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How TSPLOST News Is Manipulated

Cumberland CID visits the Charlotte light rails system. Former Charlotte resident explains: "It is just sickening to watch the same lies spread over and over again."

In Friday’s Marietta Daily Journal there is a story describing the Cumberland CID’s visit to Charlotte to examine their light rail system. It’s important to remember that the Cumberland CID and the ARC are both chaired by the same person, Tad Leithead, and have both spent hundreds of thousands of - legally questionable - dollars to promote the upcoming TSPLOST vote.

The news story is that the CID folks came away appropriately impressed with how Charlotte had leveraged their light-rail system to attract Chiquita and other benefits.

What is of real interest is the real story, as told by the first person to comment [on the situation] - a former Charlotte resident who followed the entire development closely. 

It turns out that Charlotte light rail project has become an enormous white elephant and Charlotte had to subsidize Chiquita substantially to get them to move and the light rail transit had little to do with it. 

His concluding comment: “It is just sickening to watch the same lies spread over and over again. If Cobb wants to commit slo-mo suicide, then follow the lead of Charlotte, aka Detroit-on-the-Catawba.”

Georgia, we can do better than this. Let’s vote down the TSPLOST and get on to a real Plan B that can solve the state’s transportation problems.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

ACC-SEC Booster June 04, 2012 at 06:12 AM
Another road project that would implement new expressway lanes and be SELF-FUNDED with USER FEES in the form of tolls would be the upgrade and conversion of Highway 41-3 and Highway 411-20 into a super-arterial/expressway from just north of Emerson through the eastside of Cartersville out to Rome. Converting Hwy 6 into a super-arterial/expressway west and northwest out of the Atlanta Airport out to Rome would provide a high-speed no-stoplight grade-separated expressway connection between the Atlanta Airport, West Metro Atlanta, West Georgia and the key Northwest Georgia city of Rome. Converting Hwy 41-3 and Hwy 411-20 off of I-75 North into a super-arterial/expressway provides a high-speed, no-stoplight, grade-separated expressway connection between heavily-populated North Metro Atlanta and the key Northwest Georgia city of Rome. Both the Hwy 6 and Hwy 41/411-20 super-arterial/expressways would be totally SELF-FUNDED with USER FEES in the form of tolls that could be avoided by using the free (untolled) at-grade surface roads that would serve local businesses and local traffic and run alongside much of the tolled expressway.
ACC-SEC Booster June 04, 2012 at 06:38 AM
Both the Hwy 6 and Hwy 41-3/411-20 super-arterial expressways would also be complimented by SELF-FUNDED regional park & ride commuter rail service that would run out from the Atlanta Airport and Downtown Atlanta via the existing Norfolk Southern rail line right-of-way that runs through densely-developed and densely-populated historic neighborhoods and downtowns in Mableton, Austell, Powder Springs, Hiram, Dallas, Rockmart, Aragon, Lindale/Silver Creek and into Downtown Rome.
M. Stone June 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
ACC-SEC Booster: You've got my vote.
People are Crazy June 04, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Cumberland Mall viable? That is a joke. Most people are terrified to go there and have been for two decades.
ACC-SEC Booster June 04, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Well, at least attempting to keep Cumberland Mall viable is what the whole misguided Midtown-Cumberland light rail proposal is all about, Cumberland Mall area boosters have been very open about that. But building an extremely heavily-subsidized light rail line on an incompatible auto-oriented corridor such as Highway 41/Cobb Parkway is the absolute wrong way to go about it and the idea to run a rail line in I-75 right-of-way is even worse.
JAH June 05, 2012 at 01:47 PM
"A real "Plan B" involves NOT the process of putting together another list of political bones to voters to attempt to get them to come out and vote for what is basically a big giveaway of public money to well-funded special interests (roadbuilders, railbuilders, real estate developers, land spectulators, consultants, etc)." This is a perfect summation. Well done!
Jack S June 05, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Shared on my page(s) and out to the Twitter-verse. Excellent rebuttal to the waste of tax dollars on a total BS project. Thank you ACC-SEC Booster, whoever you are!
Deacon June 05, 2012 at 09:19 PM
"How T-Splost news is manipulated" My guess is by Mr. Lowry posting editorial blogs on Patch five different times since May 17th - an average one blog every four days. It must be an awesome feeling to be so right and know others are so wrong about a debatable issue.
Mike Lowry June 06, 2012 at 12:51 PM
One small voice trying to bring out some facts against an $8 million saturation advertising campaign.
Brian Wheeler June 06, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Mike, So, your entire posting is based on what a 'a former Charlotte resident who followed the entire development closely' has to say, and then you provide no facts to back-up his statement. Nor do you provide the name of this person, or his/her role in the entire process. Perhaps this person was intimately familiar with the Charlotte light-rail and Chiquita process, but how are we supposed to know that? Why not provide the name of this person who has such insight? Is this just a someone who shares your opinion, or is this person actually uniquely informed, more so than any other Charlotte resident? I realize you're not a journalist, but some sort of accountability would be appreciated in your postings.
