However, contrary to massive advocacy and “education” efforts by several Atlanta-area organizations, we now know traffic congestion management and commuting time reductions are not the real goals of project lists funded by the Transportation Investment Act tax. Instead, the vast majority of spending is dedicated to economic development projects — many of highly dubious quality (read bad transit ideas requiring perpetual taxation), or to large, disjointed roadway projects that are not strategic in scope.
Given this poor selection of projects, the so-called TSPLOST referendum deserves rejection on its face. But there are many more reasons why this tax should be decisively voted down.
Most important among these is a simple thought: For more than 40 years, Atlanta-area politicians have spent billions building roads to create commercial opportunities, often poorly zoned, then spent even more money trying to manage the traffic nightmare they created. Think Barrett Parkway between I-575 and Cobb Parkway, or congestion around Johnson Ferry and Roswell Road. Now, these same people want additional sales tax money from your pocket — on everything you buy — to initiate new development projects primarily for the benefit of certain commercial interests. Traffic congestion mitigation is not their concern. Using your money for risk mitigation of their development projects is.
For the most part, the “Untie Atlanta” crew is the same amalgamation that tied up Atlanta traffic in the first place. Now, they want to use your cash as a new source of funds to do more of the same. We might as well pay the fox to guard the hen house.
They also say a politically appointed, unaccountable oversight board will ensure correct allocation of all TIA tax monies. Translation: Same fox, same hen house.
These are the folks that have failed to embrace traffic management strategies successfully used elsewhere for decades — like express / local lanes, “smart” signals, traffic circles and diverging diamond interchanges, that lattermost being developed by the French in the 1970s! Clearly, innovation is not the strong suit of our departments of transportation. Short-sighted, same-way thinking apparently is.
As evidence, TSPLOST supporters say rebuilding a few interchanges and widening certain roads, combined with 14 mph streetcars or fancy buses carrying a small percentage of Cobb commuters, will amazingly improve county and regional commutes. Believing this is about as wise as saying the TIA tax will “go away” in 10 years.
The same bunch that gave you the beauty of gridlock on Barrett, Chastain, and the East-West “Connector” — which all fail as efficient traffic arteries due largely to excessive use of “dumb” traffic signals for commercial convenience — wants you paying even more for their not-so-sterling, 40-year record of uninspired, ineffective regional transportation planning.
The crew that brought you the tax-drain known as MARTA wants you to contribute additional cash so the money-burning inefficiency of MARTA can continue. That’s not real “smarta,” and more foolish than believing a single, zillion-dollar, multi-modal transit hub (a political darling) will ignite downtown economic rejuvenation. Hub-and-spoke transit systems don’t work. Period.
As for alternatives, don’t bother. Just vote and hand over your money — because during the past 40 years, our transportation planners have spent untold millions on multiple “comprehensive” studies. They apparently know all possible solutions. Therefore, more money given to them now will magically fix everything.
Does anyone really buy this argument?
Summarizing, the people that brought you totally behind-the-curve transportation designs for over 40 years are asking you to pony up $7 billion in additional taxation to continue building projects that don’t solve commuting issues, but instead focus on “economic enhancement” of preferred interests.
Clearly, rewarding government and its cronies with a corporate welfare slush fund is not deserved. Wise, strategic traffic management projects, including advanced transit concepts, are available and must be embraced promptly. Sadly, the track record of regional transportation planning efforts to date — is utterly dismal.
Cobb and Atlanta need real transportation solutions, not development boondoggles masquerading as traffic management improvements. Additional (and likely unending) taxation that perpetuates highly ineffective and incorrect traffic management methods makes no sense whatsoever. Therefore, a “No” vote on the TIA tax is the only responsible choice.
Tom LaBarge is a business analyst based in Kennesaw.