What Are the TSPLOST Advocates Trying to Hide?

The TSPLOST advocates are trying to shut down opposition voices and rely on their $8 million advertising budget.

Why do you suppose they don’t want anyone talking about it?

  • Over the weekend I received an email from an associate showing that the Untie Atlanta facebook pages had removed all of his posts and stopped allowing comments. 
  • At a meeting on Saturday morning I talked with a Johns Creek City Councilman and was advised that the Johns Creek City Council had refused to schedule any kind of debate, but would welcome an “information” presentation by MAVEN [Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network]. 
  • On Monday I was scheduled to speak against the TSPLOST at the Madison Forum in Cobb County. This was to be a pro/con debate between the TSPLOST MAVEN speaker and myself. Late Monday morning I received an e-mail advising that the MAVEN speaker had withdrawn. 

The combination of events might lead one to believe that MAVEN (the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce) wants to shut down opposition voices and rely on its $8 million advertising budget to convince you to vote for the TSPLOST.

I hope you have better sense.

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 15, 2012 at 01:49 AM
While Dallas always expected and even knew that it would someday become a very large major-league city and committed the planning and executed the planning for doing so, Atlanta hoped to become a big city, but never necessarily really truly expected to become a big city as infrastructure experts warned area political leaders in a report over 40 years ago in the late 1960's that Atlanta would face increasingly severe water supply problems if the North Georgia population ever grew to between 3-5 million residents if no new reservoirs were never built to supplement and compliment federally-controlled Lakes Allatoona and Lanier. Fast forward roughly 40 years to present-day Atlanta and that report that was issued by those infrastructure experts was found collecting dust on a shelf in the middle of the most severe drought that the area had ever experienced while Metro Atlanta faced the very real possibly of running out of water while federally-controlled Lakes Allatoona and, especially, Lanier, on whom both Atlanta and much of North Georgia, whose population had grown to over six million residents, remained severely-overdependent upon.
ACC-SEC Booster June 15, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Many of those same infrastructure experts also warned political leaders around the same time in the mid-late 1960's that Metro Atlanta would experience increasingly severe traffic congestion and gridlock problems if the population of North Georgia grew to between 3-5 million residents, if investing in a robust multimodal transportation network did not become a force of habit. Well, except for a very few brief and very limited exceptions, neither investing in a robust multimodal transportation network or an adequate water infrastructure became a force of habit in the next four-plus decades after those very-prescient warnings about transportation and water were issued and here we are, over 40 years later, often stuck in ridiculously-long traffic jams and running out-of-water and still investing to anywhere near-adequately invest in our increasingly undersized, overused, overstressed and outdated transportation and water infrastructure.
ACC-SEC Booster June 15, 2012 at 02:18 AM
For those who say that voting for the T-SPLOST is a way to recify the glaring lack of investment in our transportation infrastructure over the last 4-5 decades of explosive growth, it's not. The T-SPLOST is nothing more than a lazy political bone in the form of giveaways of public money to well-connected roadbuilders, land spectulators, real estate developers and ridiculously high-priced consultants, hastily thrown to increasingly anxious voters to get them to shut up and quit pestering state leaders to do something to help get rid of the endless traffic jams that greedly self-centered state politicians could really care less about as long as they keep getting their high-priced lobbyist-funded money and gifts. The T-SPLOST is one lazy and tasteless bone that the state can have back as it is and should be considered nothing short of a total insult to the Georgians who have to contend with driving on the lousy and gridlocked roads everyday that our political leaders have long-neglected and even, at times, undermined with their repeatedly self-serving actions. On July 31st vote yes to T-SPLOST and vote YES to even more DECEPTION, WASTE, FRAUD, CORRUPTION, ABUSE and INCOMPETENCE.
ACC-SEC Booster June 15, 2012 at 03:04 AM
You are correct as am not anti-TSPLOST as much as I am voting against the T-SPLOST because of some disturbing things that I am aware of regarding the allocation of the revenues that will result from the tax, knowing the tendecies of some of the people that are behind the bill, the utter laziness of the legislation (here we are in Metro Atlanta with what is probably close to $60 billion in long-neglected total multimodal transportation needs and the state legislature hastily slaps together a poorly thought-out list of and process of $6-8 billion in political giveaways in a lazy and half-hearted attempt to get people to shut-up and leave them alone so that they so go back to being uninterrupted while chasing lobbyist-funded giveaways in the form of money, food, liquor, women and other ridiculously high-priced gifts). I am also well-aware and pragmatic enough to know that there is no way that we'll ever be able to increase taxes (sales taxes, gas taxes, property taxes, etc) high enough to pay for all of our numerous infrastructure needs, especially in a fervently anti-tax and anti-government climate. The only way that we will likely be able to ever fund all of our road and transit needs is to get away from using taxes, which is an increasingly-limited revenue to attempt to depend on to fund transportation needs and instead turn to distance-based user fees so that roads and transit lines can have their self-funding and self-financing revenue streams.
