OPINION: TSPLOST needs to pass to spur economic growth

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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.