Brian Wheeler June 06, 2012 at 03:39 PM
To further my point; "A current Atlanta resident who has closely followed the TSPLOST proposal thinks it will do wonders for the entire region and will help the city start to dig out of its traffic nightmare"...that person is me. Basically my quote and statement carry the same weight as your posting....
Brian Wheeler June 06, 2012 at 03:44 PM
So...you'd rather pay say $3-4 a day driving that toll road (and that's probably a low-ball estimate of what the toll would cost), which equates to about $750-$1,000 annually (50 work weeks x 5 days a week) than the estimated $500 annual you say it would cost each resident to support TSPLOST? How are those HOT lanes working out in Gwinnett?
Mike Lowry June 06, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Brian, given your continual snide, almost-rabid personal attacks on anyone who disagrees with you is certainly cause to shield anyone else from your attacks. If you have closely followed the TSPLOST proposal and have anything rational to say, post a blog article yourself.
ACC-SEC Booster June 06, 2012 at 05:56 PM
@ Brian Wheeler 11:44 am on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 I'd much rather the $3-4 a day (and you're right, that is a low-ball figure, especially when it comes to paying to use HOT lanes) or more in user fees and have the much-needed infrastructure be built and come online much more quickly than pay the T-SPLOST, which at a one-percent sales tax rate is likely to cost each resident a little more than just $500/annually, and still not have the much-needed transportation infrastructure come online for 10-15 years after the tax goes into effect. On top of that, not only would residents be paying a sales tax for upwards of 10 years before maybe still not even having much-needed transportation infrastructure come online, if at all, but residents would be paying sales taxes for 10-15 on many projects (like the Midtown-Cumberland light rail line and the Atlanta Beltline) that are either purely developmental and will have no tangible positive effect on the severe traffic congestion that plagues radial spoke routes (like I-20 E-W, I-75 N-S, I-85 N-S, GA 400 N, I-575 N, I-985 N, US 41 N, US 19-41 S, etc) and circular crosstown routes (I-285, GA 140, GA 120, etc). Granted, there is not anything necessarily wrong with developmental projects as long as they don't add to the region's already very severe traffic problems, but a sales tax referendum where traffic congestion relief is supposed to be a top priority is NOT the best time, place or way for those projects to be funded.
ACC-SEC Booster June 06, 2012 at 06:05 PM
@ Brian Wheeler 11:44 am on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 "How are those HOT lanes working out in Gwinnett?" Not very well as the I-85 HOT lanes are severely-flawed in the sense that they were created out of existing freeway capacity (the existing HOV-2 lanes) instead of being created out of ADDED capacity (new lanes added to the right-of-way) as they should have been. While I'm not necessarily all that enamored with the HOT lane concept, I don't have a problem with HOT lanes as long as they are created out of new lanes being added to the road like the I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor HOT lanes. I do, however, have a very serious problem with HOT lanes being created from existing freeway lanes without adding new freeway capacity as the I-85 HOT lane concept would have likely worked out much better if they had been created out of 2-3 new lanes elevated over the existing 12-20 lane I-85 roadway.
Brian Wheeler June 06, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Mike, you're unbelievable, seriously. So my comments are snide because I ask the name of your source? And that is somehow a personal attack as well? How is my question not a rational question? I would suggest that if you can't take someone else questioning your logic, or your intentions for that matter, when writing a public blog that you should then quit posting constantly on the same subject. Let me ask you this; if the AJC were to write a story regarding TSPLOST and extolling its virtues, and they used only an unnamed source with no qualifications on that person's backgrounds, how would you react to that article? "Almost rabid personal attacks" Really? Wow..I think your confusing that will ntelligent dialogue in a market place of ideas. It's obvious that you only want to hear the opinions of those who AGREE with you. Because you only attack and condemn posters who disagree with your assertions and call you out for your factual errors and the errors in your arguments. If you are going to be the mouthpiece for a movement (the anti-TSPLOST movement) then you will need to get some thicker skin...and accept warranted criticism.
Brian Wheeler June 06, 2012 at 06:25 PM
@ACC-SEC Booster: Would you not also be paying the $700-$1,000 per year for at LEAST 10 years for a tollway? Look at the GA400. Wasn't that supposed to be toll-free by now? Do you think a privately financed roadway would DROP their tolls? No way, they'd want to make as much profit as possible; maximize profit for their investment. And who could blame them? They drop a $1 billion or more investment on a tollway, their investors want to see money back, and for a long time to come.
Brian Wheeler June 06, 2012 at 06:27 PM
