T-SPLOST “Plan B”: Does It Exist and What Would It Look Like?

This morning, the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club announced it was opposing the T-SPLOST referendum, because it “is primarily a business-as-usual sprawl-inducing road program”, in favor of a “Plan B” with more transit funding.  From the Sierra Club’s press release…

A frequent refrain of T-SPLOST supporters is that there is “no Plan B” for transportation in Georgia. The Sierra Club rejects this notion, and believes that there is indeed great potential for an alternative plan that achieves meaningful progress on commute alternatives for Georgians without needlessly subsidizing another wave of sprawl. Elements of a truly visionary and transformational “Plan B” should include:

  • A Workable Institutional Framework that provides an equitable regional transit governance structure and de-politicizes transportation decision making.
  • Effective and Innovative Financing for Commute Alternatives such as a restructured multimodal gas tax, a parking tax, and other mechanisms that tie funding to travel behavior.
  • A Vision that Enables Atlanta and Georgia to Lead the 21st-Century Economy by moving beyond business-as-usual sprawl development and towards a truly sustainable and forward-looking future.

Juxtapose that statement versus a April 21st report from the AJC’s Jim Galloway on what Georgia’s state leaders say will happen if T-SPLOST doesn’t pass this time around…

Officially, there is no Plan B, so [House Speaker David] Ralston wasn’t prepared to go much further on the topic. But the threat – no, make that a hard promise – is out there. Should the July 31 referendums fail, the next blueprints will be generated from within the state Capitol.

Do you believe that Capitol leaders are bluffing?  And would a transportation plan created within the state Capitol be closer to what the Sierra Club has in mind?   These seem to be just two questions voters will have to answer for themselves before they tap the touch-screen on July 31st.

33 thoughts on “T-SPLOST “Plan B”: Does It Exist and What Would It Look Like?”

  1. Considering that the Gov just made a blatantly political appointment to the GDOT Planning Director position, removing a transportation professional, there’s little hope for anything meaningful coming later. The way the TSPLOST law is structured, there is no “Plan B”.

  2. I’m generally a big fan of the Sierra Club, but they’ve fallen off in the deep end on this one. Yes, TSPLOST is a compromise – it must be. We’re trying to get Cherokee, Cobb, Gwinnett, Douglas, Fayette, and Rockdale to work with Fulton, Atlanta and DeKalb. 52% is going to transit. About $700 million is going to a major upgrade of the existing Marta rail system. The largest employment center currently unserved by transit or interstate (Clifton Corridor) is connected with transit. A new transit connection to Cumberland is being established. A premier bus system is established to Stonecrest that will create stations as a forerunner to rail. Bus service is expaned in Gwinnett and re-established in Clayton, along with commuter rail to to Griffin. The Beltline will get street cars.

    Transit will become much more robust and there will be many more places served by transit. Moreover, for the first time people in 10 counties will be paying to maintain the Marta rail system that currently only exists in two counties.

    Perfect, no. But this is a big opportunity to change the direction of development and transportation policy. Somehow the Sierra Club has forgotten that we live in Georgia.

  3. And would a transportation plan created within the state Capitol be closer to what the Sierra Club has in mind?

    [does spit take]

    This question is facetious, I presume?

    In any case, I agree with DH above. Generally I support the Sierra Club, but they’re letting the perfect be the enemy of good here.

  4. It looks like some people still believe in democracy. I applaud the Sierra Club.

    Galloway is off; Plan A comes to us from the Gold Dome already.

      1. A transit heavy Plan B is not going to happen.

        Are Fulton and DeKalb going to increase taxes just on themselves? Not enough money to do much.

        Is the legislature going to change the gas tax and/or contribute from the rest of the state, or region? Ha! The legislature is completely tone deaf when it comes to transit. We won’t get anything better from the General Assembly. Besides if this gets voted down, no suburban GOP rep will want to deal with a Plan B of any kind.

        Are the feds going to roll into down with billions for a region that won’t help themselves? Laughable.

        Let’s face Georgia isn’t going to help metro Atlanta, and the feds won’t do much unless we have some skin in the game. We have to do it ourselves. This is the best chance.

        Finally, let’s keep in mind how auto dependent we are as a region and the very real problems for 90% of metro Atlanta with moving away from the car and using transit, bicycles and walking. We have to spend money on roads, too. The state is next to last in per capita transportation spending.

