We and other transit advocates have given Citizens for Transportation Mobility, the business community's multi-million dollar campaign to persuade voters to pass the regional transportation tax on July 31, a hard time because its ads feature mostly cars. (Yes, you can see a bus and rail line in the TV spot currently airing that features a twisted knot of roads which slowly unravel to reveal the shining downtown and Midtown skyline. But for the most part, it seemed the ads spoke only to motorists.)
So they've produced a web video to remind us that, yes, they do care about rail lines and buses. We kindly yield the floor to our readers for their takes on the clip, as we are in need of caffeine.
The Transportation Leadership Coalition, one of the groups fighting the 1-cent sales tax, has hired an attorney to ask Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp about the addition of language to the T-SPLOST ballot question. Pitts Carr, the attorney, has also requested documents related to the ballot issue. From the group:
TLC recently uncovered that promotional language, in addition to the ballot question provided by the legislature, was added to Georgia's official ballot to encourage passage of Referendum 1, the T-SPLOST sales tax increase for road and transit projects. The Secretary of State took responsibility for the language and the unprecedented act of modifying the ballot with no apparent legal authority.
Today's formal inquiry from attorney Carr directs Secretary of State Brian Kemp to cite the legal authority for adding the language "Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight."
And finally, the honchos of metro Atlanta's biggest sports groups - we're talking the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Braves, Falcons, and Dream - gathered yesterday at the Metro Chamber's downtown officers to endorse the 1-cent sales tax. Yes, the mascots were also in attendance, which means these folks are serious.
What should raise the eyebrows of people pushing the tax: the percentage of supporters has slipped - and opposition has grown - since Rosetta Stone last surveyed metro Atlanta voters in May. Reports WSB's Lori Geary:
Those numbers show a drop in support of the tax from late May when a Rosetta Stone poll showed 42 percent supported the referendum and 45 percent opposed the measure.
The poll broke down respondents by geographic area, as well. Not surprisingly, there's more support for the measure in Fulton and DeKalb Counties than there is in the outer 'burbs. Republicans, also not surprisingly, are opposed to the sales tax. (Geary's posted a handy breakdown of the poll results.)
While these polls give a good snapshot of how metro Atlantans might feel about the measure, tax supporters will say that the only poll that's worth a damn is the one that's conducted on July 31. The business community's team that's spending millions of dollars to persuade voters to approve the measure has purchased more TV airtime. You'll probably start seeing even more online ads or hearing radio spots. And you can bet there will be a last-minute, very expensive push by the group in the final days before the vote takes place.
Should voters approve the regional transportation tax on July 31, 15 percent of the revenues will be divvied up among local governments to spend on their local transit, sidewalk, bicycle, and road needs. And Fulton County officials want your help in decided how they should use that cash in unincorporated parts of the county.
Fulton officials will hold meetings next week and in mid-July to gather input about how to use its portion, which is estimated at $29 million over ten years (PDF). From the county:
* Tuesday, June 26, 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. - Cliftondale Community Center, 4645 Butner Road, College Park
* Thursday, June 28, 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. - Burdett Park, 2945 Burdett Park, College Park
* Tuesday, July 10, 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. - Southwest Library, 3665 Southwest Library, Atlanta
* Thursday, July 12, 6:30 p.m. - 8: 30 p.m. - Renaissance Middle School, 7155 Hall Road, Fairburn
Atlanta officials earlier this month released the city's project list, which includes multi-use trails between parks and a plethora of streetscape improvements which would comply with Complete Streets guidelines.
The Metro Atlanta Voters Education Network, or MAVEN, the business community's campaign to "educate" metro Atlanta residents about the regional transportation tax voters will decide on July 31, unveiled its four-part YouTube series featuring Stan Still, a fictional author and D-List motivational speaker. He strikes us as the kind of guy who simply sighed while unruly teenagers spray painted "loser" on the side of his East Cobb home.
From the press release announcing the video series:
With 40 days remaining until the Regional Transportation Referendum vote, MAVEN is continuing to educate voters across the region. The organization has partnered with COLLYDE and Green Tricycle Studios to produce a four-part series on Mr. "Stan Still", a fictional Atlanta commuter helping metro Atlantans cope with our legendary traffic.
"Our hope is that our Gen X / Y peers will catch wind of this comedic series and help push the satire virally - not just for laughs in their inboxes, but more than anything, to spur the younger generation to be a part of critical decisions shaping our city's future", said Tara Makarechi, a partner at COLLYDE and in-town Atlanta resident.
We'll let you commenters be the judge. Expect more installments in the coming weeks — and, according to Jim Galloway, a new round of TV commercials about the sales tax measure.
The Georgia Department of Transportation will be in charge of "delivering" all the road projects. The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, or GRTA, will do the same for roughly $3 billion of rail and bus lines that would be built with revenues from the 1-percent sales tax.
The latter decision caused me and other transit advocates some concern, as I expressed in a recent column.
To understand why, let's do a quick background on GRTA. Created in 1999 by the General Assembly, the state agency was envisioned by then-Gov. Roy Barnes as a regional force that would fight metro Atlanta's sprawl and congestion. That included building out Barnes' vision of commuter rail network that would spider throughout the metro counties.
But when Sonny Perdue took over the governor's mansion, he scuttled his predecessor's plans. Since then, the agency's largely focused on operating "luxury coaches" that shuttle suburbanites into and out of downtown. In addition, the agency's board is appointed by the governor, who, along with state lawmakers, have paid little attention to the important role that transit does - and could - play in metro Atlanta. (Let's not forget that transit - particularly MARTA - has been used by state lawmakers as a political football in the past.)
