Election Outcomes Put Atlanta Metro Region on Two Different Transportation Paths

Three sales tax measures in Fulton County all won on Nov. 8. Two city ballot measures sets a course for investment in public transit and active transportation for Atlanta, while Fulton County will invest in road projects to reduce traffic congestion.

3 minute read

November 28, 2016, 7:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Atlanta streetcar

Th ATlanta streetcar | Central Atlanta Progress: Lauren Holley / Flickr

Among the Tax Foundation's "top state tax ballot initiatives to watch in 2016" were "two transportation special purpose local option sales and use tax (TSPLOSTs) referenda and one MARTA referendum [PDF]," wrote Joseph Henchman, Scott Drenkard, Nicole Kaeding, Jared Walczak, and Morgan Scarboro on Oct. 18. [Election results.]

Let's start with Atlanta:

"Tonight, voters approved two historic proposals to authorize the City of Atlanta and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) to modernize, expand and enhance our city’s transportation system," declared Mayor Kasim Reed on Tuesday at 11:30 PM.

Over the next five years, the City of Atlanta will build miles of Complete Streets projects, designing our streets so that they work for everyone – pedestrians, bikers and motorists.

We will synchronize traffic signals, invest in sidewalks and pedestrian infrastructure, and build new bike paths. We will purchase the remaining land we need to complete the Atlanta BeltLine, putting us in a strong position to compete for federal dollars and accelerate transit construction along the 22-mile pathway. 

And from MARTA, as reported by Arielle Kass and Leon Stafford for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“The first thing we will do is roll out more bus service very, very quickly, because the planning on that has already been done,” said Robbie Ashe, chairman of MARTA’s board of directors“We can put new routes in places where there are not routes currently..."

The MARTA tax will raise $2.5 billion over 40 years, while the Atlanta tax will collect between $280 million and $320 million over five years. In the rest of Fulton County, the five-year tax will raise as much as $655 million.

A  list of bus improvements, light and heavy rail projects, and Pedestrian/ADA/Bicycle Improvements is included in this fact sheet [PDF.

And from the Fulton County Board of Commissioners:

"I am ecstatic," said Chairman John H. Eaves. "We worked so hard for so long to get the 14 mayors of Fulton County to work together and agree to map out the future of transportation in Fulton County. Thank you to the voters for saying 'yes.' This is a game changer and will begin to end our traffic nightmares."

"At the Atlanta Regional Commission, the three successful votes tell “a very compelling story about how we’re investing in ourselves,” said Mike Alexander, director of the Center for Livable Communities, report Kass and Stafford. Last month, ARC released a survey showing that transportation is the region's top priority.

The region's "transportation schism" between city and suburbs is not unique to Fulton County. King County exhibited a similar split when the suburbs rejected a transit tax that Seattle voters supported in 2014.

Another observation is that the success of the three measures marks a dramatic turnaround from July 2012 when over 60 percent of Atlanta metro ares voters rejected the one percent sales tax for $6.14 billion in transportation projects, although city voters supported it. The loss of the historic measure was "being framed as a victory for anti-government Tea Party allies and a loss for the region's economy," wrote Jonathan Nettler for Planetizen.

Also in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Related in Planetizen:

Saturday, November 12, 2016 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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