On July 31st2012, the state of Georgia held a public vote on a 1% sales tax increase to fund transportation projects, commonly referred to as the T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax). The state was divided into ten regions, which would vote separately. Each region had a set list of projects that the tax would fund. The project list for the 10-county Atlanta region, which includes Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale counties, as well as the City of Atlanta was revolutionary for the region due to its progressive contribution to transit. 52% of the money raised would go towards transit projects. A number of these projects are located within the City of Atlanta and directly impact the mobility of Georgia Tech students. Unfortunately, the Atlanta region voted 37 to 63% against the sales tax increase. Despite the landslide, positive trends that show support for progressive transit can be seen in a geographic representation of the voter results (shown below). Though no single county had a majority who voted “yes”, the City of Atlanta voted 59 to 41% in favor of the sales tax increase. Atlanta transit advocates believe this is a good sign and a positive endorsement for future transit projects in the City of Atlanta. The results show that the City’s voters are willing to fund alternative transportation such as rail, bus, bike, and pedestrian. As a Georgia Tech student, these results show a hope for improved mobility, increased safety, and more choices in how we move around. This is a refreshing sign of hope for many Atlantans and Georgia Tech students alike who seek an alternative to a traffic-burdened lifestyle.
We are hosting an educational rally to inform the student body about the Transportation Investment Act and upcoming referendum where voters in the Atlanta Region will decide whether or not to impose a 1% sales tax to fund transportation projects (See our page on the TIA for more information). The rally will be held on Georgia Tech’s campus along Tech Walkway. If you are hoping to learn more about the TIA and why it is important to make your voice heard, this is a great opportunity to do so. We have three speakers lined up:
- Che Watkins, Campaign Manager for MAVEN
- Ashley Robbins, President of Citizens for Progressive Transit
- Dr. Michael Meyer, Georgia Tech faculty
If you are already an expert on the TIA, this is your chance to show other students why it is such and important issue and why you will cast your vote in July. Bring a poster expressing your commitment to making your voice heard.
See you there!
At yesterday’s meeting we hosted Sally Flocks, President and CEO of PEDS, a local pedestrian advocacy group. She presented several detailed options for safe street-crossing treatments that are being used around the country and their respective effects on pedestrian safety. One especially effective and quite new approach is the Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB), which is a set of user-activated LED strobe flashers (similar to that of a police vehicle) and warning signs to be used at mid-block crossings and unsignalized intersections. They are currently being used on an experimental basis as granted by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). A recent study of their effectiveness at causing drivers to yield found that, when they are added to locations that previously had only painted crosswalks, the yielding rate increased from18% to 81%. They are also a relatively inexpensive alternative to traffic signals.
Sally also discussed the activities of her new Safe Routes to Transit Task Force, which is comprised of over 20 transportation professionals from the Atlanta region, including Atlanta Regional Commission, Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, MARTA, Gwinnett County Transit, City of Atlanta, and Cobb and Fulton counties. In response to the prevalence of pedestrian crashes in the metro area, the task force seeks to improve pedestrian connections to the region’s transit systems, especially near bus stops. Currently, there are no federal standards regarding the geometry of the roadway, speed, or other physical elements for consideration when citing the location of bus stops. The task force is currently doing research on best practices for bus stop location and mid-block crossings, as well as behavioral responses when walking to and from bus stops. Two student researchers (who are from Georgia Tech and are SfPT members!), Andy McBurney and Josh Levin, are assisting with the research. The end product will be a checklist that can be used by transit agencies when deciding where to locate a bus stop and how to create safe street crossings. For more up-to-date information on the task force, check with the PEDS website or subscribe to their newsletter.
Last night I attended the public kickoff meeting for Downtown Atlanta’s Multi Modal Passenger Terminal, arguably the most progressive and complex transportation and development project on the city’s books. Stan Harvey of Urban Collage moderated a panel of panel of executives at the three firms managing the project: Jim Richardson, Senior Vice President of Development, Forest City Enterprises. Inc.; John McColl, Senior Vice President, Cousins Properties, Inc.; and Egbert Perry, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Integral Group, LLC.
The panel faced a packed house at the Georgia Pacific Auditorium downtown and stressed the importance of this project in Atlanta’s quest to becoming a world class city and securing our position as a leader in the southeast. The timing of this is critical as well as local and national trends have focused heavily on the need to invest in transportation, especially alternative transportation.
For those who are unfamiliar with the project, it entails the creation of a multi-modal transit hub in the downtown area called The Gulch, which will bring local, regional, and interstate bus and rail together at a central location that is a destination in and of itself, while also managing and streamlining the freight trains that run through the area. The MMPT is meant to attract commercial, residential and office development and reconnect for pedestrian activity parts of downtown that are currently isolated and empty. The managing and financing structure of the project, a public-private partnership (PPP), is progressive as well and is an approach that is increasingly being used in large transportation projects.
The panel was asked a series of questions, both prepared by the moderator and directly from the audience. Questions were asked about the overall impact to downtown, jobs, freight, and political will necessary to pull this off. The main theme of the answers seemed to suggest that in order for this project to be a success, our region as a whole–not just the City of Atlanta–needs to start thinking and acting like a region. Our first test in this is to pass the T-SPLOST in July, according to John McColl of Cousins. The other two panelists agreed with this sentiment and added that its passage is only the beginning. “Cities can’t stop” says Jim Richardson of Forest City. As congestion and other problems mount, they become more and more difficult to solve.
Our region is behind the curve on many issues that are common to other regions around the country: water, education, transportation, and age services. Not only that, but we are losing our competitive edge when it comes to attracting jobs–well-paying, technical jobs that used to be our specialty. If we are to remain competitive we must act now and keep acting to restore our future as a region.
These were the statements made by the professionals hired to complete this project. It’s our job as citizens to ensure that what they’ve said is not lost to cynicism and apathy.