You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

OPINION: Look to future, not past, to gain most from ATL T-SPLOST


April marks the full implementation of two transportation special-purpose local option sales taxes (T-SPLOSTs) overwhelmingly passed by Atlanta voters in November 2016. A 0.4-cent, five-year Atlanta T-SPLOST to raise $300 million has joined the half-cent, 40-year T-SPLOST begun in March to raise $2.6 billion for MARTA projects.

The massive support is no surprise, given lofty campaign promises to “Unlock ATL.” Just last month a survey by HNTB construction engineering company found 84 percent of metro Atlanta residents “have desired to live near public transportation at some point.”

There are some credit-worthy projects on the T-SPLOST expenditure lists, among them $40 million for city traffic signal coordination and $65 million for improved MARTA bus service and frequency. Unfortunately, the vast majority will not be spent on relieving traffic congestion or improving mobility.

The project lists are heavy on “social engineering” – planners shoehorning travelers into Atlanta’s vision for neighborhoods and streets – and light on transportation-focused policies that enable residents to move from Point A to Point B as quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

The lists also focus on expanding expensive, already-outdated technologies – MARTA’s heavy rail and light rail and the city’s Streetcar line. Worse, these priorities anticipate federal matching dollars from grants for projects that are not the Trump administration’s priorities.

For spending $3.2 billion on potential high-capacity (rail) improvements, MARTA anticipates a $3 billion federal match. It will spend just $65 million over the 40 years on bus service, even though buses offer far more flexibility and bang for the transit buck.

MARTA CEO Keith Parker has led the transit authority to admirable heights. But with the “new sheriff” in Washington, MARTA and Atlanta would do well to be flexible. That means rethinking use of the $66 million for the Atlanta Beltline; the $75-plus million for “Complete Streets;” the $70 million for sidewalks and streetscapes, the $23 million for neighborhood greenways and multi-use trails – even the $3 million for the bike-share program.

The Beltline purchase is intended to expand the Streetcar line, whose existing route was projected to cost $69 million but will end up north of $100 million. Ridership is dismal. “Complete Streets” is about “road diets,” shrinking streets by reducing lane capacity, adding bicycle lanes and using “traffic calming” devices that slow traffic. Emergency responders have to maneuver slowly or damage their vehicles.

As for Atlanta’s bike-share program: Currently, to “pay as you go” costs $8 an hour. Users require a charge card. With 36 percent of residents in metro Atlanta unbanked or underbanked, these are hurdles for low-income, transit-dependent Atlantans.

Atlanta could become a connected city trailblazer by embracing rising technologies and innovations:

  • Repurpose the $1.2 billion for four miles of light rail in the Clifton Corridor to implement autonomous vehicles/shuttles as an on-demand option on a dedicated lane. It would be cheaper, come sooner and take the city light years ahead of any competition.
  • Incorporate autonomous and connected vehicles, entrepreneurial ride-share and on-demand options for door-to-door or first/last-mile service.
  • Embrace the “virtual transit network” opportunity in toll lanes that will be a reality long before MARTA’s 40-year half-penny tax completes rail lines that are obsolete before they’re begun.

Obviously, as much as residents like the option of transit, little is as efficient as the car for auto-centric metro Atlanta: Just 31 percent of HNTB respondents agreed that public transportation is the best way to reduce traffic congestion; 92 percent would use rail transit for travel to the airport “if it were more efficient than by car.” Relieving congestion, requires refocusing transportation policy on a flexible approach that can be updated to meet residents’ needs.

Benita M. Dodd is Vice President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: You can’t take the low road to the high place

The other day, a Muslim saved a terrorist. It happened just after midnight Monday in London. The terrorist, according to authorities, was Darren Osborne, 47, from Cardiff, Wales, who drove a rented van 150 miles to the British capital, where he jumped a sidewalk and plowed into a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque as people were attending to a man...
Opinion: Let us plunge toward our fast-unfolding future

WASHINGTON — In 1859, when Manhattan still had many farms, near the Battery on the island’s southern tip The Great American Tea Company was launched. It grew, and outgrew its name, becoming in 1870 The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which in 1912 begat the first A&P Economy Store, a semi-modern grocery store. By 1920, there were...
Opinion: … because fathers deserve more than just one day

I know Father’s Day was last weekend and all, but this weekend I’m making an overdue visit to the parental units, so this is where my thoughts still are. Dad sang a lot of songs to us as we were growing up, accompanied by his trusty ukulele. His repertoire was mostly traditional folk songs like “The Ballad of the Boll Weevil&rdquo...
Opinion: Health care plan would dig big Ga. budget hole
Opinion: Health care plan would dig big Ga. budget hole

Since its inception in the late 1960s, Medicaid has been a lifeline for the nearly 2 million Georgians who depend on it for vital health services. The modest medical coverage provided by Medicaid goes to the most vulnerable in our society. In fact, 92 percent of Medicaid goes to children, seniors or the disabled. Medicaid is administered by the state...
Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault
Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault

WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from...
More Stories