Georgia Sierra Club against T-SPLOST

The Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club opposes T-SPLOST, in all twelve regions, not just in Atlanta Metro.

Prepared by the Georgia Chapter RAIL Committee, April 2012, Metro Atlanta Can Do Better: Why Voters Should Say No to the T-SPLOST and Yes to ‘Plan B’

On July 31, 2012, Georgians in twelve regions around the state will vote on whether to impose 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 twelve regions. The decision to oppose the Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST involved the most discussion, because unlike the other twelve lists, it has a significant portion devoted to mass transit. Ultimately, the 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.

As they say, they spent the most time on metro Atlanta, and that’s what most of their position paper, executive summary, press release, etc., is about. But many of their reasons apply equally well to our south Georgia Region 11, such as these ones:

  • 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.
  • It Does Too Little to Address the Current Road-Heavy Funding Imbalance, instead reinforcing a funding framework that already heavily favors highway expansion over commute alternatives.
  • It Locks the Region into a Dysfunctional, Undemocratic Decision-Making Process, both through the highly politicized “roundtable” process and the blatantly anti-urban method for distributing local set-aside funds.

It favors highway expansion so much that Region 11 doesn’t even include anything for Valdosta Airport. Where are any bicycle and pedestrian projects? For “blatantly anti-urban” read “promotes sprawl”. I would call that blatantly anti-rural, too, since the result of projects such as widening old US 41 North or Cat Creek Road would be increased traffic, increased development, and the destruction of agriculture and forestry.

I think we should vote no on T-SPLOST. Remember, it’s in the primary July 31.

What should we do instead? Well, I agree with Georgia Sierra Club:

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 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.

Maybe we should elect some legislators who will produce a Plan B like that. You can vote on those in the primary, and again in November.