The T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax) failed to pass across the 10-county greater metro Atlanta region on July 31st. Though it is nearly impossible to deny that Atlanta’s ability to attract new business and commerce is hampered by traffic congestion, the voices of contention around the project list were too loud for the survival of the tax. T-SPLOST was the first vote on a comprehensive regional transit plan in recent history, the only near parallel at any point since 285 was built being the vote whether or not to expand MARTA to outlying suburban counties, which too failed. The Chambers of Commerce in Dallas, Charlotte, Nashville, Orlando, etc. have fresh fuel for fire when negatively recruiting against sprawling, disconnected Atlanta for conventions, students, creative industries and rust belt big business relocations.
The leadership of Georgia may be able to cobble together a statewide transportation referendum for 2014, although nothing in the voting data signifies that it would have much chance to pass. Localizing efforts to increase mobility options is the only viable direction for citizens seeking progress, but the dollars and cents necessary to fulfill any plan is where reality meets the road.
The Atlanta BeltLine’s development will continue incrementally, but the mass transit component of the BeltLine does not currently have adequate funding in place. Regional GRTA busses may meet the scrap heap due to funding reality. MARTA continues to be the largest transit system in any American state not to receive any state funding, and only the residents of Fulton and Dekalb counties will continue to pay a sales tax so that the entire region may benefit economically from our city having a relatively large mass transit rail system. Modern streetcars will eventually connect two of our major downtown tourist attractions, but they won’t be connecting to anything else. And federal transportation funding does not flow to states that show a lack of direction.
A commuter tax collected at the border of 285, scrapping plans for an utterly unnecessary Atlanta Falcons outdoor football stadium, a much stronger managed campaign and a vote in Dekalb and Fulton alone to fund needed city transportation projects…ideas are free. The only good that came out of all of this is it that it did get some Atlantans thinking.