Cobb’s transportation future is looking brighter in 2013
by Ron Sifen
Columnist
January 02, 2013 12:38 AM | 1701 views | 9 9 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Atlanta has traffic problems and we need some affordable realistic solutions. The defeat of the TSPLOST makes it possible for Atlanta to adopt an affordable, realistic transportation plan with projects that would actually help to reduce traffic congestion, and reduce commute times in the Atlanta region.

In 2010, the Georgia Legislature gave the Atlanta region an opportunity to take a major step toward fixing our transportation problems.

Did we lose that opportunity on July 31, 2012?

No. On July 31 the region wisely voted down a plan to permanently obstruct the region from ever being able to fix its transportation problems.

The opportunity of the TSPLOST was destroyed on Oct. 15, 2011. That is when 21 politicians in a room ignored our real transportation needs and instead horse-traded special-interest projects that would not improve traffic flow on our roads.

Not only did the TSPLOST projects list squander billions on special interest projects that would not improve traffic flow, it also would have obligated future transportation dollars to projects that would not help to improve our traffic problems in the future. So the projects list would literally have financially obstructed the region from ever being able to solve our transportation problems.

The special interests continue to try to keep their special interest projects in play by claiming that voters decided against investing in transportation infrastructure. They can claim that all they want, but it just ain’t so.

Voters would have been willing to invest in a projects list that would have actually helped to fix our traffic problems. Voters voted against having billions of their tax dollars hijacked by special interests. Voters voted to find a “Plan B” that really would help to fix our traffic problems.

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation has produced a phenomenal “Plan B.” Plan B was put together by real transportation professionals. Their objective was to focus on those projects that would do the most to improve our traffic problems, and focus on the most cost-effective projects.

Plan B is a statewide plan. It proposes a less expensive package that can be done by reallocating existing tax dollars, rather than raising new taxes. Their plan is so phenomenal that I think voters would be willing to pay some additional taxes to expand this package, but right now, that is not what they have proposed.

Plan B is not anti-transit. The TSPLOST would have spent billions on ultra-expensive projects designed to gamble that it would result in economic development. But as TSPLOST proponents admitted, you do not invest in light rail for the purpose of moving people, and light rail would not result in serving large numbers of commuters for longer distance trips.

By contrast, Plan B focuses on transit that is designed for the purpose of moving large numbers of people from where they live to where they need to go. And by providing the most cost-effective transit, they can provide an entire regional transit network at a tiny fraction of the cost of two ultra-expensive transit boondoggles.

The TSPLOST would have spent well over a billion dollars to partially build two ultra-expensive transit boondoggles. Plan B can provide better transit service, serving far more people, for half the cost of the two boondoggles. Plan B provides a realistic affordable regional transit network providing efficient service throughout the region.

And transit only consumes about 10 percent of Plan B dollars vs more than half of the TSPLOST boondoggles list.

The vast majority of Plan B dollars go toward cost-effectively fixing worst bottlenecks on our roads and providing new capacity where it is needed to meet our current and future needs. A growing population will result in more cars on the road.

Plan B includes new toll roads, such as the recently approved I-75/575 project. This project will dramatically improve traffic flow on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb County for everybody in all lanes. The existing lanes will not be modified during the construction of this parallel road, and the existing lanes will continue to not have a toll.

One exciting component of Plan B is their use of cost-effective technology to get our existing infrastructure to perform better.

There is another very exciting component. Many people have been asking for a bypass to divert some truck traffic around Atlanta.

Plan B contains a bypass that would reduce truck traffic in the Atlanta region by 20 to 40 percent.

Plan B is a true comprehensive transportation plan. I believe that Plan B is a plan in which taxpayers would be willing to invest.

Ron Sifen is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition.
Comments
(9)
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David W
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January 07, 2013
Nice work, Ron.

Some of the readers' comments reflect what became obvious with the regional T-SPLOST approach. The progressive belief that "one size fits all" is totally wrong. What's good for the inner city does not work well for the suburbs.

