Readers suggest ‘Plan B’ and funding options

Fix basics of congestion and funding fairness

I am about as far left of the Tea Party as you can get, and I voted against T-SPLOST. You all give the Tea Party way too much credit for this.

1. At one time, the AJC published a list of the worst traffic intersections in Atlanta. Start with that list and have the traffic engineers figure out how to improve things.

2. Give MARTA the funding and leadership it needs to serve a city of 5 million people. This is the No. 1 reason I voted “No.” I have lived in DeKalb County since 1985 and have been paying a penny tax for MARTA all this time, while Gwinnett, Cobb and Clayton repeatedly vote against it.

3. How will we pay for it? Through a gasoline tax and a penny tax on the counties that don’t currently participate in MARTA. Drive through any MARTA parking lot and see all the non-paying county license plates. Georgia has one of the lowest gasoline taxes in the country, Atlanta has one of the worst air pollution problems, and the people that purchase gasoline are the ones on the roads. The people who use the roads need to pay for them.

Laurie McDowell Atlanta

Voter rejection of transit is not new

If the solution to the failed T-SPLOST referendum was up to me, I’d say we need to redefine the issues in terms of prioritized objectives.

What needs to be done in priority order to move the greatest number of folks to their place of employment?

What roads serve these folks? What roads need to be added, paved, etc.? What traffic lights need to be added, deleted or re-timed?

We should tweak the existing roads and their traffic lights first and then begin to add new or modified old roads.

I am not convinced that this process was followed in the development of the proposed system. I believe it was based more on perceived political intent, rather than actually anticipating what the people want.

I don’t recall any survey asking the people what they think needs to be done.

Personally, I believe the people chose automobiles over rapid transit for various reasons but mainly because Atlanta is already so spread out that the consensus for a MARTA-like system was never seriously considered.

The same folks that rejected MARTA in Cobb and Gwinnett in 1971 are rejecting the current T-SPLOST for the same reasons. Jerry Royal, Lilburn

Smaller governance, taxing power needed

Plan B: Engage the five inner counties, which have the greatest need for regional public transportation improvements.

Create a five-county transit governance agency that consists of elected folks from the five counties based on population, with power to tax. It will create a regional transportation project list recommended by professionals (not politicians trading across the table) based on cost-benefit analysis of congestion relief. MARTA should be consolidated into this agency.

Face up to the reality that the density in our region is not sufficient to warrant expensive fixed rail. Provide more public transit with bus rapid transit, which is more flexible than fixed-rail, costs a lot less and is more suited to our region. Camouflage the buses to look like trains.

Eva Galambos, Mayor, city of Sandy Springs

Officials must resolve voter distrust

On July 31st, our region took another important step toward solving GA’s transportation challenges and what everyone learned over the past couple of years should accelerate the arduous process.

In large part, the T-SPLOST failed due to a lack of confidence in government stewardship.

Elected officials have to address that lack of moral standing or see the outcome repeated across a broadening array of issues, including transportation.

Key changes should help: an elected State Transportation Board, transportation professionals in all senior positions, much-improved GDOT accounting and adoption of transparent, results-oriented project criteria that are objective and quantitative.

Technology should figure prominently, particularly when it can increase capacity and reduce congestion without pouring more concrete: Think smart signals, Advanced Cruise Control and driverless cars (Google’s fleet’s logged 150,000 miles in California).

One study reports that only about 60 percent of federal highway trust fund dollars will be spent on highways (the rest goes to federal workers, transit and mandates).

Eliminate or severely reduce the fed’s role and fuel tax and allow states to raise theirs without bankrupting drivers.

Bob Ross, co-founder, Fayette County Issues Tea Party

Understandable plan needed for success

Our transportation woes cannot be solved without a true regional effort.

There’s a clear difference between a comprehensive solution to our transportation needs and the approach proposed by T-SPLOST. What it failed to present was an actual plan — an integrated network with access to the major outlying destinations.