RamblinWreckDave June 15, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Again some excellent points. But what's the alternative? Do you really have any faith that our elected state officials will become competent and honest? Do you really have any faith that any politician would propose privatizing all roads and incorporating distance based fees? Or that MARTA might incorporate a distance based fare structure? I don't have any faith in these things happening. Special interests, lobbyists, corruption in GA, and polarized and easily manipulated voters here will prevent these things from happening I'm afraid. The neglect of the past is a bad thing, and we would be foolish to forget the history here...but I also think we have to look forward. If T-SPLOST fails, will a better alternative be presented, or will the politicians simply give up? This is the key question IMO. No bill will be perfect...but if it's a step in the right direction, perhaps it's better than taking no action at all (which my understanding is that if it fails, it will be at least 2 more years before another one can be voted on). Is the fallout of another 2 years of waiting going to be worth what potentially may be a little improved bill 2 yrs from now?
Dean Sheridan June 15, 2012 at 03:31 AM
@RamblinWreckDave (and all the bed wetting Liberals like you) If you really think spending spending 4.5 BILLION; removing about 1% of the traffic is value for the Tax Payer - that speaks volumes about your math skills and ideology. I am stating that fact. Auto O&M although costly is superior to a historically mismanaged MARTA (see the Project manager firings going back 30 years that has showed improvement over the last four years to be fair) and the 489 million dollar current short fall is no way a model a new project. We can and must do better, Are you implying that the numbers I site are wrong. Like I said - I'm from Missouri.
Dean Sheridan June 15, 2012 at 03:54 AM
RamblinWreckDave Another thing as I read the current dialogue with all these valid concerns. Here's another. Why is Fulton & Dekalb even pushing this on others? Seems to me Atlanta has a water & sewer problem that Mayor after Mayor Ignores. The infrastructure is so bad, you can't even flush the toilets half the time & water mains break at a high rate everywhere. Maybe you could T-SPLOST there, instead; when this albatross gets shot down. I guess everyone has decided that reducing traffic by 1% and providing a ride for the needy are more important than water & sewer. Ever consider free enterprise with a little public assistance for the needed traffic routs and needy? No we couldn't do that; it would put Government run money pits out of business. Now that's the ticket. Atlanta's bridge - to the TSPLOST deficit and unfunded mandates.
RamblinWreckDave June 15, 2012 at 03:57 AM
@Dean Sheridan "Show us that MARTA can at least loose 25 million a year - without making a profit - if you can do that I'm sure we can pass a rail project. Until then, support fixing the traffic problem with a solutions that actually work. The tab, Oh , depending on how you cut it up comes to 4,505,000,000.0 over 10 years (without maintenance) If you use combined ridership that hits a "peak" of 8% (at about 5% now) of the 9.5 million population( excessively large sample) , we would be paying about how much per each regular Ryder to build the thing?" Wow...I don't even know where to start. They must not teach math, English, or reasoning in Missouri or the homeschooling you received (and yes, I get your show-me reference, very clever). I can't understand anything in your post. You want some one to show you how MARTA can lose money without making a profit (isn't that the definition of not making a profit?) Your estimates that Atlanta's population will nearly double in 10 years comes from where? What do you think will happen to the congestion on our roads if in fact the metro population does double? Are you offering any ideas for your "solutions that actually work"? You want to see numbers, look here: http://www.velag.org/3_atlanta-invlist.pdf Most of the T-SPLOST funds are road projects; about $1.4B is MARTA related, not $4.5B as you state
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Mileage-based taxation is coming. Oregon, minnesota and Florida all have serious programs underway to evaluate and implement technologies to support it. Georgia should move in this direction as well. One of the great by-products will be the acquisition of real origin-destination demand statistics that can be used to guide transportation planning. Elevated lanes and high-capacity entrances and exits will also do much to provide real congestion relief. The GPPF study pointed clearly to the need for additional E-W arteries. Designing them as continuous-flow, either with elevated lanes, roundabouts or cross-unders would be a great start on real congestion relief. We can't afford any of this, however, if we dump more $billions into useless transit projects.