The nice thing about "Plan B" is its approach to providing effective solutions to each opportunity in each individual area. Every project stands on its own. And, we don't need progressive regionalism to govern it.
Thomas J Palmer
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January 06, 2013
@LD If, in fact, you prefer riding your bicycle compared to getting sick while in your automobile, then use the bike. While others elect to buy fuel at continually increasing prices, their tax dollars do provide some sustainable means to pay for their transportation. The car on the roadway technology is old, however, if GDOT ever secured professional management, this old technology would not be forever in the RED, such as light rail.
4PlanB
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January 05, 2013
Plan B makes sense compared to what was in the TSPLOST. Plan B offers a stark contrast of cost-effective use of our tax dollars, as compared to the TSPLOST. I could argue for some changes, but I am impressed that Plan B was put together by transportation professionals who were looking for the most cost-effective projects that would accomplish the most to improve our traffic mess. I would support Plan B.
@LD
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January 03, 2013
First of all, you admit you don't live in Cobb, but you want to dictate and impose your lifestyle choices onto suburbanites who have chosen to live in Cobb because they like the suburban lifestyle.

Second, I find it fascinating that you want to pontificate about transit without regard to the financial cost, and claim that you want transit, but in reality, you just want to throw billions of dollars at the kind of transit that will be least effective in providing the best service to the largest number of people.

I disagree with Ron in his support of transit. I think transit should be offered by the private sector, without any taxpayer subsidy. But when I see your whacko remarks, it forces me to acknowledge that taxpayers get a better deal with an entire transit network serving many times more people for half the cost of 2 light rail boondoggles, as Ron describes them.

Finally, BOONDOGGLE BOONDOGGLE BOONDOGGLE.
L_D
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January 03, 2013
Nope, not a politician or a developer. Just someone that appreciates living in a walkable community, rides his bike very frequently, and only uses his car when he has to, because not being in a car makes him a happier person. These options make my community (which is not in Cobb County) a more desirable destination. TSPLOST was far from perfect, but it should have had MORE transit projects. Good luck with your Plan B; your inability to recognize devolpment trends or any type of progressive urban planning ensures Cobb County's future decline.
L_D
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January 02, 2013
Ron, you're delusional. Transportation in Cobb and the greater Atlanta area will remain dismal in 2013 and beyond because we refuse to be forward thinking, which is the same behavior that put us in our lousy situation to begin with. I'm pretty tired of the rhetoric and ideology (if I hear something called a "boondoggle" one more time, I might vomit) overweighing any type of reason and EVIDENCE. The unwavering support of the automobile and refusal to admit the fact that it is UNSUSTAINABLE (not even getting into how sick the auto makes us in so many different ways) is only wasting resources and contributing to the problem. Realize that it's about a lot more than saving you some time as you drive through your ugly community to get to work. Make decisions that leave a better world for your children and not just make life more convenient for you at the cost of future generations. Cobb county was foolish not to buy in to the rail system when they had the opportunity. Their continued refusal to do so makes clear just how backwards and misguided the leadership really is.
SevenOneFour
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January 02, 2013
BOONDOGGLE!!!! I hope that sent you to the bathroom to regurgitate.

L_D you must be one of the special interest politicians or developers who saw your "happy sack" of taxpayer funded projects jerked away from your greedy hands when the TSPLOST was defeated.

Our "leaders" like Tim Lee, Mark Mathews, the Cobb Chamber and the Cumberland CID sold out to the special interests and tried to ram an expensive, non-solution down our throats and got caught.

The same thing happened in every other community around Metro Atlanta.

Now we need to step back and come up with a fiscally responsible, realistic solution to our transportation issues.

It will be interesting to see if those same leaders try to positively participate in the solutions that are proposed or act like spoiled brats who didn't get their way and oppose plans that don't suit their particular objectives.
David B
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January 02, 2013
Ron,

Again, thanks for the analysis. That the TSPLOST was hijacked is clear to most voters. The Plan B option addresses the community's problems and needs, not the appetites of the contractors or the campaign funds of officials.

Thanks, as always, for the focus and report that keeps us informed and the politicians as honest as we require them to be.

Best regards,

David
AmericanMale
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January 03, 2013
FYI, it was light rail's LACK OF SUSTAINABILITY that killed the vote for many of us. ANY system technology that has a proven track record of running in the red forever should not even be considered. That's why most of us saw this as a dangerous giveaway to developers and Chamber insiders.

I believe Ron's half right. Road design MUST be comprehensive in support of commuting more than just development. An elevated rail would be good IF it operated FASTER than cars do and at a cost lower than the cost of owning and operating a car. At each end of the commute, riders MUST have good options to travel that last "mile" to home, office or wherever. I believe employers and private transportation companies can be incentivized to provide that service.
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