Citizens for Progressive Transit’s website, www.cfpt.org, has a “World Class” map that shows destination stations and the ultimate scope of the project, and not just lines and arrows as shown on the T-SPLOST proposal. “Rail or Bus to South DeKalb County” is nebulous, but a map showing named stations has meaning.

There is also tremendous need for arterial roads such as the “Northern Arc,” or an entire “Outer Perimeter.” Roads such as these would remove a lot of pass-through traffic that clogs our roads at present.

To be able to drive from Locust Grove to Lawrenceville, without having to go all the way to 285, would eliminate a great deal of the “inner city” traffic congestion.

Voters need a big picture plan to support with their taxes. Amy Parker, Decatur

Broader funding options a necessity

Before we even start planning, we need to have a list of the priority projects that GDOT, MARTA, GRTA and the ARC are planning.

We need to designate one group of leaders representing these agencies who will make decisions with citizen input based on need and how we plan to grow strategically in the future.

Rail must be part of that solution as we have reached a point where widening many roads is a short-term solution due to induced demand.

Concept 3 as developed and adopted by the ARC should serve as the guide for our region.

The Legislature needs to realize that continued underfunding of education and transportation has left us trailing the country in these areas and that needs to be reversed.

Doing so requires both creating more efficiencies in delivery and administration as well as more funding, including raising gas taxes, parking taxes, toll roads and public-private partnerships that make financial sense without tying our hands for future transportation projects.

Art Sheldon, Duluth

Teamwork, not studies, will give relief

Since voters defeated T-SPLOST, other approaches are needed to give some relief to Atlanta’s traffic problems.

We don’t need any more multimillion-dollar studies to tell us what we already know about traffic gridlock.

The regulatory agencies, like GDOT, GRTA and ARC, need to get on the same page and tackle the traffic chokepoints, with the worst ones handled first. Include the possibility of municipal bonds and possible federal assistance based on sound planning.

Georgia citizens have wanted casino gambling for years, and it finally looks like we are going to get it. There could be an agreement made that would send money from these operations to HOPE scholarships, as well as road improvement projects.

It will take a team effort from all parties involved to complete these road projects. Politicians will need to work with limited resources and use them wisely.

Atlanta citizens pay too many taxes and higher water bills than anyone else in the state. They are not in the mood to levy more taxes on themselves at the voting booth.

William McKee Jr., Flowery Branch

Fixing MARTA remains a necessity

If we’re going to have the chance to advance transit, it’s time to pick ourselves up and prepare to get dirty again.

In 2010, Clayton County voted overwhelmingly to join MARTA in a nonbinding referendum — the time to put MARTA on the ballot is now! We are also going to work with the MARTA board and its next general manager.

CfPT will work to help reform MARTA’s image, remove the 50/50 restriction and identify and advocate for new sources of funding for operations and maintenance.

In return, we will hold the MARTA board accountable to improve service delivery and to experience the system as daily bus and rail riders.

CfPT intends to also work at the regional level for a governance transit structure that equitably represents the entire region, riders and the areas that invest in infrastructure and service.

Finally, we are putting state leadership on notice that they cannot abdicate responsibility on this issue. Now is the time to address the transit crisis. This issue has never been more critical to Georgia’s success.

The failure of the T-SPLOST doesn’t mean that transit has to take a step back, just that it’s time to get creative.

Ashley Robbins, president, Citizens for Progressive Transit.

Workplace changes can ease congestion

The first thing to do is to relieve stress and offer hope. Georgia should be first in the nation for offering tax credits for telecommuters and video-conferencing usage.

Next, Georgia should offer the highest tax credits in the nation for companies’ employees using vans and private or public transportation.

People who ride-share should get tax credits also. Amounts must encourage changes in behavior.

In addition, offer incentives to companies that offer alternative work schedules. Four-day workweeks or staggered-hours incentives should be considered. This would set us apart from other states.

The fact that we are doing something while we wait for new construction transportation improvements is setting a positive tone. Give hope by starting a few large impact projects that offer traffic relief.

We can fund it with a raise of our gas tax, which taxes road users.

Lynn Everitt, Hoschton