And Mike: So you're not revealing the person's name, or title, because you're afraid they'll receive personal attacks on a message board? Will you reveal the backers of your "Plan B", or will they, and those who wrote the proposal also be anonymous? Do you also consider it a personal attack to question someone's proposal? Then I guess you've been an unending source of personal attacks on all of the backers of the TSPLOST?
Brian Wheeler June 06, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Be careful Deacon; Mike will accuse you of making personal attacks if you question his assertions.
ACC-SEC Booster June 06, 2012 at 07:16 PM
@ Brian Wheeler 2:25 pm on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 The whole idea of using tolls to finance a major road infrastructure project is not for them to drop off after a the bonds that were used to build the road are paid off. The whole idea of using tolls to finance an project that adds new expressway lanes is for the tolls to finance the continuing costs of operating, maintaining, repairing and even expanding the roadway as needed over the lifespan of the infrastructure. Tolls should never be dropped from a roadway because it is the tolls on that road that will pay for the continuing costs of operating and maintaining that road while it is operational.
ACC-SEC Booster June 06, 2012 at 07:28 PM
The problem with the GA 400 tolls is that the politicians lied and said that the tolls would come off after the bonds used to build the road were paid off in 2010 so that the public would be more accepting and supportive of the road project. But the politicians should have never lied and said that the tolls would come off of GA 400, especially when they knew that gas taxes would more than likely not be enough to keep up with the increasing transportation needs of what was then a very fast-growing population. The politicians also made the promise to take the tolls off of GA 400 knowing that the ramps between GA 400 SB and I-85 NB and I-85 SB and GA 400 NB were missing from the project and would need to be built to take increasingly very heavy traffic off of the surface streets that were being used to transition between the two major highways in lieu of the missing transitional ramps that should have been built when the GA 400 expansion was built in the early 1990's. The state should have just been straight-up with the public and admitted that the GA 400 tolls would be permanent and would be always be needed to operate and maintain the road in the face of the decreasing effectiveness of the state's gas tax due to the continued rise of the population and the resulting increasing transportation needs.
ACC-SEC Booster June 06, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Also, as Governor Deal recently showed when he cancelled the P3 (Public-Private Partnership) portion of the I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor HOT lanes and elected to go with the DBF (Design-Build-Finance) approach, public-private partnerships, or P3's, don't work so well with toll road projects because state governments are often severely-constrained contractually from making upgrades to routes for 50-70 years that run parallel to the P3 toll infrastructure (lanes and roads). It is for these reasons that public-private partnerships would work much better to finance upgrades to transit infrastructure than upgrades and expansion to road infrastructure as the idea is to use a P3 boost ridership numbers on transit infrastructure during the busiest times of the day as opposed to using a P3 on tolled carpool lanes where the object is to somewhat retard use of the lanes when the roadway and lanes are the busiest (with adjustable tolls that can rise up as high as $10.00 one-way during rush hours and peak traffic periods).
ACC-SEC Booster June 06, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Also, a T-SPLOST can only fund a very-limited number of transportation projects for a very-limited amount of time (10 years) while utilizing user fees (along with public-private partnerships and profit centers such as maximizing advertising revenues) can fund an unlimited number of toll and fare-supported projects as each fare-supported project (like a rail or bus transit line on high-density corridor) and toll-supported project (like a toll road or super-arterial in a very busy, high-traffic major transportation corridor) pays for itself through the contributions only of those who use the transit line or toll road. USER-FEES = Only those who use a specific transportation infrastructure pay for its construction, operation, maintenance, upkeep and expansion as needed. When user fees are utilized as the primary way of financing an expressway or transit infrastructure, there is no need for across-the-board tax increases because you don't pay for it if you don't use it. Only those who use the road pay for it which is a much better way of financing critical transportation needs than sitting around and waiting for voters to support seemingly never-ending tax increases that never seem to be enough. Major projects like rail transit lines, new expressway lanes should always be self-funded to minimize and relieve the public of increased tax burdens as taxes can't increase forever.
Santa June 06, 2012 at 11:02 PM
To many taxes are already on us. We don't need another. They should come up with a way to improve the rail lines that are in place already for commuter use. There are many depots in towns that have been turned into other things. At one time people use to use the trains to get to Atlanta and other areas.
Frank Jones June 06, 2012 at 11:35 PM
