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TSPLOST Aftermath Vol. 1

August 2, 2012

We have licked our wounds from Tuesday’s loss I believe.  Now we are all left wondering what is next and what else can be done.  This will be the first part of what will be who knows how many other parts.  But first off a round of applause, hats off, a huge thank you, and may other forms of gratitude should be given to people like CCTGirl. I know she has become somewhat absent from this website during the process and  you had to put up with me more often, but she was working her butt off, and win lose or draw, I believe she educated a great number of people, and lit a fire under some of our asses that may not have been there before.  A fire that hopefully will not fizzle out after Tuesday, but will hopefully make us even more involved, demanding, and concerned about our community.  My hope is that she will continue to be involved and will help lead the next charge, because if we roll over and die on this it will be even more detrimental.  And in order for us to launch a second bid, no matter what form that comes in, to improve our region we need a leader such as her.  But there are more pressing matters as well.  You may call them pointing fingers or placing blame, I consider it time for these parties to own up to their responsibility.  I might also caution that there will be additional parts to this.  I plan on discussing things regarding Governor Deal, the Tea Party, the NAACP and a myriad of other organizations and people but on different days.  So if you do feel the need to comment on any of those things, please be aware that today is not the day that I will address them, but I will in the near future, so you may want to hang onto them.  Today’s agenda: The Sierra Club.

As I had stated before, I use to be in support of the Sierra Club.  Then I started to move onto the fence for reasons before TSPLOST. Then came their lack of support for TSPLOST and I began to grow a rather large dissatisfaction with them.  Now, it is basically full blow hatred.   I don’t hate them for their environmental cause, my hate stems from their misdirected attempt at doing something about it.  I hate them for their unreasonable idealistic view of solving our problems.  An idealistic view that created implications that I firmly believe they never fully weighed and considered. The Sierra Club operated in one of two fantasy lands: that there would be a TSPLOST remix after Tuesday and that they could stuff the list on a 10 county regional vote with transit projects.  They assumed that following this vote they could just get to work on a second list, one they have already attempted to do, and that we would just start chugging along with this process all over again.  But again, they didn’t really think this out.  Mayor Reed made a good point that we will be entering that period where politicians are going to campaigning for reelection, so instead of doing their job we elected them for during the next two years, they will be kissing babies, shaking hands, and doing spot publicity shots of them working the line at a local Waffle House.  But Governor Deal probably delivered the two most defeating post-Tuesday blows.  He will not support or assist in the creation of a second TSPLOST list and the doozy of them all   “Yesterday’s vote slams the door on further expansion of our rail network anytime soon.”  That sound you just heard was the collective thud of all transit supporters’ heads banging on the table.  You can pretend to be surprised by this Sierra Club, but what did you expect?

You decided to pull the ol’ cut off your nose to spite your face move. Only in your case it was probably the digging out of your eyes because there is nothing positive to be seen in the near future.  And all of this was done on the basis of idealism.  Commuter rail, which is a ridiculous demand when our in city transit in not sufficient.  Again, how do you think we got into this mess in the first place.  Doing a half-ass job with the inner core and then spreading outward.  What do you think commuter rail is when the core of the transit system is not sufficient to where it needs to be?  You also had the complaint of MARTA not being taken care of well enough and that there wasn’t enough transit on the list.  TSPLOST gave MARTA a temporary band aid, until a more permanent solution could be agreed upon.  Given how the 50/50 spending topic went in the House, we are clearly not ready yet to solve that issue.  So TSPLOST gave temporary relief until we could.  But no, you had to push for the impossible.  You thought a 10 county region would vote on a second list with even more transit than the 52% that was already on the list.  I get your motives, and I get your tactics.  Not that I even completely disagree with all of them.  But you chose the wrong time and the wrong place to pursue those ideals.  And the result is we got nothing from TSPLOST, and we basically just got grounded for an indefinite amount of time after that. 

But what entertains me the most is their sudden partnership with the Tea Party.  It is part humorous and part embarrassing.  Not because they are working with the Tea Party.  Hell if I could sit down at a table with them and come up with some reasonable accommodations I would do so.  But what they are doing is a stunt.  It is a horrible attempt on both sides to look like they can work with the opposition and reach a compromise.   The Sierra Club recently put a list on their website of the points that they have attempted to resolve for the non-existent “Plan B.”  I provided a link but I will give you the cliff notes on what they are proposing.

1)      Discard the different taxes on fuel and enact a single fuel tax that is based on the commodity and fluctuates with the price of fuel, allowing the funds to be distributed across all modes of transit.

Awesome!  Fuel funds can be spread around a bit to help fund all forms of tran…..wait did you just say a funding source should fluctuate with the market cost of the item it is attached to?!?  We have enough funding problems as it is with source we have now.  Granted the price of goods varies so sales tax revenue can vary at times as well, but it is easier to predict and nothing fluctuates as violently or unpredictably as the cost of fuel. With this idea in place we would be devoid of having an accurate forecast (maybe you haven’t noticed the extreme fluctuations in fuel costs for ohh I don’t know the past 4 years) so when we determine that we want to build a project we can just go into it with blind faith hoping that fuel maintains its price, and of course deal with the repercussions when some watchdog committee goes crazy that the funds are no longer there when we are building a project. And all because of guess what, we will never have a reliable method of calculating future revenue.  Maybe you don’t watch the news all the much, but hurricanes, oil spills, and unrest in the Middle East keeps most of this country holding their breath as to how it will effect fuel prices while we sit by helplessly.   And in all this, it still doesn’t address the issue that fuel tax funding has been going down due to increased fuel efficiency and more transit ridership.