Simply put, the state's proven that it can't be trusted when it comes to building rail or supporting transit. And GRTA, which faces its own funding challenges in the years ahead, doesn't have as much experience in laying track and running massive systems as, for example, MARTA. (That's not a swipe at the GRTA's staff, who help a lot of people get to work.)
How do we know that GRTA a.) is up to handle the complex job of building rail and bus lines worth billions of dollars and b.) won't play politics with the transit projects? I spoke with Kirk R. Fjelstul, GRTA's staff attorney and deputy executive director, earlier this month about those concerns.
To Mayor Kasim Reed, these discussions lose sight of the regional transportation tax's real potential and purpose - specifically, metro Atlanta's economy and future.
"I think the conversation around the [regional transportation tax] is too esoteric, too fancy," Reed told reporters at Siemens' Alpharetta factory after showcasing the propulsion system that will power the downtown streetcar. The facility just off Ga. 400 houses 700 workers who assemble the complex machinery that powers transit and drilling machinery around the world - and will build the downtown line's system.
Supporters of the regional transportation tax that voters will decide on July 31 have a lot of convincing to do, according to a new poll by Insider Advantage.
The survey of 539 people found that 47 percent of respondents would vote against the sales tax measure if the referendum were held today. Thirty-two percent are in favor of the tax and 21 percent remain undecided. The poll has a 4 percent margin of error. (Download a PDF of the poll's crosstabs.)
A telling statistic: Roughly 61 percent of Republicans - a tax-adverse group that's likely to head to the polls to decide several primary contests - said they'd vote against the T-SPLOST.
Helping the measure's chances, I'd assume, is the fact that several battles between Democrats for intown state House seats - and the congressional district that includes Atlanta - will be decided on July 31. Many Democrats, the thinking goes, are more likely to support the measure. We'll find out on Aug. 1 if that turnout was enough to combat tax-adverse conservatives and tea party members who are fighting the T-SPLOST.
Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters last night at a private fundraiser for the business community's group pushing the tax's passage that he's not discouraged by the poll's findings.
"It just tells me there's a lot of work to be done, that people need to be educated about the projects," he said.
The International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Union County, a noted group of backyard astronomers, has been told that it won't be allowed to adopt a one-mile segment of highway near the North Carolina border. Says the AJC's Shannon McCaffrey:
A statement released by the state Department of Transportation on Tuesday said KKK signs along the roadway would create a distraction to motorists. The department added that "promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern."
Earlier today, Debbie Michaud and I were wondering whether state officials should rename the road, as other states have done to irk white supremacist groups that adopted highway segments. Now it looks like there's no need.
Either way, let's get ready for a lawsuit!
The city's divided the list of projects - which include streetscape improvements, bridge repairs, and bike lanes, road repavings, and other fixes - into four categories. The city appears to have embraced the idea that they might as well add bike lanes and pedestrian improvements where it makes sense and respect motorists, cyclists, and walkers alike: many of the proposed projects conform to Complete Streets criteria.
Roughly $20 million over five years would be spent on "high-priority" projects, which are marked in green. On that list is: a Complete Street overhaul on DeKalb Avenue between Hurt Street and the City Limits; bicycle and pedestrian improvements in Chastain Park and Grant Park; traffic safety improvements between Bolton Road from Marietta Boulevard to Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway; milling and repaving and "intersection capacity" improvements (widening? ) along Mount Paran Road from I-75 North to Paces Ferry Road, which would include a bike trail along the road's eastern side that ostensibly would lead to the Chattahoochee River; among others.
Projects listed in blue were pulled from Livable Centers Initiative studies and could be matched with federal funding. City officials would focus on many streetscape and road improvements and use the cash - roughly $9 million over five years - to help secure federal funding for an overhaul of Joseph E. Boone Boulevard from Joseph Lowery Boulevard to Northside Drive replete with bike lanes and streetscape and sidewalk improvements; streetscape improvements and pedestrian improvements along Moreland Avenue between Mansfield Street and DeKalb Avenue including a lane conversion between Little Five Points and DeKalb Avenue to add bicycle facilities, median, or on-street parking and pedestrian improvements.
Purple projects are neighborhood-level fixes, which were complied by consulting transportation plans, the public, and Atlanta City Councilmembers. Tax funding might be able to cover most of the cost or could be used to secure federal funds. City officials want to dedicate 35 percent of Atlanta's discretionary cash - approximately $16 million - to these projects, which include: construction of the Atlanta BeltLine Trail from Dellwood Drive to Peachtree Road; a multi-use path from Mecaslin Street from Loring Heights to Atlantic Station; and adding raised median areas and other pedestrian safety improvements on Boulevard between Ponce de Leon Avenue and DeKalb Avenue; sidewalk and ADA ramp installation and repair in Oakland City; and pedestrian safety improvements along Cleveland Avenue between Metropolitan Parkway and Browns Mill Road; a new street connection on Monroe Drive at 8th Street to Ponce de Leon Avenue at Ponce City Market; and many others.
Projects in red were selected by metro Atlanta elected officials during the roundtable process to be funded if the 1 percent sales tax measure is approved. Those include $601 million to build transit along parts of the Atlanta Beltline and into Midtown and new bridges.
Note that the project list would be reviewed every year and that city officials have not outlined how the remaining cash - almost $50 million - would be spent.
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