Some Georgia citizens, especially those with knowledge of the transit benefits of one mode or another of passenger rail, have long been advocates of increased attention by elected officials and other “influentials” to transportation challenges facing metro Atlanta and much the rest of the nation. Not until the subject reached crisis proportions in recent years did new and creative approaches to transportation appear to gain a place of significance on this state’s legislative agenda. Last year that changed with the TIA bill, also known as TSPLOST, calling for a referendum this summer regarding an increase in sales tax to finance long-overdue projects to reduce congestion, aid air quality and increase mobility options. This legislation was designed to help keep metro Atlanta in the growing and vibrant category of important U.S. communities.
However, after passage of this legislation, applauded by those dedicated to transportation progress, it became obvious that provisions of the bill would be a challenge to implement. And perhaps difficult to win voter approval.
In Cobb there has been a chorus of respected elected officials, media commentators and citizens, some of whom supported the TIA bill before it passed, voicing opposition to TSPLOST and/or to projects set forth by Cobb’s commission chairman and a mayor of a Cobb city. The opposition found fault with many aspects of the bill: “no new taxes,” “not in my backyard,” “no light rail,“ “no MARTA in Cobb,” etc., as well as the designated representatives of the county. Thus, TIA/TSPLOST has become a “nay-sayers” wonderland.
All of this has led to much discussion and debate, although not enough of the latter in the opinion of some. Such interplay of opinion — some knowledgeable, some not — has taken place in various forums as well as in the MDJ. Many of those favoring a positive TSPLOST vote understand this opportunity has been a long time coming and a second chance may not be possible anytime soon. Furthermore, there is an understanding that virtually all transportation needs some public (taxpayer) support in one way or another, as necessary public services that private enterprise alone cannot support. Included would be highways, bridges, streets, airways, waterways, ports and, yes, passenger rail transit.
The “discussion and debate” on TSPLOST got a major boost in the Sunday edition of the MDJ via the “More Opinion” page contribution of guest columnist Tom LaBarge, headlined “Do-over required on Transportation Improvement Act.“ While this participant in transportation endeavors, professionally and avocationally, for over half a century, is not sure that “postponing” the TIA referendum is a good idea, he appreciates the perspective and overview Mr. LaBarge has set forth in his thoughtful and informed column. His analysis is worthy and fair. Especially praiseworthy are his words “It’s time to put an end to the gamesmanship, self-serving parochial politics, and the near circus-like attitude clearly visible in our attempts to manage transport issues.” Amen!
In concluding a call to “Rebuild the TIA,” LaBarge says, “Cobb citizens deserve better, as does the entire region,” If the TSPLOST proposal should fail, Mr. LaBarge’s thinking should constitute the groundwork for “Plan B.”
Richard E. Hodges