Remove BRT from any ‘tier’
July 11, 2014 04:00 AM | 4152 views | 10 10 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Enough of the gamesmanship by Cobb Chairman Tim Lee in trying to get his bus rapid transit project included in the proposed special purpose local option sales tax referendum to be voted on in November.

Lee could find no support from fellow commissioners for putting his initial $100 million BRT line item in the “Tier 1” SPLOST list. So he has downsized the figure to $72.5 million and moved the BRT to the “Tier 2” list, which would be funded only if tax collections exceed the current $750 million estimate.

The chairman’s dream is a bus rapid transit line along the Cobb Parkway corridor from Acworth south to the Midtown MARTA station.

If he can get the local funding through the SPLOST, he would count on raising $300 million more in grants from other sources including federal funds to build the BRT — which would need still more millions each year in operating costs. Transit lines of whatever stripe need tax money to survive and do little if anything to relieve congestion. On top of that, there’s no groundswell of ridership support, and Cobb voters overwhelmingly rejected the similar “premium bus line” in the ill-fated T-SPLOST referendum two years ago.

What’s in store for Lee and the BRT was foretold at a SPLOST meeting hosted by Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. Leading the charge against the BRT was activist Ron Sifen, president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition. He said he had predicted Lee would indeed decide to include the transit proposal in the proposed new six-year SPLOST because the existing tax, expiring in December, is bringing in more money than projected.

Sifen made a new prediction: “This SPLOST is going to collect close to $100 million more than the $750 million that they’re claiming it’s going to raise.” That, he said, is why the BRT “magically appears for Tier 2.” Whether the new SPLOST — if it is approved by the voters — raises that much more than projected is open to debate. But it appears Sifen is on the right track concerning the probability of considerably higher collections.

This is true because the $750 million projection is based on existing conditions — not including the $672 million stadium for the Atlanta Braves and its adjoining $400 million mixed-used development scheduled for opening in 2017. The new SPLOST would receive taxes from Braves-related developments for more than three years. Explaining why he omitted the stadium and surrounding projects from his estimates, county finance director Jim Pehrson simply said, “We’re conservative with our estimates.” Indeed.

But what happens if the new SPLOST’s collections far exceed projections? Apparently, it would be up to the commissioners to decide how to divvy up the extra money. But they will have to decide on what the first and second priorities are before the SPLOST proposal can be submitted to the voters.

The proper course for the sitting commission is to: (1) remove the BRT proposal from any “tier” of the SPLOST and submit the question to the voters in a separate referendum if that’s the will of the commission, (2) have the projected SPLOST collections re-estimated with the Braves projects included, and (3) spell out what projects would be funded from any excess taxes collected.

It will end the gamesmanship and demonstrate the stewardship this commission owes to the citizens of Cobb County.

Comments
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Be Careful
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July 18, 2014
When the Big Shanty connector was build, at the cost of MILLIONS of dollars, it was sold as traffic relief for Barrett Parkway.

I wrote in and asked the MDJ to do a follow up story aftr the road was opened.

Silence.

The new road did NOTHING to ease traffic on Barrett. MILLIONS of dollars flushed down the toilet.

That's the way it is with most of these road projects.

They are sold as "will reduce traffic". But the truth is noboyd knows for sure if it's going to reduce traffic of not, it's a crap shoot.

They wanted to spend billions on a train from Atlanta to Cumberland mall, saying it would reduce traffic in I-75 by 20%. There is no way to know how much that would reduce traffic.

What a scam.

And not Lee is pushing BRT at a BILLION dollars.

Really?

We already have CCT which has been a money pit since the day it opened.

We also already have GRTA running "express" buses between KSU and the Arts Center MARTA station.

We don't need ANOTHER bus line. Nobody rides the ones we have now.
Captain Obvious
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July 14, 2014
1. Cobb has traffic and transportation problems

2. Most communities of our size within a larger metro region do.

3. Cobb taxpayers like to have low property taxes

4. Low property taxes leaves fewer dollars for transportation funding in the general budget.

5. Voters need to continue to support SPLOST, which provides necessary funding for improving existing and develop new infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing county.

6. There are many communities who would kill for our kind of problems.

7. It is all relative, we need to get out of our own way and lead, do big things, capitalize on our successes.

It should be obvious.

SW GAL
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July 12, 2014
Citizens of Cobb County,

Wake up! The Transportation SPLOST failed in 2010 because it did almost NOTHING to add capacity to the roads. It is ALL about REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT (TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT)for the Commissioners and their cronies with OUR money! 800 miles of sidewalks while our roads continue to have pot holes, no timing for the lights, increased raised medians to "herd" us and make the traffic worse ON PURPOSE so that they can get their precious transit projects which are NOT justified because we do not have the density to support them! Every person who struggles every day to make ends meet needs to go to the polls and vote NO to this SPLOST. Let the BOC live within their means and improve the aging infrastructure of Cobb County, pay our public safety people and teachers competitive salaries and STOP the insanity! Vote all of them OUT as soon as you can next election!
No Fool
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July 12, 2014
I'm fed up with the usual pony show of these events. Staff and officials know what they want and community feedback isn't going to change a thing. The feedback form asks if there are any projects you'd like added. Really? When is the last time a project was added to a SPLOST list due to a comment made on a meeting form? I'm not a fool. Don't waste my time.
Just Sayin'....
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July 11, 2014
I am in total agreement with this editorial, but I don't think it went far enough in saying what the reality will be if Lee does not wake up and see what is going on. The SPLOST, with anything even remotely resembling the BRT will fail, maybe not by much, but it will fail. Voters who are "against" something will usually show up in larger numbers than voters who are "for" something, and that leaves the future of the next SPLOST in danger...and quite simply there are other things the majority of people would like to see done.

I cannot believe the folks at the Chamber have not dissuaded him from his BRT obsession yet, but if they don't I have tow predictions...the first is that the SPLOST will fail, and the second is that Tim Lee will not be able to be elected dog catcher after this.
JR in Mableton
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July 11, 2014
I totally agree that the BRT should be removed AND replaced with rail which connects Cumberland Mall to the Arts Center Station and to the Perimeter Station.

Cobb County is in for a rude awakening if the citizens vote down the SPLOST in November. Contrary to popular belief, roads do not maintain themselves AND are not free. I look at all the cars on I-75 in the morning and evening....it must be a great life to spend 4 hours a day in your car....it takes me 30 minutes to get home by transit

Oh yeah.....transit brings "crime" to Cobb County. Maybe one day Cobb will realize it's not 1850.
Rest of the Story
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July 11, 2014
Sir, you overlook two things:

1. The proposed route will only serve a small slice of Cobb. East, West, and South Cobb are not served.

2. The ongoing maintenance costs for that expensive system will continue to soak up our tax money for years to come.
DeathToBRT
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July 11, 2014
Tim,

Keep it up and you will kill the SPLOST, don't you get it? This BRT fantasy LEE/CHAMBER scheme is going to cost Cobb millions in road improvements because the BRT will cause the SPLOST to lose!Stop with this "I am smarter than everyone else" attitude, realize the people don't want and will not support a money wasting fancy bus system that only serves a very very small portion of the County.

You are hurting the Brave's move also by trying to ram this down the taxpayer's throat.
Joseph Pond
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July 11, 2014
Let's go one step further- remove the SPLOST and stop playing these smoke and mirrors taxation games.

That 'will end the gamesmanship and demonstrate the stewardship this commission owes to the citizens of Cobb County'.

The truth
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July 11, 2014
Joe, just stick with your chickens. You are obviously clueless to all other things.
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