you certainly shouldn't shoot down this bill without proposing something different. Eliminating income tax isn't creative enough, nor is it feasible to do in this economy. Private enterprise isn't viable either because a private company cannot reap the latent benefits described above.

The bill has safeguards to protect against the government keeping this tax going after these projects are paid for, one of the key tenants conservatives use to block taxes increases. It has support from both Democrats and Republicans, and how many times have we been able to say that in the last four years?

Admittedly, the ten-year cap placed upon funding is probably inaccurate, nor can I defend the likelihood that it will cost more than projected. Those problems have existed since the first time someone tried to build a house. But this bill is worth the cost in the long term, and unlike other taxes you will see a quantifiable difference made in your lives and will be able to actually see what you bought.

The fact is, Atlanta should be competing with L.A., New York, Chicago and Dallas for global recognition, and one of the reasons it is lagging behind is because of poor city planning and development. Besides, how can we expect to challenge these major cities for economic prowess when Georgia ranks 48th in the nation in transportation funding, besting only Tennessee and Utah? There's a reason I don't live in Knoxville, and it's not Derek Dooley.

The TSPLOST referendum gets Atlanta moving in the right direction. Literally.

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Tags: Community & Outreach

  1. report print email
    July 25, 2012 | 01:23 PM

    Why should we pay to bail out Fulton and Dekalb Counties along with MARTA? What LOCAL benefit is there? What about the funding gaps known to exist?

    You are absolutely right to blame a lot of the confusion around TSPLOST on disinformation. The majority of non-specific "information" seems in favor of TSPLOST. I count your statement of "TSPLOST will increase mobility around Atlanta" to fit the model well. A blanket statement with no method of measure which can't be proven. Such are the merits of the pro-tax debate.

    I, for one, will not be voting for this thinly veiled tax that will not render any direct benefits to me or my neighbors.

  2. report print email
    July 25, 2012 | 02:33 PM

    Len - How does Marta benefit people on a local level? Is that really a question? Sheesh...

    Your last statement is as much a blanket statement as James's. Pot calling the kettle black.

    Great piece James. You look like a young guy. Nice to see that the people whose future is most effected by this don't have their heads buried in the sand like others....

    Roger T.
  3. report print email
    The other side of the debate
    July 25, 2012 | 03:56 PM

    Has the Revue & News published any editorials in opposition of T-SPLOST? I have not seen one but perhaps I missed it. Thanks.

    S Lee Guy
    Alpharetta, GA
  4. report print email
    other side of debate
    July 25, 2012 | 05:56 PM

    Lee, we publish stuff all the time that we do not necessarily agree with. Like for example Chip Rogers. I don't think we have not "not published" submitted Tsplost submissions but I don't know that for a fact. I will look and see if that happened and let you know. If you submitted something and know that it didn't run I apologize in advance. R

  5. report print email
    July 25, 2012 | 06:02 PM

    The government is not the most efficient vehicle at anything - including spending Tsplost funds. However, the cost of not approving Tsplost funds far far outweighs the possibility that the money may not be used to the absolute "highest and best use". I fail to see how anyone can argue against Tsplost when the future of Atlanta depends on being competitive with the Dallases, Charlottes, Chicagos, Houstons etc in terms of transportation, infrastructure etc. If you desire to see Atlanta stop growing; if you desire to ultimately start seeing tax increases because our growth slows down or worse; if you just want to see those other cities have better quality of life because they are getting the lions share of relocation companies, the by all means vote against Tsplost. That is a lose-lose-lose proposition. Can't be any other way.

    ray appen
  6. report print email
    July 25, 2012 | 11:21 PM

    I am voting for TSPLOST. I have reservations about it. It's never going to please everyone. Much like Avalon, both have flaws, but both have potential economic benefits, and given the state of the economy, which seems to be on the precipice, I don't think now is a time to be all that picky. The Atlanta area is not the boom town it was, and we are rapidly falling behind other areas of the country. Yes there are risks, but these times call for bold moves.

    Nathan Hillman
  7. report print email
    No !
    July 26, 2012 | 06:33 PM

    Sales tax is a poor funding vehicle for transportation. I'm voting to defeat this initiative in hopes that something besides a regressive tax is proposed e.g. gasoline tax. Those that use our infrastructure should pay for it, be it water treatment, sewers, roads, etc. C'mon Georgia, we can do better !!!

    Johns Creek
  8. report print email
    Voting Against TSPLOST
    July 27, 2012 | 07:58 AM

    I'm voting against it because: 1) I don't trust the money to be used wisely/properly/as promised (look at recent GDOT audits), 2) this is more of the same solution, just funded and presented in a different manner, 3) I believe the increased taxes will put off businesses more than the congestion will, 4) even if the claimed results happen, the improvement is marginal. While it isn't a major concern for me, I'm surprised more isn't being said about this being a regressive tax.

    "TSPLOST will increase mobility around Atlanta." One cannot speak with such surety -- it is *claimed* to increase mobility around Atlanta.

    "The Atlanta Food Truck coalition is a fine example." Nope, it's an erroneous example. "Using Twitter to send out its location... But you can't get to the food truck park in Midtown if you live in the Highlands without getting in your car" only shows Atlanta's restriction prevents food trucks from acting like food trucks, fixing them to one location (thus making the Tweet unnecessary). This is counter to the main point of a truck coming to *your* location once in a while. This is not a TSPLOST issue.

    I'm also irked by how many TSPLOST proponents implying that those of us who are opposed "don't get it" (or are ignorant/backward/stupid) and that "the rest of the country is watching us" and we'll be embarrassed and look ignorant/backward/stupid if it doesn't pass.

    I don't understand how TSPLOST proponents claim congestion will continue to increase and at the same claim time businesses and people will leave in droves for other areas. You can't have it both ways. Which is it?

