Dear Neighbors to the North: We are ignoring your progress

Hey, not so fast Tennessee.

Did you really think we Georgians would not notice that you gave every region of your state the tools to build first-class public transit systems?

You passed a law in April authorizing every region of your state to form regional transportation authorities. These authorities would put new transportation dollars into public transit rather than expanding roads.

Tennessee, you already have cities like Chattanooga that are creating walkable downtowns. You already started a new commuter rail line in Nashville in 2006. Do you really need to make your state more attractive to residents and businesses?

You have been watching economic development flock to rail stations in towns across America. You probably noticed how rail stations create economic development patterns that make it easy for people to walk.

Shoot, you may have even been looking at Atlanta, where major developments are within walking distance or connected by shuttle to a MARTA station.

But using rail to generate quality development is a lesson we in Georgia should have learned. We didn’t give you permission to come down here and learn how to turn your cities and small towns into economic powerhouses that compete with ours.

Why don’t you copy our policies that aren’t working? For nearly 100 years we, like you, have subsidized driving more than any other form of transportation. Our highway spending creates far-flung development that can only be reached by car.

This has been not working for a long time. It especially does not work when gas prices sky rocket.

And you, North Carolina, just where do you think you’re going?

North Carolina, you also passed a law like Tennessee’s this summer. Your new funding law allows local voters to commit new transportation funding to mass transit. This would help balance the billions you already spend each year on roads with money to increase travel options all over your state.

Even before you passed this law, North Carolina, you had passenger rail lines running between your cities. You built a light rail line in Charlotte in 2007. Residences, shops and workplaces just love congregating around your light rail stops, don’t they?

It is pretty obvious you have read the studies showing that companies have an easier time attracting workers to communities when walking, biking and transit are real options. Apparently you are aware that companies like to relocate to places that make it easier to attract workers. So what’s your angle here?

You already have all the big banks. Is it really necessary for you to lure more of Georgia’s companies to your state by encouraging mass transit and quality walkable communities?

Tennessee and North Carolina, we Georgians see what you’re up to. You may think that just because Georgia spends billions of dollars a year to subsidize driving we will do it forever. Do you really think we are that dense?

Like you, Georgia can encourage communities where people can get to work and school without getting into a car. Like you, we are ready to spend more time with friends and family than we spend with our cars.

No one can stop us from taking your legislation and using it as a model for restoring transportation options here.

No one except us, that is.

Lee Biola is president of Citizens for Progressive Transit.