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TSPLOST smackdown: Opposing editorials aim to educate Atlanta voters

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Nov. 8 ballot questions could sway future of roads, transit, bike infrastructure, more

Do you understand the upcoming TSPLOST referenda? Well, you don’t want to be that person scratching your head in the voting booth, do you?

Separate, thoughtful op-ed pieces recently published in the AJC offered opposing viewpoints and a little education on what the questions mean.

Here’s the breakdown of what’s on the table, according to the piece by AJC’s editorial board:

Fulton County residents will vote Nov. 8 on a multi-part sales tax package for transportation purposes. Included are residents of that portion of the City of Atlanta that’s part of DeKalb County.

Actual City of Atlanta residents will vote on a half-penny sales tax hike to raise about $2.5 billion over 40 years to improve MARTA transit services.

Atlanta voters will also decide on a four-tenths of a penny sales tax projected to produce about $300 million over five years, which would be used for a number of projects like completing land acquisition for the Atlanta Beltline and other road work.

Fulton County voters outside the city of Atlanta will decide on a non-transit, three-quarter-penny SPLOST intended to raise a projected $655 million for transportation improvements.

The piece by AJC’s editorial board, which urges residents to vote Yes, states that metro Atlanta overall, with Fulton County being no exception, "needs to move further toward a comprehensive set of fixes to our nationally known congestion challenges. The Nov. 8 SPLOSTs are the next sizable step toward that."

But of course, as with any proposed tax bump, there is opposition.

An editorial penned by Benita Dodd of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation cautions voters to "question ... the focus of billions of dollars on waning mass transit modes even as Uber and Lyft soar in popularity. These ride-share services offer not only door-to-door service but a private-sector solution that facilitates job opportunities and entrepreneurship."

It goes on to say that technological advances will soon revolutionize commuting and that public transportation policy should aim to maximize taxpayer dollars "by prioritizing projects from those with the greatest benefit (needs) to the lowest (wants)."

"Why relegate residents to nearly a half-century of costly projects with diminishing returns that will be obsolete long before they are completed?" Dodd asks.