    Oh, and about "key tenants" -- the word is "tenets." "Tenants" are residents of a building, while "tenets" are principles.

    Shawn D.
  9. report print email
    I oppose TSPLOST
    July 27, 2012 | 08:22 AM

    The GDOT has failed its last 4 audits and can’t seem to find ~$1 billion. Also, according to ARC’s analyst after we spend $8 billion on these projects the reduction in commute times will be “not much”. They can't manage the money they currently have, and they want us to fork over more?

    I cannot fathom giving them even more money when, especially right now, people need to hold onto what they have. Mayor Kasim Reed is hitting every local news organization asking to be interviewed so he can tell the public why TSPLOST is the best idea since sliced bread. Desperation is a stinky cologne.

    Andy Hawley
  10. report print email
    July 27, 2012 | 10:25 AM

    Lots of "anti" , criticism, "no" etc but I have yet so see anyone offer a solution to "how will infrastructure and transportation be funded on a scale adequate enough to keep Atlanta competitive with all the other major cities. " Gas tax? Surely you jest. There is not spine in the legislature to ever do that. Any other ideas?
    Sure, it's ok to criticize, but not if you can't offer a better solution. So tired of the critics who don't have the guts or knowledge to offer an alternative solution other than "no" .

    If you aren't part of the solution get out of the way.

    Ray Appen
  11. report print email
    No Way to Win Over Critics to Your Side
    July 27, 2012 | 01:36 PM

    Mr. Appen,

    Denigrating opponents without taking into account their valid points is no way to improve the TSPLOST offering or bring them into the fold. Refusing to even acknowledge critiques of the TSPLOST is a major problem with the way its proponents respond.

    You are correct on one point, though -- I do not have an alternative proposition. However, I am not required to provide an alternative proposition before voting "No." Ballot measures like this are Yes/No -- there is no "Write In" for alternates.

    Shawn D.
  12. report print email
    July 27, 2012 | 03:58 PM

    The reason I am voting yes is not because the money will be best spent. It is because I think that it is highly unlikely that another source is politically viable. And Atlanta / North Fulton takes another giant step towards loseing out to all the other cities that have enough sense to fund their infrastructure. It really is a fairly straigh tforward proposition.

    Ray Appen
  13. report print email
    July 27, 2012 | 04:44 PM

    Is it true that 52% of this tax will go towards MARTA??????

    I never ride MARTA and never will!

    Johns Creeker
    Johns Creek
  14. report print email
    No on TSPLOST
    July 28, 2012 | 06:33 PM

    Trust is the main issue with the TSPLOST. Upwards of 15% of the money annually is slated to go directly to the local governments to be used as they see fit when it comes to transportation. Sounds like a great concept; except for the fact many local governments will not tell their citizens what they will use the money for. The average citizen will think the money will be used for road widening, road re-surfacing, road re-construction, and traffic signal synchronization, all things that would help with traffic congestion. Unfortunately, the government defines the following as transportation projects on top of the road items mentioned above (purchase/development of pocket parks, sidewalks, bike lanes, greenways and road beautification). When you look at your area and see roads untouched but you see miles of sidewalks, greenways, beautiful street corners and beautiful medians, most of that was done using “transportation dollars” as defined by the state and federal government. Are these the types of projects we really want our transportation dollars to be used for when the road surfaces in neighborhoods are crumbling, when we sit at an intersection for 25 minutes trying to get through a traffic signal, when we look at the sidewalks and never are able to count more than 5 people using them as we drive from one end of the city to the other? Once the money is in the hands of the politicians, do you trust them to spend it on your definition of “transportation projects” or are you “assuming” they will spend it on roads only when the projects haven’t been defined? If you vote for a tax without defining utilization, the voters have no one to blame but themselves when the money isn’t used “appropriately”.

    Patrick H
    Johns Creek
  15. report print email
    Feed the addicts
    July 29, 2012 | 11:27 AM

    Ray, you ask for solutions. How about an intervention instead of continuing to be the enabler. The DOT has proven time and again they can't be responsible with the money they are given. This is a microcosm of the bigger picture of gov't.

    Has the thought occurred to you that businesses might be going elsewhere because of how badly the city of Atlanta has been mis-managed over the last decade? The lack of foresight is appalling.

    They don't need more money. They need to do a better job with the money they already have.

    Jim H
  16. report print email
    Empty MARTA buses in N. Fulton
    July 29, 2012 | 08:56 PM

    "T-SPLOST will increase mobility around Atlanta. The proposals improve the desperately-in-need-of-improvement MARTA rails, expand bus routes and install a street car system."

    Poppycock. As someone who drives around Alpharetta daily at all hours of the day, I can state unequivocally that it is RARE I see MARTA buses on routes say north of Mansell with more than two or three people in them.

    Start taking notice, especially those who are around the Windward/Hwy9 and North Point Parkway areas. You will NEVER see a MARTA bus even remotely at capacity from morning to evening rush hour and any other time of the day for that matter.

    Yet we are to believe that TSPLOST is going to help with MARTA and more bus routes. Bus routes to where and who is going to ride them? Just another mindless feel good tax to nowhere that will never end (until the next election when politicians start making promises of killing it).

  17. report print email
    July 30, 2012 | 03:06 PM

    I see MARTA buses north of Mansell all the time. You should get out more.

    Roger T.
  18. report print email
    Read my comment AGAIN, Roger...
    July 30, 2012 | 09:42 PM

    I didn't say you DO NOT see MARTA buses. I said they are mostly EMPTY north of Mansell. And I am out ALL THE TIME. I'd start a website just to prove my point, but at this point, it's a little late in the game.

  19. report print email
    July 31, 2012 | 10:35 AM

    Great picture showing the public transportation systems for major cities.

    James Carr
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