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Clark is uncharacteristically uninformed on this issue. The radio session he participated in was simply a regurgitation of the Chamber of Commerce spin on the topic. He has also been uncharacteristically unwilling to participate in open discussion on the topic. I suspect some serious advertising dollars are involved.
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 01:32 PM
When I lobbied members of the General Assembly last December to avoid what would obviously be a bad result - regardless of which way the vote went - I was told that "the legislature doesn't have the appetite to take on the speaker and the governor this session". Doug Stoner repeated that phrase last week at the panel discussion at Ga Tech. Obviously, we need to help the legislature develop some new dining habits :-). The political will to fix this will be generated if we can vote it down, then demand the legislature move to "Plan B" (much more on this later). Political will is a function of voter demands. If we can sustain our current level of anger past the July 31 vote, the legislature will move to adopt a new plan.
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Part of our problem as a state is that our current DOT is not charged with reducing congestion, but rather is focused on implementing Washington directives and delivering on political favors. It should be completely restructured. The GPPF study clearly identified the need for a grid of arterials as part of a better solution for Atlanta.
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 01:40 PM
The operative words in your comment are "Sandy Springs" and "short walk". You are among the 5% that can use it. I have tried MARTA. Unless you live very close, and work close to a station, it's not a solution. Also, I doubt you would use MARTA if you had to pay the full cost of your convenient ride. The rest of us are subsidizing your convenience and savings.
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Transit is a viable solution if, and only if, it can generate enough business to pay for itself. Even the vaunted DC system requires large taxpayer subsidy in order to provide convenience and economic transportation to a small percentage of people. Conversely, there are many options for roadway improvement if we can redirect GDOT to use them. GDOT is currently preoccupied with Washington directives and with granting political favors.
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Why would someone continue to live in Stone Mountain and work in Roswell? Roswell has a variety of housing, even for low-income residents. There are also a variety of transportation options for those unable to drive, but they need to be reasonable. In a free country, we choose where to live and where to work. The public has no obligation to subsidize our choices.
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 01:51 PM
"Why is Fulton & Dekalb even pushing this on others?" The simple answer is to buy votes with our dollars.
RamblinWreckDave June 15, 2012 at 01:52 PM
You said you commute from Roswell, which means if you're driving down 400 you are passing right by the N springs station. So no excuse there. And since you said you travel downtown, everything is a short walk downtown. Atlanta does not have a huge downtown. Now I realize that not everyone works downtown, but my point is that in your case you would almost certainly save time on MARTA unless you're commuting outside of rush hour.
RamblinWreckDave June 15, 2012 at 01:57 PM
You've had months to prepare a "Plan B"...where is it? I don't buy the argument that "T-SPLOST is bad, but don't worry we have a great Plan B...just shoot T-SPLOST down first and then we'll show you." That tells me you have no Plan B, otherwise you would share it now. Is this Plan B from people who are experts in traffic studies and congestion?
RamblinWreckDave June 15, 2012 at 02:05 PM
"Transit is a viable solution if, and only if, it can generate enough business to pay for itself." I am not aware of any transit system that is entirely self sustaining. Nor am I aware of any roads that are, so you have to apply your logic evenly across all forms of transit to be fair. You feel that you're subsidizing MARTA for a small group of people, a service that you will never use; likewise I feel that I'm subsidizing road construction for those who choose to live in the exurbs, roads which I will never use. This is a basic tenet of society, if every individual only cared about themselves we would not have shared interstates, police service, water, or any other public service.
RamblinWreckDave June 15, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Mike, have you even looked at the T-SPLOST project list? The overwhelming majority of projects are road projects, not transit!
RamblinWreckDave June 15, 2012 at 02:24 PM
For the record, I don't disagree that we need more E-W arteries, or other high speed corridors. I suspect that the cost for these would be far, far higher than the current T-SPLOST. 7 billion would hardly cover the costs for these (not the mention where's the funding for maintaining these new arteries over the years?) So while I don't object, if we can't pass a $7B list of projects, how will we pay for these arteries? I can see tolls or mileage based fees covering O&M of these new roads, but no contractor would be able to finance the construction of such a huge project by themselves, without bonds or some other public investment. Maybe I'm wrong, but if so I would love to know where this has been done, on this scale.
Dean Sheridan June 15, 2012 at 03:06 PM
@Mike Lowry Well that's just Ducky. In a meeting this morning it was mentioned that the original MARTA bill and subsequent "Original deal" way back when was to be for six years only (6) and had something to do with fifteen cents (.15) of every dollar or something like that. Mike, can you validate this or clear this up?
