The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has recently conceded that the TSPLOST projects list will have an insignificant impact on reducing commute times.
Taxpayers in the region are being given the opportunity to pay higher taxes for 10 years to produce little or no reduction of commute times, and obligate future transportation dollars forever, so that we will have less money available in the future to pay for projects that would have been able to alleviate traffic congestion.
There could not possibly be a worse deal for taxpayers.
If the region votes down this projects list, the Transportation Investment Act provides for the region to develop a new projects list for another vote in 2 years. That is our opportunity for a Plan B.
The Plan B process must begin by establishing sensible criteria.
n Transit projects must be designed to cost-effectively provide a commute time that is reasonably time-competitive with driving.
n Total future transit operating and maintenance costs should be capped at a level that the region can reasonably handle without future tax increases. An annual cap in the vicinity of $20 million for all new transit funded by the TSPLOST, would force the region to decide whether it wanted one boondoggle transit line, or actually start the foundation of a regional network of affordable transit connectivity.
n Regional road projects must be designed to reduce commute times in corridors that serve at least 60000 car trips per day, and where traffic flow is impacted for at least 5 miles.
n Local projects must be paid for out of each jurisdiction’s 15 percent local allocation. Regional dollars cannot pay for local projects that do not meet the above criteria.
If the above criteria were applied, I would estimate that projects consuming more than 70 percent of all TSPLOST dollars would be disqualified!
Ultra-expensive single-corridor boondoggles will not help the region achieve its alleged goal of affordable, seamless, transit connectivity throughout the region.
Previous studies, like the Regional Transit Action Plan presented a financially realistic regional transit plan. The RTAP would have provided substantial regional connectivity, at a tiny fraction of the cost of the ultra-expensive projects being proposed in the current TSPLOST projects list.
The RTAP could be updated to coordinate with GDOT’s plans for managed lanes throughout the region, to achieve even better service at an even lower cost.
Express buses have already proven to be incredibly successful in the Atlanta region. Express bus is the form of transit that is best suited to cost-effectively provide reasonable trip times to various employment centers that are widely dispersed throughout a low density metropolitan area.
An expanded network of express bus routes from communities throughout the region to employment centers throughout the region, utilizing GDOT’s planned network of managed lanes, would coordinate both increased road capacity and expanded and improved transit services. Regardless of any other warts, the I-85 toll lanes have contributed to a 29% increase in express bus ridership in the I-85 corridor.
Hopefully, GDOT has abandoned any plans to convert any more existing lanes to managed lanes. However, adding managed lanes can add road capacity, and improve commute times in all lanes, and improve transit performance.
An expanded network of express buses, providing seamless connectivity between many communities, and many scattered employment centers throughout the region, would cost taxpayers a tiny fraction of what one ultra-expensive boondoggle light rail line would cost.
In addition to the managed lanes, we also need to fund projects like the safety and operational improvements in GDOT’s Revive285 project, including projects to alleviate the bottleneck in the I-75 / I-285 interchange, which are currently unfunded. Even without the managed lanes, the interchange improvements would dramatically improve bottlenecks, and improve traffic flow throughout the top end of I-285. Revive285 shows that these improvements would reduce typical rush hour commute times on the top end of I-285 by more than a third.
There are similar projects that need funding in other interstate corridors. These are projects that could reduce commute times for hundreds of thousands of Atlanta commuters.
On the south side, Plan B would be an opportunity to restore funding to the Tara Boulevard super-arterial, which could reduce commute times for tens of thousands of commuters.
There are many projects along major arterials and interstates that could improve traffic flow, and reduce commute times. GDOT’s plans for adding managed lanes (not converting any more lanes) will improve traffic flow, and could significantly enhance the performance of transit.
Those projects would be a better investment for taxpayers. Plan B is the opportunity for taxpayers to get a good value for their money.
Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCCC.