Remember back in October when the final project list was released for the T-SPLOST? While it wasn't perfect and certainly wasn't going to solve Atlanta's traffic issues in one fell swoop, it was a positive step. Kind of. If you recall, the final agreement had 52% of $6 billion-plus going toward public transit projects, with the other 48% going toward road projects. In reality, when you look at the actual T-SPLOST funds separated from federal dollars that get added to the pot, the ratio is more like 60-40 in favor of roads.
No one denies that Atlanta is still a car-centric town. But very few people who care about Atlanta's long term potential for economic growth think this is a good thing, or that it should be perpetuated by continuing to give road-building priority over investments in public transportation infrastructure. ESPECIALLY when asking taxpayers to pay for it, and orchestrating a once-in-a-generation marshaling of political capital to embark on a project list of this size and scope. Well, in light of Governor Deal's move to kill or seriously delay the I-75 / 575 reversible HOT toll lane project, Cobb County officials want to re-open the project list and take funds earmarked for public transit from north Cobb into Midtown (i.e. Atlanta's central business district) and put them toward the toll lanes project.
> Here are a few reasons this is a terrible idea. >
1. A great way to relieve congestion is to have less cars on the road. The only way to have less cars on the road is to give people other options for getting around, i.e. public transit.
2. The public transit line Cobb officials now seek to abandon has already been stripped down from the smartest (but admittedly, more expensive) idea- rail at a cost of $2 billion- to the more modest $689 million that would include bus service on the final project list. Cobb officials managed to get another rail project idea thrown off the list entirely- a light rail line from the Cumberland area into Midtown. Both of these projects seemed eminently reasonable and FANTASTIC for traffic congestion relief...both would offer public transit from under-served residential areas (i.e. Cobb County) into the area with the highest concentration of workplaces (Midtown & downtown), plus connect those areas with the MARTA system.
3. While Cobb officials claim this move is necessary to address their constituents' demands for traffic congestion relief, as everyone has seen with the I-85 HOT Express Lane debacle, the actual congestion relieved by HOT lanes is debatable.
4. The past several months have seen Atlanta lose out on multiple corporate headquarter re-locations and fall significantly in rankings of cities that are desirable for people and companies to move, and places where job creation and economic growth are occurring (or likely to occur). Atlanta's traffic issues and poor transportation infrastructure are a big part of these realities. And the world knows it.
We don't expect everyone to agree with the (fact and data supported) position of organizations like the Sierra Club. But we do expect "leaders-" even those from Cobb County- to make decisions that are smart, and in the long-term best interest of a metro area where the need for change to the status quo is well-known. Even if they require political courage (and in this case, there is a real question as to whether that is even being asked of them).