Abraham Lincoln, Town Halls & Misinformed Politicians
Abraham Lincoln once said: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” And to this, I present to you highlights from Wednesday night’s town hall on TSPLOST in Kennesaw (brought to you by what is quickly becoming my most favorite newspaper, sarcasm) I am beginning to believe that Town Hall meetings attract the least informed people, and by that I mean the politicians that speak at them. Some geniuses in Cobb County decided they had more time than brains on their hands and offered up these insightful remarks regarding MARTA, the Cobb county light rail line, and yet again transit’s relationship to crime.
“If you look at the total funding commitment, the heavy emphasis is on transit, these archaic things that run on one or two rails,” Cottrill said. “It’s been tried in Seattle. It’s been tried in Miami; it’s been tried in Los Angeles. It does not work. It is funding transportation for the indigent at a very, very great expense for taxpayers. MARTA itself is inefficient. MARTA does not function as it was intended to function.”
If this isn’t a load of —- (it rhymes with hit, or spit; per my wife’s suggestion she thinks I shouldn’t use vulgarity in these postings; I see her point, so I will imply it instead) then I don’t know what is. In fact this small statement is chocked full of it. Los Angeles has the second busiest light rail system in the country. I know Mr. Cottrill probably lives by the tenets of Ricky Bobby; “If you’re not first you’re last”, but I think second place is still a pretty strong showing. Seattle’s is still pretty new, and I personally think that Miami is beyond repair so I will give him that one. But I think the citation of one failing city and one in its early stages does not warrant a universal consensus that rail, any rail for that matter is a failure. Boston’s light rail: most traveled in the country. San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Charlotte’s rail have been extremely popular. And we all know the success behind Portland and now Denver as well. Throw in the mass transit staples of Chicago, New York, D.C. and Philadelphia and I think there is overwhelming evidence proving that the largest cities in this country (which Atlanta is part of) have found great success in rail systems.
And archaic. Let us talk archaic. In 1908 the Ford Model T obtained 25 mpg. In 2008 the average American automobile was at 21 mpg. 103 years later and our fuel efficiency went backwards! Backwards. All the while, rail, which may still be running on those two rails, has advanced. I love how he finishes the statement off with “MARTA does not function as it was intended to function.” Really? I wonder why that is. Maybe it’s because it was planned as a regional mode of transportation (hence the word Metropolitan in the title) yet somehow the surrounding counties found themselves thinking they were too good for it (and other reasons I shall choose not to get into right now), inhibiting its original intentions of connecting the entire Metro. Oh and indigent, last time I check myself, those that birthed this website, and many of its transit riding readers are far from indigent.
“What’s going to be the cost of extra law enforcement and public safety to be able to take care of the crime issues that automatically come in with mass transit?” Galloway asked.
Heavy sigh. Still? Really?
“When I first saw this proposal for the light rail, I started to think how we’ve been challenged in the past, and I remember when DeKalb County made these screaming arguments about getting MARTA into their county and saving their county,” he said. “It was going to lift all boats, and if we compare Cobb County to DeKalb today, then we see it doesn’t look so successful to get that rail.”
Yes because downtown Decatur is such a dump. It is such a dump that must be why they are having one of the nation’s largest book festivals (which I will gladly be taking MARTA to), arts festival, and some pretty fantastic restaurants. And don’t forget about those $300,000 to $500,000 dumpy condos that surround the station. Wait is this the same guy that owned Bobby G’s?
“Cottrill said there is not nearly enough emphasis on road improvements in the project list.”
No clearly there isn’t. Maybe the perimeter needs another interior perimeter like Charlotte. That worked out really well for them (see the destruction of the most populated section of the city, blight filled neighborhoods, until the light rail was planned, and vibrant communities cut off from downtown). Or maybe we should make the downtown connector the entire width of Midtown. I don’t know a statistic on it, but I am pretty sure that prior to TSPLOST, road funding was exponentially greater than transit funding. And look where that got us. Maybe Cottrill can read this on his Blackberry while sitting in traffic somewhere. With the track record the Atlanta area has on road funding 100% of TSPLOST should be going to transit and pedestrian oriented projects.
I do get part of their gripe. The project barely enters Cobb County and they are being asked to foot a pretty big bill. But as I said the other week, Atlanta has been paying the price for suburbanites for decades. Try paying back a little bit. I also understand that they feel as if it costs too much and doesn’t serve enough of their residents. Well if you would be a little more open-minded, hopefully after laying down the first phase, a second phase could come along that would serve more areas of Cobb County. That means lowering your ridiculous expectations. The cost, yes it is expensive, and I won’t shoot down their idea of a commuter rail. But light rail, and even heavy rail has proven time and time again that it benefits development and property values which results in increased tax revenue, more aesthetically pleasing places and an overall increased quality of life. Many of these factors result in increased population and relocation of business, both equal money. Therefore giving these rail options long-term viability. See South Seattle, South End Charlotte, Portland….well every city I listed earlier.