@ACC...unfortunately, user fees rarely pay the way. Our new HOT lanes don't even part the interest cost much less the maintenance construction and overhead. The proposed I 75/575 HOT is supposed to be built with hundreds on millions of state money and won't be paid for by use fees. BTW...income taxes are a type of user fees and even better, an income tax would broaden the tax base which I thought was an agenda of the Republican party.
ACC-SEC Booster June 07, 2012 at 12:49 AM
@ Frank Jones 7:35 pm on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 Unfortunately, the HOT lanes are not the best example of a road project that can fund itself totally through user fees because the lanes are not designed to transport the maximum amount of traffic during peak periods, but rather are designed to transport only a limited amount of through traffic when traffic is heaviest on the corridor that the lanes are serving as the adjustable tolls rise to whatever level they need to rise to keep the HOT lanes clear of traffic so that buses, three-person carpools and paying single and double-occupant vehicles can get traverse the lanes at least 45 m.p.h. Another problem with HOT lanes is that there is no need for their use by paying customers outside of times of peak periods of heavy traffic as the lanes are not the only through lanes in the corridor they occupy and run parallel to a multilane freeway. HOT Lanes are basically not intended to make a profit as they are designed to transport paying customers only during peak periods when traffic is heaviest (morning and evening rush hours and holiday rush periods) and the tolls are raised to push excess traffic out of the lanes when needed. On the other hand, a toll road like Georgia 400 is designed to transport all through/express traffic on the right-of-way it serves because it is the only expressway within the right-of-way it occupies.
ACC-SEC Booster June 07, 2012 at 12:58 AM
GDOT (the Georgia Department of Transportation) has already had the plans on the books for the type of regional commuter rail transit that you speak of for about the last 20 years or so, it's just they are almost completely unfunded and totally neglected, of course: http://www.dot.state.ga.us/travelingingeorgia/rail/Documents/CommuterRailMap.pdf http://www.dot.state.ga.us/maps/Documents/railroad/nga_passenger.pdf http://www.garprail.org/documents/MACOC_Commuter_Rail_%20Plan_Update_Final.pdf
ACC-SEC Booster June 07, 2012 at 02:25 AM
"Our new HOT lanes don't even part the interest cost much less the maintenance construction and overhead. The proposed I 75/575 HOT is supposed to be built with hundreds on millions of state money and won't be paid for by use fees." The state is somewhat eager and more willing to proceed with the I-75/I-575 NW HOT Lanes project more than any other possible transportation option because HOT Lanes is the only politically-palatable major transportation option available to proceed with at the moment. Pending further dramatic growth and expansion at the Port of Savannah threatens to render I-75 NW OTP (along with the "West Wall" of I-285, I-20 West OTP and I-75 South OTP) almost completely impassable during peak periods with the extremely-heavy truck traffic that that part of the Interstate system already transports. Governor Deal also critically needs the support of Conservative voters in Cobb and Cherokee counties to assure a win in the 2014 Georgia GOP Gubernatorial Primary and easy passage to re-election to a second-term as Governor of Georgia.
ACC-SEC Booster June 07, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Given the understandable aversion of OTP Conservative suburban and exurban voters to rail transit in the I-75/I-575 NW Corridor and the political, physical and financial impossibility of the prospect of a traditional road widening of Interstates 75 & 575 in the form of adding untolled lanes to the existing roadway and right-of-ways of I-75 & I-575, "widening" Interstates 75 & 575 by effectively adding partially-elevated tolled carpool lanes to the right-of-ways of I-75 & I-575 is pretty much the only option available to bring about any type of potentially even remotely immediate traffic relief to the heavily-congested Northwest Corridor.
ACC-SEC Booster June 07, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Political expendience is also the reason that Governor Deal ordered the Georgia Department of Transportation has opened up sections of the emergency lanes to traffic during morning and evening rush hours on Georgia 400 North in Sandy Springs and Roswell as Governor Deal, while he won the 2010 Georgia GOP Gubernatorial Primary, lost the vote to Karen Handel in Cobb, Cherokee, North Fulton and Forsyth counties. For Deal to have any chances of surviving the GOP Gubernatorial Primary and winning re-election against what is likely to be an as-yet unknown conservative challenger on his political right, Deal absolutely must have the political support of Conservative Republican suburban voters in heavily-populated Cobb, Cherokee, Fulton and Forsyth counties. Support from voters in these counties will be even more key in the 2014 GOP Gubernatorial Primary as support for Deal in Gwinnett, Hall and Barrow counties, which Deal won in the 2010 Primary, is nowhere near a given due to continued government scandals and a possible voter backlash against Deal over the implementation of the I-85 HOT Lanes in Gwinnett, the state's second-largest county which has more Republican voters than any other county in Georgia, including traditional conservative political stronghold Cobb County.

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