        1. “Finally, let’s keep in mind how auto dependent we are as a region and the very real problems for 90% of metro Atlanta with moving away from the car and using transit, bicycles and walking.” — Excellent point. Even if ALL of this money went to transit, it would be decades before all of the new facilities and routes could be deployed, and many people would wind up stranded.

      2. It starts with voting NO on July 31st and telling everyone – especially your elected officials – that you wanted transit but voted no to sprawl.

        That’s how Plan B materializes. What materializes could take several forms. I’ve outlined some at length here before. Our problem is sprawl, so big roads have no place in the solution.

        (DeKalb added to Fulton accounts for nearly half of the transportation sales tax revenue. You could do a lot with 3.2 billion dollars.)

        1. That is not how an alternative plan materializes. That is how gridlock continues. Absolutism gets us nowhere.

          1. It’s a choice. Plan A is big road projects, yes, and transit, maybe. Plan B – sorry to repeat myself – could take several forms.

            Perhaps you can forgive the “absolutism” of my attempt to stop poisoning myself by ceasing to drink poison; dilution, by half, with water didn’t work. (But really I was just trying to get the point across. You know I’m not the writer that you are.)

            1. If anyone is tracking big empty (not anymore) GA-400, consider

              I-285 North at SR 400 – Interchange Improvements

              SR 400 from I-285 North to Spalding Drive – Collector Distributor Lanes

    1. If you mean that exurban development is on hold and investment is going to town centers and downtowns, then I could live with that.

  5. I’m in general disappointed with “Plan A” – it does very little for adding sidewalks/bike lanes to high volume death trap corridors like La Vista from perimeter to Toco Hill.

    1. I agree. Too many corridors are receiving “improvements” that will help cars flow faster which will, quite possibly, result in added danger for cyclists and pedestrians. Bike/ped infrastructure needs to be beefed up alongside all of these things like alignments and traffic-light timing — things that help motorists but offer no improvement for alternative transportation.

  6. I just posted over on the morning metro section, but thought I would voice ornery feelings about SC’s position on this thread too. I am really disappointed with their position and agree with other posters that SC is allowing some perceived flaws with with TSPLOST to outweigh the greater good. Policy makers won’t touch another comprehensive transit plan (and public transport in particular) for a LOOONG time if TSPOST fails, and it is foolhardy to suggest otherwise. Since I live over in the Westchester neighborhood and the planned Clairmont/N Decatur station will be so close to us (the bus turn around will back up to the YMCA?!), I’ve been doing some serious soul searching about my support for TSPLOST since it may mean some disruption for my family, property, and our access to nearby roads. However, I’ve come down on the side of the greater benefit outweighing the potential smaller problems. I wish the SC would too.

    1. I think the Sierra Club harbors such guilt over their years as Range Rover environmentalists that they’re making a point here to prove just how committed they now are to compact and connected development and redevelopment as a tool for environmental preservation. They were late to the game in terms of taking on urban issues. A lot of people and organizations were pushing ways to make cities more livable, desirable and attractive for years while the SC was still fighting development in any form.

      I can’t say for certain that that was by national policy but it’s certainly the way it played out in local chapters all around the country.

      1. That seems absolutely plausible to me. Wish SC could figure out a way to make their point without helping drive a stake through this, because I really don’t think we’ll see anything better any time soon (or any time not-soon).

    2. You might want to read MARTA’s original submission to the project list which had 3 phases and made a station at North Decatur Rd seem unlikely. Officials underfunded the project, and the description was rewritten with no mention of North Decatur Rd. In the final report, the illustration draws the line only as far as Clifton Rd.


      1. Thanks Bobby. I thought I saw the final rec which was approved recently and that it included a parking deck and bus turnaround at a station at N Decatur/Clairmont. I was looking at some links on FB, but perhaps I was looking at preliminary recs that weren’t ultimately approved? Do you know where I can get an accurate current version of the final recs?

      2. Thanks for the heads up. I thought I saw the final rec which was approved recently and that it included a parking deck and bus turnaround at a station at N Decatur/Clairmont. I was looking at some links on FB, but perhaps I was looking at preliminary recs that weren’t ultimately approved? Do you know where I can access the final recs?

