Contributed by Jim Regan
TSPLOST is a 1-percent sales tax on everything residents in the 10-county metro Atlanta region purchase to fund regional transportation projects. TSPLOST is expected to generate $8 Billion ($8,000,000,000) in revenue over the next 10 years.
Citizens for Transportation Mobility, the group supporting the Untie Atlanta campaign, tell us the referendum will create 200,000 jobs in Georgia and solve the metro area's traffic congestion problem.
Who is Citizens for Transportation Mobility? It’s really hard to say for certain since they have failed to disclose contributors as required by Georgia law, but media reports have said the $8 million campaign to pass TSPLOST is being funded by private companies which would benefit from contracts relating to road, bridge, and mass-transit projects. Last year, Siemens, who manufactures transit rail systems, ran a radio campaign, touting the advantages of mass transit. Currently Yancey Brothers, a Caterpillar equipment dealership, is sponsoring a website advancing TSPLOST. No doubt asphalt manufacturers, road construction firms, and civil engineering firms are also contributing to this effort.
The Transportation Leadership Coalition’s (TLC) analysis of the TSPLOST projects indicates 52 percent of funds raised by TSPLOST will be spent on mass-transit projects (light-rail, beltway, MARTA), which will only serve 2-3 percent of regional commuters. TLC also points out that TSPLOST will only cover the studies, surveys, initial-design and in some case right-of-way acquisition for many listed projects. Actual project construction will have to wait for another source of funds. Maybe the next round of Federal stimulus money for “shovel ready” projects?
We agree that Atlanta has a traffic congestion problem and would like to see a solution, but spending $4 billion on mass-transit when MARTA reported that train and bus ridership was down in 2011 does not seem wise.
Who is going to pay the ongoing operating costs of these mass-transit systems after they are built? Do the projections call for the mass-transit projects to be self-sustaining or are future government subsidies required? What about the impact of telecommuting on traffic congestion as more companies offer employees this option? Might it be more economical for government to encourage this trend? Could other changes be implemented to alleviate peak rush hour congestion? Might semi-trucks be restricted from area interstates during peak hours as is done in other cities? What about reversible lanes used by many other cities? TSPLOST doesn't address any of these questions and possible solutions.
We don’t have the answers, but $8 billion is a tremendous sum of money for citizens to voluntarily surrender with little oversight and no assurances that Atlanta’s traffic problem will be resolved. Until these questions are addressed our recommendation is to vote against the TSPLOST.
Bottom line, whether you support or oppose the TSPLOST, vote on July 31.