2)      Allow any two or more local governments to create and fun projects that citizens approve.

I am not entirely opposed to this.  Though it does not resolve our issue of regional cooperation and still leaves quite a large window open for class and race warfare to further ensue as counties begin to form cliques like we were in high school.

3)      Before elected officials are given more money they need to show that they can be trusted.  Board members for the DOT will have to be elected yearly.

 

Another one I am not entirely opposed to.  It would probably do some good in the realm of public perception.  But serving one year terms at a time will not accomplish much.  The depth and scope of these projects goes beyond one year increments subjecting them to the personal agendas of the individual members as they are shuffled in and out of the revolving door.  Not to mention they will be spending most of their time trying to get re-uped for the next year instead of actually doing their job.

 

4)      Before MARTA is expanded it needs to be restored to reasonable level of service

A)Legislature should end interference.

B)The city hotel and motel tax should in some part go to MARTA instead of a new stadium.

C)Include distance based fares, charging for parking at station, and consider raising the tax to fund transportation needs.

This is where I don’t agree quite as much.  Yes the legislature needs to step aside.  If you are not going to fund it then you shouldn’t have a say.  And ironically the party of no governance is the one who keeps this intact every year.  And I am all about giving the new stadium the shaft and funding more important things to this city like transit.  But c presents the biggest problem, and it is a big one.  Particularly distance based fares and charging for parking.  By doing either of these you now alienate the suburban users of MARTA.  No it isn’t fair that they don’t pay the current tax to fund MARTA.  But their ridership is essential.  The number of travelers to the airport is vital.  And by adding distance based fares and charging for parking you now give the suburban riders even less incentive to get out of their car, which means more congestion, which means more pollution, which equates to longer commute times and an even worse situation. 

 

Take this for example.  I have a friend who drives to North Springs Station and takes the train in.  By his calculation he saves about $150 a month in fuel by not having to drive the rest of the way in.  If he were to be charged for parking and given a distance based fare his incentive would be gone.  Let’s just say the charge for parking is $2.50 a day, just to match the fares, and to be cheaper than the parking in the city (if that is even possible).  And let’s assume that if we went to distance based fares and he continued the long trek into the city via train his per trip (based on other cities and their fares for a similar model) would hover somewhere around $5.00 per trip.  We will use August as a base.  There are 23 working days this month.  If we switch to distance based fares, monthly passes go out the window.  So his $95 monthly pass is no good.  At 23 days with 2 trips a day it would cost $230 per month.  If parking were to be added on, it would be another $57.50 a month.  So he is now spending $287.50 per month for a portion of his commute when he was only paying $95.00.  And that is an ideal situation.  If this kind of program were instituted he would no longer have the incentive to use the train because for less than or the same amount of money he could just go ahead and drive into the city.  And as a result, MARTA would have fewer riders which equals less revenue, which puts it in a bigger hole then it was in before.

 And consider raising a tax to help fund MARTA?  Did you not see what happened on Tuesday?  Are  you not fully aware of the purpose of the Tea Party?  And even if, let’s say Debbie Dooley, agreed with you on this, do you think the Tea Party voters will support it.  You know, the party of no new or increased taxes.  And if Chip Rogers and all the other morons who played political baseball with TSPLOST and first voted for it, then switched at the end to save their jobs, what makes you think the Tea Party wouldn’t do the same thing when it came time to put this all up for a vote? 

All in all Sierra Club, you played an integral role in screwing us.  Maybe it still would have lost without your voice, but you definitely didnt do any good.  You claimed that MARTA was treated second class, but your advocacy ensured that it would remain even lower than that.  You claimed there wasn’t enough transit on the list and ignored the fact that a majority of the voters on this list didn’t use transit.  Your entire organization advocates for smart growth, but how do we do that without sufficient or expanded transit?  You wanted commuter rail, but neglected to see that without enough in town transit the users that migrate to the city for the afternoon will remain with limited options. You advocate for less dependency on oil, and your stance on this position just put rail transit on suspension.  Don’t expect many people to be clicking on your “Join Sierra Club” link.

P.S.  Your video you released in response,  nice try.  But quantifying overall miles of rail line versus other cities as a measure of transit quality is rather weak.  The proposed rail combined with our existing may not have been as many miles as what Dallas has, but it was more useful miles in much more dense neighborhoods and development.  So we wouldn’t have caught up with Dallas, we would have exceeded them in terms of usefulness.  And your advocacy against sprawl and justification of other cities congestion; what do you think commuter rail promotes?  Maintaining the lifestyle of sprawled suburban landscapes while giving them access to the city in an attempt to relieve congestion that you claim will not be resolved regardless.  You are right about the last part, but the difference is that most of the cities that rank ahead of us in congestion have heavily used expansive transit systems that provide options and economic vibrancy.  People can get out from behind the wheels of their cars with minimal impact on their lives unlike here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2012 3:09 pm

    Agreed, the Sierra Club of GA’s “all or nothing” strategy is a recipe for failure. Has nobody there ever taken a political science class? Or a class in common sense, for that matter?

  2. August 14, 2012 1:10 pm

    TSPLOST was would do more for sprawl which in the long run undermines MARTA and transit service. Notice they hid the fact that Clayton was ready to join MARTA and had citizen support which would have done much more for transit in Clayton. TSPLOST delayed this better avenue. Now the clock is ticking, but there is a chance for Clayton to join MARTA this year and not only get bus service restored but also get rail built. Apparently there are federal dollars earmarked for light rail. But they didn’t want you to know about all this. Because it really was about the road money.

    http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2012/08/14/clayton-county-transit-advocates-pushing-for-marta-vote-in-november

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