  7. Plan B is wait until they at least identify a regional transit agency that gives those inside 285 a fari voice but also requires the necessary operating funding that will be needed for all this new transit they “say” we will get.

    Plan B instead of making land and thus new development more accessible in the northern “favored quarter” let market forces drive the people to underutilized areas inside 285 as congestion outside grows worse.

    Plan B is get DeKalb County off its ass identify a right of way for various transit lines, start them off as multiuse trails, use zoning powers and development deals to get the ROW. The City of Atlanta has done this well with the Beltline. They are getting or protecting the ROW and starting with a trail, this alone spurs transit and pedestrian friendly development that then leads to the density and ridership numbers needed for a future rail line.

    By doing a general sales tax those of us in the MARTA service area that on average use less gas and roadways than the rest of the region end up paying for the rest of the region. A gas tax would have been more like a user fee. Why subsidize the cost of driving, its already heavily subsidized by our property taxes that fund local roads and enforcement.

    By the way this is not 50% transit. And it may not even be 40% since it appears that some of the Cobb 75 corridor “transit” funds of 600 million could go to building or acquiring the ROW for the HOT lanes that the “enhanced bus service” will use.

  8. So your first idea is to wait for the Republican controlled General Assembly to re-write the MARTA act. And you believe this will be a positive step forward because they are so pro-transit and so pro ITP?

    What Dekalb, Chamblee, Doraville, Decatur and Avondale need to do is to zone and encourage development around existing Marta stations. Walk around the built transit investment in Decatur sometime.We have a surface parking lot within a 100 feet of a multi-million dollar transit investment in downtown Decatur, and mostly one and two-story buildings to the south. We have single-family homes arounf East Lake and virtually no development around the Avondale Station. If we want to stop sprawl, we need much more intense development around our existing transit. In reality the market demand has not been that great for transit locations in Atl until very recently. Hopefully, we’ve turned a corner. Atlanta’s experience with the Beltline is simply not analagous to dekalb. The City purchased right of way from the railroad. The ROW was under common ownership. The best senario for DeKalb would be a series of collector buses, like the Cliff to run around town centers and job centers. It could also use better transit (perhaps trolleys) along Buford Highway and Memorial Drive. There have been numerous studies that show that gasoline consumption is declining with more efficient cars and therefore the gas tax revenues are declining. More importantly, the last thing the General Assembly is going to do is to pass a higher gas tax. The amount of money local governments spend on roads is nominal to their overall budget. Federal and state gas taxes are the major funding source for roads, and incidentally the Federal Highway Trust Fund is broken because Congress won’t increase taxes and each year the US roads and interstate highways cost increasingly more to maintain.

    The TSPLOST vote is the best chance we will have to increase transit ridership in metro Atl.

    1. I agree with the zoning issue you raise. I never understood why MARTA stations were so industrial and depressing. There should be condos/ apts, with shops, etc. like a min-Lindbergh. That was the original vision for MARTA, I understand. Instead there’s a big parking lot! More people would use MARTA if they lived right next door.

  9. I generally disagree with the Sierra Club and I don’t agree with their reasoning on this issue. However, I agree with their final conclusion. Bravo!

  10. For those that believe an increase in the gas tax is a feasible idea…it would take approximately a 25 cent increase in the gas tax to equal the 1 penny general sales tax increase in the TSPLOST. That is a per gallon calculation. Personally, I don’t mind paying more for gasoline. The rest of the western world pays much higher gas taxes, but it is probably a non-starter for most of metro Atlanta.

    See Q & A section

    1. I am not sure how many of you have been to the Gold Dome, but if The Sierra Club thinks that they will raise the gas tax (which hasn’t been done since the 70s) AND give some of it to transit projects, they are dreaming. We need to remember that the state puts NO money into MARTA and NO money into their own express bus system (GRTA). Why do we think they would allocate gas tax funds to transit? This is the best shot this region has for this level of investment in transit.

  11. Plan B is to get rid of Nathan Deal and his cronies. The only “transportation” initiative of this Administration has been to expand 575, which heads up to Deal’s home, into a wider freeway for Deal and his rich cronies.

    Voting no on TSPLOST is a vote of no confidence in the present state leadership.

    1. A more effective referendum on Deal and his “cronies” is to vote against him in the next gubernatorial race. A no vote on TSPLOST will be interpreted by Deal and others as a message on the importance of new transport options.

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