Saturday, July 9, 2011

My (First) MARTA Column

Now that Sunday alcohol sales (see my "Will to Power" post) is done with, I've been in need of a new topic to write column after column about.

And so I found it--the transportation one-percent tax, or as I've always called it, the TSPLOST.

(For those of you who aren't from Georgia, a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax or SPLOST is a one-percent sales tax implemented for a limited time to pay for certain projects, like a new government building or a land-purchase.)

Here's my first column:

When I was in Griffin, I did some state-level stories about the passage of the TSPLOST, which took multiple legislative sessions, as well as the Atlanta-Macon passenger rail line that was on the unconstrained project list and was a topic of political debate in Griffin and Spalding County's local government.

However, Matt Schafer pointed out in a Facebook discussion that expanding MARTA northward would be more effective than the Atlanta-Macon line in getting commuters off the roads and after some thinking, I've come to believe he's correct.  The Atlanta-Macon line would take care of people commuting from the southside, but I think there are more commuters coming from the north.  Plus expanding the MARTA Red Line north would be within one county (Fulton) and not be so difficult politically, unlike a multi-county Atlanta-Macon line.

I concede MARTA does have some issues that would make suburbanites leery of it coming to their county, but I think that would be more applicable to Cobb and Gwinnett, which historically rejected MARTA, than to North Fulton, whose residents already pay the MARTA tax but have to drive down to North Springs to actually use the train.  Plus MARTA's own leadership wants their agency merged into a wider Metro Atlanta transit entity--an entity including the other counties' transit systems (like Cobb's bus line) might be more effective and more palatable to voters and taxpayers.

I've written a second column about the first wave of cuts to the unconstrained project list.  I'll post it here when it goes live, probably this coming Tuesday.

The voters will approve the regional sales tax in 2012, but the final project list must be completed by August 15 of this year.  I think I'll be flacking for rail expansion all summer long.

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