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Monday, January 30, 2012

Oh, the many problems with Gold Dome's regional transit bill

State lawmakers last week gave Gov. Nathan Deal their proposal to change how metro Atlanta's bus and rail program are governed, with the caveat that the legislation still needed some fixes. Folks, including veteran business columnist Maria Saporta, are starting to notice the kinks. From her morning column, which must be read in its entirety to really appreciate the wonk-rage (and I say that with complete sincerity and respect):

The state draft legislation calls for the commission chairs for 13 counties as well as one mayor from each county would serve on the council. The mayor of Atlanta also would have a seat at the table. (For the record, most of the remaining members would be appointed by state officials).

That means that Fulton County (with a population of 1.01 million) and DeKalb County (with a population of 740,000) would have the same representation as Douglas County (with a population of 92,174). Now is that fair?

Overlay that with Fulton and DeKalb having contributed a penny sales tax for MARTA for the past 40 years while a Douglas County has yet to make a significant investment in transit, and it’s even more unfair.

The draft legislation also would call for both the Transit Governance Council and the state-controlled GRTA to hire a transit director. That not only sounds unworkable, but also unfair. Why should the state have the power to name a transit director when it puts no money in transit.

Also, GRTA could veto anything passed by the Transit Governance Council with a two-thirds vote (basically all the governor’s appointees). Again, is that fair?

Survey says no!

Lawmakers have said that solving the regional transit conundrum, with some form of legislation, is necessary before voters visit the polls to decide this year's regional transportation tax — which voters will decide in July. We're curious — as are other folks — what role the 35-member Transit Governance Council would play if the measure fails.

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