Dean Sheridan June 15, 2012 at 03:20 PM
@RamblinWreckDave "Your estimates that Atlanta's population will nearly double in 10 years comes from where?" I am illustrating how ridiculous the numbers are if one where to use the entire Metro and surrounding Counties including them as possible riders. If you use the Fulton & DeKalb numbers you can more than tipple the price per user. Since my math skill set is so bad - lets use yours.
Mike Lowry June 15, 2012 at 03:21 PM
For Ramblin Wreck Dave, Yes, I have analyzed the project list closely. If you do the same (you can download an excel spreadsheet at www.traffictruth.net) you will discover that: (1) Transit projects consume 52% of the funds, (2) MARTA maintenance projects consume hundreds of millions of dollars, (3) The beltway and trolley are funded, which do nothing for congestion. The project list is filled with projects to help keep mayors and commissioners happy, and very little of it is directed to congestion relief.
thinkfirst12 June 17, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Has anyone considered a road proposal based on the car of the future? In 10 years our car ride will be autonomous and hopefully accident and traffic congestion free when we reduce the human factor. We need to save/spend money to prepare for meeting the needs of new technology, not more of what we see is clearly not working.
janet h russell June 17, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Mr. Lowry, In response to your question "why would anyone live in Stone Mountain and work in Roswell?" makes me ask the same question of you. Why would anyone live in Roswell and work downtown (even if only a few days a week)? Ever heard of a temp job? That is how some people are working these days. They can't just pick up and move near the job and perhaps away from family and friends. No , they endure the commute, so they can work. You remember that old "self reliance" commandment , dont you? And Iheard you make a brief statement on NPR this morning . You are a busy man. How do you find the time to drive to all of thes anti T splost meetings? And who is paying you to do it? Just wondering?
Bryan Farley June 21, 2012 at 06:17 PM
The bottom line is we need to vote for this. We can't do nothing and there is not "Plan B." Transit is not fully paid for and neither are roads; end of that argument. MARTA doesn't need to raise fares so high where people don't want to ride but getting rid of the gas tax and charging to ride on major roads; sounds like TOLL ROADS and more HOT lanes that aren't working either. Lets also get rid of this mis-managed talk. Dr. Beverly Scott has done an amazing job with limited resourses to make MARTA one of the top run transit agencies in the nation. I would like for you to go home and have $1000 in bills and you have $1000 cash but some other person tells you that you can only spend $500. You can keep the other $500 but can't spend it on bills. MARTA deal with that everyday. Finally, it's time for the other big three to get over the whole "MARTA brings crime" because there is plenty of crime without MARTA. Get over the not being dense issue because the people are there. Does Gwinnet or Cobb or Clayton need 100 bus routes and 38 stations... no! Do these areas need 5-7 commuter style stations with 10 to 15 local routes and maybe bus rapid transit on other major corridors to bring people to the rail stations... yes! You mean to tell me that in a county with 800,000 people there wouldn't be 60 to 80,000 riding trains and buses coming into the city or locally? People easily can drive to stations just like the do now! Look at Doraville's station lot for example.
Mike Lowry June 21, 2012 at 08:32 PM
You must be kidding! Beverly Scott couldn't last 3 months in a real business. MARTA is one of the worst governmental organizations in the US, and has been for the entire 30 years of its existence. We are not "doing nothing" now, and won't be in the future, whether the TSPLOST is voted down or not. The "no Plan B" is the silliest statement ever made about a tax increase.
RamblinWreckDave June 21, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Mike, Where is this glorious "Plan B" that you and your tea party buddies keep talking about? You've seen the project list in this T-SPLOST, where is your similarly detailed alternate? I suspect the answer is you don't have one, because all you've said on these blogs is that "it's coming". That's not a good enough answer; the transportation in this region has been underplanned and underinvested in for years. While not perfect, T-SPLOST has many good elements which will benefit us AS A REGION. Too often people are narrow minded and only thinking about their specific situation, not thinking that everything is interconnected, and congestion in 1 area can lead to congestion throughout the area. As for your constant criticism of MARTA, and now personal criticism of Dr. Scott, what specifically are you talking about? Back your statements up with some numbers, otherwise this is just hateful rhetoric. Here's a statistic for you; MARTA is has an over 91% on-schedule record. Doesnt sound too shabby for me, especially considering MARTA is the only major transit system in the country that receives zero state funding for operations, yet is told how much of their revenues they can put towards operations. For that to be the case and still maintain reliable, 91% on time service seems like pretty good mgt to me.
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