By Michael Mumper
The Atlanta Journal Constitution did a wonderful job of compiling “for” and “against” educated opinions on the TSPLOST, and even went so bold as to organizationally endorse the TSPLOST. Read their arguments, and others, here.
Here’s ATL Crossroads’ summary of the pro’s and con’s of TSPLOST, and in the end why I’m voting “yes”.
“Yes” arguments summarized
- Status quo is unacceptable: our traffic commutes are among the nation’s worst and Georgia’s current transportation investment level of 49th among states shows no commitment for improvement. People and businesses outside our state see this and – knowing our population is projected to grow considerably higher – won’t bring their dollar or their job-creating business here. They’ll go elsewhere.
- It has been forecasted that TSPLOST will create and support 200,000 job-years between now and 2040.
- Environmental benefits of fewer cars, less smog and more bike/walk path will be achieved.
- Atlanta and Georgia have built their history being bold and innovative, and the citizens believe in that approach.
“No” arguments summarized
- TSPLOST won’t significantly reduce our commute time. Maybe only 2.5 minutes in the average commute.
- The Project list doesn’t pay for itself and could be a gamble with our financial future. This is my strongest personal concern.
- Regional taxing is not constitutional; regional planning is not accountable to the voting public; neither regional or state-side transportation governance exists.
- Regional transportation problems are not my county’s problems.
- There is too much transit on the project list.
- There is not enough transit on the project list.
I will vote “yes” on Tuesday for five major reasons:
Transportation logistics requires regional planning
As logistical and inter-county as transportation is, transportation planning has to be regional; much like the federal government oversees inter-state activities. Our current county-driven transportation “planning”, on the other hand, has handed us our current transportation mess (at least in Metro Atlanta). This TSPLOST process is a huge first step toward regional collaboration for a regional problem. Let’s reward all the citizen-input, citizen-education and political effort toward a broader, longer-term thinking.
L-o-n-g term benefits
TSPLOST represents an investment with some short-term benefits: some job creation/support, some traffic and environmental easing. But what’s important to consider is where we’re going to be population-wise in the long term, say 30-50 years from now. If we think Atlanta’s population could be in the 8-10 million range – and I do think that’s a probability in that timeframe – our current transportation infrastructure cannot handle such an automobile-predominant mode of travel. To me $6 billion to $8 billion is a reasonable investment over 10 years to continue preparing for 2050 and beyond. And as alternative transportation infrastructure gets built out, and more people use transportation alternatives to the automobile, TSPLOST could prove to be a huge quality of life achievement, in terms of shorter commutes, more mobility, and cleaner air; as well as helping to provide a major economic advantage for our city and state, through expedient transport of goods and people.
Special interests can win if the public does too
While “special interest groups” may benefit from TSPLOST, to me this isn’t much different than business interests providing the solution, the so-called free-market solution. Businesses’ profit motives are endorsed by the public’s “dollar vote” at the cash register (or tollway), while TSPLOST could be endorsed by the vote at the ballot. And as long as the benefits outweigh the costs, and the public gets to vote, the public wins no matter who else profits.
There is no real Plan B in sight
Alternatives to TSPLOST – our rhetorical Plan B’s – are either years off (TSPLOST 2 would be at least two years away, but probably four or more), non-strategic (tolls), woefully insufficient (motor fuel sales tax shifting to purely transportation funding is a drop in the bucket), and/or would require collaborative agreement on the “correct” amount of transit from organizations (like the Sierra Club and Tea Party, for example) who will never see eye-to-eye on those decisions. And, importantly, complex problems such as these get more expensive to solve with every year of non-decision.
Innovation is who we are
While I highly respect the “American” tenet of individual innovation, I also value collaborative innovation. And I see TSPLOST as highly innovative in its regional thinking. Bold and innovative collaborative actions are what got us where we are; it’s one of the things that attracted me to this city and to this state. Let’s keep doing what we do best. We rebuilt after the Civil War. We had an international vision for air travel and sea ports in our own backyard. We paved a way to civil rights. And we developed regional plans to solve regional problems.
See Michael Mumper’s bio in the About Us section above.