On July 31st, Georgians will vote on a series of 12 regional referenda concerning the imposition of a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST). After much deliberation, the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club is recommending a "no" vote on the T-SPLOST in all 12 regions. The Metro Atlanta required the most debate, because unlike the other eleven lists, a significant portion of the projects involve transit.
Many of you responded to our survey (results here), which helped us ensure this position is representative of our membership's views on these issues. The Georgia Chapter Executive Committee concluded that the project list is too heavily focused on sprawl-inducing road expansion and will have a negative overall impact from an environmental perspective. While no plan is perfect, we have concluded that the T-SPLOST's flaws are significant to the point of outweighing its positive benefits. For the full list of our concerns, click here. Some highlights include:
The project list does not present a cohesive transportation vision, offering a hodgepodge of conflicting priorities when what is needed is a bold and consistent vision for a sustainable transportation future.
The necessary institutional context is not in place, with the 2012 legislative session having failed to address serious questions about equitable regional transit governance and the ongoing second-class treatment of MARTA.
Passage will likely kill commuter rail for another decade, taking off the table one of the most promising strategies for providing commute alternatives and promoting sustainable development.
The transit component has too many flaws, including vaguely defined project descriptions, underfunded capital expansions, and uncertainty about long-term operational support.
T-SPLOST supporters urge passage because "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 decisionmaking.
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.
Even if you disagree with our position, we hope you will take the time to read our position paper, which explains our thinking in detail.