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Just Say No to TSPLOST - Spaghetti Junction Here I Come

"People here generally like to hop in their over-sized vehicles and drive where they want to go when they want to go, even if it means there's a strong possibility of sitting in traffic for hours."

Area voters spoke loud and clear in Tuesday's election, with over 70 percent of the voters soundly voting NO on the penny sales tax increase to support area public transportation initiatives.

Whether you were on the yes or no side of the issue, what we can all agree on is that Atlanta area traffic is nightmarish, one of the worst in the nation, and is unacceptable to the vast majority of drivers.

However, the bottom line is that building new infrastructure doesn't necessarily guarantee people would choose to use public transportation as a means to get from point A to point B anyway. 

We're in the South after all, in a city deep seeded in tradition and in general, with a population resistance to change.  And unfortunately, people here generally like to hop in their over-sized vehicles and drive where they want to go when they want to go, even if it means there's a strong possibility of sitting in traffic for hours.

Atlanta didn't "grow-up" with a seamless public transportation system as let's say, New York, Chicago or Washington D.C.  In those cities, taking the subway, rail or train is simply a way of life, and for many, requires much less effort than driving or taking a bus to a MARTA station. 

In reviewing the proposed changes, I'm not convinced the updates would've really relieved that much congestion in the worst sections of Atlanta traffic anyway, especially considering that many residents, in general, don't seem to be all that interested in hopping on public transportation with the masses. 

A huge shift in perception and behavior would need to occur for any significant traffic improvements to feel noticeable.

So, I support a campaign to rename Spaghetti Junction to Cluster F Clover.

However, if you are simply over Atlanta traffic, you don't need to wait for a TSPLOST type OF miracle to take action to improve its impact on you.

Some suggestions include:

-Telecommute or work remotely.  I can personally recommend this approach after surviving 10 years of daily commutes through Spaghetti Junction that covered I-285, I-85 and  GA. 400. 

When looking for a new job, I purposely chose to work for a company that supported the concept of telecommuting and embraced a remote workfoce.

I cannot begin to describe the improvements in my quality of life now that I'm no longer spending 10 or more hours a week simply getting to and from the office, on top of spending 40+ hours doing a job I could easily do from the comfort from my own home office.

I'm spending more time with my family, eating healthier (since I'm at home and easily able to fix meals vs. going out to eat), make time for exercise and am spending far less money on gas and clothing.

-Focus your life around the area where you live.  Dine and shop at local restaurants.  Choose medical and service professionals within five miles of your house.  In an area like Peachtree Corners, we really have nearly everything we need within arm's reach.

-Carpool.  When driving anywhere out of your community, whether it is to work or for play, carpool when you are able.  I play in a once a month bunko group with friends that stretch from Decatur up to Duluth, down to Brookhaven and over to Acworth and Marietta.  The five of us that live in the Peachtree Corners area always pile into one car to make the trip out of our neck of the woods.

-Take MARTA when you can- for me, this means to/from the airport.  Other than that, sadly, Atlanta's dominant means of public transportation fails my needs.  MARTA just doesn't have convenient stops to locations I'm going to.  Driving my car 20 minutes to a station to take a train to take a cab or a bus to my final destination just ain't gonna happen.

And, if someone like me, someone who is very concerned about air quality, someone who dislikes driving, someone who actually enjoys public transportation, doesn't find our system easy and acceptable, not many will.

Yes, I would like to see vast improvements in our public transportation system.  However I, like many, believe there are other sources where the money could and should come from (not an across-the-board sales tax).

ACC-SEC Booster August 04, 2012 at 08:05 PM
You also pointed the restrictions placed on MARTA's sales tax revenues by the Georgia Legislature which requires MARTA to set aside 50% of their sales tax revenues for capital improvements, which is a big problem for MARTA. Though one might point out that despite being required to put aside 50% of their sales tax revenues for capital improvements, MARTA is still seemingly unable to fund those capital improvements, which really points a lack of revenue being taken in at the farebox as during its existence, MARTA has chosen to attempt to keep their fares as low as possible while utilizing a flat fare structure and only raising their fares when they must to keep operating instead of utilizing a distance-based and/or zone-based fare structure and raising their fares with inflation to help keep the service viable and solvent in a hostile political climate where no financial help from the state was ever going to come. The simple fact seems to be that MARTA's business model is highly, if not fatally, flawed as their fares were likely too low to begin with and were never pegged to rise with inflation so that most of their revenues would be collected from the farebox instead of just simply being dependent upon the revenues from the 1% sales tax that is collected in Fulton and DeKalb counties.
Burton Martin August 07, 2012 at 03:19 AM
so the citizen of dekalb & fulton are subsidizing 200K rider per week and the system still runs at a deficit? What do you think the real cost per ride is, I would guess roundtrip say $12-$15, I maybe on the low end.
ACC-SEC Booster August 07, 2012 at 05:57 AM
Burton Martin 11:19 pm on Monday, August 6, 2012 Interesting that you mention that the real cost per ride on MARTA is $12-$15 (actually I think that the real cost is closer to $11.00-11.50 per ride) as it costs as much as $11.05 (up from $10.90 last month, $4.10 discounted fare for kids, students and seniors) to ride one-way on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains and buses. http://www.bart.gov/tickets/calculator/index.aspx It also costs as much as $31.00 one-way to ride from one end of the train line to the other on the Long Island Railroad regional commuter rail service. http://lirr42.mta.info/fares.php With a nearly $3 billion long-term operating deficit, it is more than likely too late for MARTA which will probably be out-of-service within a decade, but any possible successor to MARTA will have to utilize a combination distance-based and zone-based fare structure in which riders pay a base zone fare that varies according to the importance of the station and a distance-based fare in which passengers pay an additional amount to travel by the mile so that the further one travels in the transit network, the more one pays.
ACC-SEC Booster August 07, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Burton Martin 11:19 pm on Monday, August 6, 2012 Distance-based and zone-based fares will absolutely have to be part of the equation to pay for expanded and adequate rail and bus transit service as the means of paying for the bulk of the cost of operations and maintenance (preferably more than half of the cost of O&M). While the rest of the cost of operations and maintenance will have to be subsidized with private financing and investment and Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines).
Darin August 10, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Robin: despite my snarrky comment, I do get your point. The transportation infrastructure of the metro fails commuters on all ends -- both drivers and transit riders. In my opinion, it's a product of the sprawling built environment, low connectivity of roads and the lack of logical planning for development and transportation together (but that's another conversation). As a downtown Atlantan and MARTA user, I was just trying to stand up for my transit system, which tends to take a beating in the press and from commenters on metro forums. I found this post on a Google news search and couldn't help but get defensive. Regardless of your intended readership, your post is out there for the general public to read and so are the comments on it. I just wanted to make sure my family's mode of transit didn't go undefended in the public forum. Nonetheless, it's always good to read opinions from people outside my intown Atlanta bubble -- I appreciate yours and those of the commenters even if mine is on the opposite side of the spectrum.

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